Goodwill has joined the ranks of major chain stores experimenting with local micro-brands, opening a pilot boutique for high-end recycled clothes in little San Anselmo, California. And now it finds itself for what they feel is a little creative license, but some locals feel is a cynical lie.
Goodwill recently opened right in the heart of downtown San Anselmojust a block from my officeoffering the antithesis to the typical thrift store by recycling designer clothes and staging them in a high-end boutique. Great idea.
They took an innovative approach to business, and tried to match it in their approach to marketing, which today of course demands social media. They have a , a , a , and a . They have a Picasa album, they’re all over Yelp, and I’m sure there’s more I’ve missed. They’re hitting all the bases.
But that wasn’t enough. What’s a big social media footprint without a compelling story? Bad advertising, that’s what. So Goodwill baked up a storyin fact, they probably baked it up at the start. Georgi & Willow isn’t just a cute name for the store. They’re the fictional boutique owners. Two local women who grew up in San Anselmo (wink, wink) have been BFFs and fashionistas since high school, and finally decided to follow their dream and open a clothing boutique.
Here’s a thread from their Facebook page:
Looking forward to a trip out to Bodega Bay this weekend for a hike and a little beach time. Where’s your favorite Marin beach? – Willow
Robbie Check out the tide tables – at low tide Bolinas Beach is gorgeous.
Georgi & Willow Great recommendation, Robbie! I can’t wait to check it out! -Willow
It’s clear that some people are in on the “secret”, and engage tongue in cheek. But others are under the impression that a couple of childhood friends have opened a local boutique, and find the experience jarring when they learn the truth. One woman was so upset she showed up at the local town council meeting to complain, while others are commenting on Yelp and the .
This is not an appropriate way to promote your store, it’s deceptive and frankly takes the customers for fools. I think that Goodwill should tell their story instead of a fake story.
As a long-time marketer and a local, I find several serious problems with Goodwill’s approach.
The core motivation that drives social media is the desire among consumers to thwart the manipulative lies of marketing. We all know marketing has an agenda to shape the way we see the world and to get us to buy on command. Sharing our experiences with others gives us better access to the truth, and forces marketers to be more honest. That’s why social media has such a strong imperative for authenticity, and it’s precisely why an approach like Georgi & Willow feels so much against the grain.
From what I can tell, Goodwill is generally a force for good. According to , Goodwill Industries is an international non-profit providing “job training, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have a disability, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges.” A citation on Wikipedia claims they earned $4B in 2010, and 84% of earnings went to employment, training and support services to more than 2.4 million individuals.
That’s good. But it doesn’t mean their local foray into social marketing is good. My problem with Georgi & Willow is that it’s clearly trading on the impression of a homegrown business founded by local people just like you and me to make the store more appealing and buzz-worthy. Apparently, good clothes, a good location and a good business model are not enough. We need to be wooed with this fiction that the founders are local—while, ironically, real local business owners watch angrily from the sidelines. At its core, the whole comes across not as a cute and savvy marketing technique, but as a cynical lie—the same old little manipulative marketing lies we’ve always been told to get us to notice brands and buy things.
It’s also a little bit creepy.
Marketers have always dressed up their ads in little fictions designed to make them seem more familiar, or featured real people telling us their authentic stories. But Goodwill is doing something different. They’re co-opting the very heart of what binds us as neighbors and friends—the little details of life that connect us in some shared experience: having gone to Drake High School, knowing certain local trails, going to Bolinas beach next Saturday. They’re invading our personal sense of identity.
That sense of identity is something we all cherish. It’s why we choose to live where we do. In a world dominated by global brands that have made everything more generic, the little details that bind us with friends and neighbors are what make our lives feel unique and authentic. To have that become just another currency for a large corporation—however well intentioned—to trade on just to manipulate us into shopping at their store may be creative, but it’s also creepy and not a little misguided. write essay for money www.essaysreasy.online/]]>
This is the unedited transcript of an SMS exchange I had with AT&T after upgrading my iPhone. Note the time and date of this exchange.
July 2, 2011 9:15 PM
Q1 of 2: How satisfied were you with the service provided by James our retail Rep – on a scale from 10 (completely) to 1 (not at all)?
