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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays! from the Chief Simplifier...

C.B. Whittemore, Chief Simplifier Elf

Holiday Message from the Chief Simplifier & Elf!

Happy Holidays! The Chief Simplifier [a.k.a. C.B. Whittemore] has become the Chief Elf with intense yet simple words of wisdom that she intends to apply to herself this Holiday Season!

1. Simplify!

Focus on what's essential this Holiday Season.

2. Recharge!

Focus on the positive sources of energy around you. If you can't come up with constructive solutions to the negative, then take a break from it. Once recharged, I bet constructive solutions will appear immediately!

3. Refocus!

What's essential to your customers, your business, you? What are your positive sources of energy? When you look back over the year, what worked? What offered you valuable insights and generated those Aha! moments that led to successes? Can you recreate more of those moments?

That said, how do you plan on making the most of the Holidays so 2010 becomes not just filled with possibilities, but also marvelous realities?

How will you Simplify, Recharge and Refocus!

What would you add to the list?

Happy, happy Holidays and all the best for 2010!

Intensely Positive & Simple Regards,


aka Chief Simplifier
aka Chief Elf

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Visual Goodness To Maximize The User Experience

Fuel For Thought series

Visual Goodness Describes How Best To Maximize User Experience During Fuel For Thought Series

One last post to share with you from Sigma's Fuel For Thought, the Growth & Innovation Series. This one about Visual Goodness.

Visual Goodness is an 8 year old digital production shop in New York City with expertise in animation and development, 3D/motion, video production... They also struck me as creative to the hilt - in a practical way!

Chuck Acker, chief of new business at Visual Goodness, introduced Mark Rosal, creative manager.

Fuel For Thought described the session as follows:

"No matter what the product, service or industry, the most important goals in building your brand online are starting a relationship with your customers and maximizing user interaction time with your brand. In this workshop we’ll explore case studies where brands are going above and beyond to engage users right where they live by maintaining deep customer interaction while building mindshare and influence.

Mark started out the session with these observations:

+ As individuals, we are connected and overloaded with information.
+ But, as Clay Shirky has observed, the problem isn't information overload, but rather "filter failure."
+ The same is true for customers who are developing better filters.

In our current age of immediacy, people have multiple means to get to goals and they bypass the user experience we create to get to what they want faster. And, they want what's valuable to them [i.e., relevance].

The solution is to Maximize the User Experience and provide value within an experience in one of three ways:

+ Be a unique story teller.
As example, HBO, which redefines story telling. This post, HBO Imagine: Clues, Cubes and Mimes offers an overview. At all points, viewers [participants?] can share via Twitter and Facebook. Have you participated? What's your reaction?

+ React. Engage.
This example intrigued me. Visual Goodness created an experiment Mark referred to as "The Twitter of OZ." It answers the question "What if the main characters in the Wizard of Oz were on Twitter?" Here, Dorothy, Scarecrow (coming online soon), Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch, the Wizard and Glinda the Good Witch tweet their experiences in real time, 140 characters at a time?

Using Hootsuite to manage the multiple characters and story lines, Mark put together a script for the story with the goal of observing what would happen. He quickly got rid of the script when a new unexpected character showed up and he had to engage and react in real time.

This was a public experiment; for authenticity, he decided not to use a hashtag symbol [also left more space for content].

+ Be where the user is
This approach requires understanding where users are and engaging with them - talking to them - at the right moment. In this example, imagine having passersby text a message that is immediately projected onto a building in a busy urban environment. This was the "Who you for" text message campaign that spoke to people at the right moment and created word of mouth in a new medium.

Some other examples:
+ Flickr has active forums such as the Canon DSCR group. This is a self moderated group with distinct rules and guidelines on how to tag photos, etc. Note that it includes over 54k members!

+ From Visual Goodness, ESPN Monday Night Football Paper Football & Music Maestro.

As you think about maximizing the user experience for your customers, what do you find most effective?

How do you highlight value that is relevant to them?

