Qwiki is Amazing

Qwiki is an amazing new multi-media search engine that creates a narrated mini-movie of your search query on the fly. Assuming this takes off like it’s trending in interest (and it’s still in alpha) this will be an important new signal for brands to understand and leverage.

TechCrunch Disrupt Winner Qwiki Hits No. 1 On Google Trends ‘Hot Searches’ In The U.S..

Mobile Virtual Goods Generate 4X More Revenue Than Ads

There’s gold in them ‘thar hills of virtual stuff. According to data from analytics firm Flurry, mobile virtual goods are hot. So hot, in fact, they’re far surpassing the revenue generated from mobile advertising.

The study, conducted using data collected from leading iOS social networking and social gaming apps, shows that in September of ’09, out of close to every $2 of mobile revenue… either advertising or virtual goods…over 2/3rds went to advertising. Just one year later, not only has the amount of revenue grown significantly, the amount going to virtual goods…swords, gold coins, respect points or plum trees for farm plots…has shifted dramatically to where virtual goods now account for $8 of every $9 in revenue. And, because Google’s Android Market does not yet support in-app purchases or micro-transactions, the data doesn’t include users from this rapidly expanding platform.

Virtual goods sales were already going gang busters on social sites like Facebook. Michael Pachter, Wedbush Morgan Securities video game analyst, reports that social gaming revenue has grown from approximately $600 million in 2008 to $1 billion in 2009. Further, he forecasts that social gaming will generate nearly $1.6 billion this year, and grow to more than $4 billion by 2013. That’s a lot of quarters for plum trees on your Farmville farm.

The convergence of social and games will continue to expand their reach into our lives. In fact, social gaming is reaching a tipping point and with Wal-Mart and Verizon now selling iPads, the size of social gaming’s audience will quickly surpass prime time television viewership.

For marketers, this sweeping technology, entertainment and behavioral change represents tremendous opportunity to create highly engaging content built around the core premise of your brand, then invite consumers into a branded experience that extends far beyond your physical product or service. In fact, maybe it’s time to start thinking beyond the five “P’s” when it comes to marketing. Maybe it’s time to add a “V”. Seems plausible doesn’t it…the brand manager of the new realities has to think about Product, Price, Place, Promotion and Virtual. Can you imagine what a virtual version of your brand or brand experience would be, could be? If not, you should start dreaming. There’s money to be made for the imaginative mind.

Study: Unhappy Customers Prefer Apologies To Cash

Here’s some interesting research you can put to work in your customer service efforts. According to a recent article on Inc.com what customers want when they have a bad customer experience is…a good, old fashioned apology. Researchers worked with a large eBay seller (10,000+ sales a month) and offered different customers who left negative feedback one of two exclusive options to reconsider their complaint:

1. $4 to $8 to retract

2. An apology

Forty-five percent of participants offered an apology withdrew their complaint while only 23% of participants offered cash withdrew their complaint.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind, it’s not just what you do that matters. It’s also HOW you do it. An automated “robo apology” is not going to cut it. Their suggestions?

  • Reach out and touch someone…use the phone when possible.
  • If you have to use email, sign it from a real person, with a title and real email address they can respond back to.
  • Don’t use a form letter. Make the reply real, short and sincere.

The bottom line is, people expect an automated response and a useless excuse when complaining to a giant company. You stand out from the crowd when you treat your customers like people instead of numbers and costs.

And, remember, each of your customers has a Facebook or Twitter account, a blog, a mobile phone with plenty of social connected apps. Unlike past eras, when customers fumed in silence, today if they don’t like something, they have the power to broadcast their displeasure to the world, which also can show up every time someone searches on your company or brand. Try to put the impact of negative brand equity on your balance sheet.

Agencies, Do Your Clients Really Need You?


I’m seeing a lot of chatter lately about the relevancy of the 20th Century agency business model and the demise of the client-agency symbiotic relationship. This post from a London-based BBH Labs raises some provocative questions and proposed some intriguing alternatives to the future relationship between the two entities.

Digital technology, social networks and tools have fully empowered consumer to being content creators, critics, participants in the marketing enterprise. The behaviors technology and tools are enabling, along with the companion erosion of the MASS in mass media they cause, does call into question the whole value proposition of having an agency or 50 agencies (such as some clients have) handle work that the client should be doing.

It’s clear there’s much duplication of costs between firms handling different silos of a clients business….account people, creatives, overhead, profit….each firm has to have these to deliver client work and stay in business and yet, multiply these costs 10, 20, 50 times over and a huge portion of the client’s marketing budget is paying for outside staff and expertise that many are saying should now be residing inside the client’s organization.

