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Posts from September 2007

September 27, 2007

Canada - Online Powerhouse or Ecommerce Laggard?

eMarketer, one of my favourite sources for internet research, recently released an update to their research on Canadians and the Internet, Canada Internet: Users and Usage. It is FASCINATING!  Aside from covering topics like the Canadian economy, broadband penetration, online audience demographics and activities of Canadians (including some great stats just about Quebecers), the prose parts of the report are engaging and thought-provoking.  As a Canadian marketer with clients who are heel-dragging about moving into commerce or social media, I want to staple a copy of this report to every executive boardroom door. Some choice quotes and charts:

In many respects,Canada is an online powerhouse. According to recent data,it has a higher proportion of the population online than the United States.In broadband penetration and affordability, it rivals the US and many other developed countries. Young Canadians are avid,experienced online users. Internet access in the workplace is beginning to catch up with healthy rates of household connection. Canadian consumers spend above-average time online and count themselves among the world’s keenest bloggers.

But this picture obscures significant variations between younger and older Internet users and between regions. E-commerce,for example,has been slow to take off in the absence of retailers and online offerings that genuinely address Canadian tastes and requirements. Canada’s mobile networks and operators are not as well prepared as they should be to supply reliable data services at competitive prices. These and other social, technical and commercial obstacles threaten to hold Canada back when the country should be setting online standards for North America and the rest of the world.

Implications for Search Marketers Information about Canadians and search really bring into high-relief the importance of initiatives like Profectio's Search Engine Marketing survey.

A report by Google Canada and Media-Screen has yielded an even more striking statistic:98% of Canadians now search the Internet looking to purchase products and services. This kind of search is part of roughly five hours that Canadians spend on the Internet during a typical five-day week,Monday to Friday.
Emarketersearch
The Léger Marketing report cited earlier found that a large number of Canadians turn to the Internet even for information that might be available from local newspapers,radio stations or other offline sources close to hand.

Blogging and Social Networking We are a nation of bloggers and social networkers.  Not surprising given the seeming obsession with Facebook.

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Mobile Internet Usage Alas, we are not a nation of active mobile internet users, compared to other countries whose technology profile mirrors our own.  While government statistics indicated the over 55% of Canadians had a mobile phone at the end of 2006, a much smaller percentage of Canadians accessed the internet over these devices.  One of the reasons?  The high cost of data transfer.

Historically,Canadian mobile operators have prioritized voice over data traffic. Current networks are slow when it comes to data transfer,and operators typically charge subscribers by the amount of data they download or upload, which makes services prohibitively expensive.

Several industry observers have commented on this state of affairs, pointing out that Canada, often a leader in technology and civic responsibility, is falling behind the rest of the world in catering for mobile data. ... Prices of monthly data plans in Canada are higher even than those in some Eastern European, Asian and African nations.

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Continue reading "Canada - Online Powerhouse or Ecommerce Laggard?" »

September 26, 2007

"Noise to Signal" on Business Bestsellers

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Thursday, September 27 – Live@SOHO Business Reception, Toronto

Liveatsoho SOHO and OneDegree, along with Yahoo! Search Marketing, invite you to the upcoming Live@SOHO! Networking Reception on Thursday September 27th at Light Lounge in Toronto.  Live@SOHO! is a fun and entertaining business networking reception allowing attendees to network, connect and build valuable business relationships.

Date:  September 27th
Time:  5:30pm – 8:30pm
Location:  Light Lounge,  134 Peter St. (corner of Peter and Adelaide)

Your registration includes:

  • Complimentary casino and play money
  • Complimentary drink for first 150 attendees
  • Complimentary appetizers
  • Great draw prizes
  • Great networking, and
  • Great people!

We’ve arranged a special ticket price for OneDegree readers.  Only $10 if you RSVP and pay online prior to the event ($25 at the door).  Just indicate in the appropriate spot on the form, that you heard about this event on OneDegree.

Please RSVP by Wednesday, September 26th - we look forward to seeing you there!

Take Profectio's Search Engine Marketing Survey!

As we all know, Search Engine Marketing has become a powerful part of the overall advertising and marketing mix, but, to date, there really hasn’t been any solid Canadian data. Dave Forde over at Profectio is trying to change that!  Profectio.com has recently launched their “Secrets to Effective Canadian Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Survey” and is looking for our input.

Once the survey results has been compiled, Dave ensures me that they'll be shared.  So make sure your input is received! And just in case you needed another incentive for helping out a fellow Canadian marketer, Profectio is also giving away a couple of cool prizes.  So, go, take the survey.  Now!

September 25, 2007

10 Tips for Talking 2 Teens - Anastasia Goodstein at VIDFEST 2007

Ypulse_logo I attended the Vancouver International Digital Festival (VIDFEST) today.  One of my fav presentations was by Anastasia Goodstein, publisher of Ypulse.com - a highly respected and oft-quoted blog on American tweens, teens and twenty-somethings - and author of a new book Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online. As part of her presentation, Anastasia gave us marketers in the crowd 10 Tips on Reaching Teens in a "new media" kind of world.  They read like best practices you'd want to follow for most of your marketing efforts, but they take on a particular significance and importance when applied to the younger, more tech and media savvy generation:

  1. Be contextual.  No random popup or intrusive mobile ads, especially for teens.  Let them opt-in to the content they want, that is useful to them - they'll respond!
  2. Offer something of value.  Quality content that is useful and/or fun (games, music, user-generated content). Oh, and make sure you test it on real teens first.  Just to make sure.  Your idea of useful and fun likely differs from theirs.
  3. Let teens make your brand or product their own.  Find customization or DIY options.  Make your fans the stars of your campaign!  Support spontaneous tribute videos and blogs - don't suppress them.
  4. Be as transparent as possible in communication. Use human speak rather than corp speak.  Don't talk down to them.  And admit mistakes immediately.
  5. Remember ... it's not about the best design or the coolest tech.  It's about meeting a need they have.
  6. If you're building a community, commit to it.  It doesn't happen overnight.  Think about quality participation rather than sheer numbers as a success metric.
  7. Know that your community will be decentralized.  If you build your own community, you'll need to set-up outposts where teens already hang out.  Contribute to MySpace and Facebook ecosystems by creating a widget.  Give them fun stuff to take with them when they stop by.
  8. Monitor the buzz about you.  If something is broken, fix it.
  9. Don't use sneaky viral marketing techniques (e.g. fake teens posting on message boards or writing fan blogs).  You WILL be found out.
  10. Support projects and causes that are important to youth (e.g. indie music, games and other grassroots projects).  Put the weight of your brand behind causes that young people care about.

