John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Advertising Failure

Diana Adams has a great post on Bitrebels.com titled “16 ways to use your wrist now that watches are obsolete.” Her post includes some really funny suggestions, with comical illustrations from Lunchbreath.com … including “Backup urinal cake” and “Portable Pot Pie.” (do not confuse)

There is advertising on Bitrebels.com – and I’m sure somebody is paying fror those impressions and click-thrus.  Of course, some of the best advertising is content-specific. If you can put your product in front of a person who is already interested, you have a much higher probability of making a sale. Google makes Billions from this concept. Other companies, and many people also make big heaping piles of money from this simple concept.  But sometimes it fails. Sometimes the best content algorythms and the smartest advertisers promote their product in the wrong places.  And sometimes those failures are remarkable.

Here’s an example:  If you are reading an article discussing wrist-watches, how obsolete they are and suggesting a direct relationship to… say… buggy whips and egyptian pyramid blueprints… are you really looking to BUY a wrist-watch? Maybe not. The content is there, but the CONTEXT makes all the difference.  Here’s a screenshot of the advertisement, on the page focused on “Wristwatch Obsolescense.”

Although I have a great appreciation for why the watches are up to 80% off, seeing that advertisement on that page doesn’t leave me inspired to buy one.  (as an fyi – the link from the advertisement was this: http://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/imgad?id=CP6jxPL3spWLVBD6ARjvATII8BFY93VjUEI )  I suspect Google’s advertising bots, smart as they are, are still learning… but context is an enormously difficult thing to learn.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Technology | 2 Comments

The Reputation Economy is Here.

Dan Schwabel has written two posts on his Forbes Blog in the last week. His message is that “the Reputation Economy is Coming.”  Alot of pieces of the Reputation Economy are coming together at warp-speed. Here are a few:

MANY anecdotal stories of people who have been fired, arrested, not-hired,(cisco-fatty, etc).

Millions of people who meet and begin relationships due to *something* online.

Businesses running into serious issues… (Kenneth Cole, etc)

Colleges considering online info during interviews

If Dan Schwabel’s cited research is even close to correct that “80% of HR professionals use online reputation information… and that 70% had rejected a job candidate due to what they found online.”

It seems there is enormous evidence that whether the subject is personal, professional, corporate, or really from ANY perspective: The Reputation Economy is not coming, it is *here.*

What do you think?

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Life, Marketing, People | 2 Comments

Audi, Lexus and Sponsored Tweets

Ive been watching Audi online more and more lately.  I went to a swanky VIP/RSVP thing at my local Audi dealership where they unveiled the fantastic new A8. It has a cockpit that is remarkable in every regard. My 2001 S4 seems as retro as a 57 Chevy by comparison.  I’m also kind of impressed by Audi’s push into the Superbowl.  The Kenny G doing Prison Riot Suppression video is the sort of quirky original thing that fascinates me. I have a search for @audi – on my Tweetdeck.

I was surprised this morning to see a Lexus advertisement on top of my @audi search in Tweetdeck.  There’s nothing new about advertising online using a your competition’s words, say as keywords and titles to SEO some people into your site instead of theirs.  Fans Flipping Out  on Bravo will remember Jeff Lewis getting VERY angry at a former business partner, Ryan Brown, for using some keywords a few years ago, and perhaps adwords to help his business. (season 3, of course) 

So – whats new here?   Lexus has sponsored @audi on Twitter. Anyone who has a stored search for @Audi in Tweetdeck and/or Hootsuite will see an advertisement for Lexus at the top of their stream.  Here’s what that looks like in Tweetdeck:

Certainly a delightfully creative way to advertise to your target audience.  Lexus – sombody there is Brilliant.

I think this interesting because LEXUS – sees Audi as serious competition for eyes, and buyers.  Lexus is so concerned about people following @Audi, they are paying Twitter for those responses.  Audi isn’t the only competition for Lexus. If I am in the market for a Lexus, I might look at other makes.  It occured to me that Lexus might be sponsoring other car brands as well.  Guess who else Lexus worries about… enough to pay for sponsored responses? BMW, Cadillac and Infiniti.  Lexus is NOT following Lincoln, Jaguar, Acura, Hyundai or Equus through.  (yet?) 

What do you think? Is this a new trend?

