Brand Futures Archives

June 19, 2002

Stories Accelerate Learning

Another positing from the online converation with Terrence L. Gargiulo and Making Stories A Practical Guide for Organizational Leaders and Human Resource Specialists.

Stories help learning when they stimulate and shape conversation. Stories that are part of a network conversational exchange really accelerate learning. Thus one on one storytelling has no where near the same impact as collective story-making. The latter brings a real sense of ownership and understanding. Some call this "the art of the strategic conversation".
The interest in business story-telling seems to coincide with an increase in uncertainty in the workplace. Similarly as we move to more networked org forms, we need to enrich the pipes (info flows) without overloading everyone with data.

The book Future Search has a wonderful story - timeline exercise in the beginning of the book. It builds a collective sense of where we have come from, our organization, and the world around us. Individuals post their events on the three timelines and three groups typically report back, with a story about the people in the room, and how the organization and world has changed and impacted on us collectively. This rapidly establishes a collective story about the past for any group.

Stories being posed for the future may entertain more debate. One of the reasons I became a passionate scenarist was seeing too many organizations fall over a single vision / story for the future. A story that is too structured limits learning. Successful strategies and stories are often the result of unintended consequences.

Today innovation rules - stories / rapid conversations and learning are an essential part of the prototyping process which leads to markets. Actually, stories don't accelerate learning, "insights" accelerate learning. However, stories may frame the connection that enable new insights.

For example there have been stories around TIVO, online music sharing, satellite, cable TV and perceptions of where they are going. Recently they were reframed --- File-Served TV --- a new vision & direction. Except I doubt this is the end of the story....... That in itself is both refective and iterative.

I'd be interested in the contrast between a world in which story-telling was between cave-dwellers and in today's - tomorrow's highly networked world. Are effective stories synthesized now rather than told? Similarly, is "chat" creating a new framework for the realtime story? What happens if a leader isn't in the "chat" group?

June 23, 2002

Team Brief

Another positing from the online converation with Terrence L. Gargiulo and Making Stories A Practical Guide for Organizational Leaders and Human Resource Specialists.

I think there is a great match between the two posts above and every marketers dream -- "the idea virus" --- Great ideas, like great stories are infectious. I'm not sure how easy they are to plant...... consciously. I think it is more insight that stimulates sharing... as they emerge it is better to nurture.
Sweatshops in Asia and Nike reflect a new generation of stories and concerns. However, if we look into our schools we see our children learning about the environment, sustainability, etc from an early age. Effective story-nurturing in organizations requires open rather than closed systems. Ie bring in the customers, suppliers, other stakeholders and then shake them all up.

Similarly, youth's interaction with chat, instant messaging (europe / japan) on phones create a new transparency and immediacy to their stories. Music, TV show's etc. What's "cool" - is part of the story telling ethic. Thus perhaps the org lesson is a requirement for more visual, more role-playing, more interactive and collaborative sessions. I'm still to see many organizations embrace new systems (like chat) or redesign environments to more effectively nurture corporate stories. Sometimes a simple change - I joined a coffee company. The head office was sterile, their reception area lacked any coffee paraphanellia. In the first week I installed a full expresso bar, and retrained the receptionists. Within two weeks no guest entered into our environment without the hospitality or conversations related to coffee.

In another organization --- a chicken processor. When a bird fell off the chain it was not always handled with care, hygiene, etc... It may have ended up on your plate. By changing the focus from processing to "creating great meals" we brought the experience and delight in the product to life. Plant management also improved.

In organizations I've found the most effective "plant method" is one that nurtures. The "Team Brief" supports by providing (typically monthly) the opportunity to begin a top - roll-out message to everyone in co within 24 hours. Organised around four areas, Performance, Plans, People & Policy, it is easily supplemented with stories, recognition, memorability. Feedback and questions are collected.

June 26, 2002

More on Stories Accelerating learning

It's not yet over. You can still get to the Group Jazz Chataqua...

How does the example of receiver based learning fit with our discussions so far? Example: In a skyscraper there are many xerox repairers busy fixing the copier on each of the different floors. They are linked together (open communication line) and constantly talking through the repairs they are completing. Most of the time the talk is just noise, yet the other repairers are also absorbing other problems and can offer suggestions / ask questions. This speeds learning across the system.

I've often wondered if this works at Old Navy stores? Does anyone know? They all wear the headsets, yet there doesn't seem to be much chatter going on. Yet here's a customer service / sales interfacing organization that should learn how to sell faster, train faster etc. It certainly has the opportunity to be more than a neat positioning trick. If so I'd expect more stores to be connected up.

June 27, 2002

Scenarios & Stories

Another positing from the online converation with Terrence L. Gargiulo and Making Stories A Practical Guide for Organizational Leaders and Human Resource Specialists.

I wonder... How many of you would jump on a 747 with a pilot that had never trained in a flight simulator? We know that pilots train in simulators on the ground to better prepare themselves for eventualities and challenges that many never happen. They also train for landings at airports that will appear on their schedules in the future. Unfortunately few teams have the opportunity provided by the flight simulator.

I tend to think of scenarios as a flight simulator for management. Framed well they are hypothesis of alternate environments in which our decisions may have to play out. They do not represent the future story of the company. By windtunnelling (or testing) current strategies against a range of alternate scenarios an organization improves its potential to minimize risk. Scenarios need to be customized to context if they are to be useful.

Scenarios as a form of story-telling work because they are framed around critical uncertainties (simplistic example - boom or bust economy). By building scenarios around uncertainty we are 1)opening and focusing minds on what is both important to the issue at hand and uncertain as to outcome. 2)critical uncertainties are more likely to take us to the edge of chaos where new ideas, solutions etc are most likely to emerge. 3)Scenarios must be plausible, therefore drilling down to changes in the sytemic underpinnings is important to building understanding and retaining credibilty. In this form they provide story telling and structure that not only helps to minimize risk about the decisions we must make today, but they are used to accelerate learning. When we accept that Planning is learning, (not extrapolation)then we also embrace that it may be the only way to sustainable competitive advantage.

As an organization (like the pilot) reacts to new inputs, better questions are what sustains success. The future is inherently unpredictable. Yet with very little effort we can bring in stories from the outside - so we think better inside the box. In a networked world --- connectivity is driving this. If you are a cellular carrier you better be thinking about swarms, if you are a health provider, genetic testing is already here. If you are a cotton producer, perhaps you should look at goat silk. From time to time an organization should look at everything, a "ruthless curiosity" is healthy. If stories and hypothesis get you to where you can really "listen" then success in the marketplace is much more viable. Scenarios are just one tool for getting us

I agree Stephen with your comment to find a star to peg future stories. I've always felt that the 1 to 2 word strategic intent was the right way to go. They work when stretch is involved. Effective leaders also cut the time for delivery. A yet they are also falible. Years ago Motorola - Wireless World (It led them to Irridium!)Motorola was so focused on their story they didn't pay attention to the Nokia's etc of the world. More recently Motorola has use "Intelligence Everywhere" For my two cents another example of introverted disaster. There is no benefit for "us" in this. Many of the early ad campaigns were close to I spy.

November 3, 2002

Diehard Marketing

With the turn of winter Sears began running a "Diehard Express Service" TV campaign in our local market. They guarantee you will have your new battery installed in 30 minutes or less. After two jump starts in less than a week (39 month old original equipement Chrysler battery) I knew mine was dead, and just wanted it fixed. My Dad had Diehard batteries... must be good enough for me. So, why go to PEP BOYS or try and find somewhere else? Afterall with two cars I only shop for a battery every 3 or four years.

