Harnessing the Power of One

I found myself reflecting on pivotal events of 2013 recently and in honour of Nelson Mandela’s passing, I watched again a 1992 movie called “The Power of One” set in South Africa during WWII featuring a young English boy raised under apartheid. It was a powerful movie of racial injustice, and had one amazing soundtrack. I downloaded it to my iPod for inspiration moving forward into 2014.

The “Power of One” theme seemed a fitting beginning for 2014, with the promise of the internet as a marketing tool available to the masses, enabling that power of one to connect with the power of many. But as I reflected more, I realized for many marketers, there is a missing step in reaching the masses. Many forget that to reach the many, they first have to reach out to one, and give that one person a reason to share it with their community, thereby achieving the many. It’s actually a three-step process: one-to-one-to-many, rather than a two-step of one-to-many. When we frame it from this perspective, it becomes about others, not about you or your business.

So why do people share online? In my experience, people share content that makes them look smart, look connected, look funny or look insightful. If you can provide content that allows your readers to appear smart, connected, funny or insightful, the chances of it getting shared go up exponentially. While this is a subtle shift of thinking, it’s an important one in harnessing the power of one.
Another key to getting content spread from one to many is having something that lends itself to a great headline that people will want to open, link to, and ultimately share. So what are some ways to boost the sharing of your content?
1. Lists. In an abbreviated world of sound-bite communication, lists seem to resonate. (Headline example: 10 ways to glow your Twitter following in 2014)
2. How to do something. The world loves a teacher especially if there is a willing pupil. (Headline example: 5 sure fire ways to get publicity)
3. Facts & statistics. Generally statistics only get people excited if they are proving something unexpected. Graphic presentations work best. (Headline example: Social media metric shows huge user growth during 2013)
4. Negative spin. In a world of ‘how to’ advice, ‘how not to’ can cut through the clutter. (Headline example: 5 reasons people are not reading your Tweets)
5. Research. Quote research from respected sources and all parties instantly appear smarter! (Headline example: Yale University study on why women CEOs fail)
6. Case study. Nothing gets better than real life application when it comes to learning. (Headline example: Social media disasters of 2013)
7. News story. Put your own spin on a news story, or break news yourself. I did this last year when the Huffington post reported that Sam Sung was working for Apple in Vancouver. Since I live in Vancouver, I was able to add my own spin to the story, by doing my own journalistic investigation. He does work for Apple and he’s very good. It made for a great personal branding story. You can read it here: http://fiveminutemarketing.com/2012/11/sam-sung-a-specialist-for-apple/ (Headline example: Does Sam Sung really work for Apple?)
So yes, the “Power of One” is a great marketing theme for 2014. And framing your content from a one-to-one-to many perspective is critical. Just remember the reasons why people share, and give that individual person you reach out to motivation to share with the power of their many, making it about them, not about you. Until next time, Tap the power of one.

Mobile disruption: Are you ready to buy with a #hashtag?

Market forces, technology, and opportunity are converging on the mobile phone front, and about to launch a huge disruptive force in commerce. While we have become accustomed to promotional and communication opportunities enabled by the internet and social media, the distribution and pricing channel is about to heat up.

According to the recently released Comscore 2013 Digital Future in Focus Report, smart phones in Canada now represent 62% of the market, up from 45% in 2012. This is significant in that we have now passed a tipping point where the majority of phone users are mobile internet enabled. Couple this with Canadians spending on average 41 hours/month online, second only globally to Americans at 43 hours/month, and the stage has now been set for market forces and opportunity to collide with new disruptive offerings. Here are a couple early examples:

Twitter has paired up with American Express to enable purchases to be completed with the use of a hashtag. Essentially once a consumer tweets a specific hashtag to the company requesting a purchase, the transaction would be completed once acknowledged by the company and then confirmed by the customer. Online shopping with all the extra hassle of security and transactions would be taken out of the system. It’s a bold social media move by American Express, and could indicate a disruptive shift in the way commerce will be conducted online in the future. It does however beg some privacy and ethical issues. Will people want their purchase history on Twitter? Does this make impulse shopping too easy? But beyond this dark side, there is certainly opportunity. Consumers will automatically be promoting brands to their followers while buying them. Suddenly there is equity to a company in how many followers a purchaser has, and that could lead to some interesting promotional offers to prospective customers. Privacy and ethics aside, there is a solid win/win formula potentially in there, as marketers look for ways to leverage their brand within social channels. Read more here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/boninbough/2013/02/13/from-hashtag-to-purchase-twitters-newest-partnership-with-american-express/

Apple has applied for a patent to get into the mobile micro-lending banking business, via an innovative APP. They want to be able to turn iPhone users into potential ad-hoc cash dispensary locations. Essentially a consumer, who needs, say $20 but is not close to a bank machine, could use their APP to find another iPhone user in close proximity. They would receive the offer to lend that person $20 cash, which would then appear as an Apple credit on their iTunes account, plus a bonus transaction fee for having facilitated the exchange. This essentially makes everyday consumers into cash machines, while denying the banks their exorbitant service charges. You can bet that Apple plans to sell more than music in their iTunes commerce site, and I would think this signals a major move to tread into Amazon territory. It certainly would be more appealing to accumulate credits that could be used to purchase a broad range of things beyond just music. Read more here: http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/31/apple-patents-crowdsourced-peer-to-peer-mobile-banking-that-could-use-itunes-to-provide-cash-on-demand/

Both of these examples work in a mobile enabled consumer environment. Expect more of this type of innovative thinking from companies as technology, market forces and opportunity disrupt traditional distribution channels.

Super Bowl Sunday: The battle for eyeballs and wallets is on. How will RIM and BlackBerry 10 hold up?

First off, a confession: I’m not a huge football fan. Being Canadian however, I love to both play and watch hockey. So on some level, I do understand the primal urge to sit around the big screen, partaking in a shared social experience, beer in hand, tossing back munchies and cheering for the favored team. And that is exactly what millions of football fans will be doing next Sunday afternoon, as the sports premiere annual event, the Super Bowl, takes place.

It could be argued however, that increasingly the Super Bowl is less about football, and more about the half time show, and the advertising that runs during the big game. With an average of $3.7 million per 30 second spot being spent this year, the battle for eye balls, and the wallet that accompanies them, has hit a high mark. The usual suspects such as Pepsi, Coke, Bud Light, Century 21, Go Daddy, Audi, Toyota, Axe, and Volkswagon, all big national brands, have returned. See a sneak preview of some of them here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IUXOuULTL0

But it is the premiere appearance of RIM and the launch of the BlackBerry 10 that has caught my attention. The 30-second spot was created by London-based creative agency AMV BBDO.

“A Super Bowl commercial is a great opportunity to show the redesigned, re-engineered and reinvented BlackBerry to tens of millions of consumers on the largest advertising stage of the year,” RIM CMO Frank Boulben said in a statement.

Of course, like most Super Bowl spots, a social-media campaign is slated to run alongside the commercial using Twitter and Facebook throughout the game. Selective leaks on Youtube pre-game are likely.  And they can count on an even larger audience realized through Youtube and social media as winning creative gets viewed again and again, and both discussed and shared online after the game. Or let’s hope, for the sake of our good old Canadian home team company RIM, that that is what actually happens. RIM risks having come to the party about a year late with their Black Berry 10, having lost customers to Apple and Samsung, as business and their IT departments (RIM’s traditional core market) increasingly have allowed employees to bring their own devices to work. This is a big stakes play for RIM on the world’s largest advertising stage. Let the circus (or should I say game?) begin!

Update: January 30th – news coverage of the release:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/01/29/business-rim-blackberry.html

Sam Sung a specialist for Apple?

