Canadians Love Barack Obama

Usually when someone puts up a billboard declaring their love for someone, it’s followed by a marriage proposal. But some wacky Canadians (well 2 Canadian-American dual citizens and 1 poor chap without a vote in Nov) felt they had to publicly declare their love for Obama. Looks like it started with the whole almost NAFTA-gate and to promote their documentary – well they know how to get attention. They’re looking for funding.

Canadians Love Barack Obama

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Brands, Sub-brands, products, features

At NorthernVoice on Saturday, Matt Mullenweg gave the keynote and spoke a bit on the naming blandness that goes on in software companies. He said that you’d never see companies like Procter & Gamble name their products the way tech companies do…and well, sorry Matt, I disagree. One example he gave was Tide’s Simple Pleasures. According to Matt, if it was named by a tech company it would be called Procter & Gamble Purple Laundry Detergent. Tide Simple Pleasures is just a step above that, but is essentially doing the same thing that Matt doesn’t like.

Well, P&G has a bit more brand clout in Tide than most tech companies have in their products. Here’s one of the first Tide ads that I found on Flickr. It’s not called Procter & Gamble Tide, but they sure are coming close to saying that. They’re using the P&G brand to help consumers trust it.

I understand what Matt’s getting at…we do choose some pretty bland names. He mentioned Amazon MP3 store as one tech name that should have been called something else. But it’s a fairly new industry with brands that are fighting to be top-of-mind. And when they do have that brand recognition, they shouldn’t jeopardize a product launch by calling it something completely new without the parent brand name and URL. There are only a handful of tech brands out there that your average, non-Silicon Valley person knows. (Matt and NorthernVoice attendees are not your average person.)

And we have to be super careful to ask ourselves if we’re naming a product or a feature. The MP3 store – that’s a feature, not a new product. The product is Amazon. The new feature is a portion of the site that sells MP3s. It doesn’t deserve a new brand name. And they already sell CDs. Anything like Amazon Music or Amazon Tunes would just cause consumer confusion. (I would hope that they did some focus groups on this to back up the decision.) And it would cost a lot of money to get brand recognition for the non-Amazon name.

Procter & Gamble doesn’t just mean laundry detergent anymore. Maybe once Amazon’s been around as long as P&G (and have the soap money), they’ll find that they’re going into many verticals and need to diversify their branding.  But until then, they just need to conquer going from Amazon=online store to Amazon= personal store.

I think Automattic should be careful when naming their products, keeping a more holistic view of what they’re offering. Down the road you might have some brand architecture issues. And just because something has “press” in its name doesn’t mean that it came from Automattic, but other people may use it to catapult their product. This might cause you some issues down the road. You don’t have a trademark on “Press”. And we’ve seen other products using it already. bbPress might be better off being called WordPress BB.

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Branding change

The Obama camp has managed to brand their flavour of change. When I first saw their CHANGE signs, I had a basic gut reaction to it that I couldn’t explain. It made me think of pretty, sophisticated, smart … and that’s weird. Why did I think this? Well because they’re using a font that’s very similar to the CHANEL font (if not the same), it is in all caps, has the same first 4 letters, and only 1 letter is different between them. If you look through Chanel ads from the past 10 years, you’ll see a similar treatment of the “change” and it’s subhead with the Chanel name and it’s product names and taglines. 

My perception of Chanel is completely opposite of the Bush brand. The Bush brand perception is simple, dumb, and abrasive. Of course the Obama camp would want to look the complete opposite of the Bush brand. So since the Obama camp is essentially using a look of another brand that already has specific connotations for the American consumer, are they benefiting from that brand’s perception? And did the designer of the sign purposefully use a similar font to invoke the Chanel brand perception?

If someone asked me this question, I’d have said that they were over thinking it. But since Karl Rove, I’m a bit skeptical of any coincidences in campaigns. And it just bugs me.


Wal-Mart to Offer Generic Drugs for $4

So I’m reading my morning news and see that Wal-Mart is piloting a program in Florida where they’ll sell 291 generic prescription drugs for $4 for a 30-day supply. According to the article, those drugs typically cost $10-$30. But I love how their PR is spinning it as “we care for our customers” – they quote Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr.