The Sears TVC is a classic retail marketing approach. Too bad no-one told the stores, or even set the instructions so the campaign had the potential to work. 10 years ago only my neighbors might have heard this story. Now, it simply recorded, a part of my digital record and lifestream. Who knows one day maybe even the bots... will be able to sample the records and see when disatisfaction really set in and thus the demise of a brand. Let me quickly set the scene...


I arrived at the "Express Lane" for my battery service. There were four cars in front of me and one battery mechanic working and wandering. There was no greeting, there was no instruction board, there was no buzzer. As a good marketer, I got out of my car, punched my stopwatch and started into the garage. Nobody, lots of idle cars at 1:30pm Sunday. After five minutes finally caught someones attention.... he told me to go into the sales office and ask there.

In the sales office was met by a genial rep. Told him I thought I needed a new battery. He said he would write it up and immediately started on a bill. I had to stop him and say..."hey but the battery hasn't been checked yet --- how do I this is the right course of action? He took me outside, we hooked up the car and indeed the diagnostic was "replace". Now we were already at minute 14.

Returning to the sales office he suggested a battery for the car, about $80. Smiled and said fine. He rang it up and handed me the bill. The bill included tax and 9.99 for installation labor. He hadn't mentioned a charge. I guess mistakenly I'd thought installation was free, covered by the core charge for the old one. Still, no worries. My mistake only $10 and they promised to get me out of here in less than 30minutes!

Then the bad news. "We need 45 minutes to an hour" (from now) to get it done. I was flabbergasted. It's three nuts to change the battery so where is all the time. I asked about the advertising. No he couldn't do it. So I then asked if I could borrow a wrench and just do it myself. Why wait 45 when I could be done in 5? "Well sir --- tools could be a problem. In the meantime, he's voided my first bill providing the second with no labor. The crowd on the counter is growing and another knowing customer says if I wait they will give me a $10.00 voucher for a future purchase. Guess that would have made the installation free. Still, this is not how retail is supposed to work. In the end. I took the battery home. Now I have an old one sitting in my garage. Will have to return it one day.

I liked Sears. I loved Craftman tools, Hillary camping gear, my first 10 speed came from there. Still other than a leaf blower, a lawn mower and a Diehard, there not much I buy there now. May visit once or twice a year. Not any more. The reps at home depot are better informed.

So what's the problem? Many executional ones from a marketing point. Poor communication, a very tired product. And I begin to wonder. Who could do tires and batteries better? What would it take? Can I book the appointments on line, say for tires. Still let's not go there today. Tires are just as infrequent. But when a battery dies... you need it immediately. With an automatic you live in fear of stalling. You just want to get going.

So "Express Service" is a good idea, there's a need. Got me there instead of going to PEP BOYS, which is the only other place that came to mind. If my experience is anything to go by. The advertising if false. They aren't delivering. Yet there are so many ways to fix this. I just see money falling off the bottom line. Wasted advertsing, destroyed brand value, lost profits in vouchers, etc.

In 25 minutes I learnt. That a 50 year old Auto Centre approach no-longer works. That I wouldn't be caught dead in the waiting lounge. That the decor, design and color cues were all non-existent, and the mechanics are completely divorced from the frontline. The merchandising is not merchandising, and the fun has gone out of driving the Sears automotive way. Where was the experience? My car now works, though my efforts. There was no joy in it. There is no story about the future of motoring. There is nothing about preparing for family vacations. Nothing about safety, stopping distances, looking after your children. No counters to check auto insurance while I'm waiting etc.

From a brand that was once... part of "motoring together" now there is only supplying the parts that are falling off or worn out. Even Sears history statement finishes limply..."Building our relationships one customer at a time, Sears continues to live up to its tried and true motto, satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. Let us deliver great customer service to you, with speed and expertise."

So. the Sears tag line "Where else?". Yes indeed --- where else can I go next time?

November 8, 2002

Perspective on Business Stories

I don't think Steve will mind me posting these comments on below. <b><a href="">Stephen Denning </a></b>is the author of <a href=""><b>The Springboard</b></a>. I met him some years back briefly at a KM conference in London, where he put more powerpoints across in a short time than I have ever seen before. In the blur a great story about the World Bank experience emerged. More recently we had an online discussion faciliated by <b>Lisa Kimball </b>at <a href=""><b>Group Jazz</b></a> It evolved into an interesting discussion on <a href="">making stories</a>.

You may want to <b><a href="">subscribe to Storytelling In Business</a></b> I'm certainly looking forward to participating there.

Steve's recent comments:

Continue reading "Perspective on Business Stories" »

November 19, 2002


Today I had a motivating coffee with a close friend. Much of our early conversation was about SMART MOBS the book. Both of us really itching to push boudaries and take product and service concepts concepts well beyond the boundaries outlined in the book; to give SMART MOBS a business building edge.

Then it is not unusual for Tom and I to reflect on stories, the scenarios we write and exploring different concepts as we go. It's an update. We are both passionate about the challenges of the future. Then we discover some fragment or item we have never shared, playing with some new concept and model. Today one emerged as I was hunting for yet another example of how the blogging / publishing community might revolutionize the customer service business.

ANTIPORT traces to 1999. I remember writing it - sort of pounded it out. It was meant to fly in the face of today's customer service practices. Antiport suggests that smart mobs can run customer feedback systems. What's more perhaps today with a more object oriented web the costs and programs maybe ready to enable it!

I beleive it was brash and bold then. From marketing PR to seeding a community for customer feedback. Let me know what you think. I'll be watching to see if anyone registers this time round.

Imagine: January 21, 2003 (updated) News headlines around the world...
Antiport Flys New Format for Landing Consumer Feedback
Today the largest mass registration in the history of Internet names took place. The top 10000 companies worldwide have a new conscience. Today, spent $1m and registered 10000 urls including,,, anti.anything importantand they plan on making a new business out of customer complaints. Whats more they are giving the business away!

Marketplace for Customer Feedback
So how does it work? Antiport is a new marketplace, the market for customer feedback. Antiport began by giving away 10000 opportunities to take over the customer feedback function for the largest companies on earth. Each antisite will run a similar franchised feedback model capturing and reporting on key customer feedback. The antisite will pay five percent of all revenue received to Antiport. Antisites are all employee owned and gain shares and vest over three years in the Antiport based on the volume of organizational and community feedback they support. As this feedback network grows, so will the value of Antiport shares. Antiport appears to have adopted the successful SAIC ownership model. Potentially anyone can register an unregistered anti-site and working to the open standards gain approval and membership. This may become the ultimate recruit yourself business.

Handling the complaint virus!

But it doesnt stop there. Antiport is simply anti bad services and products. And the best remedy isnt just forgetting about it but making problems transparent. When you register a complaint with the relevant antisite, as a consumer you get some additional choices; you can share it with a pass this one on list of your friends or contacts, you can also add to that the activist list automatically forwarding your complaint / request to a random sample of interested parties. Then there is the follow-up list. Having put in a complaint you can follow similar items, etc. Each one provides metrics, and a call back to the community for discussion and remedies. This is because the founders believe that these cold viruses will make poor performance transparent. As consumers we can expect better responses. Companies that fail to respond will probably end up on the anti-port black list. Now would you buy a product from one of those? Its rumored that deals with bizrate, epinions, revbox and dealtime are also pending.