AT&T is a billion dollar company. They are the company that is still the primary service provider for the Apple brand, which prides itself above almost all other brands on the consumer experience. They have a multi-million dollar marketing budget, with resources to hire the best marketers in the industry. And yet, this is the crap they produce. How many ways could they find to screw this up? Let’s count.
1. They launch this campaign, several days after my purchase, late on a Saturday night during the 4th of July holiday weekend. Seriously? What consultant told you it’s a good idea to bug customers late on a weekend night with a survey, through a communications channel I restrict to friends and family?
2. They serve this up without asking me if I’d even like to participate–they just notify me that they’ll be texting me the survey, and barge right ahead.
3. They can’t count. They set my expectation at the outset for 2 questions–“Q1 of 2”–and then proceed to ask 4.
4. They obviously have a crappy automation script that can parse my answers to survey questions, but can’t parse my “Not interested” reply, and steamroll forward assuming that of course I answered their first question enthusiastically.
5. Net promoter score by automated dumb SMS? Really? They obviously care so much about the quality of the results.
6. They never provide any contextual feedback in their automated scripts that even gives me the illusion that they’ve heard anything I’ve said. Like, I don’t know, “I’m sorry you waited 20 minutes. Thanks for being patient.”
I find it truly astounding, and not a little bit depressing, that AT&T is really this clueless about marketing in the 21st century. Yes, I know it’s not surprising–it is AT&T after all–but seriously. Who on God’s green earth devises a program like this, and who signs off on it? I’m sure it’s someone who turns right around and speaks on an industry panel about mobile marketing and customer satisfaction. There custom research paper writing service might be some more critical thinking prompts, but those won’t necessarily dominate the standardized assessment]]>
I attended the memorial last Saturday of a former employee, a young woman named Maya Machnicova. Memorials are always a reminder of basic truths we tend to ignore, or simply forget, and Maya’s passing in particular has made me think a lot about the subtle ways people impact my life. The push and pull of primary relationships is obvious—parents, spouses, children, business partners—they’re like heavy planets that shift our trajectory whenever they come into orbit. But what about the coworkers we spend a few hours with each day? There are hundreds of people in my life that come and go over the years, and maybe they leave a lasting impression because of some big drama, or maybe they just fade away. Maya reminded me of the subtle impact some people have that isn’t obvious until you have perspective to think about it, and then you realize they shifted your outlook in some important way. Maya was like that.
Maya was remarkable in a lot of ways. Her family escaped communist Czechoslovakia in the early eighties when Maya was 10 and eventually fled to the US. When she walked into our studio to apply for a job as an Account Executive, maybe 15 years later, Maya was thoroughly American. She didn’t have a lot of experience, but she was smart, enthusiastic and confident, and we didn’t hesitate to hire her. Over the years she worked at Cymbic, Maya was an incredible asset. She was ambitious, self-directed and determined. She went after big accounts, she thought creatively and strategically about how to run them, and she never hesitated to put in the long hours required to deliver to the highest standard.
I remember one project she wanted to reel in from a big software company called Manugistics. It was an assignment to produce some online product marketing materials that she thought would be a perfect use for Flash, which wasn’t in wide use at the time for much more than web site splash pages. The budgets were tight, and there were only a couple of days before the proposals were due. Maya came up with the idea of delivering the proposal in Flash, and scripted a “build-your-own-project” proposal, where you could drag and drop components of the project and the price and timeline would automatically adjust. She assembled a team and worked through the weekend to get it built and delivered. It was an all-or-nothing risk—not only in terms of delivering something so far out of the box to a large client, but just getting it built in such a short time. What impressed me when she pulled it off wasn’t just that she delivered, but that it was such a substantive way to address the opportunity—it wasn’t creative for the sake of show, but demonstrated directly to the client what was possible.
I don’t remember how many years I worked with Maya, two or three years I think, right at the end of the dotcom bubble and into a recession that devastated our industry. I was a very green agency principal trying to figure out how to survive and manage through a challenging market. There was a lot of stress and some drama as we went through layoffs and lost a lot of business. At some point, Maya moved on—I remember she took me out to lunch some months after she left to tell me what she had learned at Cymbic—and eventually we wound down our agency.
