October 17, 2005

  • Silly Names Are Back — And That’s A Good Thing

    Have you noticed all the funny names these Web 2.0 companies have?

    Take a look at a few new companies that are either on or about to hit your radar:

    • Squidoo
    • Flickr
    • Yuku
    • Meebo
    • Skype
    • Rollyo
    • Writely
    • Qumana
    • Memeorandum
    • Gada.be
    • Zvents
    • Joyent
    • BunchBall
    • Pretty much anything Techcrunch writes about

    Now before you start giggling and saying “another sure sign of bubble 2.0”, let’s consider why having a silly name might be a good idea. In fact, I’d say these companies are some of the smartest on the Net and trendsetters rather than dotcom wannabes.

    Fact is, a unique name has gone from affectation to necessity for building an online brand. As we’ve moved to word-of-mouth marketing and building buzz via the blogosphere, the ability for people to find us (and maybe more importantly) *the ability for us to find out when people are talking about us* has become essential. Do a Technorati search on Seth Godin’s “Squidoo” and you’ll find that pretty much all of the results are about his new start-up. Whether you love or hate the name, you have to admit that you’ll be able to track it online with great clarity. Compare that to the super-hyped “Flock” social browser. A Technorati search on “Flock” does give us lots of posts related to the yet-to-be-released application, but it also gives us a ton of noise (“flocks of children”, “preaching to the flock at church”, “flock of geese”, “people flock to it”, etc.). Pity the Flock evangelist doing an ego surf!

    And being clever and picking a non-English term doesn’t help much. Compare a Technorati search for posts about feed reader “Rojos” to “one for competitor “SearchFox” — Rojos is buried in non-company-related Spanish pages (rojos is Spanish for “red”).

    Interestingly enough, while I had this post in draft mode Seth Godin blogged on this very topic. Seth adds a lot of nuances to my thoughts here and I highly recommend you read his post as well. My guess is that all those companies with “funny names” had no trouble at all finding this post while Flock and Rojos might never see it.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on October 17, 2005.

October 22, 2004

  • Thought

    Seth Godin spoke at yesterday’s Digital Marketing conference here in Toronto. I missed the event (deadlines, deadlines), but did want to share this snippet of his speech as reported by Marketing Magazine:

    “Average people are professionals at ignoring you. They don’t want to change what they have… That’s why they’re average. The geeks and the nerds, they’re the ones who are listening… Those are the people who are able to spread your idea.”

    I would note that “geeks and nerds” come in all shapes and sizes. There are karaoke nerds, cheese nerds, theatre geeks, sneaker geeks, supply chain management nerds, and nerd nerds.

    Our goal is to find the “geeks and nerds” who’ll care passionately about our stuff — some, like William Gibson, call them “otaku”.

September 9, 2004

  • Thought

    Brand Autopsy makes a great argument that what the (marketing) world needs now is “telling the story” instead of “making up the story”. Too many advertisers seek to conjure up a story to support their brand when telling the story of what the product has or can do for a particular or an idealized consumer is much more effective.

August 8, 2004

  • Thought

    I just sent Basecamp a testimonial:

    “I’m lovin’ Basecamp and so are our clients!

    Not only does Basecamp provide the project transparency we think clients deserve, it also serves as a stunning example what a truly effective online application can achieve. We’ve found that, after using Basecamp, our clients are more interest in creating compelling experiences for their customers.”

July 20, 2004

  • “Credentialing”

    I am working with a good friend on developing her web site. She is a respected industry insider and at the top of her career. Almost all her business comes from word-of-mouth and referrals.

    As we discussed options for her site, the conversation turned (quickly) to why people would visit the site and what we wanted them to do based on their visit.

    Most visitors will be coming to the site either because someone said “you have to talk to this person, check out her site” or because they Googled her first contacting her.

    The goal of the site had to be to get them to call and set up a meeting because all her business starts with a face-to-face meeting.

    Given that goal, our first approach was to consider an informational site with the usual “client list”, “bio”, “services”, and such. Then we considered a more aggressive “selling” strategy to push visitors to pick up the phone.

    In the end neither of these seemed right given that most visitors are already interested and qualified. It seemed to us that the purpose of the site was to “credential” her rather than “inform” or “sell”.

    From this we came up with a new (for me) conceptual model for the site — “Credentialing”.

    Credentialing probably goes in three stages:

    1. Is this person legitimate? Can I trust them and would I want to do business with them? Professional site design, solid site structure, and quality copywriting should get us past this hurdle.

    2. Does this person have experience? The content (bio, clients, case studies, etc.) will wow anyone not already familiar with her distinguished career.

    3. Does this person have ideas that can help me? Are they still at the top of their game or resting on laurels? To credential her ability to think, to add value, and to be on top of current business issues, blogging was the obvious way to go.

