poelog: Commentary, thoughts and opinions on the web, ebusiness and marketing -- a web log by Rob Poel
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Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Saltire: Attention marketers: work smarter, not harder!. Amen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

A List Apart: Information vs. Experience For awhile now my vision has been pretty squarely on the Information, or structural, side of the debate. Structuralists see the web as a vehicle for information: the web is a tool to simplify the lives of over-stressed human beings. Presentationalists, on the other hand, believe that the web is for conveying experience—a medium for entertainment and artistic enrichment. As the article points out, there are very few extremists. I'm always on the lookout for the web development shops that can seamlessly blend the two visions. (via Saltire).

Monday, October 29, 2001

Chicago Tribune: Apple's best reason yet to pitch your Pentium - Time to start the debate again. Myself? I'm a Pentium user at work and an iMac user at home. (via Daypop).

Thursday, October 25, 2001

Busy. Busy. Busy. Will try to post again soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Once there was a weblog ... Interesting story about a man, a weblog, a job that was a lost, a new job that was found. Welcome to my weblog. I hope you enjoy it. I just got hired for it. (via Dave Winer).

Friday, October 19, 2001

Looks like the eToys Site is Back in Business. I always thought the eToys site was fairly well designed. From the looks of it, KB Holdings, who acquired eToy's assets last spring, has kept a majority of the site and brand intact. And at initial glance the prices seemed pretty low. In fact, I bought my 2 year old son a christmas gift: Elmo's Preschool 30th Anniversary CD-ROM. Surprisingly, Amazon didn't even care it and the Elmo CDs it did carry were $14.99 versus the $9.99 price at eToys.

Red Herring: Cell-centered PDAs - More on Handspring's latest device.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

ClickZ: Google May Get Personal - A recent purchase opens the door for Google to pursue a strategy that many have talked about before -- but never implemented successfully.

More Gonzo reviews - this one's from Tom Matrullo's IMproPRieTies blog: Frankenstein Reversed: Notes on Gonzo Marketing (via Doc).

Yet another development on the "how obtrusive can we make a banner ad" front. Three weeks ago I noticed a new, full-page intestitial ad format on Salon.com. This morning, as I'm browsing the financial news in my portfolio section at Yahoo! Finance I accidentally discovered a new expanding rollover ad in which a 105x60 pixel button balloons into a 120x240 pixel banner. What's frustrating is that I now have to be aware of where my mouse strays as there are four of these ads across the middle of the screen. Once again, the initial "novelty" of these ads will likely lead to temporarily higher click-through rates. Over time, though, the click-through rates will flatten and then resume their decline as users became more aware of this new ad format and begin to ignore it like they do all the other ad formats to-date.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

As I mentioned about a month ago, I recently started reading the 1997 business classic: Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. While reading this I've also read a number of recent reviews on Chris Locke's Gonzo Marketing. The two most recent being Steve MacLauglin's and Eric Norlin's. Eric made a point today that merged some key themes from both Built to last and Gonzo. In his ClickZ review, Eric wrote:

In the aftermath of September 11, while the marketing and advertising world struggles to find relevance, Locke has already addressed the issue (with usual prescience, I might add). Business' larger context is life. You know, love, trust, friendship, loyalty, heroism, passion, truth. You'll notice that life does not address brand loyalty, viral anything, or permission. That's right folks, this book dares to ask why any of that matters.

The companies that truly understand the place of business in the context of life are the ones that "get it." They're also the companies that consumers are fiercely loyal to. These are the companies that we care about and the companies that we trust. And we do it over and over again. We relate to companies that are real ... companies that have passion. And we can smell a fake. You can't fake enthusiasm. It has to be genuine or we sniff it out.

Whether he realizes it or not, Locke is aligning with THE key learning from Built to Last. In his book Collins argues that truly visionary companies have core values that transcend profits. In fact, Collins found that 17 of the 18 companies that they studied were guided more by their ideology and less by the desire to “maximize shareholder wealth.” And it's the adherance to these values that help companies transcend the competition.

