12 Days of Marketing Innovation, Day #3 – Trendwatching.com

Today’s innovation feature is for the passionate curious who love not just the items of innovation – but a contextual frame for them.

The frame of reference is critically important to enabling an improved organizational dialogue, led by marketers. A product innovation must be positioned. The concept in and of itself is invention; context delivers the shared value construct, the mechanisms of durability and the problem solved/disruption created. (Review the definition on Day 1 here)

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. – Albert Einstein 

Today’s innovation feature is for the passionately curious who love not just the items of innovation – but a contextual frame for them.

The frame of reference is critically important to enabling an improved organizational dialogue, led by marketers.  A product innovation must be positioned.  The concept in and of itself is invention; context delivers the shared value construct, the mechanisms of durability and the problem solved/disruption created. (Review the definition on Day 1 here)

While the MIT Media Labs define inside-out innovation, from the perspective of the type of interaction; Trendwatching.com defines innovation from the factors of disruption and influences driving change.  This latter is an outside in approach.  It is helpful in creating conversation among marketers, product people, researchers and those who control the budgetary purse strings (when the CFO becomes necessary to fund bigger investments).

So, we used the example of Cognitive Machines from the MIT Media Labs.  It’s important but not exactly approachable.  With Trendwatcher, tens of smaller trends are aggregated to bigger movements:  human factors, data consumption, product dimensions (like price), game-like interactions or location-based approaches.

Some of the trends they wrote of in the 2012 round up include:


Having had a fair amount of innovation conversations over the years, experience has taught me that an approach like D:Decide &Discover is far easier to process than “sensor or trigger-detected interactions.”  It’s the democratization of innovation – out of the hands of the few and accessible to many more people in the organization.

However, it is not just the framework that makes these assiduously researched trendwatchers worthwhile.  They back up their case for a trend with emerging and real examples.  While this means the disruption is already in process (which leaves you with a need to really determine how and what to use with speed), it helps make the case that the change is underway.

Their own description: One of the world’s leading trend firms, trendwatching.com scans the globe for emerging consumer trends, insights and innovations.  They bring you hundreds of examples of things that you didn’t know already existed.  For instance, January’s free briefing brings you 12 must-know consumer trends (in random order) for you to run with in the next 12 months.

Cristene, Kevin and Debbie

@hermione1, @cunningham_kev, @zebbierebs

The top 50 websites in the world, August 2011

A review of the top 50 websites in the world finds us with no significant changes in the top 10 and 22% of the top 50  have Google in their name.  The only change between my prior evaluation from June 2010 and August 2011 is Twitter and MSN trading places – with Twitter the victor, flying to slot 9 and MSN the loser, sliding to 11 in this round.  I expanded my sites slightly, as you will see below to look into the top 10 in three areas showing highly in the top 50 – the US, Russia and China.  Detail is summarized below.

Linked In was among the biggest traffic movers – going from 29 to 13.  While other increases were certainly greater in terms of places jumped, on an overall traffic perspective, no other move compares.  There were 7 new entries in our top 50 countdown:

  • 29 – Weibo – China’s twitter equivalent  who is apparently a big enough deal to get a plane named after them
  • 30 – Paypal – I can’t believe they never made the list
  • 40 – Google.ru – no explanation needed
  • 45 – Ask.com
  • 46 – Tumblr – multi-media, multi-contributor blogging/vlogging/image-sharing/completely moldable
  • 48 – Xvideos – into each list some lust must fall
  • 50 – Youku – China’s original youtube, but now more focused on promoted/sponsored content

Aggregately, we see 4 entrants from Russia and 7 from China.  Additionally, China also has 2 spots in the top 10.  While the China-based sites echo the US-based ones (a search engine – Baidu, a shopping site – Taobao, and the twitter-like Weibo, etc), these sites reflect a distinct culture.  Even if you view them with Google translate, they show more of their provenance instead of less.  The Russian sites, for the most part have been on the list for both years, except for LiveJournal.  And while I am not prone to characterization of a foreign language site, all of my efforts to view translated pages looked like dating pages.  That may say something about me, or the site.  Not. Going. To. Think. About. It.  Anyone else with better information, it’s welcome.  I do what I can, but some things do escape me. Speaking of which – the Googleusercontent.com may seem odd, but it’s GoogleAdsense driven.

Next – on a list filled with services and accesspoints and a few retailers, two sites stand out. Apple – one of the few explicit manufacturers on the list – communicates the value of all things that start with “i.”  The BBC.com.uk at 41 is also the only news outlet.  Good for them.

