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Coming Soon: A Web-Wide Social Network? May 13, 2008

Posted by Keith in Advertising, Technology, Uncategorized.

Moves by Google, Facebook and MySpace Point to Crumbling Walls in the Social-Media Space

Published: May 12, 2008

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Three announcements, all within a week of each other, were indicative of the same trend: that the future of online social networking doesn’t live within a single entity’s walls but instead permeates the web.

Illustration: Google

MySpace, Facebook and Google each announced similar-sounding moves over the past week that will be worth paying attention to as marketers watch to see how the social web evolves. MySpace on May 7 said it would open up its profile data to third-party sites. Two days later Facebook said it would let users to connect their Facebook accounts to third-party applications and websites, and that it would also allow developers to incorporate Facebook friend data into other sites and applications. And today Google is announcing FriendConnect, a service that lets website owners add social applications to their sites.

Sites are blending
The moves are unrelated, according to the companies involved, but they all suggest what many web watchers and pundits have been expecting: that social-media tools and services would spread throughout the wider web, rather than stay contained within a single service.

Forrester’s Charlene Li is one of those believers. She has described how social networks will be “like air.” She writes on her blog: “I thought about my grade-school kids, who in 10 years will be in the midst of social network engagement. I believe they (and we) will look back to 2008 and think it archaic and quaint that we had to go to a destination like Facebook or LinkedIn to ‘be social.’

“Instead, I believe that in the future, social networks will be like air,” she continued. “They will be anywhere and everywhere we need and want them to be.”

The moves announced hardly make those services “like air.” But they do signify that sites such as MySpace and Facebook are open to the idea of moving their user data and social connections to the broader web.

MySpace’s moves will make user profile data more portable, and allow users to link their MySpace profiles to their profiles on other services, such as Twitter. Updates to a MySpace profile would then be automatically reflected on linked profiles elsewhere on the web.

Facebook gets friendlier
Facebook Connect, meanwhile, appears to be a developer-friendly move that harkens back to when it allowed third-party developers to create applications that took advantage of Facebook’s so-called social graph and allowed users to communicate and play games with others on Facebook through those applications. With the new service, a Facebook user, for example, can easily see on Digg.com which stories his or her Facebook friends voted up.

Google’s FriendConnect is more of a strategy to add social-media-enabling widgets to sites. Site owners can add a “snippet of code,” according to Google, and immediately add tools such as reviews, members’ galleries and message boards to their sites. They will also be able to add applications built using the OpenSocial platform that Google spearheaded. Users can import friends and interact via those applications with friends from other social networks, such as Facebook, Hi5 and Plaxo. The idea, said Google, is that any site can become an open social container.

“When the web is healthy and when more people have more ways to be more engaged online, our business is healthy,” David Glazer, a director of engineering at Google, said on a conference call announcing the service.

Even traditional media companies such as CBS understand the importance of spreading their social tools among third-party sites. CBS’s hyper-syndication web-video strategy also includes technology that lets CBS viewers chat with each other while watching content, even if they’re watching that content off CBS.com.

Listen up, marketers
So what does this mean for marketers? It means more consumers talking to each other across the web, and it means discussions around brands are no longer siloed to a single platform or network but are spreading to a wider swath of sites. If a marketer didn’t have a social-media “listening” plan, these kinds of developments could make tracking conversations consumers are having about a brand more difficult, but also make it more important that marketers do so.

Imagine if you could easily take the conversation about brands that’s occurring on Twitter and embed that into other sites via one of these services, said Rodney Rumford, CEO of Gravitational Media, an agency that has helped brands such as Vivendi and Mountain Dew have a presence in social networks, and editor of FaceReviews.com. Additionally, branded websites and widgets will be able to use the technologies to become “more social.”

“This is huge, the combination of the MySpace, Facebook and Google all saying basically the same thing, which is say that websites can become more interesting and engaging when you add a social layer to them,” Mr. Rumford said.

Brand Ambassador Marketing – Using Status Stories April 9, 2008

Posted by Keith in Uncategorized.
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April 2008 | From status symbols to status stories

Ah, storytelling, yet another holy grail in the wonderful world of marketing. What’s new in this field? How about companies no longer inundating consumers with their ‘brand stories’, but instead helping customers tell a story to other consumers. Not to promote that particular brand, but to make those customers more interesting to others. Curious?



Wild Bunch premium fruit juices, available in home detox sets, only in Singapore.

Brands have been telling their stories for decades now. Typically, in a mass-advertising, mass-branding world, the ‘telling’ has involved reaching (and impressing) as many consumers as possible. Those who literally bought into these storied brands then gained the respect and admiration of other brand-exposed consumers.

Example: if you’re Jaguar, and your (expensive) story is about old money with a dollop of English eccentricity and the whole world is aware of this, then consumers craving recognition from anyone impressed with this kind of lifestyle only need to buy one of your cars to bask in the glow of their peers’ admiration.

However, while well-known, storied and very visible STATUS SYMBOLS will dominate consumer societies for years to come, they will face increasing competition from STATUS STORIES:

STATUS STORIES: As more brands (have to) go niche and therefore tell stories that aren’t known to the masses, and as experiences and non-consumption-related expenditures take over from physical (and more visible) status symbols, consumers will increasingly have to tell each other stories to achieve a status dividend from their purchases. Expect a shift from brands telling a story, to brands helping consumers tell status-yielding stories to other consumers.

why now?

Belgian Dinner in the Sky: what people will do for bragging rights 😉

STATUS STORIES are an answer to some of the major shifts and trends taking place in the consumption arena, from uniqueness, to visibility, to ‘alternative status sources’:

1. Uniqueness Families

Wanting to be unlike the Joneses

No longer do consumers want to be like the Joneses, the Mullers or the Li’s. When individuality rules and conformity is frowned upon, owning something no one else has is hot.* The ‘mass’ that consumers are willing to put up with is either the stuff they don’t really care about—and can get on the cheap at the Wal-Marts and Aldis of this world—and some remaining objects of mass desire like the iPhone or the Mini Cooper. However, even these are likely to be customized and personalized the moment they leave the warehouse, website or store.