One of the other topics that came up during Anastasia's talk was the issue of identity and accuracy of online profiles.  She mentioned that tweens and teens will, of course, lie in their profiles.  She has a recent short blog post about it which I thought was a good reminder for those of us who are trying hard to reach this desirable audience:

People ask me a lot if teens are putting their "real information" online. I think they are on Facebook, but not so much on MySpace. A lot of teens lie because they don't want creepy adults contacting them. Some lie because they're too young to be there in the first place. But I also think teens lie because of the relentless ads and spam that have taken over the service. Now that they are introducing targeted ads based on user data, I wonder if this trend will only get bigger as teens figure out more ways to creatively embellish their profiles in order to get away from marketing -- even if it's marketing that is supposed to be matched up with their interests.

Six Secrets of Online Influence

(I always check my stats! Here is a previous article that has "Topped the Charts" in hits last month!)

Actually, if your friends jumped off a bridge, you probably would go with them. Especially if you owed them one, had told them earlier you would do it, liked them, and saw any of them as a bridge-jumping expert. And definitely if the bridge was closing soon, with your time to jump running out.

So suggests Robert Cialdini in Influence, the classic book on persuasion first published in 1984 and republished this year. On a recent trip, I bagged a new copy and became immediately engrossed. Cialdini takes readers on a journey through the psychology of persuasion, demonstrating through facts and anecdotes how we’re easily manipulated—and easy to manipulate—through the application of six psychological “weapons of influence”: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity.

Reading the book, it dawned on me that we employ few of these weapons in interactive marketing. To help change that, here’s an overview of Cialdini’s weapons, followed by an example of how we can use them to profit online:

Reciprocation

Ever wonder why charities give trinkets such as address labels and keychain identifiers? Because they know a seemingly simple yet astoundingly powerful fact: when you give people a gift, they’re far more likely to comply with future requests. More than twice as likely, some studies show. Why? We have a built-in need to balance social favours. It’s unconscious, reflexive and difficult to turn off, because it works so well in most circumstances. Takeaway: Give gifts to increase compliance.

Continue reading "Six Secrets of Online Influence" »

September 24, 2007

Indigo Goes Community

On Friday I was invited to Indigo Head Office to see a demo of their new Community Network.  It was a small informal group of us that were shown, in some depth, their upcoming social networking solution that soft-launches today (Monday Sept 24, 2007). 

Indigo_community

When attending a demo like this it's hard not to be simultaneously impressed by the hard work that has gone into conceptualization, design and development (Lord knows, it's not fast or easy to build something like this) and cynical because of the plethora of feature-rich social networking/community sites already in the marketplace. In fairness, Indigo has done an excellent job building what is, to my eye, a hybrid of Facebook's and Bookcrossing's functionality with a little blogging capability thrown in for good measure.

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What they've done right:

  • Inviting Their Own Community In - Indigo has opened the door to the community to their staff first.  A week before their soft-launch, they invited all their home office staff to start using the community - building their profiles, bookshelves, friends lists and starting groups.  Over 50% of their staff jumped on board.  This is huge.  Not only are they recognizing and engaging their existing community, it means that unlike most launches of sites driven by user-generated content this one will "not be a ghost-town" (to quote Stuart MacDonald) when it goes live to the public.  Even better than that, the people who are starting to populate the , build their Top 10 Lists and start discussion groups are pre-qualified, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and motivated book lovers. That makes it much more enticing (and easy) for those of us joining in later to engage with the community and tap into the existing enthusiasm and expertise. 
  • Badging, Authority and Transparency - Indigo Staff, Trusted Advisors (aka experts paid by Indigo for their book recommendations), Authors and Artists all have the ability to self-identify and attach a badge to their profile... a double-edged sword of reputation and transparency. 
  • Friends AND Favourites - like any social networking community, you can have friends, but Indigo has refined this a little.  Knowing that many people will want to "friend" their favourite artists, authors and personalities, Indigo has introduced the concept of "favourites" (much like bookmarking).  Favouriting allows you to track your favourite personalities without having to share your intimate reading details (or vice versa).  For now, favourites can only be people, but in future this will likely extend to series and possibly publishers. 
  • Groups & Book Clubs - People have been asking Indigo to provide a way to organise and manage book clubs for years.  Even their own stores have been looking for a way to make this easier and with the Groups they are finally putting this online. (There are some outstanding questions about group searchability - so don't expect people to be able to find your if you don't invite them explicitly. At this stage, that requires your friends to have a profile and to be your "friend".) 
  • Quick Comments - much like bulk loading photos into Flickr, when you load a book into your bookshelf you have the opportunity to comment on it.  A lot less pressure than writing a full review, but still you are getting to share your knowledge and Indigo is getting information which can build towards helping other people decide whether this is a book for them. 
  • No Purchase Necessary - Unlike their major primary competitor - Amazon.ca - joining and writing a review does not require purchase. 
  • Pen Name - like Bookcrossing - it's possible to set yourself up with a public pen name, keeping your real name in the profile private. 
  • Blogging - yes, another blogging platform. This one comes with integrated polling, tagging, photos and YouTube. Of course you can also link to any product available on the Indigo site.