Let me note that 3 sites make this entire post possible:  Alexa – who provides the traffic rankings, as well as a ton of other detail; Google (especially images, whom I used to select all the logos each of which remains the property of its respective owner) and my e’er trusty Google translate; Wikipedia who gladly provides backstory and detail – as well as the locations of the sites, which are checked during the process.  This data was pulled on 8/7/2011 and all sites were functional and the order is as reflected on Alexa.com.  The top 50 Wordle, as well as the prior 2010 and 2009 editions I created are available on Wordle.com.  Also see the other posts and analysis on this blog on the top 50…thanks -c

Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz

Customer Focus 2011: House and Home Companies who get it right

Alas, I have begun in earnest the always daunting and often unrewarding task that is home renovation.  Some days I come home and see a part of the house into which I have poured my heart, soul and dollars and say “ahhhhh.”  However, because I am early on, around the corner is simply another “ewwww.”   We all know about the challenges of home repairs gone wrong, awry or simply slowed to a crawl.  This effort has given me a perspective though on shopping for such services and products.  And while I can be very critical, these three pass the test.  They understand the meaning of strategic service as a means of enabling the sale.  Woot!Woot!  (and that is not an extraneous Amazon reference…)

  1. Home Depot
  2. Build.com (specifically FaucetDirect)
  3. Rejuvenation.com

1.  Home Depot – I have been hard on Home Depot in the past.  They lost an order of mine (different bathroom, same house) and made me move mountains to get a response.  (It actually took public humiliation via Twitter to get a response I should have gotten through email or the contact center.)  So, I wasn’t expecting much.  I figured, what the heck, it’s right next to Terrain.  Here’s what Home Depot is doing right:

  • The greeters are not just greeting.  They are offering assistance and guidance and helping customers way-find – critical in the big boxes.
  • They are allowing employees to really help customers.  I tweeted about this guy Bill in the Garden Department.  He transferred my 5 hefty hefty hefty bags of soil from my rather ill-equipped shopping cart and then drove it to the front of the store (Since trying to steer that much potting soil requires a commercial license.)  But not before he told me that I could shop as much as I wanted, and was there anything else I needed.  That was not all though.
  • I ordered marble through the same store.  As a matter of fact, it came in quickly.  rather unfortunately, it also came in damaged.  Instead of trying to hide that broken marble under the rug, they called me, told me and told me they would reorder it, rushing it if possible.

We have to come to expect low prices at the big box, not service.  Home Depot is really trying hard to remodel that experience.  Nicely done.  Retail really is still a people business.

Build.com (specifically FaucetDirect) – This is the award for great use of shopping tools.  I mean all kinds of tools.  I mean they’re like the snap-on tools of retail tools.  They make it easy, cheesy.  First off, they beat everyone else’s prices.  I found them because they had better prices on Kohler brands, and since mine was a custom order for anyone, why not save?  (Retail Hackers Unite!)  Here’s how Build.com got nearly $4,000…

  • They give consumers business grade tools:  I was concerned that the shower doors were the right ones (they weren’t).  So while I used the chat function, Justin told me to request a quote and gave me his email so he could get it directly. He then matched his knowledge to my choices and got me back on the right track, in sixty seconds.  This saves a lot of hassle in time and returns. Additionally, I could download a PDF with the specs right from their website and give them to my contractor, so he could go get other pieces he needed.  Allowing smarter consumers to be even smarter is shopper empowerment and that is worth cash.
  • For people with less immediacy to their purchases, they offer the opportunity to ask a question about an item on a page and then respond to it.  For instance, do these Kohler doors match this shower…because we all know how easy to read all those model numbers are.  The beauty of this is not for the inquirer I suspect, but for all those who follow afterward and benefit from the collective intelligence of the users and employees.
  • They also offer new shoppers a small discount for friending them on Facebook.

These aren’t new tools.  You may not think it’s worth it.  You may not think your customers notice.  It is and we do.  I have been helped by at least 6 people at Build.com – they’ve all been great.  I take back my earlier statement:  it’s a knowledgeable people business.  We are grateful for help but exceedingly grateful for great help.

3.  Rejuvenation.com So there I am with my Martha Stewart Living magazine and I spy the mirror I have search for, for hours actually.  I’ve been to 10 sites.  And there it was calling me.  Problem was I could not find it on Rejuvenation.com.  However, based on the lovely experience from Build.com, I decide to try the chat function.  I am not one to like chat functions, because often they are peopled by people who don’t care.  That was not the case here.  Andrea responded immediately to my query, sent me a link to make sure it was my perfect mirror, and then… she said, it’s a big mirror.  I don’t want to steer you away, but just make sure it can fit. She’s right to ask.  It’s 41″, but I didn’t want a small sunburst anyway.  While I had someone helpful, we also discussed finish options.  We also went to to chat for a couple of minutes – chat – on a Sunday morning – about restoration in general, about how she had been through her own remodel.  She wished me luck and asked me to send pictures once it was hung.  It was like running into a friend at a coffee shop.  People still want a people experience, a heartfelt, personal “I know where you’re at” experience.