The shift from mass to unique explains the surge in niche or even one-of-a-kind products and services. So brands will increasingly not want to, or will not be able (if only for financial reasons) to tell their story to the masses. Which in turn means that consumers buying from these brands will no longer be able to rely on the product or service to provide them with that instant recognition and admiration from their peers. It is thus up to the customer to tell a story, any kind of story, with the brand providing the ingredients.

* Interesting side effect: consumers moving away from familiar, trusted mass brands may soon find themselves truly addicted to everything niche. Consider this statement by the ever-inspiring Chris Anderson: “We equate mass market with quality and demand, when in fact it often just represents familiarity, savvy advertising and broad if somewhat shallow appeal. What do we really want? We’re only just discovering, but it clearly starts with more.”

2. Visibility

Old, physical status symbols won’t disappear overnight, but preferences are shifting.

Besides the shift from mass to uniqueness, mature/prosperous consumers now predominantly live in experience economies. Experiences not only are inherently more unique, they also do a better job of providing instant gratification: they’re often more affordable, and thus more numerous than old-world status symbols. For more on the experience economy, do re-read our TRANSUMERS and SNACK CULTURE briefings.

However, when it comes to experiences, status can only be derived from being seen by others—while experiencing the experience, which may be a relatively brief moment—or by telling others about the experiences afterwards (which can go on for years ;-). Hence STATUS STORIES becoming more attractive and prevalent.

Oh, and don’t dismiss the shift towards an online, virtual world, which means yet another challenge for visible, physical, real world status manifestations.

3. Alternative status sources

There’s more to life than shopping…

Whether it’s participating, donating, showing off skills, giving or caring, there are now multiple STATUS SPHERES, as mass consumption as the sole defining characteristic of societies is starting to feel tired (if not hazardous).
As societies are slowly starting to bestow recognition and respect on those straying off the beaten consuming-more-than-thee-path, ‘new’ status can be about acquired skills, about eco-credentials, about non-profit activities, or about the number of visitors to an online presence. Due to their mostly non-physical, non-visible and often obscure nature, these new types of prestige rely on STATUS STORIES to deliver a status fix to their followers.

Status-less consumption?

Luxurious home spa or cinema: wouldn’t be any fun if you weren’t allowed to tell anyone

Think our obsession with status as the driver of, well, everything is somewhat far-fetched? Then consider the following: in mature consumer societies, is there really any kind of consumption or even behavior that is entirely devoid of status considerations?

An extreme (consumption) example: is installing a top-of-the-range home spa or cinema, for one’s own pleasure and comfort, not to be seen or to be used by anyone but the owner, free of status considerations? Or will the owner, at one point or another, tell peers about the fact he or she had this spa or cinema installed, and is using and enjoying it? What if the owner was not allowed to tell anyone about these assets?

Or how about this one: is the ultimate and ongoing value of going on an exotic trip discovering remote islands that other tourists haven’t set foot on before—the experience itself—or is the real value to be found in the impressive stories a traveler can tell his or her peers on return?

So, for any good or service that is even remotely status-conscious (and we would argue that almost everything is), it may well be worth figuring out how to provide consumers with the tools and ingredients they need to tell a story about it.

As always, we’ve collected a number of examples from brands worldwide that are already benefiting from STATUS STORIES. Some have been around for a while, some are brand spanking new. We’ve divided the manifestations of STATUS STORIES into the following categories: conversation starters, prepping, and life caching/casting.

1. STATUS STORIES & conversation starters

What can be better for consumers hoping to tell peers an (impressive) story than to be asked for one? Take a look at the following goods and services that act as STATUS STORY conversation starters on behalf of their owners. Not surprisingly, they all revolve around the number one social trend of the last four decades: ME, MYSELF, AND I. In other words, showcasing one’s—hopefully interesting and impressive—interests, looks, offspring, taste and so on will prompt a response, giving the owner a chance to tell the story behind the visuals. Feel free to call it the story of ‘brand me’:

  • Hubwear sells t-shirts that display a wearer’s favorite travel routes in airport codes (think JFK, AMS, MIA, HKG and so on). All shirts, as Hubwear likes to point out, tell a story: from amazing sabbaticals to crazy work trips to earth-saving internships.

  • DNA 11 creates personalized art from DNA and fingerprints. For DNA art, a simple method of non-invasive collection includes a mouth swab. The company then harvests a sample of the client’s DNA to capture their genetic fingerprint and transforms it into an artistic representation of a person’s life code. Prices range from EUR 299 to EUR 892. To get started, clients simply select a size and custom color. DNA 11 then sends out a FingerPrint collection kit that includes: a fingerprint collection card, easy-to-use ink strips, and step-by-step directions.

  • Along the same lines, My DNA Fragrance makes individual fragrances by incorporating their clients’ DNA. The company sends customers a home swab kit to collect the DNA sample, which they then use to create the perfume. The one-time DNA swab and lab test costs USD 99.99, while a 4oz. bottle costs USD 134.99. From the site: “The fragrance is subtle and explodes into your unique mixture of exotic smells. The fragrance is delivered in a 4 oz. aluminum bottle which preserves the freshness of your fragrant elixir.” Soon to follow: lotion, bath products, and shampoo & conditioner.

  • Eleven Forty Co. cuff links are individually modeled on photographs of a child, a loved one, a pet or a famous role model. They’re available in a range of precious metals and are priced from GBP 225 (USD 7,500. Just kidding ;-). When they’re not gracing a shirt cuff, the two halves cleverly snap together to create a miniature bust. This isn’t the studio’s first foray into high-end personalization. A few years ago, Eleven Forty Co. introduced Opus, an uber-premium football table that’s made to order. Customers pick their teams, which can feature friends, family, celebrities or real football players. Each player’s head is cast in 3D from a photograph supplied by the customer.

  • Domino’s Pizza’s new BFD builder (short for Big Fantastic Deal) lets consumers create the pizza of their dreams—specifying the type of crust, the amount of sauce and cheese, and unlimited toppings—for a flat rate of USD 10.99. The STATUS STORIES twist? Consumers can name and register the pizzas they design in Domino’s BFD database, where they can be viewed and ordered by other consumers. Nearly 12,000 pizzas have been registered so far, including the “Happy Birthday Aaron” and “Rhonda Half Doug Half.” The site even tracks how many people have ordered each registered pizza so far, and consumers can view the database with the most popular pizzas first, as well as by newest, oldest or alphabetically.