What they still need to work on: (come on... you knew I'd include this)

  • Syndication - Leesa Barnes brought up an excellent point when she asked about syndicating comments on her upcoming book (or any title) onto her own webpage.  And while that is a fairly unique case, being able to "own" your own comments, reviews, and discussions and syndicate that content easily to your own blog would be a good thing. Portability and ownership = free advertising 
  • Affiliation - as a publisher myself, I know that Indigo hasn't been super-predictable with its (s) over the years.  But now that there is the ability to start Book Clubs, Movie Groups and Product Discussions within the Indigo community there is a fantastic opportunity for people/companies/publishers to leverage Indigo's hard work to provide a discussion forum for their own fans/groups.  The problem is, why would I invite all my readers off my own site and into Indigo's Community if I'm not going to get a kick-back?   
  • Integration - with blogs, facebook and other social network tools.  It has been identified as an area they are looking into, but it's not yet available.

Right now the community is open and collecting content. The information that will pass through to the retail side of the Indigo site in a book's listing are the "reviews" (not comments but the more formal reviews), the aggregated ratings, who's listing the book as a Top 10, and who's blogging about the title.  But I can see fairly soon, that the quick comments will start popping up with long-tail titles that aren't having much discussion around them.

What's yet to be seen is how, at this stage in social networking/social media's development, Indigo will (if they can) attract consumers to participate in yet another social networking tool. 

Oh... and they gave me 2 free books and $5 Starbucks card. But I'm not going to add them to the miniBookExpo. You can go see them on my Indigo Personal bookshelf.

Five Questions for Jon Hamilton - Petro-Canada

Pumptalk_jon_6 Jon and his team at Petro-Canada recently launched Pump Talk, a blog where they can engage with customers and other key audiences to discuss issues around gas prices and fuel efficiency. One Degree sat down with Jon to discuss what led up to Pump Talk, how success will be measured and the lessons that Jon and his team have learned about corporate blogging.

One Degree: You had some success with posting videos about gas prices on YouTube last year.  Why was a blog the next step for Petro-Canada?

I believe much of the original buzz from last year's videos came from people being shocked that a big oil and gas company not only knew what YouTube was, but had posted videos on it.   We weren't sure what to expect, but we received a lot of feedback - good and bad - on our effort.  Aside from a number of "You Suck"'s and other angry comments, we heard from people engaged in and enthused about Social Media who told us we needed to be interactive and much more relaxed.  In other words, we were welcomed to the party, but told to lose the bow-tie and our parents couldn't stay.  Faced with the choice of just doing more videos, or taking it to the next level, we decided to step it up and launch a blog. 

One Degree: What are your expectations for the blog?  How will you measure success?

It's up, running and being visited so we've cleared the first big hurdle.  I hope that over time we can create a "hub" of information for people who want answers on gas prices and are interested in having more control over how much fuel they consume...and want to talk about it.  We're looking at various metrics, but to me, it's all in the hands of the users.  If they feel we have something to add to the conversation and get engaged by sharing ideas on how to use fuel more efficiently, then we've achieved success.  From what I've seen, feedback on our approach will be free and plentiful.      

One Degree:  Is this just a PR stunt?  Do you really think people will engage?

People have many preconceived notions of what an oil and gas company is like on the inside...cigars, fancy suits and Dr. Evil type belly-laughing are my favourites.   Add to that the preconceived notions of PR people ..cigars, fancy suits, Dr. Evil-type belly laughing, and you've got a big hill to climb to be credible.   There will be doubters, but we've been upfront about who we are and why we're blogging.  That's key in social media, especially if you're doing it on behalf of a corporation.  And that's probably why I like it so much.  You have to tell the truth, back up what you say and be prepared to let everyone see what your critics have to say.   I hope that people will respond to that.   Or, I'll have to go back to doing PR stunts again...(cue Dr. Evil-type belly laugh).

Pumptalk

One Degree: What were some of the challenges you faced when putting together a blogging plan?

Approvals - Most people ask "How did you ever get this approved?"  I must admit, I thought getting internal buy-in was going to be tough.  It wasn't.  I had to prove that we could be open and interactive while mitigating some of the risks of being open and interactive, but that was really about it.  Support started at the top of the house, worked its way down and never wavered.  Our legal team was also engaged and very helpful.  I'd say the YouTube videos, and the follow-up we did internally afterwards really helped us there.  Translation was a big one.  We couldn't find a company that was blogging in both official languages,  so we had to create our own approach and the supporting policies.  It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. We've asked for comments from users and are hoping that other Canadian companies jump on board and find a way to do it better. The Learning Curve - I've read blogs and was pretty adept at iTunes, but really had to learn a lot in a hurry.  We had a great consultant (wink, wink) who took the time to show the team the ropes and helped build something that was right for us, but also credible in the blogosphere.  Then, my fellow bloggers and I had to learn about all the tools at our disposal.  De.li.ci.ous, Flickr, Google, Technorati, etc.  They are all great...and free!

One Degree: What advice would you give to other corporate communications groups wanting to engage in blogging?

Ask yourself the following questions:

Are you looking for a quick flashy hit, or want to build your reputation over time?
A Blog is a living, breathing thing that needs to be fed regularly.  You need to think through how you would keep the content fresh and engaging.  You may get a flashy hit at the beginning, but if you fail to keep it going, you will be criticized harshly.

Do you and your company have the stomach to blog?  If users/customers don't like it, they'll let you know.  And it can become a target when you are going through a tough issue.  If your executives are okay with you blogging as long as they don't see any angry comments, then don't do it.  If they can appreciate that you and your company are more credible if they present the good and the bad and respond in a compressed time frame, then set up your Typepad account.

Do you want to enjoy writing again?
  For me, Blogging has been somewhat liberating.  After years of writing messages and having several people review and massage draft after draft, it is incredibly refreshing to write informal and conversational material.  I spent a few years writing my own newscasts when I was in radio.  It was all about writing so that it felt more like I was telling the listeners a story and not reading a script.   I forgot how much fun that was.  And how much more interesting it was to read.

