Monday, August 31, 2009

Bing this...

With all the talk circulating around what Bing actually is – ‘decision engine’, ‘real-time search platform’, ‘content filter’, etc. etc. - you have to love it when the brand can be presented in the form of a soda can. Seltzer, to be exact.

It gets you thinking about how promotional products can solve the brand problem. You just...well... Drink it in. Imagine a dialogue between two people who could care less about the deeper meaning of some random technology engine:

“Cool name. What the heck is it?”

“Beats me, but I like the bubbles.”

“Yeah, the bubbles are cool. Although it doesn’t have any taste.”

“Yeah, but it’s all natural and fat free. And no carbs.”

“Maybe I can lose a few pounds drinkin’ this stuff.”


“Hey – I think I’ve seen a commercial for these guys. They didn’t mention anything about soda...”

“It’s not soda, knucklehead, it’s sparkling water.”

“Sparkles... Right. I still don’t get the commercials though.”

“Who cares about commercials?”

“Good point. I get most of my entertainment these days online.”


Posted via email from goonth's posterous

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How the Pixel is Evolving as Real Human Sentiment

We’re witnessing this on a mass scale – the adoption of social technologies that are helping to transform communication in incredible ways.

Perhaps something that we may overlook at times, as well as be shocked by, is how the pixel is evolving as a means for real human sentiment. Sure, we can monitor sentiment and analyze conversational topics online, but patterns of advocacy and tribal interaction are indicating that a great new phenomenon is afoot, and building with its own intelligence that seems to suggest that these lifestreams are more organic than artificial in nature. Expression clouds are just the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe artificial intelligence (what we have defined as the ‘semantic web’) is giving way to a new kind of organic offspring. Maybe there is a rise in human growth, not just the machines.

Well, for now, we should probably ground ourselves in practical application. So let’s take a top-level look at what the components are and how they function together.

APIs are creating more and more relevancy in the marketplace. Not only do they provide functional utility, but they actually connect people. We’re seeing this with brands, both big and small, and particularly with cause-related initiatives.

Aggregation feeds the retargeting or remarketing beast. Now we have the ability to drop pixels on people and follow them everywhere they go. They might not like this idea, but the argument can be made that there is possibility of not feeding them useless or irrelevant content. What’s even more striking is that in following people, we’re not bound to web real estate or pre-set inventory; you can bid on impressions within an ad exchange and move that real estate if it doesn’t fit the user profile, or more importantly, the market.

Which leads us back to application. Sure, apps can be regenerated as APIs, but what we’re really talking about here is building suggestion engines that aren’t just automated, but adaptable and in a larger sense, predictive. Imagine being put into a dynamic environment in which competing brands play in the same sandbox, all for your sake – your desires, your wishes, your preferences. The thinking is that if the market segment expands, everyone stands to gain because the shares of the pie are bigger. And what we can take from that experience are real affinities that are market based, not brand based.

The larger takeaway is that we can’t control brand affinities just like we can’t really control markets. But we can cater to them, and we can empower them.

Just imagine what Nostradamus might think if he were alive today...

Posted via email from goonth's posterous

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The New Micro Media Aggregation, Syndication & Social Search Model

Given the current state of our social technology landscape, it seems that a new model is emerging that sheds very serious light on consumer control and activation; it is comprised of:

- Premium long-tail content developers (influencers, super-users and 'prime' blog networks) 
- Content aggregation platforms (Facebook / FriendFeed ) 
- Conversation & social search engines (Twitter / Google Caffeine / Collecta et al) 

The idea is that content developers will keep developing more premium content to cut through the clutter and saturation of mediocre mid-tail content. Conversation and social search engines will continue to filter the good content from the not-so-good content, and aggregators will give users ease-of-use and relevancy, such as dynamic comment threads, in order to interact and spread this premium content. 

So why call it 'micro media' (which is not a new term, by the way...)? For three main reasons:

1. The lines between content and delivery are becoming more blurred, to the extent that these 'packets' can live in shorter bursts, or be digested in smaller, more relevant bits.

2. The portability of these packets allows them to be dynamically and semantically indexed into search, most often in real-time and also re-threaded through content or commentary streams (like FriendFeed).

3. Further, these content streams will be reshaped so that new semantic layers will build up (think of a new form of cookies) a value chain that is unique to each and every user, and will not only have topical relevance, but one that will represent a new relationship between local markets and niche categories.