How do you align what you offer with the filters customers have created?

Previous Posts About Fuel For Thought include:
Federated Media's Conversation Economy Examples
John Battelle & the Conversation Economy

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Simple Sells' Discover Marketers

Les choses les plus simples by Ferran Jordà

Marketers discover that simple sells.

A headline, quote or statement to this effect is guaranteed to catch my attention. Possibly because 'simple' features so prominently.

In this case, Marketers such as Starbucks discover that simple sells caught my eye.

The article quickly asserted that "simple is better" and in "2010 marketing will increasingly stress less as more."

What's your take on that prediction?

The article focuses specifically on food with examples of new, simplified food introductions. The fewer the elements, ingredients or additions, the greater the likelihood that something will sell.

Makes sense. I sure don't want all of the extra, non-value added, potentially dangerous, and mostly unnecessary stuff dumped into my food [and body]. Simple is better and healthier. Tastier, too.

It's also more transparent.

Simple applies not just to food, but to everything: the choices we make as consumers and the options we create as marketers. Simple even has us wanting to do more with Getting Ahead By Being Local.

It allows us to combat the Paradox of Choice and eliminate the complexity we've created for customers. In fact, we can become customer heroes via simple by proclaiming an end to deliberately confusing, exhausting and driving customers away with all our choices.

I see real opportunity in simplifying.

By simplifying, we help customers understand the value associated with their options - something I touch on in Brick-and-Mortar vs. Web: Which Retail Experience Wins Out? We help make sense of choices. We filter, curate and aggregate to create value and high quality marketing engagements as John Battelle described in John Battelle & The Conversation Economy.

Simple's time has come.

As you think about 2010, how will you go about applying the philosophy of 'simple' to your business and marketing?

Image credit: Les choses les plus simples originally uploaded by Ferran. A work by: Ferran Jordà /

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Social Networking Update - Whittemore onTalkFloor Radio

Whittemore Discusses Social Networking on TalkFloor Radio

Whittemore Discusses Social Networking on TalkFloor Radio

Many thanks to TalkFloor's Dave Foster who published a four part interview with me about Social Networking and the Social Flooring Index.

His description of the interview which aired in four parts in December 2009 reads:

Christine B. Whittemore, Chief Simplifier, Simple Marketing Now offers an update on the latest developments in social networking in the business sector and in the floor covering industry as she discusses Simple Marketing Now’s recently launched Social Flooring Index.

As usual, a conversation with Dave is great fun and covers lots of territory!

Here follow links to the individual segments with highlights of what we covered.

What Is Social Networking?

Part 1 aired on December 6, 2009 - 11 minutes

I contrast social networking to mass communication tools; the tools are Internet based and easy to use. They are about sharing and engaging rather than forcing one-way push messages onto readers and visitors. Best practices call for integrating your social networking into your overall business strategy.

Dave asked about the relevance of social media for a category like flooring - a subject that I address in How Do I Make Social Media Relevant To Categories Like Flooring? I see so many opportunities in flooring for building relationships with customers, for guiding them on how best to take care of their flooring products, etc. These social media marketing tools take us back to how business used to be done before mass communications. They allow us to connect with potential clients and share relevant and valuable information with those active in social networks. They also allow us to be digitally visible to those who seek information from a search window.

Benefits of Social Networking and Social Media Marketing

Part 2, aired on December 7, 2009 - 11.34 minutes

The beauty of social media marketing platforms [e.g., like a blog] is that they allow you to publish your own content and address a variety of topics of interest to your audience - your history, who your people are, how you add value, your community activities, etc. A potential customer who gets to know you through your social networking activities comes into your business pre-qualified and more likely to buy than one who walks in off the street. Why? because you've had the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship and build trust, and you maintain that relationship beyond the initial transaction.

Taking part in social networking represents a long-term commitment to customers. It should be taken seriously and not delegated to interns or those without a full understanding of the business. Yes, it takes effort, but it enables you to interconnect all of your business activities, deliver on memorable customer service and make better use [i.e., repurpose] of what you create. Plan ahead and involve the rest of your organization.