It is also interesting because other companies are sure to follow. Lexus is a leader here, and Twitter can surely use this for every other large company that wants to pro-actively protect their own brand, on Twitter, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc…

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media | Leave a comment

Smart Advertising

NPR had a really wonderful Morning Edition about the value New York City’s Times Square billboard Space on December 30th of 2010. Their piece had the inaccurate (but executive pleasing) title:Billboard Advertising In Times Square Pays Off   I was listening while driving to NYC to see the ball drop.   Does that advertising really pay off? Not necessarily.  SMART advertising pays off but there were two pieces of advertising in Times Square that could have been vastly improved.  Looking at the TDK advertising, as I did for about 5 hours on New Years Eve, it was striking how counter-productive it was.  I went back to the podcast and transcript, and confirmed that in the radio piece, Lisa Chow of WNYC interviewed John Connolly, Chief Operating Officer of Duncan Donuts.

Lisa said “Let’s see who’s advertising here. We’ve got Toshiba, Budweiser, Dunkin’ Donuts.”

Lisa did not even mention TDK. Lost in the crowd of a million freezing new year’s eve rockers in Times Square, I saw the enormous TDK billboard too. I researched it, and found that  TDK upgraded their billboard in December of 2010.

Everyone noticed the TDK billboard. How could you NOT notice it? Lisa Chow may have noticed it, but didn’t say a word. The problem is that advertising isn’t always SMART advertising.  In the New Year’s Eve crowd, I heard several people ask aloud if Cassette Tapes were making a come-back.  

I suppose that just KNOWING what a cassette is qualifies me as an old person, but if the old people know what TDK is because of cassettes, and the younger people don’t know what TDK is, what value does TDK get from a multi-million dollar billboard in NYC’s Times Square?   I think their value is less than zero. the billboard does nothing to tell any of their possible customers what TDK does, and because there is no connection to current products, viewers are left with the “are cassettes making a comeback” thought – or for younger viewers, the billboard gives absolutely no idea what TDK is.

What is TDK today, beyond the cassette? It is a huge, successful company that reported during their 1H FY2011 period – coverinf April 1, 2010 to Sep 30, 2010 –  they had $5.2b in net sales and  >84,000 employees.   TDK makes billions by producing and selling huge quantities of unmentionable electronics bits: capacitors, displays, print heads, transformers, etc.  Impressing people in Times Square is likely one of the purposes of their advertising. That billboard isn’t very smart advertising because only an extraordinarily small percentage of people passing One Times Square will ever look at their website, products or financials. The billboard doesn’t mention their website, their products, their global scope If they are spending this much money on advertising, perhaps they should use the display space to let people know that TDK is more than cassettes.  Perhaps a newly inspired “TDK-Inside” logo for this century??

Perhaps smart advertising could tell people what TDK is, what it does, who benefits from its products and why there is some advantage in selecting or using products that have TDK inside… Smart advertising could illustrate features, benefits and competitive advantages for TDK. (just like it does for anyone)

*Thanks to TDK for all those SA-C 90’s, and thanks to Tapedeck.org.

January 4, 2011 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Marketing | Leave a comment

300,000 Android Phones

Andy Rubin has only ever made 2 public tweets and only follows one person. His twitter page links to Spies.com – which was last alive as a website with a binary dog portrait in 2008 or so. This morning he tweeted: “There are over 300,000 Android phones activated each day.” (Andy Rubin is also VP of Engineering overseeing Android at Google, and he knows how to design products that customers LOVE.) @Engadget pointed out that 300k Android Phones Activated DAILY is an increase from August when only 200k were being activated daily.  A 50% increase in 3 months is an incredible business trend.

THIS seismic shift will bring a tsunami of opportunity for businesses that are creative enough to harness it. Tsunamis are destructive too, but thats another story.How significant is this? Two days ago, Penny Crosman in Bank Systems & Technology published “Who will be the Google of Mobile Payments” and discussed the tangled mess of providers, banks, systems and technology.

She didn’t make the case that the “Google” of mobile payments could be GOOGLE. Given 300,000 Android Phones activated *DAILY* that has to be worth consideration.

 

So – that is only mobile banking, and that is just a ripple. The tsunami has to be understood creatively, by the businesses who will use this explosion as competitive advantage. Want to sell a mobile app? Android has 300k new users each day.