Micro media give influencers more targeted reach, as well as the ability to tap into niche markets that represent degrees of conversation - people in their social graph and relevant communities. As such, we will see a dramatic rise of super-users and common interest communities (tribes), and in using social technologies such as monitoring platforms, for example, we will then be able to accurately map groups of people (social graphs) that we can then target with more meaningful and useful information and content, which of course they can then spread to their peers, and their peers, and so on.

Ultimately, as the players within the landscape narrow and more consolidation takes place, new channels will form that offer more utility for creation and use. Whether or not networks and agencies play a role in this - at least as we know them - is anyone's guess. But one thing is for sure... if you're a brand, you definitely don't want to be late to the party.

Thoughts? Reactions? Upheavals? 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Michael Vick: The Greatest Marketing Story Ever Told?

AdAge wrote an interesting piece yesterday on Michael Vick's signing with the Philadelphia Eagles, who plan to pay him $1.7M this coming year, and an option for $5M the following year, provided that Mr. Vick acts like a good little fallen sports star and represents the Eagles organization - and the league - in the best integrity and intentions. The article goes on to discuss the various scenarios with advertisers, but I think the real question is, what will Mr. Vick do to prove his worth to us, the members of society who he has so sorely disappointed? Further, how will marketers empower this shift? 

Here was my comment:

Stories of forgiveness and redemption can be as powerful and influential as the critical mistakes that were made preceding them. Public contempt towards Mr. Vick is completely understandable, and I am one of those folks who is incensed by athletes and other privileged celebrities who have foregone their position as role models for self-indulgent excesses and political grandstanding. However, most people deserve a second chance, and if Mr. Vick can prove his worth to society, his athletic achievements - as well as his marketability - will fall in line.

You see, Mr. Vick is sitting on a mole hill that could slide further into a spiritual and financial abyss, or bring him into a light that resembles some of the luster of Jesus Christ Superstar. 

Now don't get me wrong, the man has only just begun his repentant journey, but he did spend 23 months in federal prison, paid exorbitant fines and pretty much lost anything and everything that was dear to him. 

And this precisely where organizations like PETA should come through the darkness to see the light.

Think about it: as altruistic marketers (yes, they exist), and the believers behind our messages, we look for two primary things:

1. Undeniable truths
2. Converts

Using PETA as an example, Mr. Vick's actions - and subsequent counter-actions - provide a contextual backdrop that could amount to one of the greatest stories ever told. It has all the elements: corruption, temptation, benediction and redemption. More importantly, organizations like PETA have an opportunity to use Mr. Vick as someone who represents all the people they've been trying to convert (and believe it or not, he's not even one of the harshest examples) for years.

Even if Mr. Vick was thrust into this position, it doesn't matter. His personal development is, unfortunately, not the focus. However, what comes of his involvement in his public story may prove to be as cathartic as any... and may produce the kinds of revelations that we don't see every day in the more manufactured campaigns we're fed from marketers at large.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Twitter, A.M. Turing & The Brain in the Vat (the new Google?)

Sometimes it's good to go back in time before we can move forward.

The way the semantic web (artificial intelligence) and The Cloud are shaping up is rapidly calling into question our individual and collective positions in the digital universe, and ultimately, the real world. We've touched upon topics in earlier posts such as sensory marketing and how we put our social personalities into application, but now we are seeing a profound shift in how we aggregate our intelligence... and the prospective methods we will use to mine it, cultivate it and optimize it.

This week's announcement that Facebook acquired FriendFeed (a real-time social search & aggregation platform) brought to light a very alarming truth: our souls are beginning to show.

Think about it: the emotional self is loud and often illustrious. The spiritual self is quiet and often unwavering. In between is the layer of our existence that is almost entirely subject to interpretation, yet one that is almost readily identifiable - and in some ways, predictable - in patterns. Granted, these patterns constantly change, but nonetheless they tell a story about who we are, both as individuals and as whole tribes of people.

So back to the possibilities.

My guess is that as Google looks under its own hood (as it has been for a while) its algorithmic next step is to provide us with a solid, qualitative and quantitative look at this 'intermediary layer'.

Of Google's current algorithm, A.M. Turing predicted it outright: that a purely logistical view of mathematics is inadequate. He also talked frequently in his essays about the problems of word association in compact or niche groups. The point is that probability on the web - which, in conversation, shows a categorical emphasis and proximity to activation - is not entirely an extraction of content, but rather the combination of content and its interpretation and all the variants (or sub-variants) in between.

Here's where Twitter fits in. And where Google may benefit.