When people are helped, they want to tell everyone they know.  I told you.  Now to paraphrase a company not on this list:  let’s build a better customer experience together.

Where have you found that companies are enjoying serving customers?  -c-

Other similar posts on customer focus/experience: 2010 examples2009 examples , The W Istanbul, J Crew

Simple guidance for social media efforts – Understand::Participate::Serve

People often ask if there is a way to frame the social discussion to address the varied organizational needs.  I drew this in hopes it might help enable a better separation in the muddy world of social overlap.  I have kept the framework I introduced in the whitepapers  (all available in the right-hand column) around digital engagement.Listen-learn-engage-harvest framework
Then I aligned three overriding organizational goals for social media efforts, namely…

::Understanding focuses on the ‘listen‘ component to develop a lot of knowledge across a broad range of topics.  It is the most strategic of the three goals.  Pattern/signal identification allow organizations to spot trends earlier and see how they grow/change/decrease in perception.  This goal is generally owned by analysts supporting a strategic, product development or marketing function.  A question here might be:  what interesting uses are there for “renting and sharing items?” Or “what applications of sensor technology are being applied to home ownership?”  These range from highly theoretical to practical, but focus on building a body of knowledge from queries constructed by the Understanding function.

::Participating focuses on the ‘learn and engage’ components that drive thriving communities.  In this way, community managers are able to identify the needs of their members and provide content that encourages dialogue, is responsive to needs and deepens customer experience.  Participation often means distinct communities with logical content threads.  For instance, a pharmaceutical manufacturer may need to support financial or regulatory communities, physician communities, patient and family groups and research/diagnostic teams.   The patient team might not be interested in the 10k’s – bu the analyst community would be.  However, in seeing interesting results out of diagnostic programs, physicians who are early adopters might want to know.  The Community Managers who have Participating functions know when and where to place and to share information and find it in multiple forms from video and pictures to audio and text.

::Serving addresses the engage and harvest functions that drive the customer service or triage functions.  This responsive service function is often completed by many with contact center or sales authority.  It features two key dimensions, where most companies have effectively dealt with with first but have not embraced the latter.  The first is detection/remediation.  Individuals respond directly to customer inquiries and challenges allowing more rapid service, better ability to queue service and, often, better personalization of a solution.  The second dimension is harvesting – improving service delivery, products and  customer interactions by learning from the data created.  Developing better FAQs, User videos, enabling peer to peer service assistance, driving IVR changes on the basis of customer feedback – all are possible by assessing the data the Serving function puts out.

With each of these I have aligned some key tasks that would be relevant in each part of the process, depending on your role.  It’s not the final word, but it’s a good place to start the conversation about what each function can deliver.

Social Media Engagement framework cjgw 2010If the picture is helpful to you, please help yourself to it.  Questions, comments, challenges, competing frameworks, all welcome  -c-

E-mail: the new “telemarketing at dinner time”

Two colleagues, Stanton Willins and Amol Potdar were discussing if “email was dead.”  Amol – after his smart remark about it being dead about the time he graduated high school 10 years ago,  asked the important question: “so what replaces it?”  After this holiday season, where I received no fewer than 3000 non- work messages between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am forced to say I would consider any options for its replacement.

It feels a lot like the days of telemarketing at dinner time – where we coined all the smarmy jokes about the people who wasted our time and disrupted the evening meal, the evening news, putting the kids to bed or just about anything else you would rather be doing than a survey on dish detergent or signing up for newspaper subscriptions.

We used to think email would bring the right information right to us, at the right time.  That has been overrun by marketer overuse. It has translated to misaligned customer and brand experiences.  (Seriously brand marketing folks, go back through the emails you’ve sent customers for a period of a month and see if you feel like buying from them.  What makes you think your customers want to?  Are you really attracted to being notified about the same sale 6 times( even after you have already shopped it?  Or getting a Marriott Visa card.  Really? Given that you’ve mentioned it no fewer than 50 other times and places – what makes you think…today is the day she’ll sign up…???)