Disclosure:  Petro-Canada is a client of Reinvent! Communications, the publisher of One Degree.

September 19, 2007

Five Questions for Yahoo! Canada and Fleishman-Hillard

Thekick Yahoo! Canada recently launched The Kick, a social network for soccer fans in Canada.  As part of their launch program, Yahoo! Canada used a Social Media News Release (SMNR) to share details with mainstream journalists and bloggers alike.  One Degree recently sat down with Hessie Jones, marketing manager for The Kick, as well as David Jones, Julia Stein and Michelle Book from Fleishman-Hillard Canada, Yahoo! Canada's PR firm, to discuss the use of the Social Media News Release.

One Degree: How did you decide to use a Social Media release for announcing The Kick?

A few months ago, we did a traditional press release for another Yahoo! Canada property.  We received from commentary from bloggers that we could have done a better job.  So, in planning the launch of The Kick, we wanted to make sure that the online channel was integrated into a comprehensive PR program.  How and where you reach people largely depends on the specifics of your audience.  For Canadian soccer fans, they are largely online; sports like soccer have a passionate fan base but is not well represented in the mainstream media..  We wanted to reach them and their advocates where they live - online.  From a content perspective, The Kick is an online community - so why wouldn't we use a social media news release?  Plus, Yahoo! has a number of social media tools - del.icio.us, Flickr - at our disposal and it made sense to take advantage of these tools in pulling together an announcement.

One Degree: Did expanding the announcement to a social media release necessarily mean that you’ve expanded your release channels?  E.g. Are you including more bloggers in your release process?

Yes. We are expanding our outreach to bloggers and online outlets in general. At FH, it’s called Online Editorial Outreach or OEO. It’s a major push and something that not everyone is comfortable with. It takes time to get people on board and to understand how the blogosphere works for and against us as publicists and corporations. We’ve been reaching out to bloggers and including them different events for Yahoo! for about a year, but for this release specifically, we expanded outreach beyond marketing and trade blogs to soccer and other sports bloggers. We didn’t do any outreach to traditional media for this site. Since it’s a place where we want to see a community evolve, we decided to pursue other channels and get the conversation started online to keep a momentum going. So far the response is positive, we've started some relationship building with niche players in the space, we should see some coverage and incoming links soon.

One Degree: What are some of the particular challenges in pulling together a Social Media News Release?

Writing a regular press release is fairly simple, a one or two person job.  Clients approve it and then someone calls up Canada Newswire and it gets sent out.  In a perfect world, could do this in a couple of hours.  There is a law of diminishing returns .. because it is so easy, everyone does it.  No real way to stand out or identify as unique.  For a Social Media News Release, there are more people involved because there is a technical component.  Yes, there is a template for the SMNR, but it needs to integrate with the client's web presence and look like part of their program/site/brand.  You want it to have some longevity. The cost of an SNMR can be 3 times the cost of a traditional release, though over time, we expect that costs will likely come down.  It can also be tough to get the client out of the "tomorrow" mindset that comes with a traditional press release.  Expectations need to be managed about when results will happen.    

One Degree: What is the next step in the evolution of this strategy for Yahoo! Canada? 

We're waiting and watching to see what happens with this release.  We're putting it out there to see what happens and we're excited to see the response.  Yahoo! Canada will use the social media press releases more often. We still want to use both traditional and online outreach for some programs sometimes separately and other times in conjunction. We do now realize that we have to have some links available to bloggers for everything we do. Realistically speaking, the SMNR is really an electronic press kit with some social aspects to it.  We already have most of this information ready to go.  We can use the form of the SMNR to make it work harder and make it more measurable.  And ultimately, by providing this detail, it helps the journalists and bloggers out - which is what we should be doing from a PR perspective.  SMNR's can build relationships.  And frankly, journalists are going to start to expect this type of content, to have it readily available. We're still on the front end of that curve, but at some point, that will flip and it will be the expectation, not a bell and whistle.

One Degree: What is your advice to other companies who want to start using Social Media releases?

A couple of things ... First, be aware that your first SMNR will take a little longer than a traditional release and more people are going to be involved.  This should just be a start-up cost, over time it will even out, but just be ready for the initial up-front investment. Second, and this is something that we're in the process of creating now but should have done at the outset, create something that people can take with them and then connect back, e.g. a blog badge. Finally, just test one out – definitely get your feet wet and pilot one. Pick something that has content that is interesting for bloggers. Put it out there and see what happens!

Sudbury Star Experimenting with Citizen Journalism and Social Media

I have to tip my hat to our local newspaper, the Sudbury Star.  They've started a new community section of the website encouraging citizen journalism and blogging.  (Disclosure: I do not have any affiliation with the Sudbury Star or Osprey Media.)

It has its problems, certainly.  However, instead of picking on them for what they're doing wrong, I want to talk about what they're doing right.

Anyone can create an account.  Once you have an account you can instantly start blogging or posting articles.  For example, I submitted a piece about the dismal adoption rate of social media by our local candidates in the upcoming Ontario General Election.  It was published immediately!  I was certain it would have to go through some approval process, but they've opted to trust the community for now.  I applaud them for this courage!  They understand that the web is all about instant gratification.

They're giving everyday citizens the opportunity to participate in their local news and in the social media sphere without having to take on the responsibilities of running their own blog or website. I don't know what to expect from this.  As things pick up and it gets busier we'll see what will come about from the strains on the system.  But maybe, just maybe, we'll see citizens taking responsibility for how news is spread in their community. Maybe people other than me will participate.  I can dream...

