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Posts from May 2008

May 28, 2008

N2S on Skepticism


Does Location Matter? MESH 08 Session Notes

One Degree would like to thank Edelman for providing session passes to MESH 08 for our correspondent, Kathryn Lagden.  Kathryn attended three sessions at MESH and will be providing her insights here.

Nora Young, host of CBC’s Spark, a blog, radio show, and podcast about technology and culture, interviewed Bill Buxton, a principal researcher with Microsoft and a designer concerned with the human aspects of technology. I was particularly interested in this session because like many, I work remotely and rely on technology to stay connected (and productive!) with colleagues.

The hour discussion went in many directions but kept coming back to the central idea that the technology we use to interact online needs to incorporate the social protocol of existing interactions. It quickly became clear how my two main tools, instant messaging and conference calls, fall well short of this need.

One of the challenges we face when communicating online is how to deal with approach and departure. For example, having a face pop up on your monitor is like having someone suddenly appear six inches from your nose. It’s an abrupt invasion of space and I can’t think of one social situation where that's accepted behaviour.

Bill talked about gaze awareness and how we need to see both the foreground and background to effectively respect people’s time and space. Seeing a wide-angle view of the workspace communicates who is busy, on the phone, available for a quick discussion, etc.

We wouldn’t barge into a colleague’s office if they were on the phone or deep into conversation with another person. When designing technology, it needs to incorporate these (and other) existing social protocols.

Of course, the thought of all these cameras raises an issue of surveillance. According to Bill, “paranoia is justified but misdirected. It depends on who is doing the surveillance as to whether it’s good or bad”. He cited an example of a woman who got her stolen computer back because the thief was automatically logged in to her IM client and she had one of her IM friends take a photo of him (he was later identified by another person).

Two interesting discussions about the digital divide and incorporating different cultural norms concluded the discussion. In the case of cultural differences, Bill used the example of showing availability by indicating if your door is open or closed. A closed door in Germany has a different meaning than a closed door in North America. Which leads nicely into Bill’s final point, “heterogeneous social networks are more important than heterogeneous computer networks”.

The full audio/video is on the Spark blog.

For other videos from this year's Mesh Conference, check out Mesh TV.

Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel (Blogroll)

Name of Blog: Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Blog
URL: http://www.twistimage.com/blog
One Line Description: Marketing and Communications Blog and Podcast
Topics It Covers: digital marketing, social media, personal branding, online communications, public relations, business, and management
Language: English
Author(s): Mitch Joel
Location: Beautiful Montreal, Quebec
Contact Deets: Facebook Profile

Three Representative Posts:

  1. Your Blog - Your Personal Brand And The Big Long Beast That Is The Long Tail
  2. How Facebook Is Crushing Your Personal Brand (And You Don't Even Know It)
  3. The Trouble With Twitter - Confessions Of A Twitter Snob

Miscellaneous Notes and Accolades:
Mitch Joel is President of the award-winning national Digital Marketing agency, Twist Image. Marketing Magazine dubbed Mitch Joel the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” and in 2006 he was named one of the most influential authorities on Blog Marketing in the world. He is a marketing and communications visionary, interactive expert, community leader, Blogger and Podcaster. He is also a passionate entrepreneur and speaker who connects with people worldwide by sharing his marketing insights on digital marketing and personal branding. Mitch was also one of the first contributors to One Degree back in the day.

Community Rating:

May 27, 2008

Alternate Reality Games – Playing with Marketing

I was fortunate enough to attend 42 Entertainment’s brilliant and inspiring VIDFEST presentation which centered around the conception and execution of their Alternate Reality Game for the Nine Inch Nails’ “Year Zero” album. Having read Frank Rose's piece in Wired about this phenomenal project months ago, I felt like a total fangirl – utterly excited about what they’d have to say, and hopefully, show us.  Indeed, it was completely enthralling. I love marketing, mysteries, film/online media and the concept of collaboration, and so ARGs are as exciting as anything I’ve come across yet (be sure to listen to the audio on the Wired piece for proof).

So here’s a brief overview of Alternate Reality Games, and why I think I said “Wow…” just about 25 times during 42 Entertainment’s presentation.

Basically, an Alternate Reality Game is a highly interactive and immersive “adventure designed to be played in the real world”.  ARGs are generally linked to a product/promotion – though the coloration is often very subtle. One of the key reasons it's so involving for the audience is because the adventure involves them - literally.  No longer merely passive viewers, the genre blurs the line between fact and fiction, inviting the audience in… necessitating their participation and collaboration to solve a mystery…

One night, years ago, I dragged my then-boyfriend to see “The Ring”.  The film was eerie enough, but, as a die-hard thriller-fan, I wasn’t quite aware of its impact, until later…  At 2am, his cell phone rang.  We awakened, with a start, and he grappled for the phone.  There was no one there.  It was hard to get back to sleep, as the movie, with its ominous phone call theme, replayed through my mind. And I had to use a groggy logic to convince myself that the phone call had no relation to the film, that the character in the film could not, in all reality, simply contact us.

