5 things meme

I’ve been tagged by Eden (who has a most excellent shopping blog) with the “5 things you didn’t know about me” meme…

So here goes:

  1. I hate winter. Passionately. I get cold really easily – probably due to the 10 years I spent in LaLa Land.
  2. My musical tastes range from G’nR to Mozart to Dr. Dre.
  3. I am obsessed with Civilization IV
  4. I was in a band in LA when I was 21 for 3 short weeks. We recorded 4 demo songs, played 2 gigs, and shot a video with an indie director for his reel. I didn’t want to be a rock star so we didn’t do anything with it.
  5. I used to be 5′9 1/2″ before two car accidents in 6 months back in the early 90’s (neither my fault). Now I hover around 5′8″-ish.

I’m tagging – Doug, Lisa, Maggie, Dave, and Sean

[photo credit: LeoL30 on Flickr]

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What PR can learn from Interactive agencies

The last week has been all a buzz with the release of the first Social Media Press Release in Canada (according to Ed Lee) by Weblo & High Road Communications, and with the announcement of the new Edelman CMS for social media news releases.

I think SNR is a great idea. I applaud it… I’m glad communicators are taking the lead in engaging their audience. But… (and it’s a big one) PR agencies venturing into web development and Interactive marketing would do well to learn the lessons Interactive Ad agencies did over the last 10 years. I recognize it’s a new field, this social media stuff, and we’re each trying to find our way, but the nature and shape of the programming behind the web hasn’t changed.

The biggest issue with both releases is fundamental – they don’t follow Internet standards.

Neither follow W3C guidelines. Not only is this bad form for a website, it also defeats a part of the very purpose the release was developed for: to communicate broadly across all channels. By not coding the sites properly, both stand a huge chance of not being indexed correctly by the search engines. How does that help the client?

If PR is going to continue leading the charge in the social media/ interactive space, I suggest getting serious about the tech – in all its forms.

[photo credit: Simon Pow on Flickr]

[h/t - Strumpette & Ed Lee]

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Look honey, it’s Web 1.0!

I used to be a prolific online shopper when I lived in the States. I was one of bluefly’s first customers and used to get a big box at the office at least twice a month. When I moved back to T-dot in late 2001 I found out that Canada wasn’t really hip to the whole e-com thing. Clothes online? Not on your life unless you tried REALLY hard to find a store on one of the portals shopping sections. No thanks, I’ll just go to the store, or pick something up on a weekend trip to NYC if my tastes are running past the standard fare… or get charged a ridiculous amount of customs duty ordering online from the US.

So, that being said, this fall I decided to venture back into the retail e-com world of Canadian shopping. I needed to get a new desk set for home, and a couple of bookcases. Truth be told I was forced to venture back online when my significant other threw out his back helping me move the mahogany corner piece I bought at a great little store in Kensington Market. I was quite happy to find that the landscape had changed and now many well known brands were offering online ordering. I clicked and shopped on my merry way to everything I needed and was happy with the process.

Until…

One store sent me an email saying the desk set was out of stock for 6 weeks and they’d ship it out once it came in. Could they not have told me this when I was ordering the stuff?? It should be up to me to decide if I want to wait that long without having to go through the hassle of cancelling my already processed order. We know the technology exists, Amazon’s been using it for years.

It gets better… six weeks pass by and no word from the store. I call the number on my receipt. I get a full voicemail box. So I go to the website and find a different number. I call that. The woman tells me the items have been in stock for a week and that I should call their billing office and ask them to release them and charge my card. I ask if she can do this and the answer is no. I call the number… I’m asked what region I placed the order in and they go pull out their paper file. All so the order I placed online can be shipped to me. Unbelievable. They’ve lost my business for life.

Now that concludes the saga about my desk set. On to the bookcases. The order goes through without a hitch. The product arrives. One of the two is damaged so I call to get it replaced. And that’s where the fun begins. I’m told I have to return it to a store. I reply that I cannot do such a thing, as I don’t own a car, nor do I have someone available to return it for me. I remind her I placed the order online so I didn’t have to go into a store. The rep then says she’ll call someone and they’ll call me to schedule a pick up. I ask if the replacement product will be shipped out at the same time. I’m informed I need to go online and place another order for a new one as their system can’t handle that type of basic function.

Needless to say I waited over a week and didn’t receive a phone call from whomever is supposed to be picking up my damaged bookcase.