Thinking back on it now, I realize that Maya modeled many of the qualities I now look for in new employees. She was a true entrepreneur, combining incredible ambition with the creativity and determination to achieve whatever she set out to do. Often that comes with a big ego that can cause conflict on a team, but Maya was adept at keeping the focus on the project more than her own agenda. She was incredibly smart, articulate and creative, and she never failed to find a way to get up when she was knocked down. Many of these qualities are celebrated in management books, but Maya lived them naturally, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, she helped set the bar in my mind of what the best colleagues, co-workers and employees are like.
Something else I remember about Maya that never made sense at the time, but now seems symbolic. Maya liked to wear this big, masculine watch that always looked a little out of place to me. Maya was slight and pretty, and the watch just looked incongruous, swimming on her small wrist. I imagine there was some story behind the watch that I didn’t know. But it’s funny. When I think about all the qualities Maya embodied, her strength, ambition and determination stand out. And now the watch seems really to fit after all.
Thank you, Maya, for everything I learned from you. Let’s aim higher than what a standardized test bustling over here might ask of our students, ensuring that they’re not only ready for the test, but more than ready for college, career and life]]>
Originally posted at SocialRep
One of the core imperatives of social marketing is engaging your customers in conversation—instead of just blanketing the market with offers and collecting conversions, social marketing focuses on active market dialog to better understand and meet the needs of customers. Your customers are already talking, the theory goes, so join the conversation. There are a lot of companies that provide the tools and technologies to support engagement, from listening tools to identify the right conversations, to community tools that help cultivate and amplify voices that add value to the dialog. To some, however, this just isn’t efficient enough. If people saying good things about your company helps sales, then why not just go out and generate good conversations?
One business model I’m seeing promoted today is the opportunity to turn your best customers into free sales reps. If you have happy customers, why not give them a rooftop to sing your praises to the world? It’s simple: just poll your customers with the Net Promoter survey. Anyone who scores high on their likelihood to recommend your product to friends gets an offer to do just that: join a system where they get points for each review they write, each email offer they send to a friend. Win prizes and cash.:
On the surface, it sounds like the perfect marriage of social media and commerce. It’s social, it’s measureable and it drives leads. What could be wrong with that? Unfortunately, everything—in fact, deploying this kind of marketing program could completely undermine your efforts to build a community by turning customers motivated to recommend you because they love your product—the most valuable customers you have—into customers motivated to recommend you for financial gain. Research consistently shows that once you cross that line, you can’t go back—and once you take the rewards away, the behavior you were rewarding stops. Dan Ariely talks about this concept in Predictably Irrational, and Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards has become a classic in the literature on the unintended consequences of incentives.
When customers are willing to say great things about you because they love your product, by all means, give them every opportunity to do so. And if reward programs move your products off the shelf, that’s great. But the ability to merge those concepts into a coin-operated “community” where happy customers are turned into free shills is not a brilliant social media business model. It’s a recipe for cashing in all your brand equity for a short boost in sales revenue.
The best thing about staring at web data all day is that I get to see trends as they emerge. Usually it’s just little shifts in the drift and flow of online dialog. But sometimes I get a front-row seat to a tectonic change that points toward some unexpected and emerging truth. A clear view of a reality that’s just beginning to unfold.
I had one of those experiences recently working on a project for Creative Labs. Creative is doing a lot of exploration in social marketing, and one of the areas of interest was digging into the phenomenon of Mommy Bloggers. If you’re not familiar with the trend, blogs written by moms reached a tipping point a couple of years ago and have grown to be a significant market influence.
As part of our research into online dialog and influence, we spent a lot of time looking at mommy blogs and daddy blogs, and variations on the content they create, the audiences they attract and the communities they develop. All very interesting stuff that would fill a good marketing brief. But the most interesting insight was a simple observation about the nature of mommy and daddy blogs. Moms are writing a lot about consumer gadgets, Web 2.0 and tech, while dads are writing a lot about changing diapers and teething. It’s a striking role reversal that’s fascinating to observe.
It’s not hard to speculate about what’s going on. Men have had hundreds of sources to learn about gadgets and tech for decades, but few to share about how to be a good dad, while the opposite is true for women. Women have unlimited opportunities to compare notes with their peers about parenting, but where can they connect with other moms about new technology? In the world of mainstream media, we accepted these cultural boundaries for which there was apparently little interest in crossing. But the mommy and daddy blogs demonstrate there is a huge pent-up audience for gadget moms and diaper dads that mainstream media never found a reason to serve. Traffic on these blogs is now a full blown phenomena.
