Technology Marketing

    Yahoo’s Going to Get its Exclamation Back!

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    I would not be surprised to see Yahoo sold to Jerry Yang and the Texas Pacific Group (TPG) fairly quickly. Yahoo, with lots of schmutz on its shoes, is still one of the top 5 tech brands in the world. And what is a brand but a vessel into which we poor meaning. Organized meaning. Yahoo’s fix requires an Is-Does. What a brand Is and what a brand Does.

    Is it a portal?
    Is it search engine?
    Is it an advertising company?
    Is it a web content publisher?
    Is it a technology company?

    Does it provide news?
    Does it provide entertainment?
    Does it provide organization?
    Does it provide results?

    Yahoo needs to retrench and make tough decisions — and that will only happen if the property is sold. A public company with lots of shareholders, Yahoo will get its Yahoo! back with new leadership, some old leadership, tough love, and a brand plan. And when I say brand plan I don’t mean a new logo, new color palette and an replacement agency for Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.  I mean an organizing principle for marketing.  A plan that inform every decision made by the company — from hiring to firing to what new mobile services to launch.

    When dimensionalized through obs and strats, a brand plan creates marketing clarity. TPG doesn’t speak like this, but they know how to make it happen. It’s about time. Peace. 

    Microsoft Strong.

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    God forgive me but I’m going to disagree with Robert Scoble, my technology pundit hero. I do not think Microsoft should be split in two: one side about the enterprise and software, the other consumers and devices.  

    Mr. Scoble’s logic, and it seems some Wall Street finaciers agree, suggests the business side is “crushing” it (thanks Techmeme), while the device business growing modestly at 4%. Split the company, they say, and let consumer people handle the devices and business people handle the enterprise. I say bullshit. Together there is way much more to learn. And business and marketing is all about learning. Together there will be tensions that are hurtful, yet hopefully transitional. Brothers and sisters argue but they care about the family. And if the tensions are insurmountable, there is always mother (CEO).

    Microsoft has so much cash, so much penetration, and enough smart people that it can continue to innovate and make an occasional misstep.  Como se Kin?  And though Microsoft’s brand diaspora is a problem, it is getting better and is certainly fixable.  Mother?

    Microsoft is a living organism. It feeds itself while feeding upon itself, yet it is still better as one. With all deference to Mr. Scoble and the financiers and lawyers, the latter motivated by a pay day, let’s not break apart the machine that is crushing it.

    Peace.

    The Digital Triangle. The Perfect Start-up Womb.

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    The digital triangle, located in NYC, bears three distinct corners.  DUMBO in Brooklyn. SOHO in Manhattan. Union Square, also in Manhattan.

    DUMBO is where the coders are.  A youthful tech workforce who live digitally-centric lives, they are smart and have engineer-friendly minds. (A lot of gamer consoles burn out in DUMBO.) It’s a little men and boy heavy.  Union Square is where the money is.  Where the incubators are.  It’s where the DUMBO denizens with entrepreneurial spirit visit with their hands out.  It’s close to NYU and also has a lovely, youthful energy. Parking is expensive in Union Square but the smart money walks the streets.  SOHO is what makes the digital triangle different.  It is where designers, the truly creative and exceptionally beautiful like to call home. They don’t live there really, just work, shop and hang. If you can’t get inspired in SOHO with all its art, nubes, soft tacos, fashion, and vibe, you can’t get inspired.  All these neighborhoods are a subway or bike ride apart and feed off of each other. It is a perfect storm for start-ups.  

    Unlike Sand Hill Road (money), its surrounding neighborhoods of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, etc. (tech engineers) and San Francisco (ad people) the Digital Triangle is close but not really connected. The west coast likes campuses. It works but not like the digital triangle. As technology’s pull increases and more and more of the economy is tied to digital commerce, NYC will grow in importance globally and will become a tech capital with no peer. Just ask Fred Wilson. Peace.

    The Winner of Google Trivestiture.