"Noise to Signal" on High Level Perspective

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September 17, 2007

Time Flies: Canada's Digital Marketing Conference Turns Ten

The death of Princess Diana. The Bre-X scandal. James Cameron's Titanic. Where were you in 1997? Were you working in Internet marketing? Although it seems hard to believe, this year marks the - gasp! - 10th anniversary of the Canadian Marketing Association's Digital Marketing Conference. I'm on the organizing committee for this conference and we've really tried to pull out all the stops in honour of this year's first decade mark. Some of the featured speakers we've lined up for you include Mike Murphy from Facebook, Chuck Porter from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and Simon Assaad from Heavy.com.

Continue reading "Time Flies: Canada's Digital Marketing Conference Turns Ten" »

September 14, 2007

Brendan Hodgson on Visuals in PR Communications

Today in Calgary, I attended an event entitled "Corporate Reputation Management in a Web 2.0 World". One of the speakers was Brendan Hodgson, VP Digital from Hill & Knowlton. Brendan spoke with me after the event to elaborate on a point he made during his talk ... [If you're reading this in the feed, you might have to click to see the video.] Side note: check out this cool new video toy. It's called Viddler. You can leave a comment or a tag DURING the playback of the video. Very cool.

September 12, 2007

Taking Accountability for our Marketing “Footprint”

Phone_directoryEvery industry produces an environmental footprint and the industry of marketing is certainly no exception.  I was recently thrown into thinking about how to take accountability for our marketing footprint when I was confronted with a marketing tactic that I found particularly objectionable.  The culprit was newly revamped marketing company, CanPages.

I first heard of CanPages this week when they dropped a 5lb marketing flyer on my doorstep while I was at work.  They didn’t call it a flyer, of course.  They called it a new and improved telephone directory for the city of Toronto.  They claim that this CanPages tome was filling a “valuable market need” based on their internal survey of Canadians (pdf) which found that 78% wanted a better directory for their city.  CanPages also own and operate the canpages.ca site, yellow.ca and feeds content into Ask.com’s myway.ca.

I do remember a day when telephone directories were essential features in my home.  Unfortunately with the advent of the Internet and the myriad of sites devoted to localized and up-to-date information directories, it’s not something I would ever use now.  So for me, the CanPages directory drop was just litter and by putting it on my doorstep they forced me to have put an additional 5lbs of paper and ink into my recycling bin.  As a person trying his level best to reduce his environmental footprint on this planet, this marketing awareness tactic made me angry.  It also got me thinking.  I have a choice:  I can trash these guys in a blog post about the significant impact their marketing model has on the environment.  Or I can see them as brethren in a common cause of trying to create awareness for a product believed to be meeting an important customer need and then offer whatever assistance I can to help them to succeed.  I decided to do both.

First, the trashing part

An unwanted phone directory dropped involuntarily on a doorstep as a marketing tool is just plain and simply not environmentally responsible.  How not responsible?  Well, according to the CanPages website, in Toronto alone, they dropped 1,000,000 directories on doorsteps like mine. At 5lbs each, that’s 5,000,000 lbs of paper and ink (2500 tons) in just Toronto alone.  To put this into perspective, I looked up the environmental impact of paper production on the web and found out the following:

So, all this to say that for every person like me who gets the CanPages directory and either doesn’t want it or never uses it, there is a significant environmental impact of this marketing model.

This then begs the question:  Assuming there are folks who actually do want and who would use this directory – how could CanPages market their service differently and still get the same or better results without this environmental impact?

Next, we are Brethren: Suggestions on Alternative Marketing Models

Here’s my quick list of tips for an alternative marketing strategy for CanPages:

  1. Widen your view of who your “customer” is.  Right now, in both the text of your web site and in your marketing practices, you clearly see your “customer” as the advertisers who pay you and see households as merely the “consumer” of your product.  I would suggest that you start to see both groups as “customers” and eliminate the word “consumer” from your vocabulary.  For example, you wouldn’t just assume that all advertisers wanted to list in your directory and then randomly start sending out invoices?  No.  So don’t do that to us either.  You will clearly need to change this thinking if you would like to be successful in your online endeavors.
  2. Speaking of online – how about trying harder to build out a viable on-line strategy.  Your sites are what I would call a “good start”.  Clearly there are a lot of us who would prefer to access your “better directory service” through your online product over your paper based service so perhaps more energy spent here would yield you better returns for your paying advertiser base.  I’ll invite some of the professional OneDegree folks to offer you some tactical advice here.
  3. Move to a Permission based model.  I know it will seem like a risky extra cost to actually hire folks to get on the phone or to walk the streets and ask people if they would prefer to receive your directory before just leaving it on their doorstep but the other side of this model is that I would actually feel better about you because you gave me a choice.  If I’m not home, why not leave me a note saying that you will be dropping off the directory on a certain date and give me a website (and phone number) so I can voice my preference to not have the directory.  This also has the benefit of starting a dialogue with you about your on-line services.
  4.    
  5. Turn the negative environmental aspect of your business into a positive and actually use it to your advantage over your competitors.  Most businesses have some unavoidable environmental consequences to their operation, telephone directories especially so.  You have the opportunity to take accountability for your “footprint” and to do something about it.  Here is a link an NY Times article which lists of number of companies and advertisers in your business taking steps to be more environmentally responsible. Imagine if you were to offer to pick up your competitors' directory when you dropped off your directory and then committed to donate its weight in new forest growth.  Wow, would my impression of your company change!

Ok, that’s enough ranting from me.  I now feel as though I’ve done my part in support of the environment and in support of my Marketing Brethren. I encourage others to weigh in as well.

Photo credit: DetailTwo by brutal.

"Noise to Signal" on Appreciating Nature

20070911sunset

September 11, 2007

The Best Thing I have Heard from a Marketing Exec in a Long Time!

  Warner Bros. announced that they are going to be venturing into the virtual world space by creating their own 3D-world, T-Works: a place where consumers can create avatars, watch cartoons, play games and
interact with Warner Bros intellectual property.