Beyond any commercial fascination, there’s a profound social implication. The phenomenon puts a stark lie to the notion that mainstream media simply reflects social values and expectations, and suggests instead that mainstream media has played a central role in sustaining traditional values and expectations–if through no other means than projecting the world view of the tiny minority that has controlled media for the past 100 years, or whatever world view they could exploit for advertising dollars. Clearly they never conceived of the kind of content that would emerge when you unleash media and let ordinary moms and dads, or any other constituency, loose on the world to talk about whatever really interests them.
It’s equally clear that mainstream media is not only coming apart at the seams as a financial model, but its peculiar power over the stories we accept about our lives is quickly being rendered impotent. As media is democratized, ordinary people are gravitating to the stories that resonate with their lives–and those stories emerge in a more authentic and compelling way when they emerge from a shared interest among a group of like-minded people rather than being projected from a board room focused on a demographic chart.
In a very real sense, we’re returning to stories told around a fire after a lifetime of only listening to stories told from a stage. And if the content driving traffic on mommy and daddy blogs is any indication, it’s going to be a radical shift in the way we see ourselves.
I’ll be moderating a panel on Sustainable Social Media at the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael. We’ll be streaming the session live, tying in more than 20 remote conference locations. If you have questions during the panel, feel free to post them on Twitter, tagged as “#bioneers” and I’ll pick them up and weave them into the Q&A.
As a blogger, I receive a fair amount of PR spam–5-10 emails every day pitching crap I would never write about. And 9 times out of 10 this spam is illegal. It’s unsolicited commercial email in blatant violation of numerous provisions of the CAN-SPAM act. Day after day, week after week, the crap just rolls in, and frankly it pisses me off. Most of the time I just delete it and forget it. Recently, however, I started receiving spam at an email address I created specifically to keep “clean”, meaning I’ve never registered it anywhere or opted in for any list, though I have it posted as an “at dot com” address on my personal blog About page. So I started responding to the spam by asking where my name was sourced so I can get off the list. No one has ever responded to my request. Until today. Today, one spammer apologized and told me my clean email address was sourced from Cision and a product they call the Media Map. Interesting.
After Tweeting about this discovery, I connected with a Vice President at Cision by email. I’m not going to publish her name or emails without permission, because I didn’t open the communication with the intent of entrapping her. But I will publish the gist of the email, because she’s a senior executive with Cision and a communications professional. I’m sure she can take care of herself, and I told her I would let her know when I posted this. My intent in writing this post is not to throw a bomb at Cision, but to open a public dialog about the practice of social media relations, and the behavior of Cision specifically. The executive assured me her intent was to be open and accountable and I take her at her word.
Cision bills itself as “the leading global provider of media relations software services and solutions for public relations professionals.” Their homepage is full of social media products and services, and they offer a steady stream of webinars and whitepapers helping PR professionals navigate the brave new world of social media. So. To cut to the chase. Why is Cision harvesting my email from the web without permission, and providing it to PR agencies as part of a paid service to allow them to spam me with social media pitches? Call me crazy, but that doesn’t exactly jive with any notion of responsible social media marketing I’m familiar with. In fact, it sounds like Mercenary Marketing 1.0 cynically repackaged with a shiny Web 2.0 wrapper.
When I asked these questions of Cision, the very polite response was, yes, they did “recruit” my email address from the web “prior to opt-in”, but they just hadn’t “gotten to the point” of asking me to opt in. They were, however, able to sell my address to PR agencies for the purpose of pitching me. At this point, by my reading of , this is illegal spam, although it’s a bit of a grey area. Cision is not emailing me, so they’re not sending spam. The PR agency is indeed spamming me–sending an unsolicited commercial email–but in all likelihood since they’re buying a professional service they’re under the impression it’s legit. One question I neglected to ask is whether Cision is representing the list I’m on as opt-in. I’ll let them answer for themselves.