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    A couple, two, tree years ago I predicted the trivestiture of Google. It will still happen but perhaps not for the reason I initially thought. One of the businesses that will spin off will be an analytics business. The more the cloud powers the world, the more data actions are recorded. And I’m not just talking about purchases, I’m thinking mobile apps, geo-location, word capture in texts, searches, likes, LOLs, picture tags, etc.

    Big data allows a lot of this now, we just don’t have the tools to use that data. HubSpot is a dashboard company that offers rudimentary analytics, but they don’t do much more than offer reports.  One of my first big clients AT&T once told me, “It’s not enough to capture data, you need to do something smart with it.” Google has the scientists, computing power and cash to use consumer and business data to predict purchase behavior. A data action seen in the cloud such as the search for new Netspresso machines for the office can indicate small business growth. Predictors of commerce is a business.

    When an entire industry has grown up with a .250 batting average – that industry being advertising – the time has come for a marketing tool with a bit more clarity and exactitude.  That marketing tool is data-based. And it’s in Google’s sweet spot.  Unless Amazon beats them to the punch. You think Google makes money on advertising now, you just wait. Peace.

    HP. Where’s your tagline?

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    “Make it matter” is the new tagline for HP.  I posted about it in June when the line broke.  Creating value in a commodity market is tricky. It can’t be done haphazardly.  Finding hard and fast value planks are the key – then they must be banged home.  Not with just one ad, with many.  Over long periods of time and for the foreseeable future.  It’s easy to go off piste with a value program, however.

    HP’s Make it Matter campaign appears to be a create value campaign, yet today I read a promotional ad “Buy 2 ink cartridges get one free” and that is not a great expression of making it matter.  Not that saving money isn’t important.  The ad does not include the new tagline.  It does have a highlighted call to action with the URL hp.com/getmore.

    Retail and image together are hard to do well. Retail is about how many sales hit the ledge on a given day. It’s shark time.  Image on the other hand is about changing attitudes that predispose people to buy. Done well, and image ad can create action, though it tends to be long haul stuff.

    HP has enough money to have two campaigns. But I’m just not feeling it. I’m feeling uncertainty here. Once the snow globe gets a good shake – there are lots of things new at HP and its agency – all will settle down. Knock-knock. Peace!  

     

     

     

     

    Blogger Turned Entrepreneur.

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    I first ran into Marshall Kirkpatrick in the blogger’s room at the Web 2.0 Expo in 2007.  At the time he was writing for ReadWriteWeb and one of technology’s top 10 bloggers; in the rarified air with Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Malik Om, Erick Schonfeld and Jeremiah Owyang.

    Sitting in on start-up product pitches for a living must have been hard.  Then under deadline, having to write about it, explain it and prognosticate — even harder. One would imagine that people like this would have at some point aspired to be involved in a start-up. But not so much. Mr. Kirkpatrick is an exception.  His company is called Little Bird.  If I got the Is-Does right (I sat through a webinar yesterday) Little Bird is a Social Monitoring 2.0 tool designed to help find category Posters rather than Pasters. The tool feels really smart at first pass.  

    Seeing hundreds of start-up presentations over the years has prepared Mr. Kirkpatrick for the “life.”  The funding period(s), naming, first hires, code-fests, Beta testing and pitching. And more pitching.  His tech blogging background does not insure a successful tech startup, though it certainly should give him a leg up. I applaud his derring do and look forward following Little Bird’s progress.  (Nice name by the way.) Peace.

    The Rending of HP.

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    Meg Whitman, who is the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, it seems to me, doesn’t have a marketing bone in her body. She is amazingly successful and a brand unto herself, but marketing is not a major care-about for her. If she cared she would have fought harder to keep HP together and invest into the PC and printer businesses. (Are you reading this on a PC? Is it 6 feet from your HP printer?)  Instead she split the company and took control of something called Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a huge battleship of a company with a stodgy, clunky brand, positioned around an idea “Accelerating Next.” Como se 1990s?

    Of the two diverged companies I’m kind of liking the PC and printer business, branded HP Inc. Its new CEO Dion Weisler seems a marketeer. He understands it all starts with a product and has smartly dialed up R&D resulting in some laptop forms that are beginning to create excitement. His printers are offering up consumer care-abouts like lower cost ink and faster printing. It also appears he’s a bit of a showman — introducing some laptops inside one another, as with nested Russian dolls.   

