Watching the marketers

The Watchmen film isn’t out yet and debate online has already kicked off regarding the movie tie-in merchandise. Wired has got in on the act and you can find other points of view here.

However one I item I thought was a nice touch was Nite Owl Coffee made by Veidt Industries. It is really made by US coffee specialists Organic Coffee Cartel so you don’t have to worry about the quality of your beverage.

The coffee itself comes from farmers based around St Ignacio in Peru.

coffee JPG

You can get your fix of Nite Owl Coffee from Amazon.

Google knows your mistakes

It used to be that you had to worry about data fragments in your word processor files giving away information relating to early drafts of press materials.

Now online documents have a similar kind of problem with Google. I got a narrow escape when I worked at Yahoo!. We built a site that was supposed to go live in early January live on the net. This made testing easier, but consumers or the media finding the site earlier would have been buzz-kill to a project that eight weeks of PR activity to be squeezed out of it and was in the planning since July the previous year.

I also managed to recover a number of pages from the Mark III version of this blog via the Google cache after the Yahoo! server it was hosted on had gone to the great data centre in the sky.

Google caches regularly updated sources like press rooms and blogs so there is a good chance early content will be slurped up.

Having a bad reputation is when….

banks, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Your industry takes down the global economy and becomes a plausible villain in a spy thriller.

A classic example would be The International, a new film featuring Clive Owen as the leading man combating a supremely powerful bank involved in arms trading and murder.

Like banks in real-life, the one in The International is also seen to be very fragile in nature.

Image from

Oprah Time: Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks by Mark Buchanan

I met up with Tim Hoang earlier in January and he marked this book for my reading list. The book’s primary goal is explaining the Small World phenomenon as a modern network theory.

Buchanan begins by explaining Stanley Milgram’s social network experiment of the sixties which revealed that there are rarely more than six steps between any two people on the planet – now known as the principle of six degrees of separation – by which popular culture has forever attached to actor Kevin Bacon. He then goes on to explain the clustering tendency of connections in our social networks, in the web and in nature.

Loose connections bridge from one cluster to the next. The author moves beyond network modeling to show how small world theory can be used to understand a diverse range of phenomena from the numbers and location of tributaries to major rivers through to how the AIDS virus spread.

The ideas in the book are as powerful as chaos theory was a decade ago. explaining the Small World phenomenon in this readable and well balanced account of modern network theory. Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks by Mark Buchanan

Links of the day – Analysis: Japan’s electronics giants face inevitable breakup


Microsoft Chief Still Stuck on Yahoo – DealBook Blog –

Ballmer: Office 14 not this year | All about Microsoft |

TWEAKBENCH – free VST plugins for windows. free VST instruments and free VST effects

Ballmer on iPhone: Mr. Mojo Risin – Microsoft knocked out of 4th place in world phone OS stakes

MeGlobe | Instant Messaging with Language Translation, Free IM Chat! – nice site that gives Meebo a run for its money and has great translation

My MidemNet Presentation: Trent Reznor And The Formula For Future Music Business Models | Techdirt

easyHotel: How to Make Cheap Look Not-So-Cheap –

Twitterverse for PR – PR Week

Debunking Six Social Media Myths – BusinessWeek – another voice on social media isn’t free advertising

What’s so high about high technology?

Information technology has been called high technology for years in a reverential way. Lots of smart things have happened in the computing field over the past three decades. Computers have become our constant companions as smartphones, netbooks and laptops.

Internet access is now a necessity rather than the luxury it was ten years ago.

However most of the major innovations that facilitated these changes come from the late 1960s and 1970s. Operating systems and computing paradigms owe a lot to Doug Engelbart, SRI, Xerox PARC, Bell Labs work on UNIX and the DARPA investments in packet networks. With the exception of MapReduce and Hadoop facilitating cloud computing for the likes of Google and Yahoo! pretty much everything else were systematic iterative improvements or if you want to be less charitable window dressing on top of these innovations.

So why is IT treated so reverently as being a more innovative, more worthy technology: high technology? The ironic thing is that some of the deepest areas of research are going into surprising low-tech areas. Nano-technology into sun screen, or materials science innovations in the food and consumer packaged goods industries. A great example of this is Procter & Gamble.