Lower Costs, Improved value creation
With the announcement 25 fortune 500 companies announced from today that their feedback functions were outsourced to these new antisite consumer communities. In reality their customer service departments just started their own businesses. Long term the new services are expected to provide customer feedback for a lower cost. So now, for the first time those receiving the complaint will have ownership in running it down and reporting on it and getting a remedy. Now thats a lot better than just $10.00 per hour. More importantly Antiport just redefined their job. They are no longer there to hide company problems (How much sooner could we have learned about explorer tires?) but to benefit each of us. No wonder we will leave them a tip --- and thats different! What happens when it is a pleasure to make a complaint? Now, just think how their shares of the most valuable information on earth will appreciate as consumers adopt this simple new approach. We expect Antiport to be come the news portal for all major consumer complaints.

Antisites all agree to provide for the customer information they collect to their originator for free (eg to Additional customized data required by the company will be completed by Antisite customers at current costs. Additional revenue comes from selling the information to competitors, selling advertising for competitive products, a commission on legal remedies, and running new industry community feedback groups.

For the community too
For smaller companies there are even bigger benefits. A number of groups are registering anti-sites for a collection of local community businesses. For example three people expect to handle all consumer complaints for the businesses in the town of Lafayette California. They are just using the same infrastructure the larger companies use, but there are some twists too. They are providing a follow-up sales service to local contractors, so feedback on their performance is captured. Its rumored that the best community in the US award will be announced starting in 2005. Whats more it is tied in with

Of course it wont be easy for them to get off the ground. But if you interested and youve got a company you think need reforming you best get acquainted with Antiport. The educational materials, on-line training and control systems are all there for you to get qualified and started. Register and hold your Antisite today!

Antiporters will also participate in an audit system exchange, thus learning from other industries and other problem solving situations. Thus at its core it provides a Peer to Peer model of learning and collaboration. Interestingly, it may well be the first business that requires no offices anywhere! The core web system is completely web enabled, reducing communications costs.

The antisite approach is currently available in 13 languages and confirmed operable in 56 countries.

Marketplace for Customer Feedback

Centralized feedback market, - one number- guaranteed follow-up
Distributed Structure Distributed scalability
Transparency - Viral rapid visibility,
Ownership structure owned by knowledge workers directly involved
Marketplace speeds learnings and provides new opportunities for solutions / community
Industry groups possible shared learning and new standards
New panels possible

As consumers:
Feedback is used not buried, more likely to improve products and services.
Enable the powerful telling of real stories.
Viral structure will take bad feedback to a new level!
Creating a consumer conscience!

December 2, 2002

Experience Brands

What do you do with a blog and work in progress? What do you do when stuck? Even when it's unfinished. Possibly the smartest thing to do is just share, maybe the diagrams need no explanation.

How is a great brand built? How do you encourage and nurture both dynamic and stable elements? With heaps of IMAGINATION we build great brands. This could be an emotional branding pitch, or a program to enable organizations to live the brand. I was simply reflecting on how one might build a jammin brand for accelerating innovation and providing some creative friction.

Running a program to develop a great brand requires methods and process. It tends to become iterative, a continuous process. The brand imagination feeding a hunger for new experiences. This quite traditional model builds the brand links who we are by what we do and how. Facilitated imaginatively, adding ingenuity to our offering and individuality to our personality (how we are described) strengthens and leverages the brand promise. Use it well and often wonderful feature and benefit discussions emerge as you and your team climb the "experience" ladder.

Still as a model, it remains provider centric, rather than network centric. In todays customer centric world our strategies must define co-creative brand experiences. Our model must aid companies in prospecting and discovery, creating opportunities to out run the competition? A slight change in the terminology and the way we look the brand/community experience enables us to be more perceptive reframing around connectivity, experience, and community. Rather than Imagination it may just be Sparks. For individuality it may be friction and for ingenuity it may just become collaborative expermentation. For an organization laddering provider and network centric views may accelerate the creation of new options.

My perspective represents the need to create connective experience strategies that infect the brand community Perhaps this will help to frame the intersection for a new type of research company.


So how's it fit?
In the Experience Organization. These organizations (eBay is a good example) know: 1) The CUSTOMER IS IN CHARGE, 2) networks and communities accelerate learning, 3) adaptive capability comes from weak signals people, partners, employees, customers, investors, and 4) trust & reputation is integral (Readiness to Improve, Grow, Change)

March 4, 2003

Community-Centric Communications

Steven Lundin portrays a world in which online communities are taking over the role once reserved for PR in his article The fall of PR and the rise of Community-Centric Communications.

"But what happens when the community doesnt get its information from news sources--- which in turn may be receiving information from these selfsame public relations firms? What happens is an immediate disconnect between the company and the customer, who is part of a community. Public relations is taken out of the equation. In this scenario PR professionals are operating with two cans connected by a string, while the community is using satellite phones. The telephone lines havent just been broken, theyve been permanently mothballed. "

He says no major PR firm has yet worked out the methods for community centric communiciations. That is just the point. From blogging to friends lists, communities share information based on trust and openness. If you are in business of shaping public opinion it is time to join in these nacent communities.

Another pointer to communities as infomediaries. Where is your brand today? How are you using community not just for brand development and innovation rather in conjunction with your customers. If you haven't it is time to invite them in. How will you connect, face to face amongst friends?

June 23, 2003

Dissecting the ChatRoom

How does one think through new product development for chat? Last October I found this an intriguing question and with a little help developed the exploratory framework below.  Today it is perhaps more relevant to the learning required to enhance collaboration with emerging social software. The target of this chat exploration was focused on determining the consumer frameworks to aid decision-making.

I really appreciated the recent comments to the buddy list envy.  So it seemed natural to step from IM to CHAT.  May also open up some thoughts on IM. Afterall an exercise like this could similarly apply to IM.

Visit chatrooms and one soon realizes how dynamic the conversation is, even if you don't fit in. While many may delight in referring to chatrooms as a waste of time, I have a feeling that they are an emerging world. Perhaps fantasy or a warped reality, yet lump them with broader collaboration tools and new avenues open up for exploration.

So in this post I'm purposely sharing some diagrams (click to expand), without all the words.   Last October when these were done I thought there may be a mulit-client possible in this area.  (There still is - or could be.  I'd be delighted to do it! I'd add this is all inferred it's not from a statistical sample or at an x% confidence level.).

For others the model and segment names will either provide the justification or a few laughs. 

Why do this? What research objectives might you consider? (From a chat perspective).

  • To provide a dynamic framework for understand the chat /IM market, and the various need segments within it.
  • To determine the relative strengths of the various brands, how they are positioned within the market, and how they are positioned to satisfy the needs fo the various segments within it.
  • To identify what opportunities exist in the chat market for new brands / products (Use this for collaboration building, not necessary to restrict it to MSN/AOL and Yahoo!)

Chat is to the digiworld, like the street, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, diners, bingo halls, and the PTA meeting is to the physical world. It why I'm sharing a model with you that draws on my food and beer days.  (This is adapted from the Heylen Model for those in research)

Why is chat interesting

  • Rapid expansion is reaching critical mass. Like IM - CHAT skews younger.
    • Instant messaging: 59 percent of those aged 19 to 34, compared to 49 percent of those aged 35 to 54, and 45 percent of those 55 and over.
    • Chat: 47 percent of those aged 19 to 34; 37 percent of those aged 35 to 54; 31 percent of those 55 and over.
  • Access new business opportunities - growing corporate interest
  • Service not yet a money spinner --- new entrants
  • Rapidly increasing functionality around voice, video and mobility.
  • Emerging promotion and marketing opportunties.
  • Peer to Peer evolving communities becoming more realtime
  • And as we know instant messaging is a super e-mail that lets two or more people hold a real-time conversation online.

