Yearly Archives: 2007

Breaking the hotel chains?

Have you ever stayed in a hotel that is just very, very cool? Not opulent. Those are nice, but I always find myself checking my jeans for spots and feeling a little violated reviewing the bill.  Not corporate. Those are clean and crisp, offering starched white sheets at turn down with semi-firm, enveloping mattresses.  They tend to blend into one another and have names like Sheraton, Embassy, Marriott.   But in the cool ones?  In those you feel like you’re on a movie set. The design is beautiful. The art ravishing and inspiring. In the cool hotels the people are more interesting than the hotel, but it’s hard to keep your eyes off both. The Mondrian in Los Angeles is one such hotel.
Le Meridien is a hotel chain on a mission to deliver “cool.”  They are doing all the right things, starting with hiring a cultural curator.  Le Meridian is also working with Jean-Georges Vongerichten the world-class chef, and Andrea Illy a famous coffee purveyor. In addition, Le Meridien is hiring designers of every art discipline to help fill their buildings with candy for the eyes.
This approach will work. There will be some bumps in the road, but should the company not fall prey to favoring opulence over style, they will differentiate themselves.  And will never be called a chain again. Uncool.



Kids and adults (I leave anyone out?) adorn themselves with brands that show who they are and what they like. Some adorn themselves with anti-brands, e.g., nondescript trucker hats (sorry truckers) to show who they are. But one thing they rarely do is sell ads on themselves. That’s the line Facebook seems to have crossing yesterday.  Mark Zuckerberg (age deleted for the first time,) Facebook’s CEO has listened to the “man” and swallowed the commerce pill that will begin to bring him down.
Mr Zuckerburg thinks that because some of the ad messages will appear to be referrals from friends, they will be more welcome. (Ever see a friend come down the street with an order form and a box of oranges?)
Until today, Facebook’s reason for being has been its users. As users now allow Coke, Sprite and Bertolli Spaghetti Sauce to muck up the experience, Facebook’s coolness will begin to wane. It will bell curve up for a while, since the social ad thing is new, but start to slow down as users decides to regain control. And to those people in search of more control I say “Feel Free.”
Social Computing, not social networking or social media is the next thing.   Key word “social.” For MySpace and Facebook the keyword is “Networking” and that’s a word that draws advertisers from miles away.

Writers’ strike.


The Writers Guild of America went on strike last night at midnight and unless resolved quickly we begin to impact the quality of electronic media soon.  

DVD and online usage revenue are the key care-abouts. Figuring out compensation for online usage of written content is going to be difficult. Hollywood and other entertainment writers don’t want their art to be distributed freely, but knowing how to charge for it will not come easily.  I suspect similar usage tariffs normally associated with TV and Cable will be extended toward DVD and online, but the formula will be the sticking point.  DVD usage can be quantified, but online tracking still has a way to go.  Tracking of online objects and their usage is in our future and it is fundamental to resolving this strike, but I don’t think it will impact the new contract. Bet on the new contract being a short one. Maybe 2 years.  



Lenovo, the Chinese computer company that purchased IBM’s PC business in 2005, has decided now is the time to drop the IBM name which they are allowed you use until 2010.  With quarterly PC sales nearly twice the industry average, Lenovo feels it is time to spend its money banking equity in the Lenovo brand, not borrowing it from IBM.
They will continue to use the ThinkPad name, but that, too, will probably recede in a year or so. Lenovo is doing some serious old-school blocking and tackling while the newer breed of PC manufacturers are trying to find their footing in PC 2.0.
With a huge population base in China and a pool of engineers graduating in record numbers, I’m betting Levovo will be eating up marketshare and be the PC leader in 2010.

Rolling Down Rodeo

There is a wonderful story in today’s Wall Street Journal about shopping on Rodeo Drive. The writer was accompanied by a test shopper who specializes in monitoring the body language of store employees. The degree to which shoppers are welcomed, smiled upon, engaged, and treated well, are all gauged by the guest shopper. The end game on Rodeo is to make customers feel comfortable, happy with their purchase, and pleased with the value received. 
Reading about this exercise made me think of Internet usability. Usability is huge today on the net, supported by legions of digital ad agency professionals whose sole responsibility is to map user navigation and deliver a successful, positive experience.  If you go to and can’t find your favorite brand, color, and style within thirty seconds, you are likely to leave for another site. Not successful. 
Usability on the net is not easy to achieve, but it should be driven by the same characteristics the best stores on Rodeo Drive use: be welcoming, attentive to the habits of all visitors, be thoughtful and caring about the users’ time, and lastly, don’t be snooty.  