Twitter never claimed to be a content aggregator. Twitter is a true microblog - a conversation engine - that has served its purpose, and continues to serve this purpose, as a relatively straight-forward measuring stick for sentiment and topical evaluation (among other things). Google is refining is indexing methodology to include not only the extractions mentioned above, but the variants used to determine adoption and sentiments amongst users and tribes of users.

So the relationship is simple: Facebook/FriendFeed control the ebb-and-flow of content aggregation, and Google ala Twitter facilitate the perception management of these offerings into more finite and digestible bits... those that are more organized and more scalable.

fixed patterns > | new semantic layers | < infinite variables

We must remember that people do not fundamentally change, technologies do, so ultimately, where we go and how we get there is determined by our own doing.

As for the brain in the vat, well, you're in it right now, so only time will tell...

More Social Currency Evolving... (Like Swine Flu)

Our friends from TRÜF discovered an interesting follow-up to the Obama/Joker poster. This street campaign seemingly goes on the offense against some folks’ favorite right-wing bag of gas, Rush Limbaugh. Fair or not, and after comparing Obama and Pelosi to Nazis, spewing hate on a daily basis and being guilty of nothing short of inciting violence, semantics seem to point to just about anything that links him to the word "swine". Unlike the Obama/Joker poster, this one seems to have a more pointed message. One guess is that it is something about the viral and toxic nature of certain right-leaning commentators. Or maybe something bigger: is true mass influence sourced from good intentions, or evil ones?

Which begs the question: who will adopt this currency as their own, and what new statement will they make of it?

Further, are we ready for the street campaign battles that are about ensue?

Perhaps are collective conscience is taking hold of itself and revealing different faces in the process...

Oh yeah, and if you’re curious and ready to spread the conversation, be sure to remember the hashtag #H1N1 in your tweets... Gotta be true to a viral phenomenon.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from goonth's posterous

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Role of the Agency: Business Shrink

Assuage me.

This is the telepathic message every marketer cries out to a prospective vendor. Sure, some are more confident than others in their ability to build new relationships with consumers, but we all know that the game is changing so rapidly that, well, historical precedents and benchmarks are few and far between.

Psychologically, we can use specific keywords to ease the conversation, words like 'listening', 'advocacy' and 'brand loyalty', but these often fall into a rhetorical place that has no logical return, particularly on investment or intent.

So perhaps we need to get real about the landscape. 

Service layer bundling is already a necessary function of any agency. Either you play in the same sandbox with folks in your peer group, or you run the risk of being shut out by virtue of your resource pool. You can't really hold your cards all that tightly to your chest, because if you do, you'll lose out on critical business opportunities.

Regarding the business opportunities themselves, you can run a separate P&L, but the fact remains that your bottom line has to be tied in some way to that of the client's. Gotta have some skin in the game, son. Especially if we're dealing with outreach strategies and devices that are largely experimental in nature.

We're already at the tipping point. Soon, we will arrive at the transformative point. 

My guess is that we - as in our collective media mass - will be whittled down to publishers, networks and portals, in which we create conversational loops between marketers and consumers and fulfill very specific market needs. 

What is and what will continue to evolve is a new marketplace. What goes in it can be anyone's guess, but rest assured, it will be dictated and navigated by the stakeholders in brands.

Good luck to us all, the future is careening around the corner, Godspeed.

Inside the Frenetic Social Mind: Creative Technology Development

In the ongoing effort to tie commerce with common interest, creative technology development demands the navigation of an often paralyzing conflict: the balance between sensibility and unpredictability.

From a logistics or methodological standpoint, those of us who choose this path must blend UX with UI and AI and any other fairly useless designations I can’t think of at the moment.

From a business standpoint, elements of the supply chain rear their ugly head. Then scalability bellows into the left ear, for the right brain to somehow process.

From a cultural standpoint, identifying and assuming behavioral patterns are fleeting. It’s easy to miss the important details, such as a purchaser’s bluff.

All the for the pursuit of profit. But to whose gain? Ours?

Then all the color, the lines, the interconnectivity reveal themselves in a conflagration of possibility. We then resign ourselves to the notion that it doesn’t matter what comes of the creation, just that we’ve created it and it stands for something. Or anything.

Match up our thoughts. Bid on our feelings. Sell pieces of ourselves. And if we ascribe a higher purpose to it all, then the meaning can’t get lost.

Or will it anyway?