This thesis can be best summarized by Merck, one of the 18 visionary companies that was studied. In 1950 George Merck II, head of the pharmaceutical giant, said:

 “We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.”

Merck's statement also reveals the irony of what Locke was trying to say as well: namely, it's seems to be those that are focused on keeping business in the right context of life that are also those that are the best marketers ... or the most profitable ... or the most successful. It's those companies that truly care about their "target" audience that are best able to reach them - in all economic environments. The companies that truly care about solving a problem or providing a solution are often the ones that are performing true one-to-one, personalized marketing. Why? They have a passion for the product or service their company provides and they want to share that passion with people like them ... their customers. In fact, they often live within the micromarket they're serving. They barely realize it when they're marketing ... instead they're evangelizing, helping, assisting, starting conversations, building relationships. And they do all this while keeping their eye focused on the bigger context of business: life, values, ideology ... the stuff that matters most.

Monday, October 15, 2001

HBS Working Knowledge: E-Commerce & the Marketspace: Rethinking E-Leadership - Old-school leadership practices are back in the spotlight, according to consultant Melissa Raffoni. The boisterous dot-com style has died down, she writes in this Harvard Management Update article, and now it's time to air out the tried and true.

I have handheld envy. Check out the new Handspring Treo. Phone, organizer, messaging and web, all integrated into one product at an introductory price of $399. Now I just need my Palm III (circa 1998) to mysteriously stop working come "early 2002."

Jackob's latest: End of Homemade Websites (Alertbox Oct. 2001) - As usual, Nielsen goes a bit far by calling for the END of homemade web sites but his point is well taken. Services such as maps, syndicated content, ecommerce functionality, and even content publishing (thank you Blogger), allow designers to focus more on the differentiating features of a site while leveraging tried and true, and mostly importantly to Nielsen - usable - site featuers. Widespread proliferation of web services is still a long way off but the movement is definitely gaining momentum.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Steve, Thanks for the 10-9 blogrolling mention. My referrer's log is evidence of the audience you've gained.

A collection of useful usability links:
Note: the first three are picked from the latest issue of the WDFM newsletter
  • Business 2.0 Web Guide: Web Usability
  • UsableWeb
  • ia/
  • Web Usability Research at Microsoft Corporation (via Peterme).

  • Peer-to-peer software firm, Groove, received a boost of financial (and strategic) support as Microsoft invests $51 million and announces a strategic partnership designed to further the advance of web and peer services (like .NET).

    Tuesday, October 09, 2001

    New blogging software available called MOVABLE TYPE - MT for short. The features list looks pretty impressive. A write the web review gives a little more info about the project. The interface work looks great. MT is put together by a husband and wife team. Quite a combo - one (Ben) handles the technical stuff, the other (Mena) handles the UI and design. To see a Blog powered by MT check out Mena's blog: Dollarshort.org.

    ClickZ: Differentiation: It's in the Detail - Yes, difference is in the detail. And this is how you need to think about your site. Forget about changing elements the consumer already accepts. This will only harm your brand. Concentrate on details that will add value to the consumer's visit to your site. I couldn't agree more. There's nothing wrong with having main navigation in a horizontal tab across the top of the screen and subnavigation in a vertical left-hand navigation bar. Ditto for the tried and true cookie crumb trail of links that give users the context and traditional path from the home page to a deeply embedded page within a site. Too many designers are always looking for the killer, new, never-before-used navigation. Those that implement something to that effect fail - almost without exception. There's a reason why many sites have similar navigation - it just plain works. And isn't that the goal of most web sites? To effectively aid their target audience in sucessfully completing the tasks they set to do when arriving at the web site? Don't mess with success.