The Cision exec was also very polite in saying she’d be happy to note the names of any repeat offenders, but I told her that was unacceptable. Part of my annoyance with Cision is that it took me this long to figure out where my name had been sourced–which, if I were less charitable, I’d suggest was by design. The spam laws are clear that commercial emails must contain contact information and a way for recipients to unsubscribe. In none of the PR spam that I’ve received has there ever been an unsubcribe link or any mention of Cision. The only contact is the PR flack who wants to book an interview. This is not a transparent or accountable business practice on Cision’s part–and frankly, the responsibility cannot be pawned off on the poor naive agencies. Cision bills itself as “Helping Communications Professionals Navigate the Evolving Media Landscape”, and they are proud of the numerous webinars and whitepapers through which they educate PR professionals about the practical requirements of social media. But not one of their clients is following the most basic guidelines of responsible email marketing, not to mention the law? What does that say about Cision’s effectiveness as a social media leader?
Fundamentally, I have no problem with Cision’s professed vision. There is a legitimate opportunity for someone to help agencies navigate the shifting media landscape. But in my experience, Cision’s practice doesn’t measure up. Whether they call it harvesting or recruitment, they collected my contact information and sold it to agencies, no matter how deeply it may have been embedded in a product or a service. They did not seek my permission, and they had no means of holding their clients accountable for the most basic legal and ethical marketing practices, whether or not they’re educating those clients through their webinars and whitepapers. However laudable their messaging may be on the subject of social media, they’ve treated me, the blogger, without respect. And in enabling PR agencies to continue the practice of unaccountable spamming, they have done no favors for their own market. I am far less likely today to pay attention to any email from a PR agency, which is a direct result of this experience.
I have no doubt Cision will respond ably to this post. But it’s a commitment to action I want to see. Specifically:
If you’re truly the social media leader you position yourself to be, this shouldn’t be any issue at all.
Update: I’ve gotten a few emails, and a few comments below, directing me to other posts and comments online about similar experiences with Cision–and, frankly, similar platitudes from Cision about accountability and desire for “dialog”. There’s a pattern emerging, which you can clearly see , and . Someone calls Cision out for enabling spam, Mea Culpas ensue with perfectly played “openness and accountability” and yet Cision doesn’t change its behavior. The post you see here, including Cision’s careful self-defense wrapped in a “willingness to listen” are played out again and again, month after month making idiots of us all. So Heidi. C’mon back. Let’s have a real discussion about the game Cision is playing.
As the cyber crime rates are growing, the most vulnerable victims are the younger https://trymobilespy.com/best-family-locator-app-android-iphone generation themselves
I‘m thrilled to have been invited to moderate a panel on Social Media at the upcoming Bioneers Conference, October 16-18th at the Marin Civic Center, just north of San Francisco. The conference is a 20-year old forum featuring many of the world’s leading social and scientific innovators on issues of the environment and social justice–artists and authors, physicists and physicians, all gathered to explore real-world solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity.
This year’s presenters include Michael Pollan, author of The Ominvore’s Dilemma, and Dr. Andrew Weil, the world’s leading proponent of integrative medicine, along with dozens of experts in everything from economics to activism. More than 3000 are expected to attend the conference, and sessions will be webcast live, joining 20 sites from Alaska to Maine.
The panel I’ll be moderating will focus on the impact of social media on corporate responsibility and accountability. Among a long list of social media veterans, panelists will include Blogher co-founder Elisa Camahort Page, Get Satisfaction founder Lane Becker, and PopRule CEO Rob Kramer. It’s a phenomenal opportunity to connect the dots between the media that’s reshaping our lives every day, and the real-world impact on society and business–and as I’ve said, I’m thrilled at the opportunity to participate.
If you’re interested in attending the Bioneers conference, I’ve been extended a discount to pass on to my network, and additional discounts are available to educators who’d like to attend. Higher education students and faculty can attend for only $35/day with lunch included (code: action), and first timers can get a special tent pass for $50 (code: tentspecial).
If you want a taste of what Bioneers is all about, check out this video about one of the many groups associated with Bioneers. Real-world solutions for real-world problems. Cool stuff.
Last week I wrote , explaining how Kodak had obviously been listening intently to consumer discussions about pocket video cameras, and rather than making the usual incremental upgrade to one or two features for their next release, they threw down the gauntlet and upgraded just about every feature mentioned on user wish lists. This was an unusual move in consumer electronics, where the industry pace for upgrades is typically much slower–a move all the more interesting because it was so obviously enabled by social media monitoring. (How do I know? Because our sister company was tracking the same space for Creative Labs, and tracked the same user wish lists in relation to the Vado.)