Tworks
Oh, but that's not the best part.  Yes .. even though I am a fan of virtual worlds, that's not what made me giddy.  This is: According to Red Herring ...

Advertising industry experts have long bemoaned unwillingness on the part of trademark owners to put their brands into the hands of consumers who can use them next to content that might not reflect well on the company. (Think: Tweetie Bird on a MySpace profile page plastered with photos of underage drinkers.) But Lisa Judson (Warner Animation President) said many knockoff versions of Warner images and videos are already widely available on the Web, so the company might as well offer users the real thing. “We know that people are using our things and so we think we’re just best served by making the legitimate and authentic resources and assets out there and trusting our fan base (ed. emphasis added),” she said.

Now *that* is what I like to hear.  Trusting our fan base, our customers.  They already own the brand .. let them play with it.  Yes, things are going to get messy, but the magic that will ultimately happen - totally worth it.

September 10, 2007

Give It Away Now

Cow_at_the_fence You might know him as David DeAngelo. Under that pseudonym, he’s made millions selling dating advice to men under the brand Double Your Dating. Even guys who couldn’t score a dance in high school can learn from DeAngelo how to score with a supermodel.

And now, they can also learn how to score more sales.

A few weeks ago, DeAngelo, whose real name is Eben Pagan, announced that he would reveal the secrets of his success through a program called Altitude. And while the last thing the world needs is another self-proclaimed internet marketing guru, this isn’t a make-millions-in- your-sleep-through-affiliate-sales-and-AdWords kind of deal.

Rather, it’s the real deal, at least when it comes to fresh thinking with proven results. Because within about five years, Pagan has taken a business he started at home to $20 million in sales and more than 80 employees (but no office), all the while building email lists with more than a million subscribers.

Of course, learning the secrets of this success will cost you. But true to his teachings, Pagan has made some secrets widely available through YouTube and an email list. And at least one of those secrets will be particularly compelling to interactive marketers considering the use of newsletters and similar promotional tactics to build a brand’s value.

Move the free line

Pagan grew up poor. As a kid, he and his friends used to scheme about ways to make a million dollars. Most of these approaches, says Pagan, involved variations on the theme of getting a million people to pay one dollar each for some chuchka or another.

In marketing, we usually don’t stray far from this business model. We encourage people to buy things for more money than they cost to make, so we or our clients can make a profit and buy lots of candy.

When Pagan started his business, he took a different approach. Rather than strive to create something worth one dollar and sell it for two, Pagan worked to create something worth $100 and sell it for $10. In short, he worked hard to get the short end of the stick. So much so that he gives away products on good faith, only asking people to pay if they find the products useful.

And some products come completely free. Like those aforementioned emails, which include lots of dating advice given in Double Your Dating books and DVDs. Furthermore, when competition increases at the cheaper end of a product line, such as eBooks, Pagan considers giving them away free as well.

Pagan calls this approach “moving the free line,” and encourages people to think hard about what they can give away. The benefits, he notes, are massive. They are partly explained by the reciprocity reflex which, as Robert Cialdini notes in Influence, compels people to purchase things from those who offer gifts. But Pagan has also found that moving the free line allows him to expand his repertoire of higher end products, selling increasingly more expensive products to his best customers, who want to differentiate themselves from those receiving free products and gain an edge.

Think outside the cash box

Of course, few of us are selling dating advice. (Even fewer are probably qualified.) And not all the products we market are information-based—it’s easy to give away a dating eBook, far harder to give away a car.

But what about a car-related online product? Like an eBook of road trip itineries? Or a desktop gadget that allows you to track your fluid changes? The possibilities to give away valuable informational products related to brands you market are endless. And because they’re information-based, the cost of producing and distributing them is minimal.

Some of you might think this sounds like the traditional practice of sucking people into an email newsletter subscription and bombarding them with branded, low-value content . I would argue, and Pagan would likely agree, that the difference is in your frame, perspective and execution. The goal with moving the free line is to genuinely provide an increasing amount of value to people for free, while simultaneously offering increasingly expensive products and services higher up the value chain. The more solid your base of free products, the higher your peak of expensive products can reach.

And if you don’t believe it, just watch those guys who formerly couldn’t get dance partners date the Raptors dance squad after finding a Pagan product through one of his free dating newsletters.

Photo credit: cow at the fence by withrow.

Co-Creation is the Future of Marketing

I opened my email this morning and expected the usual.  But I was completely charmed and blown away by a note I received from Markus Grupp.  By day, Markus is a user experience design manager for one of our wireless carriers.  But his avocation is creating guides to Toronto for your iPod.  And the one he just released is an iPod guide to 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.

Festival_scout_preview_main_menu
Called the Festival Scout, Markus' app lets you look up films by date, programme, venue and director.  It also gives you information about the venues, including subway times from one to another - essential if you've ever fested on a tight schedule!!

The Festival Scout is a perfect example of what a passionate customer will do if you free your data and make it available to your brand advocates.  The app doesn't compete with any of TIFF's products: a mobile text app can't replace the glory of the program guide and Markus isn't charging for the app.  And it's a product that really meets a customer's need in a just-in-time way.  Also, if you've ever stood in line at the TIFF, you know that the only thing more plentiful than cameras are iPods.

Markus is also an excellent marketer ... he's posted a video guide on how to use the Festival Scout as well as pictures for bloggers to illustrate what we write about.  And he's included a link for lazy bloggers to help spread the word - an "Add to Del.icio.us" button.

This kind of application is the perfect example of what the future of marketing will be: creative, passionate brand advocates who take something ordinary that a brand offers (an online film schedule) and turn it into something extraordinary (Festival Scout - a mobile festival schedule).  Plus, he gives back to the brand by promoting his app and the festival, plus teaches marketers a few tricks about how to "get social" with their message.