My temptation is to say more about why chat communities are posed to forever change marketing.  However this post is about disecting the chatroom, what goes on and the bare minimum detail to infer the life inside. 

These are stories framed around a dynamic segmentation.  One size does not fit all.   By dynamic this approach reflects that as a market evolves and chat users become much more sophisticated they may not just have one set of Chat needs solved by CHATTING in a particular situation, but can be motivated quite differently at other times. The guess is that chatters often select and act in different occasions in the same week. They may very well approach this using different brands.

Our Hypothesis There are two fundamental dynamics, which drive consumer CHAT behavior.  (click to enlarge diagrams)

  • First an occassion based dimension around usage, frequency, times etc
  • Second a horizontal based axis around social dynamics and orientation


Two additional elements. Trust / Transparency and Involvement. These provide an inverse interplay around the social dimension which affects our interpretation of usage/frequency occasions

  • First levels and types of Trust and Transparency in groups and between individuals
  • Second the type of involvement be it extroverted or more introverted; telling or listening, controlling or facilitating, testing or supportive. Etc. >


This enables six segments to be defined.  They are not all equal in size or profit potential.  Approaches to brand, product/services and the needs in each segment are different.  Even where products should be launched, lifecycles etc can be defined.  Typically a chart like this is provided with stories, encounters, (collages help).  Examples would include names from chatrooms.  Much could be said about the use of colour, fonts, size, the impact of music, welcoming rituals, emoticons etc.  


This final chart may encourage a few to really consider the Exploring dimension.  This realm is i'm certain the largest segment --- (American SUV territory, or Bud territory) and biggest opportunity. For online auctions this space is eBay.  If one ever needed to think though the ramifications of social software it is in this realm.  For my two cents this is where "fast trust" and digital identity solutions will really make a difference.  The opportunity exists to enable this within corporate communities. 

Is chat like beer?  I can't be certain. I do believe that chatters can be comfortable in more than one environment. Just like a fancy restaurant serves a long neck beer, in another setting clearly a can or even a mug may be more appropriate.

Traditional chatrooms were limited to words yet today, voice and cams are becoming more commonplace. Perhaps more importantly these's a whole world here growing rapidly running 365/7/24. It different to our physical world and yet similar. Its only now that we can begin to see how people live virtually and accept that is part of life that we can begin to look at the sheer variety of online exchanges that a person might have. Particularly when we think consumers and traditional entertainment or out of home friendly connections. Think for the moment about the venues and exchanges we have day to day from the coffee shop to RSA, and Nightclubs and Bars, to more passive theatre. Then add in online gaming etc. 

It's late.  I hope you still know where to go for a drink after playing with the Chat Map. They tend to serve them up in room 9.

September 12, 2003

Living Skype the Brand

While Skype founders are probably scrambling with what should be an overnight success, they are running some branding risks and have made some crucial target audience assumptions. Unfortunately, "beta" isn't an excuse. The consumers targeted with this product will ignore the "beta" label. I'm just going to put a few piece into play that suggests Skype must quickly become a marketing-centric organization.

Skype's consumer base is morphing by the hour. Each registration - will impact on the community that uses Skype. Living the Brand "Skype" requires more than the initial wow fun - it works. I will try and illustrate this. I'll be brutal. The founders of Kazaa, (an egocentric pitch if I ever heard one) bring you... That's a techno-centric pitch. Lets face it Kazaa created both the platform for this step and dangers particularly perceptions. Techies will take notice.. while my mother is not interested. Trading music - has a real economic incentive for young people. Kids do it. They can't afford CD's or would in fact rather put their money on other entertainment items. I think however the target for Skype is much broader. It's not 12 year old that are trying it out. Telephone calls have no cost for them. This big bold link to Kazaa is unnecessary. Get rid of it. There's a much bigger idea under it all and the founders must build real sympathy for it.

It begins with "living this brand" There's no marketer on the company list! There are already a number of branding problems. First we have (as too often with tech products) no consumer stories. The closest we get to smiling faces on the main screen are these two mug shots in the company section. Hey great they look like rock stars.... Well no. These photos in the company section are almost scary. They may want to change the world. However, that will require color and a smile. They must appear "pleasant" and "approachable". Some simply manufactured warmth would help. Change these photos quick!. They may work on Hot or Not; they aren't appropriate here.

It's true there is a lot of good word of mouth out there. I've been tracking it. People really seem to get it. So why start kicking at the founders? Simply because the best emerging online community I know for having a "personal" face is Adrian Scott's Ryze. From day one he cared about his friends. This is in stark contrast to the mistakes being made at Friendster. For Skype to be really successful it must be more than technology or "disrupting" the old phone system. It's about welcoming in tomorrow. We are in the age of P2P telephony. How people share in these riches will define the potency of the solution.

So what scares me about this initial beta techno incarnation is I (the consumer/customer) have no way of knowing if these guys care about anything more than the tech or the likely money they are going to make in the future. At the moment it could go either way. I'm talking about how names are filled in! I'm ranting about instructions on filling profiles. Profiles are central to this emerging community. I'm suggesting that the founders make it clear. I have have checked. THE FOUNDERS (full name) ARE UNLISTED! I can't call them. What sort of communications society are they suggesting we support? Are they scared to take calls? For this to really work... everyone has to want to be always on... like the phone system.

Now to be more fair... They won't be able to take millions of calls. Still an old computer with an away message would work. Or even have a PA answer some! Still there are many CEO's that can still list their home number. It's called the phone book. Here we have two founders that may well be able to create a P2P directory of everybody on earth. With some smarter technology it will enable progressive levels of disclosure. The path is fairly clear. So this... PERSONAL DISCLOSURE thing is important. They are not making it easy enough to decide.... what's my name and how do I share details about myself. The assumption is people know how to fill in the form. Actually they don't. Every community has it's approach. Just look at Ryze vs.. Tribe. ort Yahooprofile pages. Unfortunately the only Skype example on the home page lists Skype_lover and Skype_rocks as well as Catherine etc.. It's not funny and may suggest the wrong connotations. Just simply a risk a smart marketer wouldn't take in packaging a product for mass popular consumption. Clean it up quick! Share more thinking about the "design" of the profile. From my perspective some of it seems a little premature. My phone numbers??? Talk to me personally. Tell me how to be "smart", with-it and techno savvy.

This also reflects an issue of understanding who the target audience is. It's not those that change their IM name everyday on AIM. It is not your average Kazaa user. For a phone system to work we need some naming consistency. This is going to be a real interesting emergent phenomena. It is no wonder the Eula says... we can't handle emergency calls. By the way "Operator" is taken and is not listed. In some fun and jest I called up the top Brands
and started trying to register them as my number. Coca-Cola, Microsoft, down to number 7 Disney... which registered for me. So looks like we are going to have a pretty interesting phone book. Should I auction "Disney" on eBay? Ebay users will adopt this too! This won't be so problematic if we realized and accepted that 1-800 calls are made all the time. If you are a company... why not let your operators use this system. (ah a new backend business for someone) . However I was thinking target audience. Who's likely to move first? Who will be the initial users?

