likeability surprise

Simply dashing

Gotta love Google’s home page today, themed for Samuel Morse‘s birthday. This playfulness is part of the reason why, despite their size, Google remain likeable.


advertising disruption

Advertising to the ad avoiders

The New York Times reports that TiVo is showing still ads to people fast-forwarding through the ad break – or pausing what they’re watching.

This is smart and in direct recognition that people don’t mind ads as long as they don’t get in the way.

“By catching them at a time when they’re pausing the program, when they’ve finished with a program,” said Tara Maitra, vice president and general manager of content and advertising at TiVo, “the viewer’s main reason for being there isn’t being interrupted.”

Seems so much more civilised than a 30 second spot. And you can easily imagine Google wanting a piece of this action.

TV AdWords anyone?

(Thanks to @adbroad  for the tip)

advertising authenticity viral

On your bike

This video of Danny MacAskill doing bike stunts in Edinburgh is utterly jaw-dropping. Had it been a cinema ad for a sports brand, or an energy drink, it would have been a worldwide smash.

But of course, it is anyway. And we all made it so. It’s freshness and audacity screams out to be shared.

Big brands have lost the advantage they once had on finding, sanitising and packaging youth culture for us. A big budget and well-researched ad concept is no match for authenticity and peer recommendation.


Shine a light

I imagine there will be much cooing over this new Honda ad.

Reminds me a bit of this marvellous piece of lo-fi fun from a few years ago:



I wonder whether the jailing of the Pirate Bay founders will actually have the unintended effect of increasing file sharing?

Suppressing things there is a huge market for rarely works and the publicity around this verdict will likely produce copycat services and spread the awareness of bittorrent technologies further into the mainstream.

I heard a great line attributed to Cory Doctorow “P2P is a demand signal from the market”.

More power to forward-thinking business models such as Spotify, gaming tie-ups and ad-funded services.



Asking for it

Spotted on 37 Signals



Innocent and Coke – will it blend?

So Coke have bought c. 20% of Innocent drinks. There’s a feisty bit of feedback on the Innocent blog with many comments being negative, eg.

You thought wrong – you just killed your business 🙁

Disgrace but not surprising, you have sold your soul. Thats the last time we buy your products.

At best this is misguided – you’ll be a fig leaf for Coke’s unethical corporate machine. At worst it is a greed-driven betrayal of values and customers.

This is going to be an ongoing PR management issue for Innocent, but hats off for blogging it in the first place and keeping open the comments thread. This way the debate happens on their site and allows them to put their side of the story.

Indeed, so far the objectors have not gained much traction on other new protest platforms such as Facebook, and my bet is that this will die down. There’ll always be some people who object to corporate buy-ins (eg, McDonald’s and Pret. Btw, now no longer), but most people don’t care that much.

So long as Innocent remain open and engaged, they should be able to contain the dissent and continue with their plans.



Staying likeable

Nicholas Carr has an excellent article on how the internet, rather than removing middlemen, has spawned a mega-middleman in the form of Google.

For much of the first decade of the Web’s existence, we were told that the Web, by efficiently connecting buyer and seller, or provider and user, would destroy middlemen. Middlemen were friction, and the Web was a friction-removing machine. We were misinformed. The Web didn’t kill mediators. It made them stronger.

We know Google is a big hairy 800lb gorilla. What’s remarkable is how loved a gorilla they are. Often when companies are perceived as too successful, pressure groups form to turn on them: witness the scale of dissent around McDonald’s, Tesco, Wal-Mart, Starbucks et al.

Staying likeable when you’re massive is not easy.

So how does Google do it? There are many reasons, but I think the big three are:

  1. Accept no substitutes
    Google aren’t dominant in search because they bullied their way onto our toolbars – they’ve earned it through being the best. I’ve come to believe that, were I to use another search engine, I’d somehow be getting substandard results
  2. Free to consumers
    Pretty much everything Google offer to consumers is free: search, gmail, image search, Docs (an excellent alternative to Office) and more. Imagine how Starbucks could quell its detractors if it could give its lattes away for zip (btw – could they do that??).
  3. Constant wow factors
    From streetview to moon maps to witty gmail features, Google come across as a company that does stuff for fun – they love life, they love the web and they’re not a place where killjoy accountants have wrestled control.

This all adds up to a feeling that Google is on our side. Who cares if industries get shaken out or that a corporation knows our intimate secrets? It’s more than a fair bargain, thanks.

Can they sustain this? Sure for the next year or two, but people move on (or retire rich) and cultures change. Can the next wave of Googlers continue to woo us? Will a future CFO be tempted to put ads on the home page? Will shareholders demand ‘new ways of monetisation’?

Will we still love them tomorrow?

branding surprise


What do you do when you’ve got great brand heritage but the times are changing?

Re-imagine, re-introduce or remix your product.

Trainer companies have long found new ways to benefit from nostalgia – see Reebok Classics or Converse all-stars – and long-defunct video games are making a comeback on new platforms.

I wonder how long it will be before mobile phone manufacturers do something with classic handsets?

Up to now phones have been getting smaller, techier and more serious. Maybe there’s opportunity in doing something different – I can imagine Shoreditch fashionistas slipping their SIM card into a second, old-skool phone before a night out.

As a brand opportunity, heritage in mobiles is one thing Nokia and Motorola have over Apple.


The horse-shit fallacy

In the early 2000s I was on a conference panel in Cambridge. A discussion began about the growing threat of spam with the the prevailing argument being “At this rate, email will be unusable in five years time“.

Sitting here in 2009, spam volumes have never been higher, but my gmail account gets maybe one false positive a month. Email remains quite usable.

This is what I call the horse-shit fallacy.

This is not simply a pejorative term, but is based on (possibly apocryphal) tales of London in the late 19th century. Apparently, the volume of, um, little horse presents on the streets was a growing concern and doom-mongerers voiced that “at the current rate” in 20 years time we’ll be three feet deep in the stuff.

Of course this didn’t happen, and it never would. The reason being simply (and what I argued at that spam panel) that we’d never let it. Life is not linear, and successful marketing is predicated on solving problems. Although I had no idea how spam would be dealt with, I trusted that someone would fix it. In this case, it was Google.

Extrapolating the past to create a projection of the future is endemic in our culture and only serves to immobilise innovation and limit thinking.

Don’t believe the hype. Listen out for that phrase “at this rate…” and give it a dollop of what it deserves.

Photo by Pleple2000

low cost marketing productivity surprise

Eat my feeds

If you’re a regular reader of RSS feeds, you’ll know they’re the easiest way to enjoy a sumptuous spread of blogs. And though I rarely visit my favourite websites, I never miss an article.

I use Google Reader and it’s the first (and often only) page I check on the web. There are good offline readers (eg, Vienna for the mac) but Reader is web-based and thus syncs across all your home/work computers. There are also a growing number of iPhone apps (Byline being the best to date) which let you continue reading on the move or when offline (eg, on the tube).

It takes a while to find the right feeds for you, but I’ve put together a selection of my favourites in the tech/marketing/thinky space. Right-click here and save this file. You can then easily import this ‘opml’ file into Reader (settings>import>).

Do let me know your suggestions for great sites/feeds I’m missing. Thanks.