But what if it could?    What would happen if all reality was no longer that, and a film or game did actually reach out and touch you…?   Sure it would be frightening - but it would most certainly be memorable, and downright engaging… “These games are intensely complicated series of puzzles involving coded Web sites, real-world clues like the newspaper advertisements, phone calls in the middle of the night from game characters and more. That blend of real-world activities and a dramatic storyline has proven irresistible to many.”  “The instant you click on a link, your phone should start to ring, your car should only drive in reverse, and none of your friends should remember your name."

And it’s that possibility of something coming through from the fictional world (aside from being the basis of many Stephen King tale) which forms the appeal of ARGs.  The internet and it’s consistently evolving ability to link people of similar interests has been pivotal in the progression of these games and how they work.  “The internet supplied the medium--a place where you could deliver a ton of content, and be assured that players would talk about it with one another." 

And marketers are discovering that there is potential and value of associating a product with something that engages, in a time when audiences are oversaturated by, and generally disengaged from, traditional forms of advertising.  "There was a shift from a push-based marketing system to a pull-based marketing system" “They integrate facets of viral marketing, buzz-building, PR, word-of-mouth generation, and brand immersion into true experiences that pull players in and don't let them go.”

"When other people are missionaries for your brand, you've got something special," said Jordan Fisher, director of brand planning at Perceive, an advertising agency in Los Angeles. "The brand becomes something much bigger, has a purpose rather than being just another product on the shelf." “Rather than 30 seconds of exposure to a brand, they generate stickiness” and “draw in users and encourage them to bring other players into the 'game'." The ARG for Beast’s had "three million participants” and when the "frenzy created by this ARG” brought them mainstream media press coverage the “three million people created over 300 million impressions for the film".

ARGs are no small feat, to make or to solve, and the level of detail and sophistication can be impressive.  Further, it assumes audience sophistication… The Year Zero promotion was astounding – everything from T-shirts to the video for the song “Survivalism”  were virtual treasures trove for participants - albeit with hidden treasures.  The video itself went way beyond a cool concept and music: it contained “surveillance footage”, on which some of the video time codes were designed to alternate from a number to a letter, and those letters, put together, provided further clues to the eerie big brother storyline.  And, appropriately enough, the video even culminated with a raid…

These types of clues peek curiosity and invite collaboration.   “Instead of the simulated worlds of computer games, Big Games transform the physical space around us into a shared gameworld, brought to life by the choices, actions, and experiences of the players.”   And the participants collaboration is a benefit to players as well as marketers: “Interactions become more meaningful when they connect individuals from their local environment to a larger community.”  And in fact, “[t]he task is too complicated for any one person, but the Web enables a collective intelligence to emerge to assemble the pieces, solve the mysteries, and in the process, tell and retell the story online. The narrative is shaped — and ultimately owned — by the audience in ways that other forms of storytelling cannot match. No longer passive consumers, the players live out the story.”  Participants shape the game and often even create for the game: “Our experiences are designed to proliferate across the web. The community took many of the ideas we created and ran with them: producing their own videos, comic books, etc.”

You may already realized that the future of entertainment involves you. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re also the future of marketing.

Are you game?


A few ARG examples:  Year Zero, World Without Oil, The Lost Ring, The Beast, Cathy’s Book, Chasing the Wish, Perplex City, I Love Bees

Some ARG companies:   42 Entertainment, Area/Code, Fourth Wall, Xenophile Media

Bibliography and further information bookmarked on De.licio.us

Picture Credits: 42entertainment.com

Bandwidth Camp by Duane Brown (Blogroll)

Name of Blog:  Bandwidth Camp

URL: www.BandwidthCamp.com

One Line Description:  Covering everything from research, to marketing and how to use that information to connect with the global gaming community.

Topics It Covers: research, strategy, PR, social media, community and marketing

Language: English

Author(s): Duane Brown

Location:  Toronto

Contact Deets:  http://www.bandwidthcamp.com/contact/

Three Representative Posts:

  1. Tipster Thursdays: How To Use Twitter In 5 Unique Ways
  2. How To Do Community Relations Right
  3. Sony and Zipatoni: The Flog [Update 1]   

Miscellaneous Notes and Accolades:

I've been mentioned in Joseph Jaffe's Join The Conversation and The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. Launched my own mini-agency as an outlet for my own creative ideas.

Community Rating:

Make it personal (or else)

May 23, 2008

Fun Friday Video plus Free Ticket Contest Reminder!

We've mentioned the upcoming "From Mass to Grass" conference a few times.  Wanted to share this video that Jay Moonah created for it:

Plus, a reminder that end of the day Monday is the deadline for sending in your entry to win a free ticket (or pair) to "From Mass to Grass".  Three ways to win: non-profit, small biz, or best WOM idea for a Chia Pet.

Google Introduces Friend Connect

Google_friend_connect Earlier this week, Google announced a preview release of the newest addition to its product mix, Google Friend Connect, a service that helps website owners grow traffic by enabling sites on the web to easily add social features to their websites.

By offering Friend Connect, which can be added to a web property simply by inserting a snippet of code on the site, Google removes the technological barriers of offering social applications.

