Friday, March 26, 2010

Concrete Comfort

Storytelling. Art. Craft. History. Heritage. Roots. What thoughts do those words invoke in your head?

I think someone is trying to send me a message, in subtle, soft yet plainspoken ways. I had the fortunate luck to spend time with some friends (old and new) last night and engage in conversation that brought a lot of memories back to my immediate consciousness. One, that I have never shared, is from my childhood.

On a cool, clear Fall day I was playing in the backyard all by myself. I am the youngest of four, and often was left to my own imagination to occupy my time with hobbies, play or some other less constructive activity. I found myself in a familiar place - the backyard - shooting basketball, sword fighting with the tree and running around burning away youthful energy.

At some point in my backyard sanctuary, I decided to simply lay down, on my stomach, on the cool concrete. I distinctly remember turning my head sideways and pressing my cheek against that cool slab and feeling every little bump, spike and groove work its way into my skin. As I laid there I remember looking straight ahead and examining with my eyes the very surface, and the random artifacts of nature's litter, that was leaving their impression on the side of my pudgy face. I was completely and totally relaxed. I did not want to move. I thought to myself that I could stay there forever and be totally happy as a result. It was complete and total purity. No lies, no deceit, no greed, no broken commitments, no squabbling. Just simple, serene and absolutely within reach. Many years later, it is as clear in my mind as it was that afternoon.

Fast forward years later, and there I am in a downtown bar, with several young professionals, some staff and even a gentleman that works with a client of The Basement. As I was driving home this memory popped into my head, and I thought to myself, "Why the hell is this memory cropping up now?" I think it has to do with conversation I was a part of moments before. I was listening to one of my business partners talk to these young, aspiring guys about their new business, and what he and I went through seven years ago as we first started out. What was our motivation then, what is our motivation now? Why are we sacrificing? Why do we approach things in a certain way and what is their approach? Listening to these young bucks was a great exercise and something I should do more often. It brought me back to my entrepreneurial beginnings. To the approach we took when we first made the leap.

The reason behind the launch, is rarely the motivation for the landing. That is my conclusion. Was my desire to getting back to the core of our business driving this thought? Was the memory of that time in my life a sign of my desire to get to a comfortable place after seven years of steep ups and downs? Was the conversation of the evening dredging up desires to re-discover earlier motivations for the business?

I think I may know the answer to these questions, but for now I will keep them to myself. Not sure why I am feeling compelled to write this out on this blog, but in doing so I feel better for it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Marketing Perspective

I just finished reading this piece by Pete Blackshaw, in Ad Age, CMO Strategy.

The piece is titled, Marketers, Get Back to Boring. well when I first saw the title I thought to myself, "This will suck." However, once I started reading I realized this guy was pretty much spot on. He is not advocating lame communication or ad strategy, he is advocating sound, grounded and most importantly effective communication, marketing and advertising strategy.

A few excerpts...
"I call this out for good reason. Social media and digital marketing will only succeed -- and sell through the organizational layers -- if we ground it in deeper, more established marketing truths, not ephemeral campaigns, one-trick pony moments, or hypocritical oaths or proclamations."

"Leadership: At the end of the day, what truly matters is less about social smarts than good, old-fashioned leadership. Leaders inspire and drive change -- irrespective of platform, cause or brand. Most important, great leaders always follow the consumer. Whether the consumer's hanging out the in living room, or hanging photos on their Facebook page, we have to be here. If you dissect the great case studies behind what's happening in our marketing transformation, especially on the social-media scene, the DNA of great leadership is unmistakable."

Hopefully that was enough to compel you to read the entire piece HERE.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Social Gaming or Social and Gaming - Either Way, Go the Distance

A quick new post to get you thinking about how you can use social gaming or simply social elements incorporated into online gaming to help increase sharing and good will toward your brand.

Social gaming has been a hot topic recently with the success of such Facebook embedded giants Cafe World, Mafia Wars and Farmville. The company bringing you these gems is Zynga . Zynga specializes in social gaming. What is social gaming you ask? Here is an unofficial definition with some player detail brought to us by our friends at gaming resource IGN, "Game titles played on social networks like Facebook and MySpace -- are an increasingly important part of the overall game industry, with a projected revenue of more than a billion dollars in 2010." There is a lot more great information, summarized for your convenience HERE.

When considering either a social game or a game that has social components (sharing with friend features, community based score boards or even multi-player function, as a brand, to get more time with your target audience or to couch promotional and/or marketing value in a fun entertainment experience, simply creating a game is not enough. As the title states, go the distance.