Shortly after this card was posted online about a day ago, Twitter and Facebook went crazy sharing it.  And for good reason. Could there be anything more entertaining than imagining that Sam Sung “Samsung” is actually working for Apple? Or perhaps considered the other way, the possibility that Apple would hire Sam Sung as a specialist for their products.

When I first saw this card, it was framed as likely being a hoax, albeit a clever one to perhaps fuel an online viral marketing campaign.

But if you know anything about printing, you will understand that the reflection on the Apple logo, indicates a foil application – a rather expensive one off endeavor for someone to make this card up. That and the fact that, being from Vancouver and an Apple customer at this store, I knew the address, phone and website to be accurate.

I visited the Apple store this afternoon, and was able to verify that yes indeed, Sam Sung works there. In fact he has since 2010. Apple staff were however rather guarded around my inquiry, acknowledging that the card had gone viral very quickly. And it appears that a previous LinkedIn profile for Sam Sung in Vancouver has now been removed. Curious…

That fact that Sam Sung, as shown in his LinkedIn profile prior to its removal, is a Marketing graduate intrigues me.

Could this be the cleverest personal branding viral campaign ever? Might Sam Sung be able to leverage it for his own personal gain? You betcha!

What do you think?

 

 

Look out Google – here comes Apple! Again.

There has been a lot of excitement over the iPhone 5 recently. Frankly, the dark horse story is not the phone, but a feature that has been built in that replaces Google Maps.

What Apple has done in launching Apple Maps with the latest iOS6 running on the iPhone 5 is an astute, intelligent and pre-emptive move. Not withstanding the fact that Apple Maps have had some wrinkles with accuracy, and may have been released too soon, this is Apple. They will fix the issues quickly. Apple Maps is a global play to gain geo-location data, personal communication and data analytics.

What Google has been able to do with Google Maps, and what Apple will now be able to do with Apple Maps is enable augmented reality (AR) – the ability to see your data layer associated with where you are in this world. The promise of AR is impressive and a significant game changer. Your Smartphone knows where you are, and it also has access to information about everything you can currently see.  If advertisers can tap into that, they would have the power to push information to you that is geo-specific, time-sensitive and tailored to you for where you are at that exact time.

Apple is hedging that the popularity of their iPhone device, now loaded with their own maps feature, will buy them market share in the fight to own the AR market. Google has been the king of data, search and analytics, but this may be the beginning of a seismic shift, with Apple as the benefactor. Hold onto your Smartphone!!

The little sign that could

Poised below a former iconic sign landmarking HMV’s presence at Burrand and Robson in Vancouver, is a little iPod sign. Appearing without threat, but determination like the children’s tale of the little red engine that could, it in fact did. Did topple an iconic brand from its throne.

 

HMV closed some months ago and now sits vacant waiting new tenants willing to pay high rent for a prime location. HMV was a victim in the end of changing technologies and distribution of its product. The fact that that the iPod was the product that introduced music digitization and sharing, and was ultimately the downfall of music sellers like HMV was poignant. Even more poignant since the iPod sign was the only thing left hanging in the store.

The iPad has recently disrupted another industry as well.

I was lamenting the closure of one of my favourite bookstores, Book Warehouse, in Vancouver recently. Although not encumbered by debt, overexpansion or an invisible cash flow, the owner was selling off the stock from multiple locations, and calling it quits. It would seem that the forces of increased online competition, a squeeze on margins, the emergence of e-books and readers, and a publishing industry reeling with the forces of technology and trying to redefine itself had taken its toll. That and the fact that the founders, all ready to retire were looking to sell their business at a time of great turmoil in the publishing and book industry.