Jeff Hayzlett, Kodak’s CMO, has been praised and criticized in equal measure for his approach to marketing, which not incidentally includes a big dose of social media. Jeff is an avid user of Twitter and Facebook, and in general a great advocate for social marketing. The fact that he was listening closely to the market is a good thing. The question is, what do you do with what you learn? How does it effect your market strategy?
Last week, I hinted that maybe Kodak has something up its sleeve. Why would a company dramatically accelerate the pace of the product lifecycle? Sure, in the short run, you grab a lead over your competitors and force them to play catch up while you… run ahead. But for that strategy to pay off, you better have some idea of where you plan to run. I had visions in my head of new innovations Kodak might have on deck, from on-device editing tools to face-recognition tagging, or maybe optical zoom and interchangeable lenses. Sure, all in a $200 camera, right? Hey, who would have thought we’d have so much technology in smart phones these days. Well, it turns out I got too far ahead of myself. And maybe Kodak did too.
This week, one of the first hands-on reviews came out from a very influential source. Macworld , and the verdict was not kind.
Browse through the many pocket camcorder reviews we’ve published and you learn that these camcorders are limited in significant ways—no image stabilization, no exposure or white balance controls, no optical zoom, no support for using external microphones, and no support for 1080p high-definition video. Kodak hasn’t addressed all these limitations with the Zi8, but it does take a shot at some of the most significant—specifically, image stabilization, 1080p shooting, and support for external microphones. Regrettably, none works in stellar fashion or makes up for a camera that’s a fairly average performer.
The review goes on to deconstruct all the areas where the Zi8 falls down, which is a 1-1 list of all the areas the Zi8 was supposed to be jumping ahead of the competition. The best the review could say about the Zi8 is that it “isn’t a terrible pocket camcorder.”
It’s just that in the areas where it differentiates itself from other cameras in this class—1080p video, external audio input, and image stabilization—it doesn’t perform well.
That pretty much throws cold water on the notion that Kodak can run ahead while the competition plays catch up. It also deflates the entire premise of the word-of-mouth excitement Kodak generated when they announced the camera, immediately dubbed by drooling analysts as the “Flip Killer”. The question now is whether or not the bullet-points on the camera box will be enough to sway a large number of customers who don’t know how to Google product reviews.
I don’t know what happened at Kodak, but I can’t help wondering if they let marketing run ahead while production couldn’t keep up. The circumstantial evidence seems to suggest that marketing listened to customer dialog–as well they should–but instead of prioritizing a list of functions they could wrap into the next release at a reasonable level of quality, they got excited by the notion of baking everything into the camera so they could kill the competition. Unfortunately, they didn’t hit the mark, and the result is arguably worse than if they had kept with the strategy of incremental upgrades. The criticism from Macworld is doubly painful because Creative used their production cycle for the next version of the Vado, in part, to vastly improve their support and integration with Macs. Kodak has inadvertently handed Creative a really nice story to tell Mac users when the new Vado is released September 20th.
Not to jump all over Kodak, but there’s another big social media question with regard to Kodak and the Zi8. Kodak made big fanfare of . They got a lot of buzz on Twitter and in the media for the contest–including . That was weeks ago–an internet eternity. No name has been announced, and the Zi8 is being marketed and sold under the old name they had obviously decided was in need of a change. What’s the deal?
I’ll keep updating on this as the story unfolds. I applaud Kodak for the way they’re pushing traditional boundaries with social media, but there’s obviously still a lot for us all to learn about how social media interacts with market strategy. http://besttrackingapps.com/iphone-keylogger/]]>
Over the past few months I’ve been analyzing social media marketing data produced by our alter-ego/partner . One of the industries SocialRep tracks is consumer electronics, which includes endless sub-sectors where pitched battles for the hearts and minds of consumers play out every day. Many companies in this industry have become savvy about social media–few industries attract more online dialog than electronic gadgets–but the tactics companies use to integrate social media with traditional marketing programs varies widely.
One of the more interesting battles has been playing out in the pocket video market, where the Flip made a splash three years ago introducing a tiny video cam with no tape, just memory, and they dominated the competitive share of voice in online dialog for that sector ever since. What made this remarkable was that Flip’s maker, PureDigital, was an upstart, and they caught the industry heavy-weights flat-footed. Sony, JVC, RCA and other household brands were slow to respond until the brush fire started by PureDigital became a serious sector of the video market.