Posters and Pasters

By and large, the world is made up of two types of people: Posters and Pasters. The former tend to be original thinkers who create and post original content while the latter copy other’s content and make it available.  Copying on the Internet consists of Control C then Control V in the Windows world, and it couldn’t be easier.

Pasters.  You know who you are. You wrote term papers in college with those lengthy quotes that ate up space and long Notes sections behind the bibliography. The easier technology makes it for people to be pasters, the more pasters there will be. 

A kid from England, Nick Haley, developed a TV spot for Apple’s iTouch and posted it to YouTube. ( ) It was so well-liked, Apple and its ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day took the idea, polished and aired it. The agency is a paster. Nick’s inspiration for the spot was a song called “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex,” which runs in the background. Nick, too, is a paster.

In marketing today, there is way too much pasting and not enough posting. Pasting provides context and borrowed interest, making the communication and selling process faster. But the best sales pitches are always original. Where’s the beef, pasters?

Too many widgets!

The rage today in social networking and social computing (my company, Zude, is in the latter business) is opening up APIs to developers with the hope of generating the next killer widget that sends user numbers into the stratosphere.
Meebo announced this capability yesterday.
Facebook broke the trend earlier in the year and it created a great amount of traction and copy-cat behavior. But, interestingly, we are beginning to feel a hint of fallout from users. Too many widgets! (Check out the Bush Tetras song called “Too many freaks,” when you have some time.) My Facebook site has recently been hit by “tossed cows” and other funky “pokes” which are adding lots of cheese to my page. And I don’t even use Facebook very much. Can you imagine what active users sites must look like?
Facebook knows this to be a problem and has put up deletes, blocks and opt-ins everywhere for this stuff. I love widgets, don’t get me wrong. Like good blogs, they are very valuable — but on my terms.
Here’s a user comment about Facebook from Hey Nielsen? “It was such a great alternative because it was clean, fast, simple and streamlined. Now I have to deal with the same spam and new annoyances in the form of applications (I don’t want to be a zombie or vampire).” 

Too many widgets!

0, a joint venture between NBC Universal and Fox, begins limited online service today in the hopes of knocking Google’s YouTube down a few pegs. It is a video service allowing users to watch certain TV shows and films for free, where and when they want.   Hulu shows will be monetize through advertising.
It would be my recommendation to sell and schedule the advertising much they way it is done on TV, in pods. Watchers are already used to it this way, and it won’t create incentive for people to watch their favorite shows on computer rather than TV.
Were you able to watch The Office online with three rather than 16 TV commercials, it might be an easier decision. But with all ad being equal, the big screen is more convenient and provides a better viewing experience. Hulu wants to build incremental viewers for its TV shows and films, it doesn’t want to siphon off viewership from one vehicle to another, further eroding TV ad revenue.

Into the Electronics


You ever go hiking overnight? You have to find a campground before dark, build a fire, make dinner? And after dinner there are only two things to do: talk or sleep.  It is one of the few places where there aren’t electronic distractions to entertain us. 

Americans use a variety of ways to entertain ourselves when we have downtime. Between video games, iPod, laptops, and TVs we are pretty successful at amusing ourselves, by ourselves. We even use electronics when being social. “Come on over and watch a DVD.”
Sony just reported big earning, thanks to consumer electronics. Microsoft’s numbers are strong too, thanks to strong PC software sales. Nintendo’s net is soaring, Acer is up, and the list goes on and on.  Social computing is the rage today, and though that is social, it’s still a step removed from true interactive social behavior. “I’ll give you a Super Poke on Facebook, that should cheer you up.”   
Today, for way too many people, consumer electronics replace person-to-person contact. If we allow it to happen for too many generations, we are likely to have a lot more anti-social behavior and down the road the fastest selling electronics will likely be a therapists in a box. 

A growing, scalable face?

Facebook, according to some accounts, is growing at either 200,000 or 250,000 new users a day. Thanks to Microsoft and its $240 million investment, Facebook can now go out and but a server or two, a load balancer, and some other stuff to meet the new traffic demands. Keep your eyes and ears open over the next couple of months for some serious performance problems. I predict there will be some outages, sluggishness, blinky apps, and more.
No engineer am I, but this type of growth and scalability is not easily done. Plus, now that Microsoft is on board, a good bit of Facebook management time will likely be diverted to non-infrastructure issues. Sit tight and stay tuned.