Social Networking Success & The Social Flooring Index

Part 3, aired on December 8, 2009 - 11.40 minutes

To be successful with social networking, you should involve the rest of your organization [e.g., Zappos is very active on Twitter] and empower your employees to deliver on company objectives and delight customers.

Success requires a consistent effort, a willingness to communicate authentically in an approachable tone. You can certainly measure followers, fans, subscribers, but it's more than that. It's engaging in conversation with customers, responding to questions and referring to others. It's a way to demonstrate the value you offer and it's effective both with consumers as well as B2B customers.

The Social Flooring Index monitors the social state of the flooring industry. I describe how I got started. I've broken the index into three parts: Twitter, Facebook and blogs and it's a terrific starting point for learning more about social networking, noticing patterns, and observing best practices for those in flooring and outside the industry.

I explain that success with all of these social networking tools is based on sharing, providing value to your audience and engaging them in conversation.

The Social Flooring Index: A Resource for Social Networking Best Practices

Part 4, aired on December 9, 2009 - 11.06 minutes

The Social Flooring Index highlights a range of efforts in social networking. It also offers an overview on the industry and how participants are evolving their efforts over time. It takes several months to build momentum, find a rhythm that works and start to generate trust and credibility.

These are tools for building lifelong relationships with customers. Customers and consumers want more relevant and high-quality information, especially about flooring. Although your flooring customers aren't all actively engaged in social networks, more and more of them are - including our highly coveted woman consumer - and if they aren't, their friends and family members are ready to help them conduct digital searches.

The Index continues to evolve. I intend to further segment the blog segment to take into account the subjects addressed.

Finally, I touch on my two educational sessions at Surfaces 2010:

+ 3 hour workshop titled Marketing in a Recession 101 on Monday, February 1, 2010 from 9am to noon

+ 1 hour seminar titled Social Media 101 on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 from noon to 1pm.

Thanks again, Dave! I look forward to continuing the conversation about social networking and social media marketing.

I hope you get a chance to listen. I include examples and lots more detail and I'd love to hear your reactions.

Thank you!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Simple News & Insights - December 2009

Simple News & Insights

Simple News & Insights: Available Now!

Can you believe? I almost forgot to share the news... The latest issue of Simple News & Insights, the eNewsletter from Simple Marketing Now, is available as of 12/02/2009.

You can access the December 2009 issue by clicking on this link to the 12/02/2009 archived issue of Simple News & Insights.

I've tweaked the format a bit [and even remembered to include the 'forward to a friend' link!]. I welcome your feedback.

If you need a point of comparison, here are links to the previous issues:
+ 09/29/09 issue of Simple News - Fall 2009
+ 07/13/09 issue of Simple News - Inaugural Issue: July 2009

And, if you really like what you see, perhaps you will consider subscribing to Simple News & Insights...

In Other eNewsletter News

Yes, there's more!

This week I issued the first Simple Marketing Now Flooring eNewsletter. You can check it out on Flooring The Consumer. Here's the post to look for: Flooring eNewsletter #1 From Simple Marketing Now.

As the name suggests, it is flooring-focused.

What do you think? Do you like it?

Any suggestions on how to improve either eNewsletter?


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

How Do I Listen With Social Media?

How Do I?

How Do I Listen With Social Media?

Listening comes up repeatedly in social media marketing. You see, the tools of social media don't really work if you don't listen. Or, at least, they may work in a traditional and not very social way. In which case, social media marketing isn't really taking palce. So listening is critical.

Think about it.

Markets Are Conversations.

If markets are conversations - rather than one-way monologues - then you must consider what the other party has to say. You may put forth your perspective, but you must then listen to the response and be ready and willing to come up with a solution or improvement and definitely an acknowledgment. That give and take is what leads to engaging with readers, visitors and customers and eventually forming a community. It is what leads to developing trust and credibility.