    When you think about it, Mr. Whitman got the business brands and Mr. Weisler got the consumer brands which was probably a good plan.

    That said, I always bet on a business person with marketing chops.  Let’s see what the future of these two brands bring.

    Peace.

     

    The Marketing Morass that is Google+.

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    “It will change the way people work, share and communicate” is a sentence we’ve heard hundreds of times. And a sentence we’ve read in ads, thousands of times.  This sentence was used in an article today to describe how businesses will use Goggle+ Circles.  According to the same article Google+ is a social network, like Facebook. It kind of looks like a clean version of Facebook but acts more like Twitter, organized to feed information of those one follows.  Then again, it displays pictures and videos in the feed as does Facebook. The buttons and apps in the side margins of Google+ are cool, offering the ability to gerrymander friends and acquaintances into groups and also to do video chats through an exciting feature called hangouts (which I have yet to try), so that feels new — but kind of hidden.

    The product managers at Google say Circle and/or Hangouts will change the way people work, share and communicate, and they could be right – but not based on the current mish-mash of free hand messaging in the market today.  Google+ released to techies in Beta because techies thrive on confusion.  They eat it for breakfast. But for the rest of the web Google+ still doesn’t have an Is-Does and so is compared to Twitter and Facebook.  The killer application (video circles) is underutilized and under understood.  I do believe video hangouts or cirlces (or whatever they are) will be a game changer – especially in training and education and problem solving.  But right now the whole Google+ thing is a morass of huh.  Were I Google, Google Labs or BBH, I’d be working on a Super Bowl ad (I know, it’s against their better judgment) that distills the Google+ value and showcases the ease of multiparty video chat to the world.  Google+ was a horrible name. A lazy name for what may be a huge product in 3 years. If properly brand managed. It is still a product in need of an Is-Does.  Peace!

    A Google+ ad.

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    Google published a nice usable ad in the New York Times today, the visual for which is the oft used name tag with the line “Hello My Name is Dave.”  The copy started off with a little explanation of how cumbersome it would be if every time you met someone you had to tell them your name, age and where you are from.   So with heads nodding the copy goes on to suggest this would also be cumbersome every time you visited a website.  The solution, says Google, are cookies:  “tiny little crumbs of stored information to remember your previous visits.”  Doesn’t sound so bad.  And for those who don’t know what a cookie is, it’s a nice little explanation.  My mom would understand this (if she could find the URL bar.)

    In a time when privacy (which rhymes with piracy) is extremely topical, this simplified, non-judgmental explanation of cookies is, as the Brits say, quite lovely. The copy explains cookies can be shut off and provides a link to other information about privacy.  (Google Chrome has some elegant solutions, btw.)

    Google knows so much and now they seem to have conquered the science of advertising. Simple is better. One idea at a time.  Engage.  Leaders educate and this ad demonstrates both qualities.  Another Google +. Peace.

    Microsoft Brand Diaspora

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    One of the fun things about having a blog is in predicting things that eventually come true. I predicted Google’s trivestiture a couple of years ago and that hasn’t happened. Yet. You can’t win them all. But my posts about Microsoft’s brand diaspora – the unfettered and uncontrolled creep of its brands, highlighted by use of the word “Live,” I’m excited to say, looks to be accurate.  Microsoft is retiring the word “Live.” Readers know I’m behind Microsoft making a flash-cut away from the word “Windows,” as in Windows 8, in favor of the word “Tiles,” but that’s not likely to happen soon. That’s because Windows is a repository for all other creeping sub-brands.  Windows is okay to keep alive for archiving purposes, but Windows 8 should be named Tiles as should the new mobile OS.  Tiles suggests the user paradigm shift much the way Windows did in the 90s.

    A new CMO tasked with making things more efficient from a messaging standpoint might walk into Microsoft and on day one fire a bunch of brand names.  It would be hard medicine but the creep (verb) has really gotten out of hand. Retiring Live is a good move. Peace!