Why does this work?  Because of the passion.  I truly believe that brand advocates will always be more passionate than any brand manager. Markus' passion is for two things: TIFF and mobile apps.  His creativity has created something that no brand manager could.  As marketers, we should support the Markus' of our brands!  Because at the end of the day, it enriches our offering and our customers' experience.

So ... what do you think?  If you were the head of marketing for the Toronto International Film Festival would you be excited about this app or freaked out?  Does your brand have any content or data they can make available to brand advocates for co-creation possibilities?  What do you think about this whole approach?

Light Two Fires with One Match - Learn Twitter AND Write for One Degree

I know you've been saying to yourself, "Wow, I should really check out that Twitter."  And I also know you've been saying to yourself, "I could totally write for One Degree.  I just a) can't make a REGULAR commitment and b) I never really know what to write."

Well, today is your lucky day! We've started a Twitter feed for folks who want to write for One Degree.  *We* can't write about everything, but there are a lot of things to write about.  So if you follow our Tweets, we'll be Twittering out ideas for short quick articles. Our Twitter address is http://twitter.com/onedegreeideas 

Just start following us. We're also considering having a general Twitter account for One Degree.  This may morph into that.  Or we may do something different.  Again, another experiment.  But we can't learn if we don't play.  Feedback is welcome!

Couple of other notes: There is an outstanding tutorial created by Chris Demetrios (www.twitteroid.com) called "Mastering Twitter In 10 Minutes or Less" (PDF file).  Definitely worth the download.  There is also a brief video overview of Twitter and Twitterific on YouTube. Also, in case you weren't sure ... you don't have to make a regular commitment to write for One Degree.  We'd love to have a piece from you once a week, once a month, once a quarter ... or on special assignment (e.g. covering an event).  We'll be adding our Guest Contributor status back in, so, something for you to consider.

September 09, 2007

Growing Pains or Growing Concern – Facebook Gets Nasty with Their Best Users

GotojailRecently a new “friend” I’ve acquired through Facebook just disappeared in the middle of our conversation.  One day I get a message from the new friend in my Facebook inbox asking for a time for us to get together to speak about our respective new projects and the next I get an error message from my response to him noting he is no longer listed as one of my Facebook friends.  Hmmm.  Did I cross the line in some way with this new friend?   Had he mistaken me for another Michael Garrity and just realized it?  Is there a bug in the Facebook system caused by the tremendous volume of activity at the site?  Suddenly I feel like one of those characters from the cell phone ads who get dropped by the network at an inappropriate time on their call.

At Facebook there was no way of telling what had occurred and there was no other information available (and certainly no 1-800 number to call).  So I went back to the search function to find him again.  Low and behold he is completely off the grid.  He simply no longer exists on Facebook.  Now that’s strange, I think.  This particular friend had a network of over 3000 people hooked into his profile and was part of more groups in Facebook than I thought possible.  He was what I would call a “super-user” of the site, a total evangelist for the Facebook cause.  Now I start wondering whether this was him at all.  Maybe this was a case of stolen identity and now this person has valuable information about me from our conversation.  My mind is racing, I’m concerned and I’m questioning my privacy settings at Facebook.  So, I send him an old fashion safe and reliable email to check up on the problem.

Well, this story has a conclusion.  He was removed from Facebook for, get this, being too active a user.  His “super-use” was what got him suspended from Facebook and, as it turns out, he is not alone.  For those of you not familiar with the story, this friend is none other than local blogger and Buzz Canuck, Sean Moffit .  He has blogged specifically about this experience here on his popular blog.  As Sean notes in his blog, he is in good company.  Many of the super-users of Facebook have been booted off the system specifically for their super-use, including folks as high profile as author and internet guru, Guy Kawasaki.  Super-use at Facebook HQ, it seems, is deemed suspicious behaviour and given the massive scale of the operation and the relatively small staff at Facebook, it is just easier to suspend the account and get to it when they can, rather than to proactively deal with the user.

 

Sean is back on line with Facebook now but with a sour taste in his mouth.  As you can read in his blog post, Facebook may have turned one of its biggest local evangelists against it.  My conclusion is this.  If you want to be a “platform” and to play at the $100 Billion level, than you better be prepared to tackle problems like this quickly.  Unless Facebook finds a way of dealing with this negative element of their customer service model, they will turn the Seans of their service from super users into super detractors.

September 07, 2007

Links From The Backchannel

Here are some links from the Backchannel our readers found interesting.
  1. Coke Comes Clean About Second Life - thanks, Kate
  2. Project VRM: vendor relationship management - thanks, candureactor
  3. 16 Awesome Data Visualization Tools - thanks, candureactor
Remember, you can participate in the backchannel! It’s super easy – read our initial post on how to get involved and get tagging!

September 06, 2007

Press Release Roundup

Here are the latest press releases of interest we’ve received at One Degree.

  • Canada's Yummiest Mummy Contest Site Launched - Moms, get those cameras rolling! This interactive contest has moms creating and upload videos of themselves in the hopes of winning prizes from a variety of corporate sponsors. Registered users vote for their favourite videos. Check out www.yummiestmummy.com for full contest details.
  • Dave Networks Launches IPTV Client On Millions of HP Notebooks - Dave Networks announced a deal with Hewlett-Packard to ship a new P2P video streaming technology dubbed NEXT.TV that will ship with millions of Hewlett-Packard notebooks beginning in late September. At launch, NEXT.TV will feature more than fifty channels with programming across all genres. Channels and programs available on NEXT.TV vary by geographic region and include programming from around the world. A preview demo of NEXT.TV 's capabilities may be viewed here: http://www.next.tv/hp/demo.html. The username "nexttv" and the password "hpdemo" will give you access to the preview.
  • Ipsos Reid Releases Survey on "Greenest" Tech Brands - Ipsos-Reid recently released survey results that share the tech brands that consumers perceive as the “greenest” as well as green/enviro factors that drive consumer tech purchases.
  • Proximity Canada Builds Human Bridge for the People of Minneapolis - Interactive agency Proximity Canada showed its support for colleagues and the people of Minneapolis affected by the recent bridge collapse with the launch of the Human Bridge, a website where where people can come together virtually to share messages of support and make charitable donations.
  • TIFF Offers Limited Free Tickets to Interactive Ontario Members for Industry Panel on Social Networks - Looking for something keen to do on Saturday, Sept 8th from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. at the Royal Ontario Museum? Come check out SOCIAL NETWORKS: Connecting Filmmakers to Audiences with Christine Moore from Myspace and other guest speakers If you're interested in attending this industry panel discussion for free, email hilary@interactiveontario.com.Tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis.