Website owners can now attract more traffic to their sites and keep visitors engaged utilizing the social gadgets created by Google and OpenSocial developers. Some of the main gadgets offered are:

  • Member management
  • Message board
  • Reviews
  • Picture-sharing

So in a nutshell, Google Friend Connect helps website owners in three major ways:

Increase Traffic: Visitors get engaged and bring along their Internet friends and connections from social networks such as Facebook, orkut and MySpace.

Improve Engagement KPIs: Web users become more involved by engaging with social features developed by Google and the OpenSocial developer community.

Reduce Cost to Market: With no programming needed, the technological and financial obstacles to adding social features to the sites are removed.

Friend Connect will also give Google more insight into websites’ audiences by mapping a virtual representation of a social user on the web. This will eventually help Google provide more robust advertising through Google AdSense and Placement Targeting by providing demographic and interest segmentation.

This Google application also has major implications for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM) as it incorporates user-generated content on the sites.

May 22, 2008

June 6 - Email Marketing Seminar - Vancouver

May 21, 2008

Apple & the City

By Ben Boudreau

Carrieslappyze8 Sex and the City – a beloved television series and upcoming movie about women, cocktails, fashion, sex and…Apple?

It should come as no surprise that Apple has latched on to the ongoing media frenzy surrounding the Sex and the City movie that has everyone talking. Whether you love it, hate it, or are a PC user, you won’t be able to escape the hype as we foray into the seven-day countdown.

For those who haven’t seen the show, the main character is a columnist who at least once an episode throughout the six-season run is seen typing away on her Mac. Through every break-up, one-night-stand, and New York Fashion Week, her Macbook Pro is there, hanging on her every word as viewers take note of her every move and, more importantly, product selection.

On an offshoot of the official movie website, SATC fans are able to play around on Carrie’s laptop. From scanning her photo albums, to checking out her calendar schedule, to even chatting with other movie characters online, Apple offers a true playground for diehard fans showing the potency of the soft sell.

Developers have put some serious thought into the laptop experience. Virtual sticky notes are reminiscent of the show’s running narrative, instant messaging conversations and email exchanges with her friends seem real, and the photos in the trash-bin hint at more drama with the love/hate-of her life. In order to see the exclusive content, visitors navigate through the Mac operating system and applications, all the while getting a feel for what daily Macbook life might be like.

Knowing that their product experience will speak for itself, Apple shows restraint by leaving out any direct sells or buy-nows. As a result, Apple as an advertiser balances the fine line between adding value for SATC fans and promoting their product.

With the iPod saturating the mp3 player market, Apple has plenty of brand awareness to shift their efforts toward their computer products with more creativity and less sell-sell-sell. By linking this controlled test-run masterfully with the emotional ties to a beloved TV show, Apple has designed a powerful targeted marketing campaign worth putting the cosmopolitans down.

Photo Credit: Must Love Geek

June 16-18 - Search Engine Strategies Toronto 2008 Conference & Expo - Toronto

Taking Transactional Email to Market

If you conduct any type of ecommerce, you likely send email to your customers to confirm purchases or account modifications that they have made. But how can you use these emails as an opportunity for promotion while remaining respectful of your customers?

First – Keep in mind that there are two major types of email – commercial and transactional. Commercial email has one purpose: promoting a brand, product/service or cause.

Second – Transactional-focused emails are far more complex. Most commonly, transactional emails are used to:

  • Welcome new registrants or customers
  • Confirm transactions
  • Provide notification of shipment
  • Outline return policies

In short, this type of email supports a critical part of your relationship with customers – they provide confidence and build trust in your brand.

Third – These guidelines for transactional email demonstrate a respect for your customers and assist in compliance with industry legislation (i.e. CAN-SPAM). Here are the key rules for transactional emails:

  • 80% of the content, imagery and space of a transactional email should serve to support a previous or pending transaction – rather than be promotional.
  • Marketing content should be below the fold – and clearly set apart from the transactional information.
  • Marketing offers presented should be somehow related to the transaction. For example, if the transaction is a purchase of an iPod, the marketing content could highlight relevant guarantees, product support or iPod accessories.
  • Use subject lines that clearly identify the email as transactional. For example, "Confirming Your Purchase of…"
  • If more than 20% of the email’s content, imagery or space is used for promotional purposes, you must include an "unsubscribe" option that will be honoured. Keep in-mind that if you do this, you run the risk of losing contact with a purchasing customer.

Follow these rules and your transactional emails will serve your brand and marketing objectives well.

May 20, 2008

SEO Myths with WestJet's Lyndsay Walker - 5 Question Interview

Lyndsay Walker joined WestJet, Canada's leading low-fare airline, in February 2007. As web analytics & SEO coordinator, she is responsible for all data collection and analysis for WestJet.com and WestJetVacations.com. Lyndsay will be speaking at Search Engines Strategies Toronto on June 18th as part of the "SEO Don'ts, Myths, & Scams" panel on Day 2.

One Degree: What is the biggest SEO myth - the one marketers fall prey to the most often?