    While a “credentialing site” might not look that different from a typical free agent’s web site, this insight has allowed us to open up all kinds of possibilities for the site and has (importantly) told us what not to waste time on.

    Most interesting for me, the process of defining customer needs and the business benefits of meeting these needs has changed this from a chore to an exciting exercise that is allowing her to rethink her business. And blogging will provide her with an outlet for big ideas she’s been percolating but never felt the desire to work into book format.

May 7, 2004

November 26, 2003

  • Thought

    Lovemarks is a very interesting concept by Saatchi & Saatchi. I expect to see this go viral shortly.

November 24, 2003

  • Thought

    The Michael Jackson Official Press Room web site is just about my favourite example of a specific purpose site ever. The site does exactly what it is supposed to do and nothing else. While I in no way condone Jackson’s alleged conduct, his ability to use the web as a communication channel during a personal and business crisis is commendable.

    Compare this site to the dreadfully overproduced corporate site Sony has created for Jackson.

    (via Dave Winer)

  • Thought

    Companies must understand that there is now officially nowhere to hide.

    If big business thought old school consumer activitists like Ralph Nader were a thorn in their side, wait till they see what wired consumers like the Neistat brothers will do to their brands. The brothers’ iPod’s Dirty Secret site does an absolutely brilliant job of airing their grievance about a defective iPod battery.

    It will be interesting to see how Apple responds and how long it takes for them to wake up to the impending PR disaster as this rapidly spreads across the net.

November 11, 2003

September 14, 2003

  • Don’t Call It RSS

    In reading Sam Ruby’s RSS presentation to Seybold I was once again struck by the variety of standards, non-standards, and standards-in-waiting that get generically lumped together as “RSS” in a non-technical setting.

    My concern is that “RSS” is too cryptic, unintuitive, and inaccurate to encompass all we mean by “RSS”. And I’m also looking for an over-arching metaphor that can be used to describe aspects and things related to “RSS”.

    Let’s look at e-mail as a starting point in developing a “grand metaphor” for “RSS”.

    The term “e-mail” means “electronic mail” an easily understood metaphor devoid of acronyms. Once a user grasps the basic metaphor, all the accompanying metaphors are self-evident.

    So a new user quickly learns that:

    “It’s mail, but on your computer. Instead of typing a letter then printing and mailing it, you just send it from your computer outbox to the other person’s computer inbox over the Internet. The Internet acts as the printer, the envelope and postal service.”

    The mail metaphor is all-encompassing of the technology. Almost everything related to e-mail uses metaphorical equivalents from physical mail — “inbox”, “message”, “check your mailbox”, “you’ve got mail”, “cc”, “newsletter subscribers”, etc. We use a flying envelope as its symbol without a second thought. Acronyms are buried in administrative settings.

    Imagine if instead of using this grand metaphor e-mail had instead been commonly referred to by the underlying technical specifications (as RSS is):

    “It’s a POP2/SMTP reader. You use it to download POP3 or IMAP feeds from a remote server and compose SMTP replies that a recipient can read using their POP2/SMTP reader. Oh yeah, no one uses POP2 but that’s still what it’s called because that was the original standard people used.”

    What we need is an grand metaphor for everything related to all aspects of this:

    “The process by which a publisher provides recurring content that people can read via applications that automatically check for new content from all publishers the reader chooses to monitor.”

    Right now we talk about “RSS”, “Syndication”, “Feeds”, “Channels”, “Subscriptions”, “Publish and Subscribe”, “Readers”, “Aggregators”, “NewReaders”, etc. None of these terms provide the over-arching metaphor I think we need to really move RSS past the tipping point with average users.

    A global RSS metaphor would have to:

    1. Clearly capture the essence of the process defined above.

    2. Provide “sub-metaphors” for all processes, people and things related to the global metaphor, and do so consistently. (i.e. no mixed metaphors)

    3. Be easy for non-industry types to understand, explain, spell, and remember.

    4. Should not overlap with metaphors already used online. (I don’t think you can have multiple metaphors in the same medium, but that may be open for debate)

    5. Should not get over-extended and tacky.

    What might this grand metaphor be?


July 8, 2003

  • Thought

    Pissin’ in the great outdoors for fun and profit.

    “If you’ve driven through Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania or South Carolina this summer, there’s a chance you’ve motored by a billboard or two that caused you to do a bit of a double take. If so, you’re not alone.

    The product? Outhouse Springs bottled water.”

    In fact, this is a promotion by the outdoor ad company, most likely to prove billboard effectiveness. Note that 10’s of thousands of people have visited the Outhouse Springs website showing that offline channels can easily deliver online traffic (and build buzz).