I consider listening hugely under appreciated, particularly in traditional marketing. We might listen at arm's length via a focus group, but not up-close-and-socially.

Luckily, it isn't difficult to start to listen to the conversations. And, it isn't that scary either!

Social Media Listening Tools

Start with the most basic and flexible tool available: Google alerts - which, surprisingly, many traditional marketers don't know about. Set up alerts for your name, your company, your brand names, your competitor names, subjects and topics that interest you... It costs nothing.

Definitely explore terms and subjects of interest at a search window first so you can validate that you are getting the kinds of results that interest you. And, then, refine. I like to start with Google Search; then I create my alerts, monitor my results over a few days, and refine them.

Interestingly, Google has just added real-time search integrated into search results pages. It's particularly relevant [and noticeable] for very hot trending topics like Tiger Woods in December 2009... What that means is that you'll see relevant Twitter results appear in your search results. One-stop listening.

Where you aware that you can search in Facebook? Try it. You'll definitely find it interesting and you may be surprised by what you find.

Don't forget YouTube, the world's No. 2 search engine.

Finally, Twitter. You don't have to have a Twitter account to search Twitter. But, if you do have an account, you may find this post on Listening To Customers With Twitter helpful. In addition to always having a search window available, I keep a permanent browser tab open for Twitter Search.

Social Media Listening Guidelines

Simple Marketing Starts With Listening. It leads to insights. You want to tread carefully, though, as you enter into the world of those you want to listen to. Social media interaction is often described as the equivalent of entering into a living room or a kitchen where conversations are in progress. You can't just barge in and take over.

Definitely read through these 16 Social Media Tips Relating To Listening.

As Sharon Mostyn commented on How Do I Start With Social Media?:

"... Listen/read first. Don't try to join in on a social media conversation until you've spent some time learning how others are using that conversation (learn the "slang") otherwise you could jeopardize your future standing with the community that you are trying to reach."

That means that you should definitely listen with social media. But, do so respectfully, intensely, authentically, open-mindedly, creatively and simply. Beware of too much baggage [e.g., you might find this post about Listening To Women Customers helpful]; it might prevent you from hearing the obvious.

Other Social Media Listening Tools

Don't forget about using online survey tools, generating discussion on your blog, participating in forums, and simply asking questions and listening to the responses.

Are you ready to listen with social media? What do you find works best for you? And what insights have you uncovered?

Image credit: Wordle "How Do I" by C.B. Whittemore

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Federated Media's Conversation Economy Examples

Fuel For ThoughtIn my last post about Sigma's Fuel For Thought, the Growth & Innovation Series, John Battelle discussed the Conversation Economy and how marketing is everyone's job. In a breakout session, Pete Spande - also from Federated Media, continued the discussion and shared examples.

[Pete also writes Continuous Beta.]

The Evolving Conversation Economy

In his presentation, Pete Spande reminded us that we're in a period of evolution rather than revolution. Conversation has always driven consideration, but we've simply forgotten this for a while.

Furthermore, we don't have a neat funnel. Rather, we have complexity at the center of the funnel. No one size fits all; it varies per customer. However, social/conversation media combined with a vendor message influences buying decisions.

For an advertiser, though, the conversation needs to be at scale.

Conversation at scale means harnessing social media to create conversations with your customers - offering value that dovetails with the social media publisher you advertise with. As Federated Media describes it, it's built on Conversational Media: "we believe that the best conversations are those where all parties are engaged, informed, and valued. Working with our marketing and publishing partners, Federated Media is helping to define this innovative form of online marketing: a three-way dialog among creators, audiences, and marketers."

According to the Forrester who developed the Social Technographics Ladder, Social technology growth marches on in 2009, led by social network sites. More specifically "in 2009, more than four out of five online Americans are active in either creating, participating in, or reading some form of social content at least once a month." As the chart below illustrates, the level of conversation is increasing consistently.

The Conversation Economy marches on!

The question becomes, particularly for brands: how to be part of the conversation economy?