One of the biggest myths I've encountered since day one is unsolicited emails praising their site's great PageRank ranking and what a great partnership a link exchange can be.  The worst are the emails that are so obviously form letters.  Just yesterday I received a link exchange request for my SEO blog (www.lyndseo.com) explaining how important PageRank is, and would I add their "Plus Size Dresses" site to my site?  Don't get me wrong - links are what make the web go round, but accepting every link exchange request from unrelated topics aren't going to do any good for your site.

One Degree: How much can implementing an SEO "don't" penalize a site?  Is there an example you can share?

How much a "don't" can penalize a site depends on the "don't" being implemented.  At a previous employer, I saw hours of work and thousands of dollars poured into an automated linking scheme that would take hundreds of microsites and interlink them in a "random" way.  The problem is that anything automated is never random.  The only penalty this company faced is the loss of that time and money - generally linking schemes like the one I've described don't result in a search engine penalty - they just aren't given any weight at all.

One Degree: Are there some search engines that are pickier than others about SEO "don't's"? If you’re following the rules for one, is it safe to assume you’re OK for others?

No search engine has the exact same algorithm, so it's natural to assume that some are pickier than others.  I would suggest Google as the pickiest and it shows in the quality of results. In my experience, I have found MSN's Live Search to be least picky, at least when it comes to launching a new site.  Sites seem to get indexed faster with Live, but the traffic isn't quite there. 

When optimizing a web site, especially a new site, it's important to follow the Webmaster Guidelines set out by the search engines.  One can follow a set of principles set out by one search engine and have success with any.  Generally it is the "don'ts" that have different effects on the different search engines.

One Degree: "My friend who has a friend who works at Google said" ... What is your advice to SEO marketers on how to identify myths or bad SEO advice?

My number one piece of advise to SEO marketers is to remember who the site is there for - the visitors!   You can develop a web site that's great for the search engines and ranks well - but if a person clicks on your link, will they find what they're looking for?  If not, what's the point of ranking well?  The key is to find a balance between search engine bots and visitors.  For example, a person may be very excited to get a PR 5 link from a craft site on his sports site, but will any visitors be interested in that link?  Probably not.  And because the two sites are relevant, it won't do any good for the search engine either.

If I may offer one other piece of advice, it would be to remind SEOs to optimize for a PAGE, not necessarily for a site.  PageRank is assigned to a PAGE, not the entire site.  If you're looking at a link exchange with someone else, don't necessarily look to see if the sites are relevant - look at the page instead.  If your link is going to be listed on a page with hundreds of other links, and no content, it's not worth it.

One Degree: What are your three favourite resources for reliable, trustworthy SEO information?

Only three?  I'd have to say WebmasterWorld is fantastic, especially for the more "techie" SEO like myself... and PubCon (WMW's conference) is extremely valuable!  I also love seeing what Rand and the gang are up to at SEOMoz, and Search Engine Land always has articles of interest on a broad variety of topics.  As a "bonus" resource, I have come to rely on Twitter to find out what's hot up to the minute!

Four easy fixes for more credible content

10 Facebook Tips for Professionals

It will come as no surprise to many of you reading this that I'm a huge fan of Facebook and have been since I signed on about two years ago. As I've watched this social network grow by leaps and bounds, I've seen more and more business professionals jump on the bandwagon and try to make a go of it, with decidedly mixed results. Truth be told, I've also made a few mistakes myself along the way.

In the spirit of sharing, I hereby present my list of 10 tips for business professionals who want to experience the many delights of Facebook without making a fool of themselves:

  1. Use your real and full name in your profile - Don't sign on under some cute alias or nickname; nobody's going to be able to find you, and using a fictional name as your Facebook identity is just begging to get you kicked off since it's a borderline violation of the Terms of Service.
  2. Make sure your profile includes a photo of you - If you don't include a photo of yourself in your profile, you might as well not bother being on Facebook. Very few people, even your friends, will want to add you as their Facebook friend without knowing who they are dealing with. Choose a recent colour or black and white headshot of yourself, and make sure the photo is tasteful.
  3. Include detailed business information in your profile - Prospective Facebook business friends are going to be viewing your profile to evaluate whether or not they want to add you as a friend, so make sure you include the name of the company you work for, a link to your corporate Website, a link to your blog (if you have one), your email address and phone number.
  4. Do not invite strangers to be your Facebook friends - This is a huge pet peeve of mine, as I generally will not add anyone as my Facebook friend that I haven't met in person. They're called Facebook "friends" for a reason. I also suggest you not let strangers add you as their Facebook friend until you have established a comfort level with them through other means.
  5. Do not send messages to strangers - This is another pet peeve of mine! Unless you already know the person and are one of their Facebook friends, do not use Facebook to send them messages. If you really need to contact the person, use traditional email or the telephone; don't bug them on Facebook.
  6. Do not add useless and/or annoying applications to your profile - Nothing will make you look more like an ass than if you start adding all sorts of time-wasting applications to your Facebook profile that automatically 'invite' all your friends to participate. Say no to zombies, vampires, hamsters, funwalls, super pokes, top friends, personality tests, and all the other crap.
  7. Do not send bulk commercial messages to your friends - Hard to believe I would have to spell this one out, but Facebook is the last place you want to start spamming people. It's OK to send the occasional business related message to small groups of people at a time, but do this more than once a month and you're really asking for trouble. (You are free, of course, to create your own Facebook Group, which will allow you to send update messages to anyone who joins the group; nothing wrong with that.)
  8. Think twice before writing on other people's Walls - Walls are not the place to have a private conversation because everyone (or at least all your friends) can see the conversation. If you want to have a 1:1 discussion with someone, send a message instead. And to avoid someone inadvertently posting something inappropriate on your Wall, you might want to consider disabling your Wall altogether.
  9. Be judicious about what information you make available in your profile - Identity theft is a big problem, and so are stalkers. Don't every list your real birth date on Facebook (or anywhere else online) and be very selective about other personal information you share. The same holds true for photos; be very careful about the photos you upload. Do you really want your business associates to see that photo of you dancing on the bar at the local watering hole?
  10. Use LinkedIn for pure business connections instead - Yeah, I know, it's kind of funny to call this a Facebook tip, but often times it's more appropriate to use LinkedIn to connect with someone since LinkedIn is "all business" whereas Facebook is much more casual. I recommend using both, with Facebook skewed more towards true friends and business "friends" and LinkedIn for more serious business connections (and nothing else).