    Marketing is not an art. It's a science. Taken from a Marketing Sherpa case study on How Oracle's Chief Marketing Officer Transformed Their Online Marketing That "Sucked, this quote succinctly sums up my view of marketing. It also explains why I occasionally clash with the "creative types" that seem more concerned with winning Addy awards than achieving results. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate strong creative. It just needs to be attached to a strong campaign that has, in most cases, measurable results. (casestudy link via SherpaBlog).

    Monday, October 08, 2001

    BusinessWeek: The New Netrepreneurs - Dot-com veterans are creating smarter startups for a chastened world. Oh the times they are a changing. I remember looking over the new economy start-up scene and having the same mindset as Ashfaq A. Munshi. Munshi needed to prove that he, too, could become fabulously wealthy practically overnight--he was just as smart as the billionaire next door. I, of course, didn't launch a dot-com startup but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I wish I had. There were many an hour spent day dreaming, waiting for that killer idea to hit. And although the instant dot-com IPO era is over, never to return, the carnage left in its aftermath does actually create an opportunity for those with solid, promising, and most of all, [potentially] profitable, business ideas.

    Thursday, October 04, 2001

    OK, I admit it. Tonight I watched Countdown to Africa and it's quite likely I'll tune in for every episode of Survivor3. There ... that feels better. I'm out of the closet.

    Things have been a bit crazy lately ... hence the decline in posts recently. This past Friday, at the wee hours of the morning, our project made a significant step forward with the signing of a software license agreement. After 10 months of positioning, negotiating, waiting, repositioning, waiting, renegotiating ... we finally are kicking this project off. If everything goes according to plan, in the next 12+ months we'll develop and launch an emarketplace to connect us with our global supplier network. Should be fun.

    As the marketing / communications person on the team, one of my first tasks is to come up with a new project name. Pre-project signing our project was internally referred to as "eprocurement." A project, however, shouldn't be named after a generic process (especially since the scope of our project is much more encompassing than procurement). To aid in a team brainstorming session that took place this afternoon I spent a good deal of time on Google researching name development guidelines. As usual, Google came hrough in the clutch and I found some great resources. My attempts to make the process too easy, however, resulted only in [somewhat comical and sometimes hillarious] aids for generating hobbit, fantasy, super heros or prison names.

    Wednesday, October 03, 2001

    The Moose publishes his weblog manifesto.

    To upgrade or not to upgrade? Sounds like it might be time to look into OS X.

    Tuesday, October 02, 2001

    This is hillarious.

    Always improving. Modified search interface at Google. Allows you to toggle from "web" results to "image" results to news group and directory results.

    Saltire Book Review on Gonzo Marketing - Good review on Chris Locke's latest, Gonzo Marketing: Winning through Worst Practices. Gonzo Marketing doesn’t tell companies they can’t market to customers. But instead that they need to radically rethink how they communicate. Much of this "how" is directed at marketing to micromarkets (collections of people, communities joined by shared interests). What I hope, and I have my doubts about, is that Locke provides concrete examples of "how." There are too many books on marketing theory and too little on marketing practice.

    The Fool: Price of Staying Put Good Advice: If you have a Nasdaq company in your portfolio that has lost more than 90% of its value and is not making any money, you should probably sell it. Just sell it and take the remainder of your investment and save it for better days, better circumstances, and better companies. Your chance of making back even a small part of your investment is minimal, because the companies that are not making money are likely to need more funding, which will come at a steep price, if at all. Echos to my last post about PayPal going public and then probably needing to raise further funds in the future. I just don't know if that model will fly anymore.

    E-Commerce News: PayPal To End Dot-Com IPO Drought - 18 months ago I would have been all over this IPO. Now I'm not sure I'd touch it with a ten foot pole. For the year 2000 it lost $169 million on $14 million in sales! At that burn rate the $80 million it hopes to raise through an IPO won't last very long before it needs to secure additional financing. In this market the phrase "additional financing" is not something that sends stocks flying upward.