Thinking about my experience with these two major Canadian brands online brought something into stark relief… as long as we aren’t getting the basic principles of Web 1.0 right, consumers aren’t going to embrace Web 2.0 bells and whistles. Everything from actually integrating ordering systems, to not violating PIPEDA when sending an email, to making the site search friendly, and the user experience robust. All the basics that form the foundation of how consumers perceive and experience the brand online. No amount of blogger outreach or MySpace profiles will hide fundamental flaws in the product. And make no mistake, your website is part of your product & service offering. Reinforcing the importance of a good experience on a company site:

Visitors to [corporate and brand] websites have a much higher propensity to recommend products,” said Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer of Nielsen Buzzmetrics, whose research shows more than 40% of people who give a brand e-mail feedback are likely to recommend it to others.

This mock exchange in response to the recent BofA YouTube disaster provides another take on what customers might care about:

“Sirs, we are being mocked because we live in an ivory tower in which we think consumers care about our ‘Higher Standards’ catchline. My guess is they’d probably rather we killed that crap and instead promised to stop charging them $2 to get their own money out of an ATM.”

[photo credit: mdamli on Flickr]

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And now for a little perspective…

I have a big problem with sloppy generalizations. Each time I come across one I get ticked off. Unfortunately once I get into that headspace it’s difficult to remember what the persons main point was.

Which leads me to this article by Martin Lindstrom, a man I respect and who’s book, Clicks, Bricks, and Brands, was one of my gospels when I was working in L.A. at the end of the Internet boom. Martin currently is evangelizing for social media and it’s impact on brands as far as I can tell. Truth be told, I was enjoying the article until I got to the second to last paragraph which claimed a whopper of a generalization, and poof! I can’t recall his salient points from the rest of the piece. I suspect I’m not alone in this phenom, it reminds me of how quickly consumers attention spans are lost when they hear or see something false in our new social networked world.

So what was it that caused me to become so discombobulated?

Most consumers see the Fortune 1000 brands as boring, slow, and old-fashioned.

Really? Crazy. You mean brands like:

  • Home Depot
  • Verizon
  • Dell
  • Target
  • Time Warner
  • UPS
  • Microsoft
  • Intel

And those were in the Fortune 50. Move into the Fortune 100 and you get to add in brands such as:

  • Motorola
  • PepsiCo
  • FedEx
  • BestBuy
  • Coca-Cola

Now granted consumers may see these brands as slow, but that’s not really such a bad thing. They’ve been around for a while. It takes time to make things. People know that, they aren’t stupid. While they may not want to wait an hour for a download, they don’t mind waiting 2 years for the new X-Box 360. Ya know, they want the companies to get the product right before they sell it to them (okay, MSFT software not included).

Personally, if I were the CEO of #159 or #163 on the Fortune list and Mr. Lindstrom used that line on me, I’d laugh in his face.

Claiming that ‘most consumers think X’, is the same as saying ‘most MySpace users think…’ Umm, isn’t that completely contrary to engaging in a conversation with the customer and finding out what s/he think as individuals? This actually runs contrary to his wrap-up:

The brand manual can’t do the work any more. One-way communication can’t do it either. TV commercials are about to die. Print and radio are suffering immensely. The only steadily growing brand-building media is interactive. Two-way, multiway, reactive, responsive, receptive, and active communication is the future for brand communications. The consumer is ready to talk. Are you?

Well, yes, but not if you think you have all the answers already and know what I think.

And can we please stop saying TV commercials are about to die, or are dead. They aren’t. If anything, much to my chagrin, they’re becoming part of the fabric of the internet AND people are still watching them on TV. Hell, consumers are clamoring to make commercials for brands to air on TV (see: The Super Bowl). I’d also like a cease and desist put on claims that radio is dead (I think Clear Channel may beg to differ), print is dead, etc. The only thing dead in there are the trees.

Even Joseph Jaffe can’t shake the shackles of a TV mentality with his new title at crayonChief Interrupter. Humans evolve much slower than technology does.

It’s a big world out there and not everyone is hooked up, LinkedIn, texting, tagging, etc. People still go to stores because of the sales flyers that appear in their mailbox. They still recommend products that they discovered while in a mall to their friends when they’re sitting having coffee in real life. They still watch TV without cable, or god-forbid, a TIVO. Things are evolving and changing, yes, and in real-time, but trust isn’t built overnight or with one witty response to a blogger. So yes, your company needs to roll with it and allow the consumer to help drive, to have a sense of humour and a willingness to change, but you do still need to control the brand image and the direction of your messaging… and continue to make those products and deal with suppliers to get the item into the consumers hands. So if they take a day to answer a blogger and they’ve vetted it through their brand champion, I think I can deal.

What I can’t deal with is throwing around generalizations and acting like Chicken Little when trying to convince me I need to join the conversation.

[photo credit: fernando_graphicos on Flickr]

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