Don't let any of this frighten you off Facebook as it is a remarkable personal and business tool. But do tread lightly when you first sign on and spend some time to get to know how it works and what is acceptable behaviour (for business professionals) and what is not.

June 5 - Email Marketing Seminar - Calgary

May 14, 2008

A 4 Step Model for Online Brand Building – Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, I talked about Step 1: Defining Your “Really Important and Specific Problem” (RISP) and Step 2: Have an Excellent Core Offer (ECO). Here are the next two steps in building your brand online.

Step 3:  Recruit an Identified Relevant Community (IRC)? 
Recruiting a community of people who use your product and care deeply about it is, for me, the single most effective method of brand building. 

IRC’s can be customers, employees, uber-users, bloggers or communities with a declared interest in your market category.  The definition of an IRC is this: they need to use your product or service and care enough about it to tell other folks about how great it is or to be honest with you on how to improve it. 

Almost every company that I can think of that is truly successful have very clear IRCs that they work diligently around servicing.  Think here of eBay’s “PowerSellers”, Google’s Advertising Professionals, or Microsoft’s Partner Program.

Sustainable “Word of Mouth” marketing doesn’t just happen by accident.  It happens because a community of your users think your product rocks and they think it rocks because it meets a clearly identified, important and specific need of theirs and they want to let the whole world know about it. 

If you get the first 2 steps I’ve mentioned above right, this community will naturally form somewhere.  If you foster this community, contact them, listen to them and provide them with the tools and incentives necessary to get your message out to the world, you will be engaged in the best, most inexpensive and most effective type of marketing that there is. 

Standard tactics for this step are referral programs, VIP programs, social network integrations and grass roots marketing.  By the way, the very first IRCs that you should have are your own employees.  They should all use your product/service (or at least want to) and they should care deeply about it.  If they don’t, there is a very clear message there for you.

Step 4 – General Awareness Brand Building (GABB)
As I’ve argued above, General Awareness Brand Building (GABB) is a stage of marketing that you need to be prepared for. Companies that brand build through massive marketing programs disconnected from a clear customer need and a strong core offer usually end up with disappointing results. 

In today’s social networked world however, I think the stakes are even higher. I would argue that today, negative word of mouth will travel from disaffected customer to disaffected customer faster than you can react and control.

Let’s go back to Bell for a minute. While the Beavers fill the airwaves with their cute and quirky messages, influential bloggers like my friend Tom Purves create a much more powerful back channel with a significantly different message. Look at the comments he’s attracted and tell me which message you think resonates more.

So assuming that you are ready to create awareness, what should you do? The truth is that there are significantly smarter folks than me speaking about this topic every day. What I can contribute is this: my shortlist of GABB tactics that work well in my personal experience (or because I did the opposite which then backfired).

  1. Negotiate Distribution Partners.  My first look in marketing tactics is always to see how much of our marketing work can be done by someone else.  Here’s the logic: your target customers already live somewhere online and will likely be doing something somewhere that relates to your offering.  Find these places and do a deal with them to get shared access to that customer. 

    Notice I didn’t say “try to own the customer at your website because you’re that good”.  Attempts to “own” customers are misguided and silly. Instead, try to create win-win relationships where both of your respective value propositions improve because of the deal. 

    Here’s an example from my experience.  When I was with epost, the single smartest thing we ever did was to partner with Canadian Financial Institutions.  In going through the steps above, we came to the realization that our bill presentment solution was a “nice to have” for customers, not a “need to have”.  This made for an expensive marketing job. 

    At the same though we could see that online bill payment through banks had become a “need to have” activity for over 50% of Canadians. The obvious solution was to plug our system into the bank systems so that customers could have a full solution.

    It took a while both technically and in the actual deal framework but the end result was that by creating a win-win scenario with the Banks our customer acquisition rates increased by 400% and our cost of acquisition dropped by 80%.  This saved a lot of expensive brand building marketing work.   