Bloggers are a pretty good bet. I liked John Robb's comment suggestion today. I just don't know how to do it. Internationally connected by words... often too expensive to talk. Ryze is another community where "phone costs" limit exchanges. So it is not only communicate P2P Telephony... which seems like maybe just a new thing... go global with the thought. International calls are free! It's more where this is placed on the home page and the story around it. In America long distance state to state is increasingly just a fixed fee of $15 or thereabouts every month. It's not a motivator. International calls still add up. Then there is the college student on a mobile. Wants to protect some minutes. Skype will be all though the college dorms. The College students will get their parents on it. Something they could never do with Kazaa (with rare exceptions). "Hey Mom! Here's a telephone for your PC!" The aged can then push youth back to some sense of talking....

Now these older users are more concerned. P2P is bad. It says so in the news and with the RIAA. (Get the Kazaa references off the home page!). The second part of the culture equation is the culture of abundance and how all of us collectively can create a better communication system. Setting the stage for this is the personal guarantee from the founders that they've designed the system so I don't have to fear leaving it on all the time. It won't slow down my computer and gee... you know Seti at home we will work it so we only use latent capacity. Hey Seti is good right! They could do even more if they started commiting to a long-term "world communications" behavior charter.

Which brings me to the color choice. Purple --- a mixture of red and blue. Strongly associated with relationships and identity. Purple is the colour of magic and deep emotions. This seems like an interesting color direction to go down. So let's use it to talk the magical relationships. The elimination of cost barriers to good conversation. It's first iteration... fairly naked by comparison to other IM clients. Now the downside...Too much purple is probably immature or too erotic. It's a great color for school girls - it's not in this rendition that the color for the worlds next phone company. And that is where the branding can get really interesting. It's P2P telephony... and Skype is really after magic seamless connections, and for that it's perfect. At least I can see ways to grow it.

Then there is the name. How is it pronounced? It may not be clear to everyone. Let us know... in the story on the site where it came from, what it should inspire.

Then tell me the story of why it will overturn IM. Why ringing is more natural? Why this solution is both less intrusive and more efficient! Jeez I'm not going to write that for you too. What you need is a marketer who realizes that this is the next eBay. You need someone focussing on the message, holding the business true to a set of core values that rest round people, relationships and innovative communications. It was easy for people to go from Napster to Kazaa. It will be easy to get people to go from IM to Skype. Thankfully IM is never mentioned on the home page. At the core... Skype is not beholden to the big company, but the emerging community.

Now my final little freebee!. The receiver on the phone the hang-up/pickup should always on top. As Skype is not IM the little headset icons shold be at the top. Plus the name... area to put one in and dial.. just under that. The file etc. and tabs all at the bottom! Afterall it is about turning the world upside down. Why should I scan to the bottom of an IM looking box to see that it's phone centric! Come on! Plus... on the useability stakes.. it is either minimised or in the bottom right of the screen.

I could go on... I must stop.

September 18, 2003

Scotty's Red Ryze

I don't really understand Adrian Scott at all.
... the Ryze thing... what's with this new logo... LIKE WHAT???? ryze.gif
This is exactly what we've been talking about. Branding and Social networks. You know the YASNS. Well caution. Don't jump the gun. It's not finished. Yeah. just first impresssions? Really give them to me. Thought you would never ask.

Well sire it looks a little awkward, bits of the old design intact. No come on now I really want your opinion. Well then I'm really really disappointed. In fact I'm RED with it. DANGER DANGER. That's no sunrise honey... it's the morning after an A-bom. Are you sure you have thought this though? Is it gut or analysis? What's with the colors? It hard to tell. Presume they will play with the left and drop the duplication. Sort of looks like they are short handed. Was this really a good investment in the community. All I wanted was some features. Not a strip bar. There's

no sense of art in a place where artisans play
no sense of personality in a realm of personalities.
no sense of canvas when everyone paints
no sense of action when everyone chatters
no sense of our place just structured space.

Jeez when we talk about branding we talk brand personae and oh high and mighty I see red. I see the red devils work here. Just when I was hoping to get a break from that stinking light blue-grey. You know... White, with spashes of orange and yellow! We were once an innovative community, transforming networks, connecting not red for the hunting.

Wonder if there was a budget for it. Careful, be analytical now. Yep I'm certain it is totally out of synch with what RYZE stands for. Hey do you remember that Ryze research, the few focus groups... the quotes from users, the group on Serious Play sort of kicked it around. Can you remember that far back. Yes sir. It's in my blog --- before categories. Look them up if I must. Shared some with the Ryze folks too. Hmmmm... Check my recollections! Thinkthe comments are on representative. Could the community have changed that much?

Oh man those guy must need a party. Where are Mixers in all this? Where the Guest idea? Didn't you feel like you used to own your page? Yeah I did. It was the first of the soft human profiles. I'm wondering where my home will be now. Gosh what next? A Friendster faceroll? I used to welcome you to my space. I'd check out your guestbook. When you were on my page you were visiting and then I'd go home to the house that Adrian had built for all of us. Dam I can't find the mixer on the beach. Ever been to a Mixer on the beach? Nope but I bet they happened. You sure you are not just mouthing off. Nah.. well maybe. Bet you got a trip to the Bahamas.

Where is the fatal mistake? The evil of the ways? Oh it's coming to me. Yep that's it. the fatal mistake. the emphasis till now on the left was navigation. Holy Crap Batman you mean it has been Amazoned. Yep sure do Robin. Alfred has the lesson. The emphasis on the left was navigation ... . by trying to go left to right with the oversized new indexing tabs... outlined and shadowed... he's usurped my identity.... Scotty's stolen my page. You sure? Yep pretty sure. Before graphically the header wasn't so strong. Now the header and the RED logo are stronger than my name and picture. Oh come now. pack up that frustrated marketer. Go back and whistle techie tunes.

No way I got to get me a link to that touchy feelie research. Now where's those quotes> Yep here it is consumer research? What's it say. Probably said Ryze was refreshing, tickled the parts other sites didn't reach. Was Adrians thing for his friends. Look like maybe he sold out.

The new stuff? Says RYZE first --- ME second. What was the brief? Oh probably make the community more professional looking. You have any recommendations? Is there a strategy? Is there a business model? Ryze could have had it all.

September 22, 2003

Ryze Home - Bad Feng Shui

A smart community is allowed to weigh in on developing its future direction. Scotty's Red Ryze saw follow-ups; "followed up last week with "Ryze - don't let the sun go down". Maybe it was just late night fun. I was temped to let it go until I learned Dina had asked the question in a couple of Ryze networks. So here's the scoop (selected comments are hardly a sample). However the Ryze Logo change is a wonderful illustration for others around which a community forms. Just possibly it will help the team at Skype think though the "community" opportunities they have and the implications for creating an open dialogue.

I like this application of Feng Shui. I'd never thought of it that way before. Not everyone comes at a logo or a community with the same perspective.

From the fengshui point of view, on a page the element that occupies the topmost left corner is wood. the element colour being green. the colour red symobilises fire, which is totally destructive of wood. its not suitable at all.

However if the red logo was positioned in the centre ie. top centre of the page, it would help since the element for that portion is fire, element colour being red.
I will not be surprised if the majority feel uncomfortable about the red in that corner. try changing it to green or blue. it would definitely be more soothing
. Full Quote link
Sandhya Advanii

More community centric are these great observations. Run a contest, let the creatives on Ryze get noticed.

If I were behind the RYZE scene - I would run a contest -
What should our logo look like ? Let:s see your Stuff...BRAND US!
...submissions have a dedicated posting page where WE the peeps get to VOTE.........