But as the owner, an accomplished professional musician, said with a smile on his face the day I talked to him moving fixtures out of the Lonsdale location and packing up what was left of inventory to be donated to a first nations library, “The book business fed my music habit for over 30 years. I’m, happy!” Admittedly, it was a pretty positive spin on what could only be lamented as a huge shame in the face of changing technologies. A shame because there will be 5 less bookstores to browse in Vancouver. And a shame because, along with all the people who those stores have employed, the owners will not realize any equity from pouring over 30 years of time into the business.

Book Warehouse fended off the onslaught of big box bookstores in the 90’s when many independents failed. It withstood the ongoing price competition from online retailers such as Amazon. They had carved out a niche based on selling books bought back from publishers at huge discounts and then selling at bargain prices, while still achieving higher margins than their competitors. They were able to sell best sellers at huge discounts and still make money, unlike most competitors because their entire business model was based on low costs and no leverage. It worked for many years because it was not easily copied.

The lesson learned through these two examples? While you can have a defined market niche, a great product or service, and be at the top of your game, the external forces of technology and changing consumer habits can put it all into question. In the end every business must monitor and adapt to change.

Are you willing to bet against Google?

The cover of Fast Company magazine recently caught my eye. A photo of Larry Page, CEO of Google, was plastered on the front, with the heading, “Look out Apple, Facebook & Amazon – Why Google will win.” The cover was a plug for an article inside called “The Great Tech War of 2012. (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/160/tech-wars-2012-amazon-apple-google-facebook)

I pulled it off the shelf. That’s when things got interesting.

Behind it was a red-colored version of the same magazine, but with Steve Jobs face on the cover and a headline, “Why Apple Will Win.” A little more rummaging lead me to find a total of four versions of the same Nov 2011 issue, a clever ploy to promote the article. The other versions exclaimed why Facebook or Amazon would win.

The quandary then became, “Which cover to purchase?”

All 4 companies have disrupted various industries. In a period of less than 5 years they have changed the entertainment, music, publishing and media industries. They had also disrupted gaming, retail, mobile, communications and advertising. Payment systems and cloud computing are on their radar.

Initially I gravitated towards the Apple cover, but Steve Jobs prominent photo started looking like a question mark to me with his recent death and the uncertainty of continued innovation.

Amazon is brazen and innovative, but anchored to the end of the commerce funnel. Not a bad place to be, but limited. I figured it would come down to who controlled insights on people and information. Facebook arguably knows more about our behaviours than we do ourselves, and they have the muscle to leverage that knowledge. But in the end I chose the Google cover. Why?

Google owns search. When we are searching, we are seeking. And seeking is the beginning of every desire. Now that they have entered the foray of social media with Google +

I believe they will ultimately hold the trump card. They can access our profile and the gateway to our desired transactions. They will have the ability to utilize our preferences and the influence of our social circle to control our individual search results. Suddenly, it’s not just a Google search, it’s “knowing you, I would suggest,” and that becomes extremely powerful. Powerful ultimately, since marketers will pay attention to it.

My own personal example: I received an invitation to join Google+ from a colleague. I created a quick account, putting minimal content on it. Doing a search a week later, to my horror, the Google+ link had outranked my company website and fiveminutemarketing.com blog, each with a long history, massive content, and multiple links on the web. I have since made the account more robust and now monitor how content ranks.

Here are my take-aways:

1.     Google+ is in search results like never before. A Google+ profile outranks other content. You may feel that using their clout to adjust rankings in their favour is unfair, but it’s a compelling reason to claim a Google+ profile.

2.     You will want to create large circles. Everything you share on Google+ will be ranked higher, and if you have more people in your circles it will be ranked higher still. Because Google now appears to favour quality content, you can use that to position yourself. You would be foolish to not share everything through Google+ to boost your search rankings.

3.     Their recent “Google Search Plus Your World” introduced the influence of your social circle into search results. Logged in users receive socially shared content from their circles in the results – essentially tying social media into search results. Although the bias appears to diminish when logged out, Google+ linked content still rises in the search rankings. Facebook’s power is its 800 million users. Google+ with a current 90 million users may seem small by comparison. However when you combine the billions of people doing billions of searches daily on Google, the user group and influence is exponential.