Each day in our pharmacies we see customers struggle with the cost of prescription drugs. By cutting the cost of many generics to $4, we are helping to ensure that our customers and associates get the medicines they need at a price they can afford.

Yeah right, I’m sure that they really care about the health of their customers. They definitley have one of the worst health insurance coverages for their employees.
If this flies in Florida it will probably help increase Wal-Mart’s sales revenue. Think about it – If your average senior is paying $30 for a month one prescription, and they probably have about five that they’re on, then they’re paying about $150 a month or $1800 a year. But if they’re paying just $4 for that same prescription, it’s only $240 a year! So that frees up a lot of money to spend at Wal-Mart while you’re picking up your meds. And you’re probably buying products that have a higher mark-up translating into more money for the company.

Yes it’s good that grandma and grandpa won’t have to break the bank to eat, but Wal-Mart isn’t kidding anyone that they’re doing it from the goodness of their heart.


My Mickey Moment With Chris Martin & Coldplay

Imagine a sea of people at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, an empty seat or patch of grass cannot be found. Coldplay is up on stage, house lights are brought up just a bit so Chris Martin can see the audience. He’s turns toward section 103 (where I am) and does a little wave with the hand that’s holding the microphone. It looks like he’s looking at me and waving at me. But I’m delusional right? So I cock my head to the side, so does he, and he keeps waving. So I do a little wave back. Then he sings a bit more, turns and goes to the other side of the stage. That’s my mickey moment.

What do I mean by a mickey moment? Well, Disney has a saying that every visitor as a moment with Mickey. They have the fleeting moment where they get to be the center of Mickey’s attention, get a photo taken and get to feel the giddiness of being in the presence of an icon. The fan makes a connection with the star.

It’s hard to make a connection in large arena, but Chris Martin tears down that third wall so many performers cannot get through. He was probably just waving randomly to see who would wave back and maybe he didn’t see me. But I think he did. Later in the concert he went up the side of the walkway, was waving and giving the thumbs up at this guy, and wouldn’t stop until the guy acknowledged that “yes I see you waving to me and we are interacting.” And at the very end Chris potentially took his life into his hands and went into the middle of the crowd to get closer to the people in the back. And throughout it all he worked to get the audience to interact with the band.

There are only two other concerts that I could say I’ve had a mickey moment: in 1997 with Bono, and in 2003 with Michael Stipe. With Bono, I was very close to the catwalk, we held eye contact and he sang to me. At the REM concert in Vancouver, Michael Stipe talked with the audience, took requests, dedicated songs to people in the city and to a couple who told him they were celebrating their anniversary, told anecdotes, and made me feel like an insider even though I was all the way at the back of the field.

Those mickey moments, along with good talent, are what makes a performance memorable and worth the price of the ticket. It also helps convert borderline fans and create more loyal fans, which probably will lead to more record sales down the road. At the REM concert, which was a joint one with Radiohead, my friend was pleasantly surprised that he enjoyed REM’s performance. The music industry should be looking for more people like this, or getting people like Chris to give pointers on how to do it.

As for the concert in general, it’s was awesome. You could tell that the guys love performing together and what they’re doing. Of course, if someone is having fun themselves it’s rather catching. And it seemed to have infected the 22,000 people there.

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Cute Single Mormon Up for Sale!

I’ve been checking out the blogs of all the presenters for BlogHer. Besides realizing that I’ve obviously been living in a hole as I haven’t read some of them, I’ve come across some truely great stuff.

One thing in particular is Heather Armstrong’s (Dooce) comments on the billboard. Heather had me laughing my ass off.

So if you go to you see this guy has a way too slick site. Ignoring the rather weird selling point that he’s a “returned missionary”, do you really want to date someone who has a button on their site to set up a date? And if he’s really hard up to get someone to go out with him, there has to be something wrong. But in reality this is just a marketing ploy for the company he works for. This is all just wrong and creepy on so many levels.


Spam-a-lot Adventure

So my spammers are obviously using some program that takes bits of novels, mashes them up, and spits them out as the text versions of their spam.

What I want to know is what books are they using? Some of them look like they could be rather interesting. I think the latest one I recieved is from Captain Blood.

Of course it’s a sad reflection on your marketing when your audience is more interested in your fake text than in what you actually have to sell.