RYZE wins all around... they get free graphic design, test market a winning logo that WE voted into being, create an internal buzz that moves them up a notch on the " what can we do for our members" tip, deliver a non-verbal message everybody wants to hear, it's YOUR community and last and most important - all the creatives who submit their work "Get Noticed" - which is one of the reason we are all here. Full Quote linkRosetta Stone

Brings us back to functionalities:

My take on Ryze is that it was the Craigslist of networking. It's not all fussy about site design, and more about function. I think this logo, and the whole direction is caught in the middle. If you want to be simple, then don't have a logo. If you want to build a brand, then do a GOOD logo. Certainly, with all the talent on this community, there had to be someone out there who could have done a compelling logo that's easy on the eyes.
Full Quote LinkMarc Lefton

Which are still underway according to Erlend Wilhelmsen who says.

"As some of you may be aware... Ryze is doing the implementation in phases - thus what you see now is perhaps 15% of the GUI we designed. Obviously, few of the IA or GUI improvements have been made and the visual ID is (clearly) not completed and/or representative of any sort of "brand building" efforts."

More Skype Talk

David follows up today with another detailed posting Skype P2P VoIP App: One in a Million?
"If they don't screw it up with a confusing and overpriced subscription service, Skype could possibly become one of those extremely rare apps that comes along and truly changes communication and networking on the web." David also puts a stick in the ground on pricing. I'm not sure I agree either in the global context or the method. What's important right now is the appropriate business expectations are created. Skype may well have launched with more "noise" than expected.

What I do want from David is his method for signaling whether Skype is online or offline on my blog. Come on David share! They will want it on Ryze pages and on Ecademy.

In the early reviews some emerging features are being missed.

  • One-Click Calling: The idea that i finally have my phone book on my desktop and only have to mouse click to call is just great. It's been buried before. Voice vs Chat centric reinvents this for me.
  • Share your contacts feature: In "Tools" - "Send Contacts" you can share connections on your buddy list just like in AIM. Come on bloggers we can connect up quicker. Finding addresses will be much simpler.
  • Languages. The latest update provided languages and reinforces the global nature of this product. I had to go back in an download again to update. Short-term it's the international and long distance calls that you never could justify just making before.
  • Imagining what it's like behind the Skype walls? What's being monitored, number of hits on google. Broadband vs dial-up connections etc. Looking at the slowing toward the end of last week at people on line at 12:00pm suggested to me an increasing number of dial-ups. Yet today I think I saw 42500 online. That's roughly double a week ago.
  • Biggest functional issue: Currently in IM I can't click on a hot-link sent to me. I also seem to have some conflict with my other IM systems. Particularly Yahoo. Not sure if this is my system, firewall etc.

    Some new quotes follow: First asks how do I call my friend of my friend. Well that's part of the profiling opportunity.

    Nowadays Skype becomes one of the most faschinating application over peer to peer communication instead of Kazaa. I love this application but I want one specific function. That is to find a friend of my friends. [Kokoro]

    It's neat that Ecademy and Thomas Power groks it. They have already experimented there with RSS and blogging. Bet they will be the first social/business networking app to incorporate a link. May be the reason enough to activate my profile there.

    The product is amazing I have spoken with 2 Ecademy members already from the UK and Faroes, cost nothing. Kazaa are killing the music business. Will Skype kill the telco business? Thomas Power - Chairman... [Thomas Power]

    Getting your friends to stream in a broadcast..... Not the first time I've heard this desire.

    Best Use of Skype EVAR Alabamas game against Northern Illinois isnt on TV today, so I tried to find a stream of the radio broadcast. Unfortunately, Yahoo seems to have a monopoly on the streaming rights and wants to charge me $5/month, and theres no.. [Refer]

    I'd worry that I've become an advocate for Skype, yet there is support. So come on. Suspend your disbelief, try it and Skype me. It opens a new world for thinking strategic futures.

    This is a link that I would normally post over there in my sidebar in the Cookie Crumbs microblog, but considering I havent really heard any buzz about it at all lately, I wanted to post it in my main blog instead, just to get your attention. Check... [Refer]
  • November 4, 2003

    Corporate Environmental Optimism

    Andrew Zolli uncovering why pollution and waste usually indicate inefficiency. So, in an economy of competing companies, inefficiency is for losers. So does it follow that in the long run, successful companies are going to be green and clean? Some optimism here!

    In the context of an ongoing futures research project, we recently came across the work of Jesse Ausubel, a 21st-century renaissance scientist and Director of the Program for the Human Environment at New York's Rockefeller University. Ausubel’s scientific interests and insights are incredibly broad, from the future of the physical environment to the mathematical modeling of sustainable systems.

    Of particular interest is his paper The Environment for Future Business, which contains the kind of rigorous, contrarian thinking on the future of the physical environment which demands a very close read. Unlike the much gloomier ‘standard model,’ which predicts human-accelerated rapid climate change, Ausubel is optimistic. “The wheels of history are rolling in the direction of prudent, clean use of resources. Pollution and waste usually indicate inefficiency. […] In an economy of competing companies, inefficiency is for losers. So over the long run, successful companies are going to be green and clean.”

    To back up his claim, Ausubel points to two the two-centuries-long decarbonization of the world’s energy supply. Think of the fuels we have used over the last two centuries – wood, coal, oil, natural gas, etc. Each of these basic fuels contains a mixture of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Wood, for example, contains a lot of carbon, and a little hydrogen. In coal, the ratio is about 1:1.

    As motors and power-plants of one sort or another have become more and more efficient, and as more carbon-dense fuels are replaced with less carbon-dense successors, the result has been the slow, 200-year ‘decarbonization’ of the world’s fuel supply. The shift has been from wood to coal, coal to oil, oil to methane and, inevitably, methane to hydrogen.

    Click on picture for larger version

    Seen this way, the much-vaunted Hydrogen Economy seems less like the esoteric sci-fi wonder it is pitched as in the media, and more the natural and inevitable next step for a world energy system that is becoming more and more efficient.

    Click on picture for larger version

    Ausubel also postulates that the shift from one dominant fuel to the next occurs in 40-45 year ‘pulses’, followed by lulls or depressions of a decade or two in energy consumption. Each pulse was triggered by the adoption of cleaner fuels, which in turn led to real growth in per capita energy consumption. If that’s true, the next two pulses Ausubel predicts – one for natural gas, and one for hydrogen, won’t just be good for the environment – they’ll also lead to real economic expansion. (Ausubel's Hydrogen Economy starts to take off globally around 2050 - a conservative and reasonable estimate.)


    August 22, 2004

    New Bite in New Toothbrush

    This caught my attention. Why? An example. A toothpaste manufacturer would tell me that toothpaste will be around forever. I'd simply say never bank on forever! Is this toothbrust Crest and Colgates worst fears? Probably not, but worth investigating. What makes it interesting is that this is a platform that Gillette can use for OralB that can't be used by Crest. We can't have the Crest SpinBrush upgraded for "creative destruction" of the toothpaste business.


    Possibly a little more convergence than we're looking for these days, Compact-Impact is selling a  titanium oxide toothbrush called the Soladey-3 that uses solar energy to create ions that “clean and sanitize” without the use of toothpaste. We're gonna have to hassle them for a review model of this one… Via TRFJ Engadget

    September 9, 2004

    Exit Strategy

    I'd missed Exit Strategy by Douglas Rushkoff until it landed on my desk this week. It's a late 20th century satire complete with footnotes from the open source online edition chosen by the author. In a quick flip I discovered this one and liked it.