Another post I ran across last week was even more dismal in it’s prediction of the agency’s future, as evident from the title: “RIP: 20th Century Agencies”. According to Forrester Research, the firm that provides ongoing tracking of 300,000 global consumer’s online behavior and participation with their Social Technographic Profiling tool, we’ve now entered an era of Adaptive Marketing. In this ear, marketers take advantage of media addressability and more effective data-driven decision making. Larry Flanagan, CMO for MasterCard put it this way: “We are moving form decades of push stategy to a more holistic 360 consumer strategy”.

Or, Trevor Edwards, head of global marketing at Nike said: “We’re not in the business of keeping media companies (or agencies) alive. We’re in the business of creating consumer connections”. And Nike has done this, building the largest community of runners in the world with Nike+…a product, a service, a community. Now, Nike doesn’t need to conduct focus groups with consumers or rely on the newest creative idea from it’s agency to breakthough to runners. It has over a million runners who use this connection, giving them unprecedented data on actual, instead of self-reported, consumer behavior. It can eavesdrop into conversations their hundreds of thousands of community members are having on a real time basis. And, it’s changed every aspect of their marketing…research and development, promotions, CRM, advocacy, customer service…you name it. As brands become media producers and publishers, creating their own content, connections and communities, the power of traditional mass media and the agencies that craft the mass marketing interruptions (ad units, PR, etc.) brands relied on so much in the past has to fade.

Agencies are struggling to adapt to this new age for many reasons, according to the post. Among the biggest challenges agencies face:

* They are focused on campaigns rather than experiences
* They’re good at talking but not at listening
* Agencies create media-centric ideas
* They treat customers as an audience instead of participants
* They are mostly “unbundled”, offering services in disparate skill sets
* They have trouble mastering many new specialties at once
* Agencies have moved down the value chain. Purchasing in now involved in agency selection and compensation and there’s little difference between agencies.
* Marketers don’t trust traditional agencies with digital and interactive agencies struggle for a seat at the strategic table.

So, what’s an agency to do to survive in this Brave New World? The path forward is simple but it’s not easy.

* Agencies must focus on developing big ideas that work across multiple communication channels and consumer touch points and they need to adopt a more iterative process for creating ideas.
* Agencies need to understand experiences that foster interactions drive marketing success from here on out. Media has now fragmented into distinct categories of paid, earned and owned and there has been a dramatic shift from viewing media as the foundation of campaigns to being seen as a catalyst of experiences.
* Agencies need to become more intelligent and adaptive…relying more on analytics to drive customer insights and developing a business and staffing model that gives clients access to the the talent that can do this and help solve their business and marketing challenges.

The big question that remains is: Can clients also make the adaptations they need to make? For all the talk about integration and holistic effort, the fact remains, clients still fund marketing activities based on legacy allocations of dollars in various “buckets” or slices of the marketing pie as well as managing this with internal staff in very defined silos tied to those buckets…above-the-line, CRM, digital, media buying, promotions, etc. It’s difficult to near impossible for an agency to provide an integrated idea to a client that isn’t integrated.

In fact, I don’t think the issue is integration, I think the real issue is orchestration. Some clients interpret integration in a very wooden, literal sense. To them, integration means: same thing everywhere. To me, this makes about as much sense as going to see a symphony concert where the conductor forces every musician to play every note in the same key at the same time. Where’s the artistry or beauty in that? Boring! And frankly, a lot of integrated marketing is executed in the same boring manner….same thing, everywhere. No wonder campaign results are so pitiful.

Rather, I propose the real secret to success in the new realities is orchestration…where there are levels of interest and discovery that the consumer uncovers at different touch points along their path to purchase. Yes, it all looks like it’s coming from the same company and yes, the message is consistent. In this sense it’s fully integrated. But the idea is orchestrated to reveal itself in delightful ways in social media, on mobile, in live experiences and at retail in ways that are unique, relevant and compelling for each channel or environment.

To pull this off, continuing with our orchestration analogy, it requires a beautiful piece of music (the strategic idea), skilled musicians (the client and agency stakeholders) and instruments (the tools and technologies) and a masterful conductor…but who is this? It’s that last individual that is the big question mark in today’s marketing organization. Are there people on the client side of the equation that can masterfully conduct?

Apple Face Time Commerical: Perfect


Apple once again demonstrates what an intelligent and intuitive marketer they are, not just in terms of product development but in advertising…yes, advertising. This is a beautiful spot for Face Time on iPhone 4.

In this almost two-minute video, they show you BENEFITS of a feature. And, they make it seem like Apple just invented video chat, which has been around for years. But, in a way, they have invented it because video chat has never been so mobile.