Even considering Android as one of the big 3 or 4 types of smartphone – with Blackberry and iPhone, and … others, it is very safe to say, the trend is for Android smart phone domination. There are only a few models of iPhone, and only one manufacturer each of iPhones and Blackberry phones. (The key corresponding fact, is that Android is on dozens of phones made by an array of companies, and Google shares success with all of them… Motorola, LG, Samsung, HTC, etc.)   To flesh that out a bit… It is in the corporate interests of all of those cell phone producers to help Google succeed by selling more android phones. Even Google’s competitors are selling phones that spread Android. For instance – Google opened their bookstore 2 days ago. As ironic as this can be – Amazon is discounting the Droid Pro to $19 each.  Google is smart and they ARE going to take advantage of this installed base.

When your platform is exploding, and your fiercest competition contributes to your expansion – well, that is a bit like IBM selling PC’s and including Microsoft’s DOS as the key component that made a PC “IBM-Compatible.”  Good for IBM, but VERY good for Microsoft.

Beyond Cell Phone manufacturers, Android users use more data than other smartphone users, which will make them a favorite of cell companies who want to profit from data transmission. “Samsung Galaxy users typically upload 126% more data than iPhone 3G users, and HTC Desire users download 41% more data” (Arieso)

Want to be available to mobile users? 300k per day is a trend that you MUST account for.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Marketing, Technology | 1 Comment

Black Friday is Dead

Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, is a day that combines a recipe of these ingredients: pent-updemand, planning for holiday gift giving, end of year bonuses, excessive credit, retailer desires, and a deluge of advertising across all forms of media. It is one day, marked in black, when retailers theoretically break even for the year. It is a day that serves as a standard measure of the economy.

According to USA Today, “Last year, the Thanksgiving shopping weekend accounted for 12.3% of overall holiday revenue, according to ShopperTrak. Black Friday made up about half of that.”

Link to Tombstone Maker
Black Friday is dead. Why? It is dead because people love options and alternatives, because some people hate crowds, and most of all because every retailer is now offering more and more options. Here are a few: Buy online, buy on Thanksgiving day, buy on Cyber Monday, buy a week before Black Friday, buy the week after or on any of the shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or – simply choose not to buy.

Breaking news today shows Black Friday sales rising modestly or enormously, but each article is just showing a small piece of the Black Friday pie.

Here’s some information from Yahoo: “U.S. online sales were up 33 percent on Thanksgiving this year, according to IBM Coremetrics, signaling irresistible promotions in advance of Cyber Monday, the kick-off to the online holiday selling season.”

Major media outlets like Reuters are saying that U.S. retail sales on Friday rose a mere 0.3 percent from the same period last year, while traffic rose 2.2 percent, ShopperTrak said. Heavily discounted merchandise may increase volume, but negatively skews sales data while cutting into profit margins.

But that is just a little piece of the real story. Paypal money transfers increased enormously, and further, Paypal data suggests that the “shopping season began on Monday, November 15, 2010.”

 How significant is that?  Here are some other tidbits of data: 

“Black Friday 2010 resulted in 21 percent more total payment volume compared to Thanksgiving 2010. PayPal saw 19 percent more payment volume on Black Friday 2010 compared to an average Friday in 2010.  PayPal processes 16.5 percent of U.S. eCommerce and 15 percent of global eCommerce.”

So – is there a 0.3% increase? Or a 27% increase?   Experts had forecasted a 2-3% increase

And many enormous retailers were open on Thanksgiving day. (Including  Sears, Toys ‘R’ Us, Kmart, Walmart, Gap, Old Navy and others) My local CVS pharmacy was open until Midnight on Thanksgiving. Many of these retailers had Black Friday deals available early. Many online businesses offered Black Friday deals early.

The cumulative effect is that Black Friday isn’t comparable to last Black Friday because the buying has been moved to a multiple-day, multiple medium affair. What was once confined to a day and a physical location is now everywhere over several weeks.

Black Friday is dead. We will still have a “Black Friday”, and will still call it Black Friday, but sales will begin earlier and earlier and last later and later. Combining that flexibility with online sales will mean that at some point, we might start calling it “Black November-December”  Whatever it is, and whatever it is evolving into, it isn’t Black Friday anymore.

What do you think?