If it looked like the Flip came out of nowhere, in a way it did. PureDigital had been making cheap disposable video cameras for sale in CVS Pharmacy, and they anticipated market demand for a reusable version–a cheap video camera that would slip in your pocket. At the time, interest in YouTube was exploding, but the big handycam players were still focused on big and expensive cameras–at least, big and expensive compared to the Flip pocket cam. The tradeoff with pocket cams, of course, is quality; a tiny camera forces lots of compromises. But if you’re creating short video for sharing online, you can afford a drop in quality that no one will notice on the Web. And the opportunity to capture candid moments they’d never haul out a standard video camera to film caught the imagination of web-savvy consumers.
In time, competitors joined the fray. Creative Labs, the prolific engineers that produced the Sound Blaster and essentially invented MP3 players, outdid the Flip with a smaller camera called the Vado that went head-to-head on features and quality. Kodak appeared with their own version, the zi6, and took an interesting niche approach by creating a ruggedized version targeting the travel market. Sony came out with the Webbie, and Samsung and RCA weighed in as well.
So now you have the typical consumer electronics market dynamic: a number of players, each kicking and scratching for a foothold based on features and price. With each successive release of an updated model–which seems to be at a pace averaging two releases per company, per year–the competitors up the ante in one way or another. One company comes out with an 8GB camera, another comes out with a higher quality lens. In this way, the market slowly ratchets forward, with each competitor leveraging an incremental advance on features, quality or price. It’s a Kabuki dance that plays out the same away all across the industry. That is, until now.
If you carefully track the social media conversations about pocket video cameras, you eventually wind up with a comprehensive list of all the features people care about. Not everyone cares about the same features–some want better audio features, some want better editing software, some want higher video resolution–and the wish extends down to special features that vary among the different categories of users and their intended applications for the camera. As each new release of a product comes to market, you can track which features get checked off with a cheer, or with a groan when one contingent’s favored feature doesn’t get upgraded. This is one of the great promises of social media–listening to consumers to plan and build better products.
It turns out, Kodak was listening as well. Kodak’s CMO, Jeff Hayzlett, has been both celebrated and bashed for his approach to marketing, which includes a heavy dose of social media. Kodak is all over Facebook and Twitter–they’re just winding up a contest on Twitter to rename their newest camera–and they’re doing all the things social media gurus say a savvy company should. But when they announced the release of their newest camera, they demonstrated that they really had been listening. Instead of making an incremental advance on one or two features to move an inch ahead of the competition, Kodak cleaned up the entire list of every feature consumers had mentioned online on their wish lists. In one go. And it was uncanny. As I went back through the SocialRep data looking at the features consumers had discussed over the past 6 months, it was obvious Kodak had created the same list, and used it as a product roadmap for the Kodak zi8.
So this will be an interesting case study.
The zi8 was announced a few weeks ago, and the response to the announcement among the gadget analysts was almost apoplectic. Everyone cheered. When the advance models went out to reviewers, you could see the dialog shift ever so slightly. “Sure, it’s 1080p resolution, but how much difference does that really make? Tough crowd, but of course, reviewers need something to complain about. The real question will be how consumers respond when the camera rolls out next month–no word on Amazon pre sales yet–and what that says about social media as a marketing tool.
Will Kodak displace the Flip in competitive share of voice? (A “forensic” analysis of Flip’s marketing tactics and how Kodak’s tactics compare is an entirely different topic, but one I’ve been tracking as well for a social media case study.) There are so many angles to look at now that there’s a clear case of a company leveraging social media to tune product development. Clearly, the market has been recalibrated for pocket video cameras–every player will now have to approach parity with Kodak in features sooner rather than later. But will that kind of development acceleration across the market help Kodak? It will certainly shift the focus of development to a new set of features next year, which could give Kodak an edge as they look ahead while all their competitors focus on playing catch-up. But do they have a vision for where to take the market now that consumer’s baseline ideals have been answered?
Needless to say, I’ll be continuing to watch this play out, and watching more of the data as the story unfolds. I’m hoping maybe I can draw my friends Jonathan Knowles and Victor Cook into the discussion to parse some of the competitive market share data.
Disclosure: SocialRep is a MotiveLab partner, and provides social media intelligence software to Creative Labs.
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