  • Flattenme has developed a line of storybooks that can be personalized with a child’s photo, making them part of the story. In addition to their photo, a child’s name is also incorporated in the text and illustrations, creating a highly personalized product that children seem to love. How it works? Customers simply upload their child’s (or pet’s) photo to flattenme.com, indicate their name and gender, and select a book. Books are delivered 10-14 business days later. Flattenme has released four titles since it launched in August: Tuesday Mushroom King (about wood sprites), Here There Be Pirates (for aspiring Johnny Depps), The Potty Dance (for those who refuse to go) and My Little Monster. The latter can feature pets as well as children. Books are hardcover and full-color, and sell for USD 33. Also check out Printakid and Alphakid.

  • More kids’ stuff: children can now watch themselves interact with their favorite cartoon characters, thanks to Kideo’s personalized videos. Customers either upload a photo of their child to kideo.com, or go to a Lucidiom retail photo kiosk and scan or upload it there. The photo is cropped down to a head shot, which is then attached to a cartoon body. Which results in a DVD with an animated movie that shows the child alongside popular cartoon icons like Dora the Explorer, Spiderman and the Care Bears. Besides featuring a child’s image, his or her first name is spoken by the characters throughout the video and also appears on the packaging.

  • Japanese Yosimiya is selling bags of rice printed with a newborn’s photo, name and date of birth. The bags are shaped to resemble a swaddled baby. But the key feature is that the bags contain the baby’s exact weight in rice. Holding the bag will therefore feel like holding the baby. The personalized, made-to-order ‘dakigokochi’ are priced from JPY 3500 (USD 32 / EUR 22).

  • Requiem for You is an Austrian firm that can compose a personal requiem on demand. Just launched last year, Requiem for You offers services on three levels, the most basic of which is the composition of an individually tailored requiem. The firm represents a network of composers, librettists and musicians who will write an individual requiem in advance, capturing the client’s unique personality and accommodating preferences for balance among vocal, instrumental and textual components. Styles available include baroque, classical, romantic, jazz or Broadway musical, with text in German, Latin or English. A personal laudatio is also available. In addition to composing the piece, Requiem for You can also produce an audio recording using a team of freelance artists, orchestras and recording studios. Finally, upon request the company can arrange a performance of the requiem. Prices reportedly range from EUR 20,000 for the requiem’s composition to EUR 400,000 for the all-out live performance. Truly a STATUS STORY that will turn heads before and after departure to greener pastures.

  • My Kleenex provides users with the opportunity to get their favorite unlicensed photo or drawing printed on their Kleenex box. Customers can create their own designs and styles with the help of the website, and they can choose from dozens of backgrounds, add their own personal digital photo, and then generate a 3D preview to see what the box will look like. The boxes are USD 4.99 each, and customers can develop multiple designs and multiple addresses. Hey, if even Kleenex can play this game, surely so can you?


While, per the above, it would be nice if every product or service could be an instant conversation starter, the majority of offerings (and the accompanying STATUS STORIES) will need a fair bit of prepping on the side of the owner. After all, the moment the focus is purely back on a unique/little known product or invisible experience, it will be the storyteller who somehow has to initiate and capture his or her audience’s interest and respect. Hence the prepping: brands providing customers with the necessary details if not ingredients for a STATUS STORY. From a product’s provenance to its uniqueness to its eco-friendliness. Some random, cross-indexamples:

  • Function Drinks, a fusion of clinical science and all natural beverages, is the brainchild of Dr. Alex Hughes, an orthopedic surgeon at UCLA. Drinks come with names like House Call, Vacation and Light Weight, and promise healing, mood improvement or weight loss. The founder’s expertise and naming instantly add a story to what could have been just another health drink. In the same vein, check out (and learn from) Firefly Tonics: all-natural drinks made in the UK, containing herbal extracts, fruit juices, as well as ‘magical’ New Zealand honey, “famed for its digestive and antibacterial properties.” Expect the beverage sector to be a source of STATUS STORY inspiration for years to come.

  • What has more value: the actual dining experience at Amsterdam’s De Kas restaurant, or the story about De Kas that guests can tell others after they’ve been? (De Kas’ story, by the way, is that although they’re located in the city of Amsterdam, they have their own nursery, where they grow herbs and Mediterranean vegetables in the summer, and various kinds of lettuce in the winter. (‘Kas’ is Dutch for greenhouse). Next? How about letting guest pick their own vegetables? 😉

  • Taking a cue from the travel industry, hip stroller manufacturer Bugaboo has mapped out 20 Bugaboo-friendly daytrips for adventurous parents. From their site: “Discovering foreign countries, making new friends, tasting exotic dishes. After becoming a parent, this doesn’t need to stop. (Re)discovering a city together with a child can be an inspiring experience. Strolling through New York or Berlin with a Bugaboo Daytrip you will discover new aspects of a city: a funny elevator, a little known park or a hidden gem of a shop.” Trips/maps can be downloaded for free as PDFs.

  • Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel and Residences in New York offers guests an exclusive key to the city’s only private park. Which above all makes for a great story upon return.

  • The Financial Times is launching a GBP 1,700-a-year (USD 3,350) membership for three new networking sites. The service, called FT Executive Membership Forums, will allow execs to “maintain contact with peers and luminaries […] and to stay in touch with the key issues facing fellow members.” There will be forums for technology and media executives, for CEOs, and for executives from luxury industries. The cost includes a free subscription to FT.com, admission to any of the FT’s conferences, 20 percent off further tickets and face-to-face members’ events. (Source: The Guardian.)

Needless to say, ‘exclusive access’ is the next big thing for anything related to status, and thus for STATUS STORIES. Stay tuned for a dedicated briefing on ACCE$$ later this year.

Local and authenticity still rule Need more STORY PREPPING inspiration? You can’t go wrong with local and, yes, wait for it, authenticity! After all, local is authentic, local is trusted, local is often eco-friendly, local is quality and BEST OF THE BEST, and thus a rich source of stories. This is of course what firms like Italian Ermenegildo Zegna (9 factories in Italy), Swiss Rolex or British Vertu (luxury phones are assembled by hand at the company’s headquarters in Church Crookham, UK) have been selling for a long time. And millions of consumers will gladly continue to pay a premium for these goods as they tell a story of authenticity, of connoisseurship, of the owner knowing where in the world to source the best of the best for each product category.