As such, media and tools that allow consumers to interact will begin to rise up and take the place of email.  Although Stanton argued that email must live on, Amol argued that micro-segment mangement is possible.  I’d side with Amol.  With endless content libraries allowing us to customize the experience I can have, assembling, rearranging and reassembling what I need in endless combinations, why should I find a static message suitable?

I began to consider exactly why do I need to log into those 4 email accounts (5 if I count my client-provided one)?  The yahoo one is full of ads.  My Mac email consolidates the other three, but still…I used to rush to check my emails – back in the days of relevant communications.  However after you work for a company who overuses the medium with endless cc’s and cya’s and tla’s (three letter acronyms) and automated notifications and automated alerts and and and:  you get a little tired of it.  I used to get 200-300 work emails a day.  It wears you out.  It’s a time suck.  Now my personal email is the same way.

Currently at least 25% of the content I receive is notifications for content that to consume I have to go somewhere else.  That’s not email.  That’s an alert, and that doesn’t require email.  In December,  I set up a new profile for an account – because they asked me to.  Not only did they send me 5 emails immediately confirming separate parts of the transactions (one would have been really fine – in fact even handy) but then they screwed up my bank account alerts, and that gave me another 3 completely unnecessary communications. Even if I say it’s okay to email me, it doesn’t mean its okay to email me 5 times in 20 minutes.  If they keep this up, I will not only opt out of email, but out of them entirely.  When you ask permission to email, you accept the responsibility of doing it well.  I didn’t grant you permission to do a half-baked job of communicating with me.  I gave you the opportunity to increase our immediacy and intimacy.  Either respect it, or you will not be invited into the next stage of my communications life – which will not involve email.

Most of my friend-communication is directed to me via facebook, twitter and other sites that aggregate content in a way email can’t.  Plus, the promise of *customized* to me – not simply *personalized* with my name is still as undelivered as “address could not be found.” We all have mountains of proof of this.  What’s more, in this season, I found people to whom I gave no right or permission awaiting me to opt-out.  They got my name and mailed me until I unsubscribed or filed them as spam – neither of which is good for the long term health of their communications.

After the egregious abuse of email this holiday season, I would expect the following for retail:
1.  a spate of unsubscribes for the offenders
2.  increasing adoption of aggregating technologies that process the information into personalized dashboards
3.  the ability for consumers to use AI or bots which we can turn on and off to go find what we need, when we need it, reducing impulse and benefiting the global world

This diminishes email, meaning that retail better find a better way – and fast.  In this way, a publishing model may be reborn.  If a style maven assembles items into approaches that support retail fashion, or how to organize a garage or clean kitchen or install a new piece of software, the purchase of bundles becomes even likelier but more distributed.  That represents some challenges, but it’s doable.

I would expect the following for financial services:
1. reduction in email-based data transmission due to mobile interfaces that function at or near the point of interaction (purchase, payment etc)
2. continued privacy and permissions challenges that dramatically decrease the consumer’s willingness to accept any information through email
3. government oversight that increases the theatre of financial security but not the actual financial security.  In other words, more email that they are required to send and we will continue to ignore because it’s still not helpful and still doesn’t act in our in favor.

Email will still exist in financial services and still not be able to deliver any content you need.  You’ll need to go to the aggregator of your choice or bank website.  With any luck, FS providers will provide more on the device.  This generally means greatly reduced marketing messages and more targeted content.  It’s better for us consumers, and believe it or not, better for the bank because for once they are not driving us batty enough to hate them for trying to  sell 62 things that are better for them than the consumer.  They might even save money by NOT marketing.

Media and its consumption:
1.  Media will move closer to point of consumption.  If HBO can recommend content when I actually sit down to watch, then its interesting.  At the beginning of the month, when I can’t watch TV until the 10th because I have pressing matters…it’s not interesting
2.  Media will trigger upon my action/recommendation – instead of forcing the effort.  In other words, why force the contact when it can be triggered and responded to – at a moment’s notice?  If I am watching TV with my boyfriend, it can recommend something different than Eat/Pray/Love or Valentines Day.  If I am watching with my nieces, it could bring me Toy Story.  It can recommend the Princess Bride any day it wants.
3.  Media can better fit its forms – Gaming/Music/Movies…all benefit from different treatments – such as, I don’t know, maybe…video?

So, when I realize that 90% of my email can be processed through:
* dashboard configured for me alone
* triggered communications
* communications nearer the point of interaction on a device, a screen, a pane of glass in my car/desk, my palm (yes, currently possible)

Yes, email is slightly more ignorable than the telemarketing call during dinner, even if you are a charity or have the *dubious-at-best right* to call me because we have a “relationship.”  However, that ability to ignore is what will cause its slower and more protracted death as it moves from annoyance to invisibility.