  2. Build Endorsed Reach. Ironic as it may be, the best way to tell the story of your company is through the mouths of other people. Why?  Because third parties have a higher trust factor associated with them than you do.

    The single best way to get credible people to tell your story in my experience is with effective Public Relations. Positive press coverage on your service offering is significantly more effective than any type of advertising you will do. Whether you do this yourself or use the pool of very smart public relations firms out there who can help you, your job is to target relevant media (old school media and new school media like bloggers) with the story of why your product/service is great and get them to write about it in their own voice.

  3. Leave a Big Wake. There is a reason why radio and print advertisers are struggling right now and it’s because their advertising mediums are what I would call “small wake” marketing models.

    You hear the ad between songs or see it between articles that you are reading and then it’s gone, never to be seen or heard from again until you pay for another spot.  Compare this model of “one and done” to a “Big Wake” model like a posted video on YouTube which is viewed over and over again for free by anyone who is told it’s there.

    The Superbowl Ads this year were a great example of “Big Wake” Marketing using YouTube. The buzz that each of these ads got leading up to and after the single event of their airing far exceeded the viewers they got at the event itself. Big Wake marketing or “viral” marketing as some call it, is the holy grail of online marketing efforts.

Ok, that’s it for my rant on online brand building.  As always, caveat emptor applies.  Use what you like and leave the rest.

Win a Free Ticket to "From Mass to Grass" - Deadline Extended!

N11956417652_637611_4429_2 A few weeks ago we announced a contest where you can win a ticket (or two) to the upcoming Word of Mouth conference "From Mass to Grass".

Because of the upcoming long weekend, we've decided to extend the deadline to Monday, May 26th.

Also, based on a couple of requests, we'll take video entries as well.

Questions?  Send us an email or leave a note here in the comments.

May 13, 2008

No more long distance relationships for the Maritimes!

May1803_canada_l1a_display_3 It all happened so fast.

One week I'm happily blogging for my mostly American audience (I'm huge in Chicago...okay, not really...) and the next I'm reading posts, comments and tweets about places that I know, businesses that I recognize and bars that I’ve stumbled out of.

But I should start from the beginning...

About a month ago, thanks to Twitter, I connected with a social-media-centric agency guy here in Halifax. We chatted about the opportunity to get a monthly meet-up going like those for wired professionals in other cities throughout Canada. With that came the challenges of finding the elusive Nova Scotia Blogger, and the question of whether or not an online community can be sustained solely based on a geographic connection. That is: yeah we all live in the Maritimes...now what?

Two weeks later, we were surrounded by beer 25 enthusiastic guests forming a perfect mixture of IT folks, agency assholes (surprisingly nice people, considering the nickname bestowed upon them by their boss), hacks, flacks, librarians and personal bloggers of all ages. The formal part was limited to a brief ten minutes where we heard from Ryan Deschampes, the man who assigned Halifax librarians a social media bootcamp to get them over their hesitations (edit a wiki, read and comment on a blog, join a social network, etc.).

The next few days flew by in a blur of emails, blog comments, Twitter adds, friend requests and general online pandemonium. It seemed like all these people who were well connected nationally were craving some local action – and they sure got it! Nicely timed, mind you, as I got to read the twitters from the Atlantic Internet Marketing conference in Moncton (a city pulling over 100 people to their monthly meet-ups).

The Atlantic wired movement is still going strong, adding a whole new value to social media that I hadn’t experienced before. We’re still far from making Twitter Local’s top 30 (congrats Toronto and Vancouver!) but the web is already buzzing about the upcoming meet-up on May 22.

In the Maritimes and looking to connect? Find Halifax bloggers on Infomonkey, social media meet-up details on Wired Halifax (password "social media"), or just start scanning Twitter Local for the latest in your area.

Photo credit: NASA

Five writing errors that mark you as unprofessional

May 12, 2008

Building the Beer Buzz - Six Questions for FriendsofBigRock.com

Friendsofbigrock_2 Big Rock Beer, located in Calgary, just launched a word of mouth (WOM) marketing campaign in Toronto to try to get local buzz going for a Western brand that has already captured the minds and hearts of Albertans. The core of that campaign is the FriendsOfBigRock.com site – a hub for social activities around the Big Rock brand. This site hooks into a number of social media tools, from Facebook to Twitter, with varying degrees of depth and commitment.  One Degree sat down with Jim Button, VP Marketing for Big Rock Beer, to discuss this campaign and the evolution of Big Rock’s online marketing programmes.

One Degree: As part of your Friends of Big Rock campaign, you are using a number of social networking tools. Are there specific target markets and strategies behind each – or is it more of a scatter-shot approach?

We recognize that there are a broad spectrum of fans of Big Rock - it is no longer a specific demographic but rather a lifestyle - and interest - we appeal to (great beer, great music, genuine friends, expat Albertans). We are simply using the online tools (Flickr for photos, blogs for the opinionated, youtube for entertainment, Digg for cool stuff and Facebook for socializers) and marrying these to offline locations where these people already go and we are trying to create a better experience for them.

OD:  What are your expectations for the Friends of Big Rock community and how will you measure its success?