But luxury brands aren’t the only ones to profit from local STATUS STORIES:

  • LocalChoice Milk, sold by UK supermarket giant Tesco, is a new line of milk that is produced by local farms and sold at local Tesco stores. Responding to customer requests to make it easier for them to buy food which is genuinely local to their area, Tesco has started paying a premium to smaller local farmers which is above the rate they are paying to farmers who supply their standard milk. This means that farmers supplying new ‘LocalChoice’ milk will receive up to GBP 0.22 per liter, which is one of the highest prices paid to any producer in Britain. The company assures their customers that LocalChoice will not only reduce food miles but will also provide confidence to shoppers that if they buy a local product, they are helping their local economy and local suppliers, in particular small, independent family farmers. The milk packaging is branded as LocalChoice, instead of as Tesco, and uses simple handwriting on the labels to underscore the regional value message.

  • Unto This Last is a miniature Ikea, situated on Brick Lane in London’s East End. Like Ikea, prices are low and many products are sold as flat-packs (pre-assembly optional). Unlike Ikea, everything is manufactured locally, and the designs aren’t overly familiar. The workshop uses the latest 3D modeling software to design and produce innovative and inexpensive furniture, which it sells directly to the public. Orders are manufactured to measure, within a week, at mass-production prices. And since pieces are made to order, customers can choose from various finishes and sizes, like adapting chairs to fit specific seat height requirements. Needless to say the furniture, besides beautifying customers’ homes, provides the owner with plenty of STATUS STORIES to impress friends and family. Also check out German company Manufactum, which sells ‘old school’ quality products with original stories attached to them, from all over the world.

  • And let’s not forget apparel: knitwear brand Flocks gives customers details about the individual animals that provided the wool for their sweaters and mittens. Every item in young Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma’s collection can be traced back to its source. Since one sheep supplies exactly enough wool for one sweater, each sweater is tagged with a specific animal’s ID number, and comes with a certificate: the animal’s passport. Information provided includes breed, weight, year and place of birth, and a picture of the sheep. Sweaters are priced from EUR 475.

  • Swiss Netgranny is a collective of 15 grannies recruited by Swiss fashion label Tarzan. The grannies knit socks on demand and sell them online. Customers can choose their favorite granny by picture, pick the color of their socks, or opt for a granny ‘surprise’ design. It will take a granny approximately two weeks to knit a pair of socks, which costs EUR 26, delivery included. Oh, and some breaking news: some grannies now also make wrist warmers 😉

EcoSTATUS STORIES and eco-concerns are a match made in heaven. As consumers’ desire to find out (and tell others) about the origins of a product becomes a given (carbon footprinting, anyone?), companies will have to take STATUS STORIES to the next level. Questions no one ever asked a few years ago will become an integral part of any purchasing process. How was the product made? By whom? How did it get to its point of sale? What effects on the environment will it have after purchasing? Learn from:

  • Tree-Nation is an ecological project with a focused objective: to plant eight million trees in the Sahara to fight desertification, as large-scale plantation of trees will increase the land’s productivity and regenerate the soil. Set up as an online community, members can buy their own tree and become the guardian of a tree that Tree-Nation will plant in its park in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world. Every tree is grown from seed and, before being planted, spends a minimum of three months in Tree-Nation’s nursery. Members can play an active role in the development of the project online: contributing suggestions, sharing photos and gathering ideas in the Tree-Blog or creating their own projects. Prices range from USD 10 for an acacia to USD 75 for a baobab tree. So far, over 25,000 members have raised money to plant almost 12,000 trees. The story doesn’t end here though: the end goal is a park of eight million trees in the shape of… a giant heart, visible from space. From a ‘giving’ STATUS STORY angle, it hardly gets better than this.

  • Dole Organic lets consumers “travel to the origin of each organic product”. By typing in a fruit sticker’s three-digit Farm Code on Dole Organic’s website, customers can find the story behind their banana. Each farm’s section on the website includes background info, shows photos of the crops and workers, and tells consumers more about the origin of Dole’s organic products.

  • Crop to Cup buys directly from African coffee farmers and represents them in consumer markets. Through Crop to Cup’s website, consumers can trace their coffee back to the farmers who produced it and interact with them (along with roasters and other drinkers) through message boards, forums, ratings and reviews. The result is that drinkers of Uganda Bugisu AA coffee, for example, can read profiles of the farmers who produced the beans, including Bernard Walimbwa’s 17-member family, which manages roughly 30,000 coffee trees in the Bugisu Region of Uganda. Crop to Cup’s site is still rough around the edges, but its approach is a promising one, from both an ethical and a marketing perspective.

  • Footwear manufacturer Timberland now places a “nutritional label” on each shoebox, educating consumers about the product they are purchasing, including where it was manufactured, how it was produced and what effect it has on the environment. Nice touch: messaging inside the box asks customers “what kind of footprint will you leave?” and provides a call to action for them after purchase. Hey, it takes two to tango!

Story labels Next? Add even more info (of the multimedia kind) to these various ‘story prepping labels’ by adding any kind of interactive code to products. Keep a close eye on (or better yet, experiment with) SMS codes, QR codes, RFID, UPCODES and so on, especially as more and more phones will come with code reading software installed. In fact, expect infinite STATUS STORY prepping (including images, videos, micro-sites) to be ‘attached’ to products in the years to come. A few examples:

  • ColorZip lets phone owners access large amounts of data from anywhere. Much like the old black-and-white barcode, users can point their phones at the multi-colored square, and view an enormous spectrum of information. Advertisers can use the code to insert a movie trailer on a 2D movie poster, place a full menu on a delivery van, or provide the latest sports news on the back of a sweater or t-shirt. Or add STATUS STORIES prepping of course.

  • Dutch fashion brand Wickd calls itself ‘tech fashion.’ Wickd combines clothing and 2D barcodes technology to allow wearers of Wickd shirts, longsleeves or jackets to take their favorite websites with them. Every Wickd product has an unique Shotcode logo printed on it, which the wearer can link to his or her website. Using a cellphone camera, people can take a picture of the logo and the phone browser will open the related website. This can be a Wickd-hosted website, a user’s MySpace page, their blog, Flickr account, etc. Besides targeting consumers, Wickd also sells shirts to companies for events. Prices range from EUR 29.75 to EUR 40.