One answer lies with Federated Media which manages over 150 premium properties including:
- Heather Armstrong's
- Ree Drummond's Confessions of a Pioneer Woman
- Business Insider and Henry Blodget, Kevin Ryan, Julie Hansen, Dan Frommer
- Pete Cashmore/Mashable

These are all major media properties that built their audiences organically, have successfully engaged via the social web customers [e.g., via comments, time invested on site, voting, sharing, etc.], thereby amplifying messages through sharing and building significant equity.

From what Federated has observed, the common denominator is content:

- that resonates strongly with a specific audience
- that picks-up conversations already in progress; this is a direct offshoot of listening
- that amplifies shared values between the site and its visitors
- that invites a response/sharing

In short, it's content that creates conversation [remember, this is the conversation economy!].

For example, published a post about 4 Ways News Organizations Are Using Twitter Lists. 3 hours after it went live, it had generated 20 comments. As of 12/8/09, it has been ReTweeted 1268 times, and strong search equity for "news organization use Twitter" [i.e, page 1 on Google in position #1 or 2].

Take a search for chocolate milk recipe. Pioneer Woman's post about Decadent Chocolate Milk appears on page one. It has also generated as of 12/8/09, 1467 comments. Wow!

And, for a brand to successfully partner with these conversations, it must:
+ be promoted in a way that makes sense or meaning,
+ appeals to large, diverse groups in an extremely relevant way,
+ if relevant, calls for a small simple task [e.g., a RT - ReTweet]

5 case studies : How to use conversation as a marketer?

1. The Conversationalist Ad Unit

American Express Open Forum where content is used in an ad unit. Note the bottom of the page and the wealth of options relevant to small and medium businesses. The results: 5-15% interaction rate and a click through ~3x average ad unit performance.

FM details on Open Forum.

2. Samsung Netbooks: Netbook resource centers

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a link to show this to you. However, FM created resource centers for Samsung with curated content combined with Conversationalist ad units that included CNET pricing information. To accommodate this unusual approach, the landing page was rethought to help with the purchase decision.

By the way, a benefit of the conversationalist ad unit is that content remains fresh.

3. Suave/Dooce Community Offers Shared Communal Affinity

The dooce community recently [i.e., early November 2009] launched with 5000 signing up on the first day. Not bad! Federated Media created the site with Suave as sponsor. You'll notice a range of interactive branding elements, from ad units that invite you to learn more, to statements about Suave that are ready for ReTweeting.

4. WePC [Asus] --> entered US 2 years ago therefore had no baggage

Asus entered the US PC market 2 years ago. As a result, it had no baggage yet ample opportunity! The WePC site allows visitors to dream about their ideal PC and submit ideas. Asus took some of those ideas and integrated them into their next generation product. The company learned that it had to lean into other communities to get submissions. For example, it sponsored an art context with the Facebook Graffitti application to envision what future technology would look like; it received approx. 5000 submissions.

Explore the WePC site. You'll notice video clips and opportunities to vote or discuss ideas and concepts. What a way to engage PC users.

FM details on WePC.
[Other Facebook Graffitti contest: BMW 1 Series]

5. ExecTweets

ExecTweets captures the best executive Tweets. It's designed for selfishness, allowing followers to consume the information as preferred. With over 1 million followers, it captures relevance. The ExecTweets website page also includes sponsored sidebars. It also adds value to existing conversations, embraces what customers using, provided options to give customers control of the experience [note that you can select industries], and it builds and supports assets to build longterm value.

FM details on ExecTweets.

[Here is a link to the Federated Media Guide to Conversational Marketing.]

I found Pete Spande's presentation fascinating. For the most part, I find digital ads clunky and irrelevant. These examples made more sense to me given their relevance and level of engagement. I'm not surprised that they deliver results.

What are your reactions? What kind of digital ad units do you click on? What success have you seen with your digital ad efforts?