Top 50 websites in the world 30-June-2010 versus 21-June-2009

Here we are again, and aside from a few swaps, the top 50 remains rather consistent from its last iteration in May 2010.  However, there is much more interesting news than our traditional graphic (it follows out the end solely for consistency’s sake).  I analyzed the changes in the top 50 websites Year over Year June 2009 to June 2010 – and there were sizable changes.

I broke the analysis up into 25 buckets – 5 categories of winning/losing and every 10, at 10-50.  Please note, that even those who are steady state had to grow to hold their positions.  With that in mind, and understanding the member growth of Facebook, it comes as a surprise that they only moved 4 to 2.

The greatest interest is in the ends, except with a few small exceptions.  I’d conjecture that Amazon (18) is buying its way to growth, and that the imminent death of Twitter (11) is overrated.  Both Amazon and Twitter increased their position by 16 places.  And as impressive as that is, it still does not match Taobao (14)- with 24 places.  Even so, Taobao would have been our leader in increases if it were not for Yahoo.co.jp (12) – overcoming 38 places in a year.  LinkedIn (29) represents the rewards for the changes the have made – becoming a user friendly and content rich site for business.

The new entrants truly reflect the rise of Asia, the result of great or baked in products and people’s interest in content:  Soso (46) and Sohu (48) both are Asian contributions.  Apple reflects a strong year in new products and Adobe is the de facto document standard.  Everyone has to go there sometime to get  PDF reader.  IMDB – or the Internet Movie Database (44) breaks into the 50, as does the lone porn entry – LiveJasmin ( 47 but there are others hovering around) and Googleusercontent (43).  I am glad those all are distinct entries for most of us.

Now for the big topic…in looking at the biggest losers, we see a list of the first internet titans.

AOL (49) is down 14 slots in 12 months.   AOL, founded in 1983 was for many of us, our first account, our first instant message or first customer service nightmare (and we all still bear battle scars). Myspace (26) – Newscorp bet on the wrong racehorse.  And while Myspace was the innovator, Facebook (2) has become the clear winner recently adding their 500,000,000 user.  It’s odd that Facebook has not seen the punishment for its infringements to privacy nearly the way others have.  Such as…Doubleclick (45) was founded in 1996 and eventually purchased by Google.  Privacy issues, malware and antitrust really don’t work in anyone’s best interest.  Doubleclick is not what it once was.  And that’s probably for the better.  Rapidshare (22) – nothing like a little copyright infringement and a leaked metallica record to spoil ones position. Admittedly it probably wasn’t the metallica or copyright – it was likely just the rise of myriad other platforms.  But legal issues are no stranger to another of our biggest losers, Craigslist (34) – who seems to have been accused, associated with, blamed or indicted both in court and the court of public perception.

The internet 50 - leaders, entrants and losers from June 2009 to June 2010
Does this herald the death of the first-gen internet?

So what are we make of this?  I’d blame it on natural volatility.  One internet year seems more similar to dogs ages than the actual passage of 365 days.  Please feel free to use this chart if it’s helpful.  If you want more like it, please let me know.  – c –

Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz aka Hermione1

Retweet: http://bit.ly/dzWC7D

Internet top 50 for 30 June 2010
Some new entrants but it's still a google world

Living your brand values – part three involves a rapping monkey

So, I feel like this is becoming a slightly regular feature here – but this example was classic.

And while normally I would put commentary in front of the video/image/piece o’media – we might as well get right down to “bidness…”

Now Woot, simply put, never took itself too seriously to begin with.  So it’s hard to call them out for being playful when they are playful all the time.  The social media darlings have video after video of people unboxing what they call random boxes or bags of crap.

However, I do not think in the history of corporate M&A that purchase has ever been announced by a rapping monkey. I can’t even imagine how one connects those dots.  And it doesn’t just relate to a monkey – the Woot CEO expressed the news to his people in with equal parts hilarity, farce and excitement here.

But some very smart person at Woot did – because they understand who they are and how they communicate with their audience.  I guess the point is some consumers want a sale.  They want to destination shop – whether on the web or in a real live store (I still like those places and those people a great deal.)  However others are willing to subject themselves to the vagaries of email texting or social media notification to find a singularly great deal.  And for their efforts, they are rewarded with a rapping monkey.  And that’s a good thing, right? -c-

The two other examples are here (Lush) and here:  the Peninsula

(Since we can’t figure out how to retweet yet, here is a bit.ly link you can use: http://bit.ly/bIqBjN – please remember I am a strategist not a technologist and all my technologist friends have deprioritized my retweet button)