What’s a benefit, you ask? You know, those reasons people actually buy something in the first place, not to be confused with features, which marketers take as the reasons people buy. Do people want a better camera or do they want to take better photos? Do people want a better smartphone or better, more intimate communication?

Other manufacturers in the consumer electronics category would have laden this ad with features, FEATURES and MORE F-E-A-T-U-R-E-S plus a ton of legal disclaimers taking up the last third of the spot. Reminds me of the brilliant and hilarious YouTube video entitled, “If Microsoft Designed the iPod packaging”.

Apple gets humans. They know we like beauty. They know sometimes dads travel for business and at the end of the day, sitting in some lonely hotel room, want to be reminded of why they go through all this in the first place and want to connect with their family. They know sometimes grandparents can’t be there for the graduation but want to experience it anyway. I got chills when the military dad watches the ultrasound of his unborn baby, while it’s happening. Do you notice the tear in his eye? I have to admit, I got one in mine.

This is a beautifully shot piece. It taps right into your emotions without a word. Apple gets humans. They know we communicate a lot with just our expressions and gestures. You can feel the reverence for the human experience. Maybe I’m too much of a fan of Apple but I don’t think so. I just admire the way they respect me, they anticipate me and understand that what I’m looking for is not a better widget but a better experience with other humans. How nice.


via Apple Face Time Commerical: Perfect.

Location-Based Social Gaming

This is a trend to watch and think about. Combining location with social and gaming is a powerful mix. It’s easy for me to see how this could be adapted to a business to business game. Imaging a company connecting with their audience in a fun, engaging way like this. It takes your marketing out of the “push” model and turns it into a connection, content and a community, fostering a conversation. Exactly what the new marketing model should be built on.

MyTown Hits 1.5 Million Location-Based Gamers; Ups The Social With Version 3.0.

Once-Casual Gamers Go ‘Social’


More interesting news on the evolution of gaming. Expect to see savvy brands begin to leverage these trends into interesting social game promotions.

via MediaWeek.

Digital Games Selling Virtual Goods. Money for Nothing, Chicks for Free?


A tip of the hat to Dire Straits as it looks like their 80’s song mocking the glib fans of MTV generation rockers is now coming true thanks to online gaming. Micro-payments for virtual goods in games….like the 25-cents players cough up for a plum tree in Farmville…are adding up to big time money…some $1.6 billion, according to research firm ThinkEquity estimates. And, these payments aren’t being harvested from kids…it’s 35+ women that are the sweet spot.As I posted this morning, marketers seem totally snoozing on this one. I don’t know about you, but $1.6 billion seems like a fair amount of money to me.

via BusinessWeek: Who Wants to Buy a Digital Elephant?

Meet the Sims … and Shoot Them: The Rise of Militainment


I ran across an interview with the author of this fascinating article during this mornings NPR’s “Morning Edition”. He offers a mind-expanding view of how gaming is changing not just marketing but the way the Army recruits and trains soldiers and even how wars will now be fought.

“America’s Army” is a video game…a tactical, multiplayer, first-person shooter” in game lingo…originally intended as a recruitment promotional vehicle for the U.S. Army. What it’s turned out to be is one of the most downloaded and popular internet games of all time, the most successful single marketing activity the Army has ever undertaken for recruitment purposes, a fascinating case study of new marketing techniques in action and a peek at how battles of the future will be waged…in real life theaters and marketing ones.

I’d say most marketers have yet to wake up to the power that gaming could play in the marketing mix. But, there are some really strange and wonderful examples of how it works. Having lunch with two clients in the oil field services business last week, they raved about a very successful game they had created to demo one of their drilling products.

If big brands are having trouble determining a line item for social media or mobile (and they are), they’ll have fits about a game line item. It just doesn’t fit into one of their standard, predetermined media categories. But, if gaming could do this for the army, imagine what it could do for a Gillette or Axe.

What examples do you have regarding how gaming is changing marketing?

By P.W. Singer | Foreign Policy.

via Meet the Sims … and Shoot Them: The Rise of Militainment – By P.W. Singer | Foreign Policy.

Next Gen Gaming or The Future of Labour?

Here’s a fascinating concept that takes the social aspects of FourSquare and turns them into a kind of Truman Show game. I see all kinds of application for this kind of approach to marketing and promotions. Imagine a launch brand playing the role of a “You” and hiring an army of “Me’s” to conduct real time, real world focus groups, gather intelligence, document retail compliance, participate in a promotion, sample or demo product or a hundred other approaches to interacting and engaging.

via TheNextWeb

YouMe – Next Gen Gaming or The Future of Labour?.