Now I work for a PR agency so what would I really know about innovation? Prior to working in PR, I helped develop four commercially successful products that were subsequently patented. One of which was for a plastic that laminated toughened glass sheets together making this glass sandwich bulletproof. It frequently saved lives, occasionally when it failed we were sent samples of the glass back for us to find out what went wrong.

Contrast this with if your computer fails, you can’t get into your email account or Twitter goes down. Ok, that’s a bit trivial: computing also keeps us alive with it allowing a mass-market audience for anti-lock brakes and defibrillators.

That doesn’t take us away from the fact that we accept a lower standard of relability in IT. Thinking about other technologies, we turn on a tap and expect clean water under an appropriate pressure come out, or switch on lamp and expect the darkness to disappear immediately. Contrast this with the reliability we accept from computers: rebooting after a freeze, the blue screen of death or the experience of the Thai government minister held hostage in his bullet-proof limousine by computer failure.

IT is important, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves that innovation is purely about the computer. If you have an open and enquiring mind it can be found everywhere from potato chips and other consumer-packaged goods to heavy industrial plant. A great example of this is the occasional ‘What’s Inside’ section that Wired Magazine does each month. After reading about what goes into simple household times like contact lens solution even a crass simpleton should be able to start and appreciate the innovation all around us.

Ian Jindal – digital shorts at the Sense Loft

Ian Jindal – digital shorts at the Sense Loft, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Ian Jindal was on top form at the Sense Loft where he presented some interesting ideas about the future of retail. I made some notes on the presentation in real time on my mobile phone and will try to elaborate around them in italics:

The UK

  • UK most onlne country outside career – we may not have 100MB/second fibre into the home broadband connections, but the way in which UK people engage with the web and engage with ecommerce in terms of the amount they spend and the frequency that they shop online means that they are more online than most other countries outside Korea. Hong Kong has a strong broadband infrastructure but e-commerce is superflous in such a compact space. Japan has become almost post-consumer in the way that they no longer splash out on fast cars and Louis Vuitton accessories. One of the things that makes the UK online is the ubiquitous nature of credit cards – still the most effective payment system infrastructure that has seen off a host of rivals
  • UK is the most sophisticated market – consumers have better knowledge in the UK, they know how to play the system. They understand where voucher programmes are and how to best game them to get benefits. UK consumers haven’t stopped spending but are very value driven. They know retailers weak spots and exploit them to get the best deal for themselves

2008/2009 sales

  • November big growth due to fire sales – retailers dropping prices enticed consumers online: its a value crunch as much as anything else
  • Volume big but not making money – consumers are buying goods at lower prices and for a given amount of revenue far more is having to be spent on logistics
  • Winners include John Lewis because of gift voucher sales, PCWorld due to the reduced costs of modern big plasma and LCD screens, New Look – why?
  • Successful businesses need to deliver on product, price and promise (and make a profit)
  • Logistics companies screwing the small businesses to service big players like Amazon – in the run up to Christmas 89 per cent  of consumers received their purchases on time, with Amazon it was 97 per cent. Small upstarts will get screwed over on performance as delivery companies prioritise their largest accounts
  • Customers a lot cannier play voucher schemes – they abandoned the voucher sites as soon as the sales kicked in and play the system to maximise value
  • 2009 its about cash, ROI, business focus, focus on SEO and conversion – In the credit crunch the first priority is cash flow, a focus on business efficiency and effectiveness. It moves emphasis from getting traffic to getting conversion as business. Pay-per-click (PPC) buys traffic, but does not guarantee a sale. The high price of PPC means that extreme SEO (search engine optimisation) including hand-building the top 100 search pages
  • Ruthless chopping product lines – To reduce the amount of cash invested in stock and focus product lines on those that sell. A focus on the ‘head’ of the long tail