    "Until 2020, most computer software was still produced with encrypted code. This meant that only the company that published and owned the software could modify it! It was an anti-evolutionary posture adopted by most of the software industry that stunted technological development. Current analysis indicates that by 2009, computer software was thirty years behind where it would have been had open source been the dominant development model." --- Sabina Samuels

    Now for a little pleasure reading something different.

    Although the book takes place in the near future, the text itself only "surfaced" online in the 23rd Century. The entire text is annotated with footnotes so that terms like "Microsoft" and "NASDAQ" make sense to the future reader who, presumably, lives in a world beyond such things. :: Douglas Rushkoff ::

    October 12, 2004

    Google - through the looking glass

    Good scenarios are often better with age. I caught this one by chance. It's worth reading and provides a real appreciation of the strategic value created when it was written. The shame is... this was probably not done for a client and not part of a collection of scenarios.

    August 2009: How Google beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic Web (

    Please note that this story was written in 2002.

    It's hard to believe Google - which is now the world's largest single online marketplace - came on the scene only a little more than 8 years ago, back in the days when Amazon and Ebay reigned supreme. So how did Google become the world's single largest marketplace?

    Wondir Land- Building & Connecting the People Web

    June 20, 2007

    Marketing and Relationships Track - Supernova2007

    My sound-byte for session one: Companies that accelerate learning.... build relationships. The examples exist more around software although Amazon is a classic case of using what others bought and buyer reviews. It means I learn more at Amazon than I can at a bookstore or without a librarian. Similarly, whether iLike today or Napster when it first launched, I learn more by looking at others' music lists with similar interests than I would by perusing a music store.

    What sparked me to write this? I'm at Supernova2007 put on by Kevin Werbach. Missed the last couple of Supernova's and the pre-event crowd has grown considerably. The first session I'm in is being facilitated by three all-time favorites of mine - Doc Searls, David Weinberger and Jerry Michalski. Naturally, it opens with "Markets are Conversations and evolves into how individuals are now trying to form relationships with companies.


    Doc puts the point (paraphrased) - Marketers have tried to take up the markets as conversations. It is hard for marketers to be in the conversation. They are somewhat compromised as they have conflicts as they see outcomes in the conversation. So it is hard to get the marketers onboard... At Sun they are now incorporating Technorati results into the product pages. Marketers are trying to figure out how to enter the conversation. Their default it to want to bring the conversation in.. inside... but it is going on outside. So when Sun begins aggregating the conversations it is a very different action. Separately Doc comments on "owing customers" is the same thing as slavery. Doc also talks about ProjectVRM.

    David also recently in HBR. Idea is that the second most important asset is your information (1 - people). So have been teaching cos to treat info like an asset. Turns out in lots of industries it become more valuable when you let some go mashed up with others. Everytime you mashup it gets more and more value. Often it is great for the company. (I agree but very hard to get old school companies to do this.)

    Tags: supernova2007; brand futures

    Changing Forces in Advertising - Supernova 2007

    My question from this session came about when they were discussing how to allocate media between traditional media and online. I just wondered where the discussion was on prototyping media content. As media today is all social and it is easy to upload content in all sorts of places... why not just upload your content onto YouTube etc. (Some companies are beginning to do this). This can be a very effective way of testing your message. More hand drawn storyboards may indeed be coming.

    The perception here is that marketers cannot measure the world the same way anymore. Ted Shelton from Technorati make this point strongly. Basically with continuous partial attention the marketer has to rethink their relationship with the audience. I also liked Deb Shultz's probing question which came later about getting to the long tail. Is it possible to get to one buyer for one item.

    Evan Williams (paraphrased) " Twitter. "a social real-time connection type of thing" Is Twitter an advertising medium? How can we use Twitter? How can we make money? We will experiment with Twitter on an opt-in method. Because it is opt in, it has to be of value to users. We think it is a unique kind of communication vehicle. Already Dell and others are using it for announcements and building relationships or keeping people in the loop."

    Some interesting ideas floated on getting more interest from ad opportunities. Eg Tivo or Facebook poll like. Clearly, "attention" still has a value.

    • Do you get a thumbs up or thumbs down with every ad opportunity?

    • What are you interested or disinterested in?

    • Can you use social media more cost effectively to attract attention? Does social media have an annuity for attention?.. if they stay it costs a lot less.. because bringing the new person costs less and less.... creating value... and concurrently reducing the cost of getting them in the first place
      Can i get them to come to me... or must i go to them????

    • If you create a walled garden... how many are already talking? What does technorati tell you?...

    • What if rather than spending money you left comments on a blog? Jeff Jarvis and DELL who now advertises on his blog. What if Dell said leave comments on the blog to engage in the conversation? Could it cost less than the advertising they are running? Is it more effective for Dell?

    • Will companies pay individuals to be on their hotlist?

    • Should there be millions of dollars in micro sponsorships? Is this nefarious or could it be legitimate?
      How should companies value and create "social" skills?

    July 26, 2007

    The "Social Strategy" and Alec Saunders

    I have to tip my hat to Alec Saunders. His blog, his writing and the topics he's writing about. Including "Stop Using Me". Well Alec I'm using you today, as a friend, blogger, and  pointer to a person who writes a great socially aware marketing blog. Who acts as both the customer for many products and the CEO of Iotum. I'm holding you up today. It's both a knack and a creation.

    I think I will go looking for more blogs like yours. It's an emerging genre and for some companies a foundation element for success with "Branding" and "Marketing" in a 2.0+ world.

    Great commentary:

    I enjoyed your Ooma insights and somehow you still managed the thumbs down politely. While I was described by you as thumbs down in criticism. I was certainly blunt in providing the feedback that I won't shell out $400 for this product.

    Where I want to pick a bone is on your perceptions that the PR and Marketing failed to have the right blogger outreach. While it may have helped the real problem is still the product and the price point. Still I think it goes further than just the product and there are lessons for hardware / physical product launches everywhere.

    In a 2.0 world marketing is reframed; the consumer is dead, and the users are people. Every product requires a social strategy. Products like the message are inherently social. All media is now social. I know you know this. Iotum has a presence and SOCIAL standing way beyond it's footprint. This traces to trust, transparency and a sense that "we" know and understand what you and your team are trying to do. Most importantly Iotum seems communications as social.

    The Ooma marketing failed on all these fronts. They are not transparent about the technology. The product suggests security compromises. They brought in an Actor and and that's supposed to make it cool. They thought they were in control of the "message". That's an old school thought and thinking that too many companies are continuing to make. Ooma is not a social product.

    The brand manager cannot own the message. We the "people" are the message and collectively "place" the product. In many ways it's always been that way. Just in this case --- no one seemed to ask... "what will the WOM (word of mouth) be?". Andy perhaps characterises this very well describing it as "Hype".

    While I started this post with Alec, and close with Andy both these guys are exemplary examples of participating in next generation marketing and branding programs. It has become a "trusim" that if you want to launch VoIP products then you better think and build relationships with them; and I could name a dozen others. VoIP products today require a social context and backdrop to be successful. Names, branding, pricing etc all matter. However, if you are not prepared to talk about it early and often you can forget about it.

    Just in the VoIP space these are (just some of the companies) that share their stories and are learning faster from their customers. Truphone, JajahFring Phonegnome,etc.
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    August 21, 2007

    Outing Skype Communications

    I just read Jim Courtney's post update on the Skype Outage. I've read many other reports too. For me the disappointment has nothing to do with not being able to call for two days. It's deeper than that. It traces to Skype's external communications and how their Brand has evolved from being community led around sharing to something corporate and out of tune with those that once loved Skype but now just use it.