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

BRITE 09: Innovating During Downturns & Surviving the Worst


Learning How To Innovate - a BRITE '09 Working Session

I love attending the Columbia Business School BRITE events because - inevitably - they recharge, refocus and re-inspire me. BRITE '09 took place March 4-5, 2009 and it didn't disappoint! This event included an unusual breakout session titled "Innovating During the Downturn: How to Survive Our Own Worst Case Scenarios." Instead of a lecture, we were led through a creative breakthrough thinking session that made innovation palpable.

Carsten Wierwille, frog designCarsten Wierwille, General Manager, frog design, New York, and his associate, Luke Williams, led us through the exercise. frog design focuses on innovation.

As Carsten explained, innovation and creativity suffer significantly during tough times. There are ways, though, to not lose creativity. We would experience such an approach using The New York Times.

Routinely, we use use patterns of perception to organize our lives into patterns that we can easily recognize. Without these patterns, we would have difficulty processing information and making our way through life.

patterns of perception

Situations occur, though, when our patterns of perception become a problem. They prevent us from coming up with innovative solutions. How then do we break through? How do we come up with alternate solutions?

frog refers to the solution as lateral thinking, a term that Edward de Bono developed. Lateral thinking uses an indirect and creative approach to solve problems that a linear or logical approach fails at.

Examples of lateral thinking include:

+ Captain Sullenberger, the USAir Pilot, considered an innovative solution when he landed his plane on the Hudson river. Some might have considered the solution absurd. It worked.

+ In the Mann Gulch fire of 1949, a firefighter invented a technique called "escape fire."

Lateral thinking: breaks out of existing thinking; it changes patterns of perception.

+ Imagine taking the trailer for an intense movie such as The Shining and adding a different sound track [i.e, Peter Gabriel] to it. Imagine how different and unexpected the result is... [See His 'Secret' Movie Trailer Is No Secret Anymore]

Lateral Thinking
Lateral Thinking continued

Humor and creativity work in brain the same way: a punchline moves us out of a linear mode. In the telling of a joke, we are taken along the main track. Suddenly, we are shifted to the end of the sidetrack and immediately see the track we came from.

Creative Insights leads to innovative thinking
"Lateral" refers to moving sideways across patterns instead of moving along them as in normal thinking. Every valuable creative idea must always be logical in hindsight.

The world upside down
We were deliberately shown a map of the world upside down. This is provocation!

Provocation creates mental instability that forces the thinker to develop new ideas.

The provocative statement needs to lie outside our normal experience - otherwise it will not have any provocation value.

Provocation leads you outside your realm of experience

Four categories of Provocation
Effective provocation statements force you to go outside of your realm of experience. They are deliberate ways to force creative insight and step up to C [see photo above] and into lateral thinking.

There are four categories of provocation:

Exaggeration: Exaggerate normal properties
Escape: cancel, negate, drop, remove, deny what we have taken for granted
Reverse: Reverse the normal direction of action. Change it to move in the opposite direction.
Wishful Thinking - go to edges: Turn a fantasy wish into a provocation.

[An exaggerated statement such as "a police with 100 eyes" led to the creation of a neighborhood watch.]

Provocation Exercise

The Provocation Exercise

We set off on our own provocation exercise about The New York Times facing disappearing ad revenue. The room was broken into four groups. Each addressed a different facet of the problem. On sheets similar to the one pictured above, we chose a provocation and went about generating creative thoughts.

Capturing provocative innovation

My group looked at the value proposition of the New York Times with respect to consumer needs and behavior. Some of the ideas generated included:
- news tattooed on your body
- newspaper reads people
- customized newspaper
- fashion accessories to deliver news

We imagined no customers, leasing out writers, and buying shares of a writer.

What we discovered is that solutions aren't always obvious. But, with a change in framework, or a provocation, we are better able to discover and consider innovative solutions that add considerable value.

Check out my Links of Note: BRITE '09 Conference to get a feel for the rest of the event...

Have you come across interesting instances of provocation that generated innovation for you? Would you tell me about it?

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