Is Google+ just another social media tool to maintain? Yes, but the choice not to participate could have far reaching implications on your business. In the end I bought the Larry Page cover of Fast Company because I am not willing to bet against Google. Are you?

Want to connect on Google+? http://bit.ly/xcTbco

Will the tablet change your business?

Take one tablet daily and call your doctor if your condition doesn’t improve. That’s the advice we’re accustomed to receiving when taking medication. But it would seem that both consumers and businesses are in a quest for help with what ails them these days, judging by the uptake of the tablet – also known as the Apple iPad, Blackberry Playbook, HP Slate and the Google Android Tablet.

What’s with the sudden revolution and the apparent need for a hybrid between your smart phone and your laptop? Lots it would seem. Let’s assume  for the time being that this is not a fad. It’s a trend. Consider:

- Apple’s iPad sales hit 2 million in 59 days after the April release in Canada. Sales are expected to hit 9.7 million worldwide for 2010.

- HP and Google jumped on board the tablet bandwagon in summer 2010. Todd Bradley, HP Executive VP for Personal Systems Group estimates will become a $40 billion market over the next few years.

- RIM, the maker of Blackberry, announced the Playbook in fall 2010, with a market launch in early 2011.

Clearly tablets are the new frontier. All the major players are lining up to battle for market share. This could be a game-changing trend. And trends are critically different than fads when it comes to evaluating the impact on your marketing strategy. So what does this mean to you?

I’d suggest you step back from the day-to-day busy work, and consider possible impacts on your business. Take the 10,000 meter view if you will. Think big picture and think what this looks like 5 years from now. Brainstorm some possible effects on your business. Look at the threats as well as the opportunities. Now consider what you should be doing today to mitigate those threats or take advantage of those opportunities.

Let’s look at an example:

Suppose you are a book retailer or are in the publishing industry. You’ve barely recovered from the consolidation of the industry with big box retail, the increasing competitiveness from online retailers, and now e-books are on the horizon. In July Amazon sold 180 e-books for every 100 hardcover books. They of course push their own reader, the Kindle, but sell books that can be read on any tablet device. Chapters Indigo have a robust offering of online e-books and their own competitively priced reader, the Kobo. There’s also the Sony Reader and the Barnes and Noble Nook. Supported by a wide variety of readers and tablets,electronic books are going mainstream. This trend will be further fuels by the explosive growth and run for market share in the tablet market led by Apple’s iPad. Expect the e-book to be under the Christmas tree this year. At first blanch, it’s not hard to see the threat if you’re in the business of selling tangible books. How do you position and price your offerings? Will this change your target market and segmentation? Are there new niche opportunities? How might the inevitable consolidation of the publishing industry, and the entrance of new “entertainment company” publishers affect your future? The e-book is bound to attract a more tech-savvy publishing model that supports video and interactive content in additiion to the written word. Where might the opportunities lie in that?

Prior to the launch of the iPad, Steve Jobs is rumoured to have said, “This is the most important thain I’ve ever done.” Upon its launch, Disney CEO Bob Iger called it “a game changer.” Hyperbole or fact? Only time will tell. But if history repeats itself, the iPad could do to the book industry what the iPod did to the music industry. The product, distribution system, pricing and promotion all changed. Industry titans were toppled or became shadows of their former self and new players emerged.

Mobile media – the new frontier

The Federal Government has allowed Globalive Wireless to become the countries newest cell phone company. Significant in that this move breaks from the previous ruling to prohibit foreign owned companies from setting up shop here. Previously Telus, Rogers and Bell had it pretty much sewn up. Clearly, this signals a move to increased competition. Expect more. Apple recently forced the hand of Rogers, previously its exclusive distributor. Now the Apple iPhone is available on Telus and Bell networks. Could it be that these industry players expect a major battle in the coming year? You betcha.