More on this online/offline interaction in our INFOLUST briefing.

More participating, more doingAnd on and on it goes. The following examples deal with participation, creation and MAKE-IT-YOURSELF, rather than one-way consumption, meaning yet another 1001 ways for brands to actively involve consumers (if not co-create), including the unavoidable bragging rights and STATUS STORIES:

  • We’ve featured music industry innovators SellaBand before: fans sponsor unknown bands and artists by buying one of the band’s shares, or parts. Once a band has raised USD 50,000 by selling 5,000 parts, SellaBand sets up a professional recording session. The recorded songs are sold to new fans, and both the artists and owners of their parts (Believers) receive a share of the income generated through music sales and advertising revenues. Recently, believers who own parts in Cubworld, Nemesea, Second Person and Maitreya received their first modest payout (in SellaBand’s words: “enough to buy a beer at the pub, or maybe even a round or two”). More interesting than the financial gain is of course the accompanying STATUS STORY.

  • StyleShake lets creative customers design their own duds, picking from a selection of quality fabrics and putting together dresses from virtual pattern pieces to create truly personal pieces that can be delivered to their doors (in the UK, western Europe, North America or Australia) in as little as 10 days, with prices starting at GBP 99 (USD 197). What’s more, the garments are produced in London, so customers needn’t worry about the use of sweatshop labor. Also check out freddy&ma, which lets customers design their own handbag for between USD 200-400.

  • Oh, and then we haven’t even looked at STATUS STORIES originating in the online world, from one’s digital status (check out British Qdos) to one’s gamerscore(G), a measure that corresponds to the number of Achievement points accumulated by an Xbox Live user.

life caching and casting

If telling and sharing the story is the (status) experience, then our LIFE CACHING trend falls neatly into place, too. We first spoke of life caching a few years ago, at that time pointing out people’s need to collect and store memories:

“July 2004 | LIFE CACHING: collecting, storing and displaying one’s entire life, for private use, or for friends, family, even the entire world to peruse. The life caching trend owes much to bloggers: ever since writing and publishing one’s diary became as easy as typing in http://www.blogger.com, millions of people have taken to digitally indexing their thoughts, rants and God knows what else; all online, disclosing the virtual caches of their daily lives, exciting or boring.

Now, as we’ve often argued, trends are a manifestation of new enablers unlocking existing human needs. For life caching, the enduring need is collecting. Human beings (fueled by a need for self-worth, validation, control, vanity, even immortality) love to collect and store possessions, memories, experiences, in order to create personal histories, mementos of their lives, or just to keep track for practical reasons. And in an economy in which many consumers favor the intangible over the tangible, collecting, storing, displaying and sharing experiences is exciting, and even necessary.”

With status stories becoming more important, some life caching services take on a new role: helping to recall and illustrate the stories that consumers want to share to entertain and impress others. So a nything you can do to help your customers ‘cache and cast’, i.e. keep track, store, show and share the experiences you’ve supplied them with, may meet with a warm welcome. You don’t have to do this all by yourself. There are dozens of life caching/casting platforms to partner with these days, from Dandelife to Justin.tv to MyBabyOurBaby to Ustream.TV to Apple’s Time Machine to Pickl… And yes, this list includes Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket and YouTube, too. Expect (especially younger) consumers to become comfortable with storing and sharing everything they do, create and experience, reaping some status dividends in the process. Which should provide you with plenty of innovative ideas on how to assist them.



Now, however you choose to apply STATUS STORIES, do make sure your customers don’t bore others to death!

Plenty of opportunity to be had here, but first (and one more time) let’s look at what STATUS STORIES are not:

  • This is not about brands telling their story to the masses, but helping individuals to tell stories.
  • This is not about buzz or word of mouth. We’re talking about consumers first and foremost telling stories about their experiences or purchases in order to get a status boost, not consumers recommending or badmouthing a brand. Word of mouth as a side effect will of course occur, but cannot be the primary goal when assisting or prepping customers with stories.
  • STATUS STORIES will not replace STATUS SYMBOLS, but they will become increasingly important, and may compete with some of the more tired, mass status symbols.
  • STATUS STORIES are not barred from becoming mass status symbols. Successful niche brands can of course still become big and well-known, eventually losing the need for STATUS STORIES and moving into more traditional branding spheres. From innocent drinks to Crocs.

With that out of the way, a very simple way to get started with STATUS STORIES—if you haven’t done so already—is to come up with at least one existing and one new product/service that incorporates a conversation starter, or some kind of story prepping, or an element of life caching/casting. Or all three. For some quick inspiration, study the examples in this briefing, or ask colleagues and friends about their personal STATUS STORIES (obscure holiday destinations! extreme hobbies! surprise concerts! language classes! new restaurants! new books! dating conquests! 3 day workweeks!) to get creative juices flowing.

In fact, if you’re really serious about this—why not come up with a nice matrix (conversation starters, prepping and caching/casting to the left, and uniqueness, visibility and alternative sources to the right)—and dream up an innovation for each combination? If you do, be sure to tell us ;-

2008 Trends February 6, 2008

Posted by Keith in Uncategorized.
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This is a must read: http://www.trendwatching.com/trends/8trends2008.htm

Good Marketers Understand What Makes the World Tick December 21, 2007

Posted by Celso in Advertising, Books.
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An excerpt from Joshua Ferris’ novelThen We Came to the End” about a troubled group of co-workers employed at a once prominent advertising agency, now facing the economic struggles of the dot-com era. I have yet to see a better written account of the essence of being a marketer.

But it wasn’t just our jobs at stake, was it? When we had trouble nailing an ad, our reputations were on the line. A good deal of our self-esteem was predicated on the belief that we were good marketers, that we understood what made the world tick – that in fact, we told the world how to tick. We got it, we got it better than others, we got it so well we could teach it to them. Using a wide variety of media, we could demonstrate for our fellow Americans their anxieties, desires, insufficiencies, and frustrations – and how to assuage them all. We informed you in six seconds that you needed something you didn’t know you lacked. We made you want anything that anyone willing to pay us wanted you to want. We were hired guns of the human soul. We pulled the strings on the people across the land and by god they got to their feet and they danced for us.