November 28, 2010 Posted by | Business, Life, Marketing, Social Media | 1 Comment

Nissan & Facebook

Timothy Tiah wrote a thought-provoking review of the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco last week. It has some amazing contrasts of facebook.

On one hand Fred Wilson thinks of Facebook as a photo/chat site. On the other hand Mark Zuckerberg wants it to be an idealistic, privacy-eliminating uber-platform that he can run like a government-less big-brother.  I think it is somewhere in the middle, but with the potential to go either way. As the Facebook “company” grows, it will be less and less of Zuckerberg’s vision, and more of Fred Wilson’s, HOWEVER – So many people are clueless of both potentials, that there is really no way to predict.

 Jeremiah Owyang pointed out this morning that companies are self-depreciating … of their OWN brands when they point to facebook.com/*** instead of their own sites. When I read that, I immediately thought of Nissan’s weekly emails promoting their “master the shift” contest. This is a weekly contest designed to publicize the Nissan Leaf, where they direct contest participants to http://facebook.com/mastertheshift instead of their own site. They aren’t selling a Facebook Leaf, but do they know that?  Well, maybe Nissan is an exception, though. They don’t even own Nissan.com – so, seriously- Perhaps they have bigger issues.

What do you think?

November 24, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Marketing | 1 Comment

Smart Phones Rise

I am at Internet Summit 10 and I have noticed that Mary Meeker’s quote about smart phone numbers exceeding personal computers by 2012 has resonated with everyone.  To refresh, her quote is: “smartphone sales will surpass PC and laptop sales in 2012, with more than 450 million units sold.” So – the panel is talking about technology, infrastructure, net neutrality and how important it is to focus on customers…

Dana Todd  asked, “For marketing people like her, how do they deal with that technology” She meant the increase in smart phones, the changes in how people use technology. She wants to know how the increase in mobile information technology will impact what she needs to do as a marketer.  When mobile users exceed laptops, netbooks, ipads and other personal computer devices – how can marketers best deliver what customers need?

How will Mary Meeker’s projection change what people need? How will it change what people buy, what people use, what people want and what is important to people?  (assuming that people = customers)

These are great questions – what do you think?

November 17, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing, People, Technology | Leave a comment

Shifting Media

Media is changing, rapidly and thoroughly. I think the only certainty about this seismic change is that if you could ride a Delorean 10 years into the future, what media will look like then bears absolutely no resemblance to what it looks like now. How will it change?  Opinions vary wildly based frequently on the benefits seen by the person expressing the opinion.

Avner Ronen, Boxee’s CEO thinks that a payment platform will win over TV networks.  Bruce Eisen, VP of Online Content Development and Strategy for Dish Network thinks tomorrows media distribution model will be today’s, unchanged. But things are already changing in extreme ways. Greg Kampanis, an executive from South Park Digital Studios has seen that offering all of their shows as free content online has resulted in “an increase in ratings along with online advertising revenue.”

And Michael Willner, CEO of Insight Communications asks if Hulu is bad for Broadcasters.

Mr. Willner’s most essential point is about the viability of the current distribution model. To quote: “Eisen’s argument is that even if putting this content online for free has short-term benefits for broadcasters ultimately it will encourage more users to cut ties with their cable or satellite provider, undermining the current distribution model.” (I added that emphasis, here, to make my point.)

The current distribution model is like a woolly mammoth and broadcasters are like little birds that ride the mammoths. At some point, the woolly mammoth became a species doomed to extinction. Some birds hopped onto elephants instead. Some found other ways to survive their ever-changing, evolving environment. Some of the birds didn’t make it. Some of the elephants did.   The ones that thrived were the ones that were both smart enough to recognize the changes and fast enough to react.

I think that Bruce Eisen is in a difficult position, and if he thinks that South Park’s benefits are only short-term. Things are not going to settle back to a 1980’s paradigm where media is controlled by the current industry giants.  There are so many disruptors in the current woolly mammoth-dominated media environment. Although many things are difficult to predict, the future of those mammoths isn’t. The smartest will see that the “current distribution model” isn’t the same as the future distribution model.  Acting like those things are the same, is understandable, and protectionist, but isn’t the most productive long term strategy.

A better approach is to consider, given the current distribution model, and the currently known disruptors, what other distribution models can simultaneously deliver value to viewers and profit to companies that act as media managers, creators, producers and aggregators.