We recognize that, as a grassroots brand, we need to start conversations and contribute our opinion in a way that people notice, talk about us and get involved in our cause. Although we obviously have specific targets for membership, traffic, attendance, account sales and publicity - we would like the impact to create a highly passionate group of real fans and influencers who will rally around our brand long term.

OD: Big Rock currently has three distinct web properties: bigrockbeer.com, friendsofbigrock.com and bigrockuntapped.com?  Currently there isn’t a lot cross-promotion between them.  Will they remain distinct or evolve into a single site?  Do you ever see the main Big Rock site becoming primarily social?

Big Rock Untapped was created as a music-based community, which will always exist on its own and be
populated by user-generated content. In terms of our Big Rock site, we would like to merge all traffic back to bigrockbeer.com - eventually. We are currently in the process of reevaluating what that could and should be. You can be sure that we will do something more creative overall - and have a subtle, but meaningful, presence online. Right now each site has a purpose and we are operating them separately until we can get our corporate site redesigned.

OD: As part of the FoBR site, you’ve created a “community manager” position.  What role does your community manager, Cara, play in terms of both online and offline activities and why was the creation of this role important?

Our Community Manager, Cara, works intimately with our sales team in Ontario to build Untapped events and initiate promotions around each one of them. She is our local expert on up and coming Ontario bands. She really is a liaison between Big Rock and the community, including consumers and musicians. We want to create events to give these artists exposure and to showcase our products – but we also want long terms relationships with the music community so we can ensure our investments are going to the right places and that we are building the Canadian music industry one artist at at time. Once you meet Cara and see how energetic, creative and connected she is you will quickly understand how instrumental she is to the success of the overall program.

OD: One of the hallmarks of blogging and other social media activities is transparency; however, your blog posts are currently not “signed” by a specific person and other activities are conducted under the generic “Friends of Big Rock” name. What drove the decision to keep the content more brand-focused rather than personality-focused?  Do you see this changing over time?

We have so many opportunities to tie our blogs to some of the key personalities here at Big Rock and, as we evolve our website and online presence, you will likely see these personalities attached to more of our social media activities.

We are quite transparent in our communication that Cara, the team from Agent Wildfire who helped build our community program, and our own staff in Calgary and Toronto have collective responsibility for hosting the program.

OD: What advice do you have for other marketers who want to tap into their communities or expand their markets, particularly in regard to social media?

Working in a company that prides itself on being close to its customers I'm struck by how important they are to the success of our business. They attend our events, ask for our beers, advocate us to others, produce our ads, give us their wisdom, provide us great content to inspire us and make us better.

Social media has now simply expanded the arena where these conversations can and do take place and have allowed a brewery - with small independent roots in Calgary - to talk more easily to fans from across Canada.

If you ask our founder, Ed McNally, he will quickly tell you that the Big Rock Eddies were created by our beer drinkers. While he came up with the idea of getting others to create Big Rock beer commercials, it was the drinkers that really brought it to life. He tells a great story of being in a tux, waiting for the inaugural Eddies to start and thinking it was a going to be a failure. Quickly his mind was changed when 300 people showed up in limousines wearing crazy outfits, drinking Big Rock beers and having a great time. He didn’t put the life into the event, the consumers did.

Moral of the story is to trust your gut and trust your most loyal consumers. They know the brand and will play along as long as you are honest with them. And of course, they will be your best ambassadors.

Michael Port Makes Systems Thinking Sexy Again! Review of "Beyond Booked Solid"

When I was first getting into business, I read The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge and its companion volume The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.  I loved it because it was all about business processes and how to improve your business via making systems more efficient.  Except I never really got to implement the ideas.  I was in a HUGE organization at the time and had little hope of affecting change in short order.  Plus getting everyone to read those 1000+ pages - daunting!

Enter Michael Port!

Bbs_book Following on the success of Booked Solid, Michael has written a practical how-to manual for getting BEYOND Booked Solid (hence the name of the book :)  Michael knows that the secret to an entrepreneur's success is the "making money while you sleep" idea - or getting your business to do more while you work less.  And the best way to do that is to fine-tune your business architecture - the systems and processes that are core to your business - so that can happen.

Why do I like Beyond Booked Solid?

Readable.  Michael has a pretty breezy style (including witty parenthetical remarks) that make BBS a fun book to read.  His tone is a nice blend of humble confidence that I find unusual in a business book.  There were a few spots where the writing was a little rough, but I had an advance copy, so I think it hadn't been through the final edit.

Actionable. Between you and me, I'm tired of business books that are really just a lot of hand-waving and cheerleading around a clever metaphor.  BBS isn't like that.  In addition to the step by step methods in the book, Michael also provides a downloadable toolkit to help entrepreneurs work through re-architecting their business.

Believable.  BBS shares detailed case studies of seven entrepreneurs and how they each worked on their business, often in radically different ways, to grow and take it to the next level.  And three of the case studies are Canadian! 1-800-Got-Junk, FundNet.ca and Cupcakes by Heather & Lori.

Quotable. It's nice to have one or two core ideas to repeat as a mantra when you're trying to make a key change in your business. 

Systems enable you to work on your business while you're working in your business and on yourself.