This is an amazing book about the daily grind of office co-existence which, is at times nurtured by our desire to belong to an established institution, a human tendency eloquently condemned by Ralph Emerson’s writing and central to Ferris’ novel.

Green PR or True Concern ? November 1, 2007

Posted by Celso in Environment, PR.
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With the average consumer’s environmental worries growing, where is the fine line between corporate PR and a genuine environmental concern drawn?


Originally posted at celso/oliveira.org

Soon after Dell’s decision to abandon its exclusive online sales model, a handful of business agreements involving retailers were sketched up in order to turn declining sales around at the company that revolutionized the PC industry. The latest of such partnerships involved office supply behemoth Staples, an agreement likely impulsed by an impressive growth in profitability over the last few years. During the same press release announcing the deal, Dell announced that the paper-centered company had just committed to joining two green initiatives: one, a computer recycling effort and the “Plant a Tree for Me” project, both started by Dell Earth.

Corporate sustainability departments and officers are becoming very common these days. Dell is just one example among thousands of companies which are now dedicating human and financial resources towards efforts seeking to minimize the negative effects that CO2 emissions caused on the environment by them. As a matter of fact, it is rare nowadays to find companies under high public scrutiny and visibility that do not publicly display its good deeds on the company’s website, the blogosphere and even on their annual reports.

Consumer Perceptions Change

Consumers are also beginning to take environmental efforts in consideration when choosing a product or service. The public eye has recently become wide opened to the issue of climate change, heightened every single day by wacky weather phenomena and natural disasters. Individuals, inspired by Hollywood types, are increasingly buying hybrid Toyotas and credits to offset their carbon footprints. And let’s not mention that negative sentiment for “dirty” companies is growing at the same rate. As a result, the percentage of consumers influenced by companies’ environmental practices is significant enough to justify any extra costs or increase in prices imposed by companies using less efficient but cleaner energy resources. And because of such changes in consumer perception, companies have significantly increased the publicity efforts surrounding their own environmental initiatives. Has anyone not seen GE’s Ecomagination campaign ?

As Nobel Peace, Oscar and Emmy winner Al Gore would say, the truth about society’s damage to the environment and the expected response from profit seeking entities is nothing short of inconvenient. Yet, most companies still evaluate environmental efforts the same way they evaluate any capital expenditure. This evaluation method causes a natural disincentive for companies to inconveniently act in favor of our planet. Recently, one of the great advocates of corporate environmental responsibility, Aspen’s Skiing Co. corporate sustainability advocate Auden Schendler, explicitly criticized the carbon-credit buying practices of Corporate America, citing questionable results, false advertising claims and a worrisome lack of incentive the extra revenue from CO2 offsetting funds gives carbon-credit issuing companies to build sustainable sources of clean energy. Yet, more companies brag about the result of such practice while still showing tremendous unwillingness to compromise their output in order to get in-house projects approved and going.

So where does the PR game stop and true care for the planet start? Or is this “line” more of a spectrum, with many doing things with both objectives in mind? In other words, is what’s being done by companies today better than nothing? An MBA colleague of mine, founder of Pepperdine’s University’s Value Centered Leadership Lab and huge advocate of corporate social and environmental responsibility believes so. Still, the recent developments involving this hot button issue remind me of the low-carb fad that swept the nation a few years back. The danger of such issues that suddenly gain mass appeal lies on the response of those who aren’t savvy enough to distinguish between a good deed and a golden opportunity to catch the ADD-infested attention span of today’s consumer.

Halo 3 October 4, 2007

Posted by Keith in Advertising, Technology.
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Marketing: Halo 3 Television Commercials and the Long Tail

With Halo 3, the flagship title for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming console, finally released, I would like to consider its success. As my colleague’s article about the marketing of the product illustrates, Microsoft invested a lot of time and money on various strategies, including partnerships with Burger King, Pontiac, and Mountain Dew for the latest game in the franchise. What shouldn’t be overlooked are the Halo 3 television commercials.

I think they are very good. The commercials were created with an intriguing conceit–they are clips from a documentary made in the future earth of the Halo universe. An off-screen interviewer coaxes veterans of the war to talk about the battles they were in and their thoughts on Master Chief, the superhuman warrior the player controls in the game.

The commercials are effective for multiple reasons: It gives the viewer a sense of the epic scale of this game. It immerses the audience in the world of Halo. It gets them revved up to play the superhuman master chief. And lastly, as any great piece of marketing for a story-based product, it leaves you wanting to know more about what happens.

There are criticisms for these TV spots: they are probably to slow and ponderous for many. And the lack of actual gameplay footage could be considered strange, and perhaps fatal. But I think they were made to appeal to those who played Halo before or heard about the game from their friends — I have already been asked by others who haven’t played the game if the story was good.

This is long tail marketing appealing to those who are already invested in the series. I would imagine in November, as the holiday shopping season begins, Microsoft would air commercials that would appeal to the mainstream and feature gameplay. In the mean time you can see two veterans reminisce over a great war.

Exerpt from Fast Company

Has the Future of Advertising Changed At All? August 8, 2007

Posted by Celso in Advertising, Technology.
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This post has been originally posted in my website, here.

The media and advertising enthusiast who on a daily basis follows the latest trends involving the subject is constantly asking how the media landscape will shape itself in the light of new media platforms, players and tightened ad budgets. Television will soon become an obsolete medium. Google is positioning itself to take over the advertising game, buying and selling TV, radio and online advertisement and eventually will eliminate the need for advertising agencies. And those infamously expensive 30-second spots aired during the Super Bowl will finally lose their incredibly hyped glare. For now these statements will remain as prophecies. What’s next in advertising has not changed at all as the recently revealed digital advertising strategy of the Publicis Group can attest. Publicis, as some may recall, recently made news for acquiring the Boston-based advertising agency Digitas in order to drive its digital efforts. According to this strategy, the recent future of advertising can be summarized in a few overused words that have adorned business publications for more than a decade: globalization, offshoring, digitization and convergence. Ultimately, Publicis goal is to achieve a one-to-one relationship with the consumer, which has been the dream of advertisers for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps this motionless perception is a bit too cynic on my part. Perhaps this strategy is instead the first seen tangible plan of action for achieving the results associated with all of these overused words. This is a plan involving the use of cheaper offshore labor to develop tailored product and service offers to consumers here and abroad, based on each person’s individual needs, tastes and peculiarities. It capitalizes on the two-way relationship between people and media (as opposed to TV’s one way communication model) which allows for the collection and analysis of behavioral data that will eventually result in a customized offer that the consumer will watch on any screen looked at during the average 17 daily hours humans spend awake. It can be the beginning of finally making what has been next become present. Publicis’ strategy sure plays along much like a Thomas Friedman narrative but successfully implementing it can become a Herculean task (just as some of the suggestions Friedman makes in his books) that will surely change the way consumers and brands interact.

