Author: Mark Di Somma

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I think you can read a lot of things into Facebook’s decision to team up with Skype. It certainly aligns with my “war of the worlds” theory in some ways. But what interests me is that, regardless of the technical pros and cons, it does actually make sense from a brand point of view. (I’m still far from convinced that Skype constitutes a sustainably bankable business, but that’s another argument.) Facebook’s brand is all about people connecting. The introduction of Skype simply channels that sentiment into a different technology. Looking for new partners in an increasingly scaled and bitter war, they have literally searched as far as their own name. Who else is in the business of ‘face’ that’s big enough to feel like a meaningful ally? And it’s a simple reminder to all of us that sometimes the best diversification strategies are staring us straight in the … Quite. Now all it has to do is work. No pressure.

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We get it so wrong don’t we? We develop ideas and look to see if they’ll work by intricately studying people’s actions and reactions. We poll them. We survey them. We sample them. We question them exhaustively. Whereas, what we should be doing, according to Dr Art Markman, is studying our customers’ habits and developing products and services that fit with how people want to behave. That way, they’re already pre-disposed to take an action. After all, habits drive actions, not the other way around. All a brand has to do is encourage a new habit and tie the accompanying actions to their brand specifically. Habits form, says Markman, whenever and wherever there is a consistent relationship between the world and an action. That means that “[U]nless you are in a business where you interact with each customer only once, your customers have habits related to their interactions with you.” Strong brands capitalise on those routine behaviours. But to do so, says Markman, brands may need to change some habits of their own: Stop asking …

Who’s afraid of commitment?

Christine responds to my observations about the “war of the worlds” with an observation of her own that could well prove a dilemma in the making, although not an immediate one. As the big social media brands synergise and extend their offerings to make it more and more convenient to inhabit their brand of ego-system (hat-tip Brian Solis), when will it all become too much? Is there a danger that it will all become too invasive? And even if it does come to feel that way, once things are that integrated, where’s the exit row? Can you just buy a branded product anymore in that space without being drawn into a bigger commitment? When does commitment become claustrophobic? When does convenience become imposition? When are customers being asked to buy into more than they want, even if what, or some of what, they are buying into is being offered to them free? Perhaps that’s my real concern about Google+. It’s not about whether or not it’s better than Facebook, it’s about the fact that it …

Being liked: The danger of popularity for a brand

Wonderful, wonderful article by Neil Strauss on why we should all dislike the “Like” culture. Strauss maintains “Like” motivates us to compromise, to chase stupid metrics in a desperate search for acceptability. “There’s a growing cultural obsession with being blogged, digged, tweeted and liked,” Strauss observes, and it’s all about hitting the numbers, at the expense of having a distinctive point of view. He has a point. Today’s buzzword – influence – is really all about cultivating a following – with the emphasis on cultivating. On the one hand, that’s a very positive thing. It brings people together, it generates and mobilises conversation. It has an outreach driver that is positive and convivial. It also provides real showcase opportunities to articulate individual expertise and authority in a subject matter, which can be important platforms if you’re looking to publish, speak or consult for example. But Strauss’s point is that, when our actions are influenced by our stats, and not the other way around, the search for approval becomes a straitjacket. “Like culture is antithetical to …

Joining the dots

Jeff Bullas’s piece on whether Google’s new Google+ marks an all-out war between Facebook and the search giant for dominance in social media raises some important issues. Bullas points to the demise in popularity of MySpace as a precedent for Google’s need to be concerned. From a technical point of view, I can see why Google+ can be perceived as an intervention in the social media space and as a challenge to the incumbent Facebook. But I think seeing it in that context alone risks missing the wider environment within which this struggle may well be taking place. I’m not convinced that it’s about the fact that Google wants to necessarily get into the social media space. Rather, they may believe they have no choice but to have a presence – and a successful presence – there in order to defend their very business model. In other words, whilst this may look like another attempt to gain a foothold in an arena that Google has attempted to enter several times before, I see it being …

Take a moment

Take a moment

Coming home from Sydney, Paul and I were talking about ‘moments of truth’. One of the great ironies, and frustrations, for many brands is that reputation must be built over years, but can be lost in a tiny fraction of that time – seconds. All because of an action or a word, a misunderstanding or an expectation that may or may not even have been reasonable in the first place.

Funnel vision

It’s always fascinating to compare how you see your place in the market with how others see you. Warren made this astute observation the other day. If you’re in a very small market like New Zealand and you look out, you see the whole world before you. There seem to be endless opportunities. But step around to the other side of the world and look back, and you see a market like New Zealand from a completely different perspective. It seems small and hard to find. The issue of course is not specific to place brands. It’s applicable to all brands that are small in comparison to the scaled markets they would like to reach. The brands themselves see a panorama. The world looking at all the choices available to them from so many sources discerns barely a speck. This is quite literally ‘funnel vision’. Your perspective depends entirely on what end of the funnel you are looking from – the scaled end or the narrow end. The only way that situation can change is …

Can brands fly?

Do you remember when you were a child the first time someone made you a paper plane? If your recollection is anything like mine, you couldn’t believe how it left your hand and made its way across the room. Before long though, it lost height and velocity, and fell to the floor. One of my more cynical friends has this joke about how much media budget is needed to keep a brand going successfully: “Give me all the money you can burn and it will go like a rocket!” It’s easy to see a brand as an expense that relies on getting attention to make its presence felt and to make the expenditure worth it. Detractors see it that way too. They’re very quick to opine that unless they’re constantly fed money to keep them in front of consumers, brands simply fizzle and fall to earth. I don’t share that view. Particularly now, with all the different ways that we access and talk about brands, I see them less as rockets kept airborne by media …

How should we rethink the advertising industry?

I enjoy seeing people poke business models, but it’s important that when you look to disrupt a business that you do so without assumptions. The call by Marc Ruxin of Universal McCann to rethink the creative department of ad agencies is a great idea but my sense is that his suggestions still assume the battle is for attention, and that winning that attention and holding it via great content, well presented, is critical to achieving consumer preference. The noise preventing that, he says, is formidable. Brands are trying to get their messages heard and acted upon in an environment of 150 million tweets a day, 700 billion minutes a month on Facebook, 300 million global players of Zynga games, 200 million Daily Deal subscribers … I’m far from convinced though that attention and preference are a linear progression. And I think we need to insert at least three further filters into that zig-zag of decision making: notice, consider and purchase. You may gain a consumer’s attention momentarily, but until they choose to escalate that attention …