I think Netflix is poised to deliver on that simultaneous-value sweet spot, and their freely-available corporate strategy/playbook suggests they already know it. 

Who will their competition be?  Will they succeed? Will Dish? 

What do you think?

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing, Technology | Leave a comment

Why You Should Avoid the Golden Ratio

In the last two days, I have been blown away by Twitter’s new design. It is a delightful improvement. Media is impressed because it is bright, shiny, new and vastly improved. Why is it so much better? Twitter’s new design is great because it is both functionally and aesthetically improved. Bravo Twitter!Golden Ratio on JohnAkerson.com

Remarkable attention (even Mashable remarkable attention) has been paid to the way that Twitter made use of the “golden ratio” in the new improved design, but you should avoid the Golden Ratio and here’s why:

There is a long history of paying attention to the golden ratio in design, in natural designs and in web design – (Tutsplus.com had a great tutorial that remains relevant and informative.) But you should still avoid it.  So – if the Golden Ratio is good, and if Twitter’s new design is a sensational improvement why should you avoid it?  There are four things are wrong about highlighting the use of the Golden Ratio.

  1. There is nothing unique in using the Golden Ratio in web design.
  2. There is nothing unique to Twitter as a current website using the Golden Ratio
  3. Most importantly: Using the Golden Ratio is NOT good web design, it is detrimental. 
  4. When web design matters, the important gold is the Golden Triangle.

There is nothing unique in using the Golden Ratio in web design. It has been an element of all sorts of designs, and it has been an element of web design forGolden Triangle and Golden Ratio years.  It provides a nicely balanced web page, aesthetically pleasing and it is a design that pays homage to a traditional approach to design.  You should avoid it because it is the wrong kind of gold. The Golden Ratio is NOT the best thing about web design and usability.  The Golden Triangle is!  (and this overlay shows both the Golden Ratio and the Golden Triangle

Here is an example of the Golden Triangle, overlaying the Golden Ratio.

Golden Ratio on ChrisBrogan.comBefore going any further, it is VERY important to mention that Twitter is not unique in using the Golden Ratio. Look at a dozen current websites, and it is a safe bet that eight out of ten of those websites use the Golden Ratio. Chris Brogan uses the Golden ratio with his blog. I use it with mine. Amazon uses the Golden Ratio, Facebook uses it, Brightfuse uses it. Almost everyone uses it.  Don’t believe me? Look at these overlays of various websites.Golden Ratio on JohnAkerson.com

The Golden Triangle is way more important. If you’ve never heard of the Golden Triangle – it refers to Google’s Eye-tracking studies that show a sort of golden triangle on the top left side of a web page. It is where people focus on search results. The “Golden Triangle” is important because it shows where people focus on EVERY web page. The Golden Ratio puts important elements of a web page in places where people aren’t looking. It puts unimportant elements of web pages in places where people look first.

Golden Ratio doesn’t equal Golden Triangle! For most websites, the Golden Triangle is essential, but the Golden Ratio should probably be avoided.  

A final thought: There are some designers  who do NOT use either the Golden Ratio or the Golden Triangle.  FourSquare (4sq) doesn’t use the Golden Ratio or the Golden triangle. They probably do not really care about either golden design reference because 4sq’s websiteisn’t really relevant to their business. Why not? Well, for FourSquare, their website is NOT their primary user interface, and website usability isn’t nearly as important to them as the other interfaces and applications that they provide. 

FourSquare screenshot with Golden overlays.Let me say that again. For FourSquare, their web design isn’t critically important because of the other apps that people and businesses use access their service. Their website design is just not that important.

That is very significant for FourSquare, and also for Twitter. For Twitter, their website is NOT their primary interface either because Twitter’s customers use Tweetdeck, Social Oomph, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter App for BlackBerry, Hootsuite, Twittergrader and another half million apps. That is really significant for Twitter because for them, the Golden Ratio might be irrelevant to the Golden Triangle, and equally irrelevant to the quality of their redesign.  Regardless of Golden Triangle, or Golden Ratio, Twitter’s redesign is still a serious winner! 

Design is just not essential for people and companies who have websites where they know that the website is not the primary interface that your customers use. Those websites can design with considerations for the Golden Ratio. If your website design IS a primary interface for your customers – take heed of the Golden Triangle instead.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing | Leave a comment