While we wait to see the results of Publicis change of course, the questions surrounding search and online advertising companies still remain. David Kenny, CEO of Digitas and the man behind the new strategy, disagrees that any of the search giants can become both a medium provider and an ad agency representing the best interests of clients. For him, a strategic decision will have to be made between these two very distinct business propositions. And this is why, perhaps in a biased way, Mr. Kenny believes that ad agencies will continue to exist, linking consumer brands to content providers, even if search companies are the ones controlling all media. Once again, the advertising world finds itself entrapped in yet another prediction of what’s in store for the always-evolving media landscape.

What’s the Value of an Engaged Viewer? July 10, 2007

Posted by Keith in Advertising.
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What’s the Value of an Engaged Viewer?

OMD Claims to Know How Rapt Audiences Stack up Against Your Average Eyeballs

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) — One engaged viewer is worth eight regular viewers, according to a new study.
New research from Omnicom Group’s OMD may move the seemingly fuzzy concept of engagement beyond the realm of academic debate by proving it really does move sales. The study could bolster advertising by better reflecting its contributions to sales growth, and the fledgling science of engagement measurement, which now has some tangible evidence of its worth.

Completed by OMD and presented to an Advertising Research Federation forum late last month, the research indicates that not only does consumer engagement with media and advertising drive sales, but it also can drive sales more than media spending levels. That suggests even a relatively small media outlay could work wonders should the ads draw keen attention from consumers within media they also find engaging, said Mike Hess, director of global research and consumer insights for OMD.

Brand Identity
Source: OMD

Further research necessary
The research, conducted by Sandra Eubanks, U.S. director of research for OMD, and Huw Griffiths, U.S. director of metrics and brand science, covered only three financial-services brands. They and Mr. Hess cautioned that broader research is needed to prove the link between engagement and sales or to determine how much media weight, media engagement and advertising engagement each affect sales generally.

But for the brands studied, which weren’t disclosed, figuring engagement into the picture increased measurable advertising return on investment 15% to 20% over models that only factor in Nielsen Media Research’s gross ratings points.

OMD used its proprietary engagement measure, an index that factors in such things as how often people say they watch a show, to measure media engagement. The agency used copy-test results measuring primarily how much people like ads to measure advertising engagement.

They mashed those numbers with the one discipline that’s been a hotter research commodity than engagement tracking — marketing-mix modeling — to analyze how much engagement with programming and with ads themselves drive sales.

The results appear to validate the usefulness of OMD’s media-engagement measure, not exactly a disinterested finding, Mr. Hess conceded. But the study also found that ad engagement — using copy-test measures in which OMD has no stake — had an even bigger impact than the media engagement.

The research appears to validate what copy-testers have been saying all along — that its copy-test measures really can predict ROI from an ad, Mr. Hess said.

For the three brands tested, consumer engagement with media had three times the impact on sales media weight (GRPs) alone did, and that consumer engagement with the ads had an eight-times larger impact on sales than GRPs. One result was to make the marketing-mix model more accurate, Ms. Eubanks and Mr. Griffiths wrote in their report.

Engagement creates sales
The results “clearly confirm the basic premise that media engagement drives sales,” the OMD team wrote. “Marketers have often felt that mix models understate the true impact of ROI and advertising. The addition of engagement metrics would help to minimize this effect. … Increased ROI [shown by adding engagement to the mix] could drive higher levels of investment in advertising vs. other marketing activities.”

But Gregg Ambach, VP-analytics services of ImmediateFX, a marketing analytics firm, cautioned that engagement can’t be separated from media weight, “because you can’t have one without the other.”

Marketing in the era of accountability June 19, 2007

Posted by Keith in Business, Opinion.
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Everything you know is wrong
by David Tiltman Marketing 12-Jun-07, 08:30
LONDON – So you thought TV was dead. You believed marketing was all about ROI. Well, think again. A study out this week from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising explodes some of marketing’s myths.
The report, entitled ‘Marketing in the era of accountability’, is based on the IPA’s database of effectiveness awards case studies, and identifies common misunderstandings throughout the marketing process. Below are an exclusive summary of five of the key findings.
You’re measuring the wrong things
Brand awareness, brand image, consumer attitudes – these are some of the metrics that have become a marketer’s stock in trade. But as proof of effectiveness they are fundamentally unreliable. The IPA’s report, which analyses effectiveness case studies from the past 25 years, concludes that marketers pay too much attention to these factors and too little on measures that directly affect the business, such as market share.
Though fewer than 20% of marketers evaluate the effect of their communications on profits, the study concludes that campaigns that set hard objectives, such as ‘improve profits’, are more effective than those that focus on intermediate goals. Marketers rely too heavily on intermediate metrics as they are easy to measure and move more dramatically in the short term.
The study draws a distinction between effectiveness (doing the right thing) and accountability (being seen to do the right thing). Authors Les Binet, European director at DDB Matrix, and consultant Peter Field argue that, with accountability high on the corporate agenda, marketers are opting for measures that prove to the board that something is happening. ‘It is not just a question of marketers measuring the wrong thing,’ says Field. ‘They are being pushed to do it by this move to accountability.’
Another common failing is holding up a single metric as proof of success. Instead, a suite of measures should be used to judge effectiveness.

Best practice
•    Draw up detailed goals based on hard measures.
•    For commercial campaigns, profit should usually be the ultimate objective.
•    Intermediate measures are only useful as leading indicators of a campaign’s performance.