    The outage just confirms once again that "Skype's" crisis management and handling of communications is poor; as it has been since eBay took control. In the end Skype has damaged its reputation because they failed to act in a transparent manner and continue to act a wee bit too secretly. We will continue to use the service yes. Does it make me feel warmer about Skype no... SKYPE has a communications problem and it traces to how they manage their message and brand.

    Skype exists because "supernodes" are okay with some users, however the "sharing is good" message is long gone. The difference today is "we" use Skype. That is true whether you are at home or a company trying to build an app for it. There are no real Skype evangelists left. The big ideas that originally fueled Skype and the interest have frankly been reduced to a "service" - can I make a call today? It's useful and a commodity. BTW I quickly connected via Gtalk and Gizmo with those I needed too during the outage. Free calls just remain a little easier and still better on Skype. Eg my iChat - Video was significantly poorer quality.

    I'm convinced (and needed no real convincing) that Skype's network works. Whether or not we are on SKype 3.5 or 2.6 (mac) or another version we are at Skype 1.0 still in principle. The P2P underpinnings that built Skype can build more than just Joost and can be leveraged in many new ways. The real disappointment is there just isn't a Skype 2.0 in the making and from a communications point of view Skype remains very 1.0. Social media? Unfortunately, they have never really embraced it. It continues to show in the use of their home page, their forums and blogs.

    What we really should be clamouring for is a revolution in how Skype engages and communicates with customers. As for the need to ask them to communicate with partners.... If that was truly built on P2P and augmented by the individual then we could say they really have something. --- BTW... rather than a PR note on the home page today with Niklas signature... a YOUTUBE video would have been more compelling.

    Skype has become a faceless corporation and we're just "users" where once we were advocates, storytellers, testers and happy Skypers. Today we are "Everyone" and Users. I'm  sorry, I'm still a Skyper and I Skype. Next time please talk to us for we still do care. In fact we hold Skype's future in our hands.


    "Hello everyone,

    It’s been a very hectic few days around Skype but I am really pleased to say that since the early hours of Saturday morning Skype has been back to normal. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big, heart-felt thank you to all our users who contacted us with messages of support. It’s the little things that make all the difference in a crisis. We’re very sorry that Skype was unavailable because we know how much people enjoy using it. But we’re back now and we’re stronger. For more information about what happened, please take a look at our Heartbeat blog. In the meantime, thank you to everyone again – you make the Skype community what it is today."

    Niklas Zennström
    CEO, Skype

    August 29, 2007

    Blogger's Posts Launch Mosoci

    I didn't expect to blog today about new ventures and plans. Then in a world of twitter steams, IM exchanges and general old fashion sharing we often get the "push" that accelerates us forward down the path. I found Ken Camp and Dan York this morning blogging and humbling us with what they had found at Mosoci. Mosoci is the new venture that Dina and I have set up to formalize a collaboration that goes back a few years. There's more at Mosoci where we are still very much in the alpha - beta point of working out how to best integrate our lifestreams. Now we get to do it live.  It's exciting and frankly rewarding to live in a time where news and commentary just makes you say... "Oh Wow!".

    We know we would not be doing this without everyone that has read our blogs over the last few years. Social Media built the platform for our collaboration and the sense that our network and community would support, participate with us and help us grow. Now it is beyond an idea and yet it is still being formulated. We certainly don't want to end up as just the two of us. Today though we are happy to feel like we are in a constant state of beta. That's the zone where it is a real rush.

    Thank you for your support, praise and interest. Our blogs and blogging will evolve just like our other social media activities are. For example we are really enjoying bringing our bookmarking into the feed. For now our tweets are there too. That may be overwhelming. Then it may also be helpful. We'll let the readers tell us.

    It would be great if you would jump in on the conversation at Mosoci and add MosociRSS to your reader. We'd love your feedback and suggestions.

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    September 28, 2007

    Brand Champions and the Brand Lifestream

    I had a challenging comment from Dan Woodward on my latest search post. He asks whether these Small Business Owners should take the time to learn it themselves:

    Search - Still the best reason to blog your company (Unbound Spiral)

    But, when it comes to fairly advanced marketing/search engine manipulation, where do they go? Are you suggesting they should take the time to really learn all of this for themselves? Do they hire it out? It's a question that does arise (from those who DO have websites) and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about how to answer them (being no Internet marketer myself).

    My point is directed to the brand owner. If the small business owner is the brand champion then they should have a strategy. I've  been spelling it out for traditional brand managers in consumer products companies recently. Simplistically, traditionally they were only interested in advertising (reach and frequency) and promotion.  If you look at a  Brand plan  there is no line in it to address Search or social media. All media is now social; all brand plans should now address social media; strategy and tactics.

    Recognizing you need a strategy is the first step. Small business owners get it.. just like brand managers do when you suggest they Google their business, google their name, google categories they compete in etc. Concurrently with these searches look at the paid search results. Who's paying and why? Are they competitors? etc.

    On should they do it themselves?
    I'd argue that all brand managers should have some tests they check on. From search engines to buzzmetrics and others. At this stage it is not a science they need. Science and "social media optimization" can come later. At this point its important to accept this is how customers search for your company. This is just part of how internet savvy customers learn about your business. (It goes too far to show them Facebook, or Twitter references at this stage, or introduce additional ways we share information about a business).

    As brand champion one of your tasks is to assemble or enable the monitoring of the "brand lifestream" that exists around your brand. Traditionally this was PR clippings, however the social and accelerated nature of media today means that this action can't wait till the end of the month. The manager today needs it in real time at their fingertips. It's just part of understanding conversational marketing. Time for many to learn new tools!

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    October 8, 2007

    Brand Conversations - PR Clippings

    This is a perfect story for a brand to pick up on or at least tag. If I was a Skype brand manager today I'd want to capture at least a link or a bookmark. I'd also want this capture visible to all (on the Skype website or my BM link blog), and a comment left on the blog. The Skyper in this post is a brand advocate and I'd wager introduced more than a few people to the joys of Skyping. Clarence Fisher is a teacher in Canada, he is writing about Classroom 2.0 and New Literacies in Action. His post represents what we look for in facilitating "conversational marketing". Skype's brand was built on a combination of conversational marketing and simply viral uptake. However, it was the stories that created it.

    Many brands have stories like these. It is easy to demonstrate for almost any organization in minutes; certainly not hours. The majority of companies don't see them, if they do they don't recognize them or use them as an asset which they are.

    Remote Access: Expectations

    I have realized that my kids have the expectation, the realization, that this type of communication is even possible. Even though they live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, they will constantly look at my Skype list and ask me where people are from. They understand that this type of full, two way audio and video communication is easy enough that it can be done while I am doing dishes or cutting up vegetables, getting ready for supper.
    Note: this post just appeared in my Technorati "Skype" newsfeed. Just scrolling down I see two more that reflect positively. Earlier today I furled a link to Your Brand is not my Friend. In the context of social networking sites the author was correct; and yet I'm sure "Skype" is Clarence's friend.

    Some questions:
    How are you consuming / receiving information content like this?
    Do you recognize it?
    Are you still just satisfied with PR clippings once per month? (What does that cost?!)
    Do you have customized feeds?
    Who is responsible?
    Are you getting real-time updates?

    I'm convinced that conversational marketing starts with listening. Listening enables the conversation. Bookmarking content empowers the need and the understanding to wade in and learn more.

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    About Brand Futures

    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in the Brand Futures category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    Blogging is the previous category.

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