What does that mean? It means take the time to understand what will excite and engage the audience through game play, design and social tools. Will the game offer enough value that your audience will feel compelled to share with friends once playing is complete, or even tell their friends to come play with them in real time? Will the game successfully offer the player value as it relates to your brand? This is a bit more tricky. You do not want to turn off your audience with a blatant advertisement disguised as a game, however you want to engage through the game, but still push the needle for the brand. Maybe baking in hidden offers (real offers, not the same old crummy coupon for a $1.00 off) that are genuinely exciting for your audience? Maybe motivating the player to reach a certain level with the promise of a valuable product or service, and giving them a bonus for sharing with a friend. If the offer is solid enough, your audience will most likely not need much prompting to share. I want my friends to enjoy the same perks I get, so I share when offers are good, and my friends appreciate that.

Too often games produced for brands focus too much on enlarging logos, and not enough on what real value is offered to their audience, which yields more long term value for the player, and the brand. Going the distance will insure your game is a great investment in resources for you, and in time for your audience.

Friday, March 5, 2010

YOUbiquitous Media and the Soul

Atheists do not waste your time reading this post.

If we all agree that we have a soul, and it is our primary meter for the sum total of good and bad we create, perform, absorb and distribute in our lives, then I think we can take that concept and use it, not literally of course, for how we establish, perpetuate, engage and produce in our professional lives.

By this I do not mean how much work do you do, as a professional, for not for profits or for "causes." That is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is how you establish yourself as a credible professional, execute on that credibility and grow your "good deeds" vs. your bad.

We are human beings, and as such we are prone to make mistakes and whether we commit them knowingly or by accident, these flaws tend to affect others directly or indirectly. On the flip side, we do good and that too has an impact on others.

As a business professional, and more specifically, as someone who works heavily in the digital space, I see lots of both sides of that equation - the good and the bad, and yes even the ugly. The digital space is ripe with very bright and intelligent people. Let's be honest, to stay up with technology in this day and age you have to be very resilient, persistent and determined. The other side of it is that the technology sector tends to make those who understand how to deliver within it successful by most standards. In a free market, capitalist society, that attracts a lot of bright go-getters. It also attracts a lot of what I like to call fly-by-nighters, or by others' terminology, douche bags. I am talking about people who simply pimp out the latest and greatest to try and obtain a quick pile of money with little regard for those who may experience the ill affects of this engagement - for reference see Internet bubble at the turn of the 20th century.

That hard fact rears its head more frequently than I care to say. Enter social media and it's rise to fame and glory.

One of the primary beauties of social media since its infantile stages is its ability for relatively non-technical users (like me) to easily and quickly, get in the game, so to speak. A non-technical user can create a blog (their own little web site that they can alter), a twitter account, a Facebook page, a MySpace page, and the list goes on and on and on and on......

This is great! This leads to new relationships, new ideas, new perspective, new business models, market shifts, etc. and it leads to, as one wise man recently told me, "lots of open ears." What does that mean? Lots of open ears. It means due to the sharing and breadth of information, it does not take someone a lot of time to get up to speed and become an "expert." The experts are vast and eager to self proclaim. Those that are so averse to technology, or are simply too busy to learn about this new opportunity, then rely on these folks for their information or to provide service. That is great, unless the shallow "expert" is creating more bad than good. Then you have a ripple effect not only for the expert and client, but also for the industry as a whole - again reference internet bubble at the turn of the century - or even something a bit more widespread - open today, gone tomorrow mortgage brokers writing and approving unsubstantiated mortgages during the housing boom, which yielded our most recent crash in the market.

So this brings us full circle to the soul of our industry. Everyday I see more and more social media, mobile and digital marketing experts popping out of the woodwork. I see less substance backing much of it up. As someone who was in the industry in the middle of THE internet bubble working for a tech-based start up, those lessons were burned in my mind forever. I ask the market to self patrol and not be so quick to absorb and accept every Tom, Dick and Mary that twitters 1,000 times a day, not be so quick to pat the back of a "presenter" simply because they were on stage. Watch and execute with a critical eye. After all, the souls in our industry that are creating good, will insure that real value remains, insures real goodwill amongst the greater business community (those that pay us to execute), and will ultimately help our industry continue to grow within a legitimate value proposition.

The alternative, I am afraid, is another burst bubble.