September 05, 2007

Is Your Site a "Soup Nazi"?

Seinfeld_soup_nazi Right now, I'm planning my wedding. Recently up on my "to do" list: find a speciality chair rental place in Toronto.  We're having "theatre-style" seating at our wedding, but we also want some speciality chairs for the wedding party.  I was able to locate a number of chair rental places in Toronto via Google.  No problem there.  Now, to see what they have to offer ...

A couple of sites had some cursory information - a list of options, a few pictures.  But when I tried to find what specific chairs that Contemporary Furniture Rentals had on offer, I ran into something I haven't seen since, well ... ever.

Soupnazicfrentals

For access to our website, please email us?  You have got to be kidding.  Why *have* a website if you don't want people to access it?

 

As you can imagine, this shop was immediately crossed off my list of potential vendors.  Especially when another furniture rental place in TO, Dominion Furniture Rental, has a fully-open website with a full product list of every piece of furniture that they offer for rent with prices, plus some rental FAQs and other great content.  Done!  These guys are getting my business.

Throughout the day, I continued crossing items off my to-do list and the shock from seeing "please email us for access to our website" started to wear off.  I consoled myself with a variety of mantras: small business - not very familiar with Internet - likely just a fluke - internet newbies - just getting started - nothing to worry about.

 

How was I to know that the really big shock was yet to come ...

When you're planning a wedding, you need a lot of postage.  Invites and thank you cards.  I'm a gal who likes pretty pictures - why would I put a pic of the Queen or the flag on my wedding invites when I could have colourful flowers, or hearts or dinosaurs!  Let's see what Canada Post has on offer.

The main Canada Post Postal Shop has some good stamps .. a few flowers, the "celebration" stamp.  Also FIFA and Joni Mitchell.  Still not right for quirky gal who is having an even quirkier wedding.  Now, I used to collect stamps.  And I used to get the cool catalog from Canada Post that had all kinds of amazing stamps in it.  Feeling a little smug, I went into the Philatelic Shop on their site; the collectors get all the good stamps.  I wasn't even deterred by the "Registration Required" warning.  I'm happy to give my email, create an account, whatever - if I get access to cool stamps.

Look at this picture!  Look at all the delights that lie behind it! I KNOW my cool quirky stamps are here.  Let me in!

Soupnazidelight

I dutifully register.  Not too bad, standard fields (though I do give them a fake phone number).  OK ... done!  Let me in!

And then THIS screen appears.

Soupnazicanadapost

Gack!  WHAT?!  You want me to WAIT to shop on your site?  Is there some security clearance that is required for me to shop for collector stamps?  Is it because I gave you a fake phone number?

Now unlike the rental company, there is no alternative to legal Canadian postage.  I'm like Elaine on Seinfeld and Canada Post is the Soup Nazi.  No cool stamps for me today!

So, e-tailers, take a walk through your sites.  Are you a Soup Nazi?  What irrational barriers are you putting up to your customers who are ready and willing to buy: unreasonable registration forms, waiting periods, confusing navigation?  Are there good reasons for doing so?  I mean REALLY good reasons?  Chances are, there aren't.  C'mon, we just want some soup.

[Note .. to be fair, Canada Post did get back to me within 1 business day - just like they said.  But I still find it a *mystery* why I had to wait at all!]

"Noise to Signal" on Team Building

20070904teambuilding

September 04, 2007

Is Your Campaign Domain Searchable?

At RedFlagDeals.com we tend to deal with a lot of other companies' customer service issues. For example, last week I spent 10 minutes on the phone explaining to someone that I couldn't help him fix his Prima TV because I didn't work for Prima or have any relationship with them. Turns out that the local Wal-Mart had told him to contact Prima and he had simply Googled them and ended up on our website. For a lot of Internet users, search is not only the best way to find things on the web, it's the only way; to the point where many users don't use the address bar to type in a domain, they simply Google the entire domain.

Normally, this sort of behaviour isn't too much of a problem; however there are cases where this can cause trouble, such as with unique campaign URLs. We recently saw this with a rewards campaign that Rogers ran for its wireless customers. To reward long time customers, Rogers ran a direct mail campaign offering a free music CD. All you had to do to claim your CD was go to www.rogers.com/gift and enter a unique code.

The only problem was if you went to Google.ca and typed in "www.rogers.com/gift", a thread from the RedFlagDeals.com forums came up first and no Rogers page whatsoever was listed.

The first mailouts started arriving at customers' doors on July 17 and within the first three days we had over a thousand visitors arrive at RedFlagDeals.com looking for their free CD. We first clued in when we started getting emails from frustrated visitors asking how to get their free gift. Through the end of August we've had over 5000 visitors and dozens of customer support emails as a result of the Rogers campaign. It took over two weeks for Google to index the URL.

Rogersgiftrfd

The reason this happened is because the rogers.com/gift page was simply a redirect and since there were no links on the Rogers webpage to the gift page, it took an extremely long time for Google to find the URL. While we did our best to point those who contacted us in the right direction, only a small percentage of the visitors bothered to email us and a great many more probably just gave up.

What could Rogers have done differently? They could have either pre-seeded the URL or used a directory rewrite so that the gift page actually resided at www.rogers.com/gift. Neither solution is technically difficult and implementing one of them would have saved their customers a lot of headaches.

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