  • PPC is outmoded as a marketing communications vehicle as attention is the goal: PPC gets traffic to the site but is no guarantee of ‘stickiness’ or completion of a sale
  • One-page department store – This was a concept that Ian mentioned. There is no point having consumers trawl through a site the only page that matters is the page that they buy from. This page needs special attention. 
  • Context vended pages based on user intent – The example Ian gave was two consumers using Google: one looks for Levi’s 501 36 inch waist cheap. Price is obviously important so you don’t display a lot of options and put the price front and centre on the page. The second searches for smart jeans dark blue, you provide them instead with a series of large images that they can click on to buy since they don’t know what they want and reduce the emphasis of pricing information on the page
  • Google as department store of the world. Google,  niche players and brands are what will drive online shopping. Affiliates will not exist in present from in two years time. Affiliate marketing falls down for many of the same reasons as PPC, Google is the department store of the world because of the pre-eminent position of search as the front door to the web. Niche players will do well as they can meet consumers need and won’t be under so much price competition pressure
  • CPA (cost-per-acquisition) is symptomatic of an overly simplistic world that doesn’t understand a complex decision making process – Consumers may go to multiple online and offline brand touch points in order to make a purchase. Who is responsible, how do you measure assists and infer linkages?
  • Social bored him shitless, reviews not believable, people moving beyond reviews as inspiration stories – As Ian so eloquently put it social bored him shitless, it achieves very little for a lot of effort on behalf of the retailer. Current review offerings don’t provide a lot of utility to customers who often don’t trust them, whether it is an act of ‘sock puppetry’ or consumers with a very different viewpoint to our own. Reviews are also based on a viewpoint that is needs focused rather than desire focused. We live in a consumer society where most people’s needs are already met, much of current consumption is about desire and aspiration. Consequently, empowering consumers to tell their own aspirational stories is much more powerful – a kind of crowd-sourced version of the old TV ads from the 1980s
  • Co-shoppers as retailers – Ian highlighted a new US site called ThisNext, which uses individuals as retail curators. As their authority increases and consumers click through on their recommendations they get rewarded with ‘maven points’. This is a mix of the best attributes in social and affiliate marketing – tapping into consumer aspirations and their trust of people like them
  • nikeID vender management, intelligence gathering on trends and colors – Rather than nikeID being about mass-customisation and prosumption Ian thought that it was about getting information on trends, what colour ways should Nike be making products in. What combinations never sell. It is more scientific than coolhunters tracking down kids in urban setting of New York or Tokyo and helps support buying decisions. It is all about trying to understand the head of the long tail
  • Cross channelists – retail businesses who can deliver experiences through different channels are more likely to be part of consumers complex purchase decisions

Evolution of data

  • Data screw this and you build it on sand – the right data and the right architecture to structure the data is the lifeblood of any retail business. If you get this wrong your decison making process and business is at risk
  • Data is facts – facts works as a good definition of data
  • Meta data – data about data that the data would not know itself
  • The way we use data has changed as the number of nodes that process it change, moving from business analysis to data as a service and mash-ups – Google services and APIs are supported by thousands of servers in a given data centre
  • Social web – evolving to responsive and self configuring services – context, location all start to become important – flickr uses camera details from metadata to provide shopping recommendations
  • APML and microformats – APML is a proxy for intent and understanding the consumer. It shows where they put their time. Microformats allow for data to have more utility than plain HTML data – addresses can be readily imported into address books a la Google Maps using the hcard format
  • Rescue Time time management software allows consumers to make use of their own APML data
  • APML-powered commerce: engagd, phorm, google checkout
  • Entering network age with services such as pique and bazaarvoice  – where predictive services offered based on APML and population monitoring to spot patterns of consumer behaviour
  • location: omnifocus brightkite – includes where 2.0 techniques. From a consumer point-of-view this means a move towards apparent ESP by services as they have an emergent intelligence

You can find Ian’s slides for this event here.

Links of the day

EXOVISTA.COM – replacement lens kits for Oakley X-metal frames, not sure why Oakley allows them to get away with it, but they make some top notch lenses

beyond conversation: what web 2.0 can do for your agency « balancing act

Real-time Reputation Management Solutions : dna13

Why the Click Is the Wrong Metric for Online Ads – Advertising Age

Domino’s Simpsons sponsorship falls foul of Ofcom for promoting ‘unhealthy’ food to kids – Brand Republic News – Brand Republic – does Big Food need its own version of the Portman Group before HMG goes regulatory on its ass?