Forget the rational, work on the emotions
The research found that, overwhelmingly, the most effective campaigns are those that focus on emotional, rather than rational, appeal. Naturally, this is the case in categories such as luxury goods, but even in more rational categories, emotion works best – Cravendale Milk is one brand that switched from rational to emotional ads and saw an improvement in performance.
These findings are not new, but marketers have been slow to turn theory into practice. ‘A number of people have believed this for a long time, but the marketing community institutionally has failed to accept it,’ says Binet. Again, a big reason is that it is more difficult to demonstrate responses to emotional appeals.
Emotions work best when the economy is on the up. In less prosperous times, price becomes more important, so in these cases marketers should consider mixing emotive brand messages with price communications.
Marketers should not discount direct-response work based on rational appeal. These are effective for short-term sales effects, and are suitable when targeting people who have already made up their minds to buy. But it is worth using emotions to ‘warm up’ consumers before they start actively shopping.
The most effective campaigns are those that build brand fame and get people talking about it. The recent Marks & Spencer ads are a good example.

Best practice
•    Emotions should be at the heart of a campaign, not bolted on to rational persuasion.
•    The objective should be making a brand famous. This can lead to major gains in profits.
•    Use direct-response appeals for short-term goals and to target active shoppers.

Television is still alive and kicking
If some commentators in the marketing industry are to be believed, TV is on its death bed. But, in fact, the IPA study reveals that it remains the most effective medium. TV, which builds emotion better than any other medium, has been the driving force of many of the best campaigns in the IPA’s archives, even those with small budgets. For brands looking to build fame, TV remains essential.
If anything, TV is becoming more important than ever. The average rise in market share accounted for by campaigns where TV is the lead medium has increased over the past 20 years. And with greater choice of TV channels allowing more effective targeting, the cost of reaching a given audience via TV has declined. The authors estimate that TV is now 42% more effective than it was in the 80s.
That said, there is still more to advertising than TV. The evidence shows that multimedia campaigns are more effective than single-medium activity, though they are harder to evaluate. Yet marketers can spread their media budget too thin – campaigns with three media tend to work best, and ads should be supplemented with non-advertising channels.

Best practice
•    Spread advertising across more than one medium, as these campaigns work better than single-medium activity. But don’t use more than three or four media.
•    TV should not be neglected. Media such as outdoor are best used as secondary channels.
•    If long-term brand effects are an objective, judge media opportunities on their power to engage emotionally with consumers.

You can’t build customer loyalty
Two common goals of marketing campaigns are to increase penetration of a brand and to build the loyalty of customers. Of the two, campaigns that focus on penetration are more effective, even though loyalty campaigns are more than twice as common.
Loyalty campaigns underperform on nearly every metric; only 9% actually increase loyalty significantly, not much higher than non-loyalty campaigns. Penetration is a far more fertile marketing objective. This holds true across all categories – even in markets where reducing churn is imperative.
Some marketing that attempts to build loyalty delivers significant profits. But the IPA’s report argues that when such campaigns deliver, they do so more by recruiting new customers than by reducing churn or increasing revenue from existing ones.
Demonstrating that you treat customers well can work as a recruitment tool. Binet points to an O2 campaign that talked up the benefits it provided for existing customers. According to his analysis, it was more effective in boosting penetration (since the campaign was viewed by non-O2 customers) than improving loyalty among existing ones. These results fly in the face of much of the CRM movement. ‘We’re not saying loyalty isn’t important,’ he says. ‘But it’s not how you build a brand. Nobody really wants to believe it.’
Best practice
•    Don’t assume that your marketing activity can significantly improve loyalty.
•    Use penetration, not loyalty, to measure performance, unless greater penetration is impossible.
•    Aim to change, rather than reinforce, behaviour. The reinforcement strategy is much less effective.

ROI is not your ultimate goal
In theory, the term ‘return on investment’ is simple – it is the ratio of profits derived from marketing to marketing expenditure. As a concept it makes marketing seem accountable. However, the research shows that ROI is poorly understood in the marketing world.
Interpretation of ROI can be very loose – many assume that all sales growth is due to communication, and that all direct sales are purely the result of direct-response communications (when in fact they may have happened anyway).
Payback should ultimately be about profit, but many confuse added profit with added revenue – roughly two-thirds of case studies make this mistake.
Another misconception is that maximising ROI is a goal in itself. As ROI is a ratio, often the easiest way to improve the figure is simply to cut expenditure, yet that would damage the brand. Instead, marketers should be focusing on goals that are defined in absolute terms, such as generating certain amounts of profit.
Measures of ROI also tend to focus on short-term changes, yet brand-building tends to require long-term investment. Calculating long-term payback is far more difficult, and different measures are required.
In fact, long-term effects of investment are often underestimated. For brands in mature markets, marketing can be about defending sales, rather than increasing them. The payback can be calculated only by working out the impact of a cut in marketing.

Best practice
•    Don’t make an ROI ratio a goal in itself.
•    Be clear about what is revenue and what is profit, and ensure the correct profit margin is used.
•    Take account of both long- and short-term effects.

Monetizing Podcasts and Videoblogs June 13, 2007

Posted by Michael in Business, Technology, Viral Marketing.
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StreamingMedia.com has an excellent and informative article on turning podcasts and videoblogs into a successful business model:

Monetizing Podcasts and Videoblogs

It discusses how podcasts and videoblogs rarely become money-making businesses unto themselves, but are more likely co-opted as part of an overall strategy to act as lead-ins to other forms of media — really, they are the ultimate in targeted, niche marketing. As such, they are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. Understanding that has big ramifications for marketers.

The article’s conclusion states:

“A recent Washington Post article quoted David Sifry, CEO of Technorati: “Several hundred bloggers earn enough to make it their full-time job . . . about ten thousand bloggers are earning money as a secondary source of income, and about a million others, such as authors and speakers, use their blogs as marketing tools to generate income indirectly.”

Well, there you have it. A few hundred bloggers (some podcasters and videobloggers no doubt included) have quit their day jobs. A few thousand are pulling in extra cash. But the other million are still using their blog as just one part of their overall strategy.

Podcasts and videoblogs are fundamentally blogs, and obey the same physics, including monetization strategies. In the end they are just another way to deliver content—but they are uniquely suited for “narrowcasting” messages. And in this narrowcast, podcasts and videoblogs can deliver ad messages deeper into the audience. But any business built around podcasts and videoblogs has to start with the fundamentals: Compelling content that can be exchanged with an audience for their attention.”