A recent Deloitte and Touche survey reports that smart phones will out number computers in the US by the first half of 2010. That is a significant development. Marketing is a lagging indicator, following where consumers spend their time. We know they are increasingly spending it with digital media. And mobile media is about to take over. Very soon mobile will be the primary way consumers access and interact with the web. This folks, is the new frontier.

Google, whose fortunes come from advertising, launched their own phone today, bypassing wireless carriers and selling directly to consumers. You can bet they intend to reap ad dollars from mobile. EMarketer.com predicts online advertising revenue will grow 6% next year, compared to 40% for mobile. By controlling the handset, applications and the user experience, Google could control their own mobile destiny. Currently handset makers and telecom carriers have the most say in the user experience, and carriers subsidize handsets in order to harvest the proceeds of a long-term data plan contract.

So what if Google leaned on advertising to recoup its handset development costs, in order to control the end user application experience? What if under this disruptive model Google gave away voice, data and text services in order to capture and monetize the resulting traffic? This model would lead to price compression in exchange for locked-in connectivity that guarantees sizable audiences for advertisers. Smart phones and data plans would simply become a commodity, subject to price wars. Sitting on top, as a content aggregator, would be Google.

Of course this direct distribution model is similar to the one that Apple initially took with iPhone, and it wasn’t until they sold handsets subsidized through carriers that they achieved market penetration. The same could hold true for Google.

We can say with some certainty that with increased competition and potentially disruptive distribution models, that the mobile space is about to get very interesting. Soon the only phone available will be the smart phone, and in increasing numbers consumers will have it in their pocket or bag and be able to access it 24/7. That is going to fundamentally change they way we connect with them. Be it pushed out messages, ambient awareness tied to your location or offers based on known interests, mobile has the ability to connect one on one at a personal level. Applications that seamlessly integrate information from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube accounts into you address book will make social networking a breeze. Suddenly ‘word of mobile’ will be just as important as word of mouth and word of mouse for getting others to spread your message.

What’s the take away here? Marketers need a mobile strategy. Where the investment should be is on the development of content that provokes interaction with customers causing them to willingly spread your message. But remember, you need to be good if you want positive talk. You are no longer fully in control of your message, and that’s a major shift. Advertising agencies are still struggling with how to monetize this model. This is indeed interesting territory.

Are your customers feeling the love?

Are your customers “Feeling the Love” – and not just on Valentines day? Do they get all warm and fuzzy about you? Or are left with little or no real emotion at all? Could be time for a little relationship maintenance. In fact, in times of economic downturn, there is nothing more important than a solid relationship with your existing customers. You don’t want to be loosing the ones you’ve got, because someone else has lured them away. In fact, the cost to acquire a new customer is 5-10 times greater than the cost of retaining an existing one. In recessionary times, people can change their buying behaviour if they are not fiercely loyal. You want to be the one they stick around for.

One of the best things you can do (and hopefully have been doing all along) is to invest your time in asking for and responding to customer feedback – both positive and negative. This is the secret to building a network of product evangelists who keep on giving back to your business. Brand evangelists communicate with customer in their space. And they just keep on spread’in the love!

Customers form an emotional connection with brands they have a deep affinity for. From there, they move on to become brand evangelists. Think Apple, Lululemon, Vancity and Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC). The key is this: When someone tells another person about a product or service they love, they don’t do it because they want that company to succeed, they do it to help their friend. They share information and resources as a way of supporting each other, not the particular brand. This is a conversation you want to ‘be at the heart of.’

Check out these testaments to feel’in the love:

Apple: http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mac/multimedia/2006/04/apple_fans
(Seen anyone running around with YOUR logo tattooed on their back lately?)

Vancity: http://www.changeeverything.ca/about
(Or how about knowing your customers are causing social and environmental change in their community using your brand as a catalyst?)