Wadds’ tech pr blog: Formal methods route to proving PR value (and consultancy differentiation)

When Consumers Cut Back – A Lesson From Japan – – the UK’s bust isn’t likely to go away any time soon

SlideRocket – The Leader In Online Presentations – Analysis: Japan’s electronics giants face inevitable breakup

Anheuser-Busch demands 120 days grace before making media payments – Brand Republic News – Brand Republic – reasons you know there is a credit crunch number 231: when clients start treating agencies like a bank

There is no such thing as free advertising

During the last technology recession one of my colleagues used to sell public relations services as ‘free advertising’ because it resonated with a number of clients that he spoke with. Nowadays I have been hearing similar things regarding social media, and if I thought it was just the circles that I move in, Gerry McCluster’s recent post dispelled that myth for me.

Viral means free widespread advertising; the hypothesis goes that you throw a video up on to YouTube, a Facebook page and sit back as the internet flocks to see your product or service. Which is the reason why thousands of videos sit on YouTube virtually unwatched, Facebook applications and groups being virtually unused. Which is partly the reason why ‘viral’ has come to mean something that is ‘a little bit shit’ as Nik Roope jokingly once put it.

Creative good content which people will want to share and carry out a brand’s call to action costs money in terms of good creative, good execution and seeding. Its like making a Hollywood film; even with Tom Cruise playing the lead role, there is no guarantee that it will be a box office smash. A classic example of this is the hit and miss campaigns that Fallon has done for Cadbury or Crispin Porter Bogusky who have done a mix of applauded and gringingly bad work for their clients from Burger King to Microsoft.

People that do it well like the Viral Factory are very much in demand and get paid accordingly. There is no such thing as free advertising.

Three mobile email access goes into ‘threefall’

I have my broadband dongle and mobile phone contract on Three. For the most part I have been happy with their service. Three like home where Three UK users can use their networks in other countries as if they were on their home network is one of them’duh’ why didn’t anybody else think of that ideas. It works particularly well for me as my personal travel destinations of Ireland and Hong Kong both have networks that I can take advantage of Three like home.



My mobile email however has been a bit of a bug bear. It isn’t a handset error unless I have been unlucky enough to have the same problem exhibited across my Nokia N95, a Nokia E90 and a new Nokia 5800. Both the E90 and the 5800 are both unlocked non-network specific handsets.

All of the handsets work fine through the Nokia email client and then stop receiving inbound emails from my email account. I can still send emails but no longer receive them.

  • It isn’t that I have exceeded my bandwidth requirements as my phone bills show that I am well below the 1GB/ month ceiling
  • My email settings are fine
  • My email account works fine on other devices and networks
  • Three’s Indian-based customer support staff have been delightful and patient but ultimately ineffective

Anybody else had similar problems? Or have you got any bright ideas on how I can resolve this, preferably without moving mobile operator?

Image based on an image by divemasterking2000.

SEO, PR, reputation management

Wadds wrote this post about public relations and SEO which summarised a discussion on Twitter. He articulates the consumers increasingly now use a reputation funnel when making important decisions. Starting with Google and then moving on to the trusted web: this maybe social networks, micromedia like Twitter or even social bookmarking services like delicious.

This maps to a decision making model (you could chose AIDA or whatever model takes your fancy) for the purpose of this blog post I created a four-stage process:

  • Problem / brief: work out what you want, or the point at which a need is awakened
  • Research: getting that evoked set
  • Filter: chopping the evoked set down, possibly using social proof
  • Commit: make their move

Given Stephen’s description of his process you can see how the early part of the process getting information around the problem or developing the brief to base any research to develop an evoked set happens in organic search. It is immediate and results are returned in a sub-200 millisecond time by the Googleplex.

PR SEO debate

Filtering the data and committing to the decision depends on accessing either archived information from his trusted web or real-time interaction from social contacts. I think that there are also clear parallels to a brand attachment model developed from Gallup research (thanks to Richard Sedley for introducing me to this model, its usually drawn as  a pyramid with confidence as the base).