Corny?  A little.  But when you read it in context he really gets to the heart of what drives an entrepreneur and meets objections to spending time on systematizing a business head-on.

Base every process in your business on a desired outcome and measure the success of the process.

So simple, yet so rarely done.  As an entrepreneur, I find myself repeating this one a lot.

Contextual. Possibly my favourite thing about Beyond Booked Solid is that Michael provides both an historical business context for his ideas as well as references modern peers and experts; an appropriately rich, but not overwhelming bibliography.

So, for you entrepreneurs that read One Degree, Beyond Booked Solid is definitely worth checking out. Michael has posted the Table of Contents on his site and you can also register to get a free chapter.  I found Beyond Booked Solid inspiring and actionable - the best you can hope for from any business book.

May 20 - ExactTarget Route 1to1 - Toronto

A 4 Step Model for Online Brand Building – Part 1

A great new start-up company I know asked for my suggestions recently for “how to build an on-line brand”. To help guide the conversation, I created a document for them which outlines my own, non-patented, get-what-you-pay-for methodology for online brand building.  Because I have been a bit lax with posting recently, I thought I would graze two birds with one stone and provide a copy here as well for community consumption.

First things first: Measurable Outcomes
I always start Brand Building challenge the same way - by asking what the heck the company wants to get out of building their online brand? 

Brand building is never an end in itself, but rather a means to an end, and that end is usually to move the needle on one or more of the core business metrics for the organization. These may be more site registrations, more online purchases, increased loyalty from existing customers, expanding share of wallet, etc. So, the starting point of any effort to build an online brand should be a very clear definition of the measurable outcomes of those efforts.

This may seem intuitive but I am always surprised at how many companies just don’t seem to have a clear and specific set of measurable business outcomes associated with their brand building efforts. 

Take those Bell Beavers and that multi-million dollar ad campaign for example. Certainly that was a successful campaign in terms of brand awareness.  Regardless of your opinion of them, we all know the Beavers.  The question really is, did the needle actually move for Bell products and services as a result of their campaign?  Without a clear definition of the measurable outcomes, this campaign could equally be argued to be a stunning success or a complete failure.

My Four Step Model for Brand-Building
So let’s assume that you do have very clear business-related outcomes defined, now what?  Well this is where this chart comes in, which is a crude picture of the marketing model that I’ve subscribed to for a while now (mostly assembled by listening to folks much smarter than me). 


It has four steps to it which are sequential.  I’ll describe each below:    

Step 1:  Define Your “Really Important and Specific Problem” (RISP):

In order for your company to be successful in building an online brand, your first step is to be crystal clear on what “Really Important and Specific Problem” (RISP) you are solving for customers. 

Really good RISPs are “Important” enough to be burning issues for people and “Specific” enough to be solvable by you.  For example, “Solving World Hunger” is not a RISP because, while important, it is far too general and large a problem to ever be solved by your product or service. 

Without Specificity in your RISP, the acronym becomes RIP, which is likely what will happen to your online marketing efforts. 

Similarly, remember that the goal here is to solve a CUSTOMER problem. If your marketing pitch sounds like “World’s First” or “World’s Best”, here’s a hint: those aren’t customer problems.  In the majority of cases, customers who hear “world’s first” of something think it means “unstable” and “bug filled”.

Without a laser-like focus around what your exact RISP is, I would argue that you shouldn’t spend a dollar of your company’s money on marketing.  Again, I have found it astonishing how many companies do not have a clearly defined and commonly agreed to RISP. 

Here’s a little test for whether your organization is clear on your RISP.  Ask 10 employees what customer problem they think your company is solving.  If you get 10 different answers including an “I don’t know”, then this is a great place to start work on your brand building efforts.

Step 2:  Have an Excellent Core Offer (ECO)
Crafting an Excellent Core Offer is the logical next step after being crystal clear on your RISP.  An Excellent Core Offer is the outcome of the sum total of your organization’s:  product or service offer, website functionality, key message clarity, fulfilment model and customer care model. 

The best way to test an ECO is to have everyone in your organization (and I mean everyone) contribute to a two column list. Column A says “Stuff About Us That Rocks”, Column B says “Stuff About Us That Sucks”.  If Column A significantly exceeds Column B, then congrats. In either scenario, give Column A to your marketing lead and give Column B to your executive management team. This is what they should spend the majority of their time on.

When companies actively brand build while they still have major ECO problems, it is usually because they find it easier to market their service rather than to fix it.  I would once again argue that if your company isn’t at least on the path to an excellent core offer, then you should save your marketing dollars and concentrate on fixing your service model until it is excellent. 

I know how hard this is to do for many companies because of factors like organizational dysfunction, fractional leadership and short term revenue targets.  That said, if you don’t focus on an ECO when you need to, you will waste the majority of your marketing money building a brand promise at cross purposes with your service model. 

In one company I was part of, I actually repurposed some of our ad marketing budget to instead fund internal and external product usability improvements.  The results were significantly higher long term results.

Identified your RISP? Confident in your ECO? Then stay tuned for Part Two, where I’ll talk about recruiting a relevant community and tactics for general awareness brand building.

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