Posted via email from goonth's posterous

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Evolving Our Social Currency (Whether Objectionable or Not)

An interesting thing happened today on the ThinkState Facebook fan page. had posted a propaganda image of Barack Obama (on his birthday no less), depicting him as the Joker (Batman's nemesis) along with the label of 'socialism'. I happened to find the image via my friend Charlie Ferguson's posterous page. The image is certainly evocative, but what really struck me was the power of individual use to convey a sentiment that, regardless of its basis in fact, had a perceptible impact that transcended the words themselves.

The thought arose: if we label people - especially public figures - we should be prepared to visualize them in that context. In other words, imagery can shape semantics and can impose a cultural value system upon us, no matter how small or self-contained.

So my longtime friend and colleague, Adam Goldberg, responded: "We should also be prepared to suffer the consequences of our own labeling and lies. And if need be, own them. If slanderous propaganda, God forbid, incites some kind of vigilantism against Obama, do you think that those who disseminated those mistruths will hold themselves accountable? No way. Freedom of expression should be a two-way street."

Then he posted an augmented image of his own to the comment thread and labeled it 'racism' - the image you see above.

This through me for a loop, because now there was a clear and conflicting relationship between the words and the image. It jumped right out at me. 

Was this new augmentation suggesting that Obama represented racism, or was he the victim of it? Was it saying that he was two-faced, or the victim of party posturing?

This is just one example - where the possibilities can reach epic proportions - of how media influence and social currency can shift perceptions in an instant. Looking at this hypothetically, imagine if the images had reached a wide, long-tail net of users. Further, imagine the lengths to which people could attack and counter-attack using these productions of words and imagery. Who knows, they may by tomorrow, or sometime in the next hour. We can never underestimate a groundswell of elicit conviction and perceived moral fortitude.

Ultimately, it forces all of us to ask ourselves about the role we play in sharing the responsibility of our messages and their subsequent actions.

Going forward, what role will you play?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Campaigns: Serving the Needs of Marketers, Not Consumers

The rapid-fire shifts within the media landscape are forcing us to think differently. And while we have done a much better job of listening to consumer passions, desires and interests, we are, by and large, still trying to shoehorn our own ‘media solutions’ into their daily agendas. Quite frankly, this needs to change, and perhaps we can start by retooling our deployment methodology.

Let’s dive into theory for a moment.

A campaign construct is based on in-points and end-points which lend to a relatively short lifecycle. Sure, you can run a campaign for an extended period of time, but by default, we essentially ascribe a time crunch on what we hope is the development of conversations around a brand offering. But this seems entirely antithetical to engagement: how can we generate conversations on our timetable, not those of the consumers we hope to reach? Further, how can conversations be generated organically within fixed environments?

The concept of transmedia storytelling provides an interesting context – it represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience (via Henry Jenkins and his Confessions of an Aca-Fan blog).  Perhaps it is a context in which we can make more sense of how to turn messages into conversations, primarily because the timelines for engagement and adoption are indefinite.

There are two fundamental parts to transmedia: the marketing functions and the development functions of a rollout strategy. This requires a bit of reverse engineering, to say the least.

The marketing functions would serve to optimize a media plan or spend (in other words, reduce waste), or, from the ground level, would build out a framework that serves a market need – in effect, putting the consumer front and center. The idea behind this is that we would actually brand markets, not market brands per se, so that common interests would supersede age or economics. So, in this sense, we are talking about developing initiatives in a true psychographic and technographic capacity as opposed to a mere demographic one.

The development functions would serve to build a mythology around IP. Imagine taking your favorite CPG or electronics brand and building a storybook around its core DNA that is rich in lore, Platonic soft text, amazing iconography and a suite of virtually endless outcomes (think of video annotations without a set number of ‘second’ or ‘third’ acts). Now imagine taking tools that are already on offer within the semantic web (artificial intelligence) and building layers that extend these stories out into the world, free of dictation, compartmentalization or even language barriers... Subsequently creating a seamless, organic and collaborative experience.

We cannot expect brand advocacy to be furtive and ongoing if we continue to bastardize our relationships. For those on the brand side – marketing directors and CMOs – it may be daunting to present something that is quantitatively challenging to a board of skeptics, but by the same token, all the time that is spent pouring over numbers can be used to develop business plans (not marketing plans) predicated on market insights that are measurable and open to adaptation. In other words, if you treat the consumer relationship as your business, you can remove much of the guesswork that goes into predicting behavior – a central component of campaign development that seems to fail.

Food for thought. What do you think?

Posted via email from goonth's posterous