Reputation management broadly maps to the inital part of the brand attraction model: confidence and integrity. And there is also there is a clear correlation between Google’s role in the process and reputation management. Whilst I don’t believe that public relations is purely about SEO; search now has a major part to play in public relations. Campaigns still need to have a surround sound presence to be effective touching the audience through different online and offline channels.

Stuart Bruce writes that PR is about reputation and behaviour not search: he is correct, but I would argue that at least the behaviour and reputational roles in search can be measured and it is harder to see the benefit of the offline work.

Links of the day

How to Reach Baby Boomers with Social Media – ReadWriteWeb

Memory upgrades, flash media, and usb storage at

Gel conference: exploring good experience – kind of like TED, seems really interesting

The First Worldwide Website Where Nothing Happens – creative genius

How to Reach Baby Boomers with Social Media – ReadWriteWeb

Speedytrek | Expose Your Music – unsigned music artist showcase by Telkom Indonesia kudos to Gerd Leonhard

Insights from Marc Simoncini of meetic & Europe – busterbuster’s posterous – interesting take on what to look for in a business from an investor

I, Cringely » The Bentonville Mafia – Cringely speculates that Microsoft’s retail plans are a way of disintermediating the media through experiential marketing. It may help the company’s share price as well, since a better understood Microsoft would help armchair investors realise the intrinsic value in the business

Phai – really interesting product design based out of Shanghai :: » chinese social media according to forrester – definite formation of a ‘digerati’ in Chinese society stratified along the class system

Jonathan Jarvis – really nice animation particularly the Crisis of Credit explanation

apophenia: “Elsewhere, U.S.A.” by Dalton Conley = FABULOUS – interesting book recommendation on changing consumer behaviour as our lives have become more connected.

Oprah Time: The Writing On The Wall China And The West In The 21st Century by Will Hutton

I didn’t start reading economics for fun until I read Will Hutton’s The State We’re In when I was in college. I was interested to find out what Hutton thought about China and the west. China has a history of technological and legal progression going back three millenia and made an unprecedented move back to the forefront of the global economy.


The Writing On The Wall China And The West In The 21st Century by Will Hutton writes in a narrative style that would be familar to readers of The State We’re In. Hutton covers how the teachings of Confucius led to a ‘modern society’ in China when my ancestors were building Brú na Bóinne.

How the western colonial powers (notably the UK, France, Germany and the US) managed to embarrass and humble the celestial kingdom. the hard choices which the communist party had to make and the hard road that the country has walked to gain its present status and the challenges that the party faces in maintaining an even keel.

Whilst Hutton is critical of some Chinese measures, he points out were the west has made similar mistakes and the lessons learned from them. Some readers may feel mis-sold as Hutton discusses the global politics of energy and protectionism by the US. However the world is connected and I feel his discussion of the intertwined fates of the US and China is a valid one.

Notes from Cyprus

I spoke earlier this week at an eTourism Forum in Cyprus. It was my first time on the island. It is an interesting mix of contrasts:

  • The main language is Greek, but everyone speaks English
  • Everyone drives on the leftside of the road and the even the road signs look British
  • The island has a series of micro-climates with snow on the mountains when I was there and a pleasant 20 celsius down nearer the sea

I spoke and participated in panel discussions over two days. You can find my presentation on Online Reputation Management and the Personalised Web. It was good opportunity to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones including: John Horsley founder of the Marzar social network, Gerd Leonhard media futurist, Richard Sedley of cScape, Andrew Gordon,  Theodoris Koumelis of Travel Daily News and Dr. Natasa Christodoulidou of UNLV. The conference was enthusiastically hosted by Petros Mavros of Avantless on behalf of The Cyprus Tourism Organisation.

The audience were enthusiastic and eager to learn about what online marketing techniques could do for their businesses. It struck me that there was more demand than there was the local web and design talent to address it, though some of the attendees seemed to already have a sophisticated understanding of search marketing techniques.

Whilst I had been there on a professional basis, I wouldn’t mind going back during the winter or spring as a tourist to sample some of its more cultural aspects.