Yahoo! Buys Flickr

Congrats to Flickr (Ludicorp) on their acquisition by Yahoo! It’s one of the few Vancouver success stories that I’ve heard since moving to there five years ago. But what really surprised me when I first heard about them was that hardly anyone that I know up in Vancouver heard about them when I first told them about it! Why was that? They are based in Vancouver. The only thing that I can think of as a reason is because Ludicorp didn’t view themselves as a Vancouver company. Yes they were based in Vancouver, but they had their sights set bigger. They knew how to play the tech industry game. And being a tech company and not playing the game is probably one of the bigger mistakes that I see Vancouver companies making.

In the past year Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield have been presenting at all the big tech industry conferences- getting their name out there and developing wuffie (the father of this word, Cory Doctorow, is on their board). In addition to having a great product, this pr is what got the attention of the tech community, Yahoo! and probably other companies. I can’t tell you of any other Vancouver start-ups that I’ve known that have had their executives on the conference circuit as part of their marketing strategy. It’s not that they didn’t have products that would have been worthy of talking about. I don’t think they ever considered it.

The tech world revolves around Silicon Valley. It’s something that I knew before moving down here but is now crystal clear. If you want to be successful or have a successful tech company, the people here better know who you are and what you do and vice-versa. Once you’re secure in your reputation here, then you can go out and conquer the rest of the world.

Ludicorp seems to have done well with their initial wuffie. It will be interesting to see how much farther they get with Yahoo! behind them.


Search Engine Relationship Chart

Bruce Clay has an interesting Search Engine Relationship Chart (in flash) showing which search engines are interconnected. Great for marketeers to figure out who they really should optimize for, and eye-opening to see who’s in bed with whom, in some way, shape or form. You can clearly see who is going up against Google – MSN and Yahoo have no relationship with them at all. One thing to note is that it does not clearly show the relationship between Inktomi and Yahoo.

Marketing, RSS

RSS & Marketing

I think marketers are beginning to rub their sleepy eyes and are waking up to the potentials of adding RSS to their marketing mix. But what exactly should they be looking for?

This eWeek articlesays LiveMessage based in Redwood City is releasing software that lets users send RSS “messages”. I put it in quotes because describing it that way is not exactly the right terminology for RSS, but the correct terminology for marketing.

From a consumer point of view, I would prefer RSS to email because I can definitely turn off the pipeline when *I* want to. If I see that they’ve allowed another company to use that feed to market to me, well I can just unsubscribe. And I know that they won’t keep on sending me spam emails. The flow of information is finally in my control, and I can cut down on the amount of spam in my inbox.

One thing that will help propel the wide adaptation of RSS by marketers is if more people are using RSS aggregators. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself. Someone needs to integrate an RSS reader, Outlook and IE. Newsmonster supposedly does something like this. But it uses Mozilla instead of IE, and my machine (I’m on XP) doesn’t seem to like it. And I haven’t tried NewsGator yet. But I can tell you my web browsing has already changed because of RSS. Have there been any studies on how people’s web browsing has changed since the wide acceptance of RSS readers? Maybe ol’ Neilly could get on it, but he’s still doing his Alertbox columnonly as an email and not using RSS. (Has he ever changed his website?)

There are some decent RSS marketing feeds out there. Amazon obviously knows good tech when they see it. They have Amazon Syndicated Contentfor a variety of categories. Also, I would have thought eBay would have implemented an RSS search functionality, but why bother when someone else has done it for free. You can get your own customized eBay Search RSS via .

Of course there are some nay-sayers against RSS marketing. Chris Pirillo lists the arguments against RSS marketinghe’s gotten. Obviously he doesn’t agree if you read his last sentence. And eNewsletter Journal is conservative about adding RSS to your marketing mix, because they say the metrics won’t be as complete. However there is a way to do it well and have just as good metrics. Just tweak your content management system. You can assign users an unique RSS ID to each feed. For example, I’m an online travel company, and I know that Ashley Richards is looking for cheap flights From SFO to JFK and YVR. She can create a customized page, á la, that has its own RSS feed. If the price for anything on that page changes, the RSS feed is updated. She sees in her aggregator a synopsis, and she then comes to the site. We have her in our database with identifying information such as her: IP address, home airport, frequency of feed checking, click-throughs to the site, and if we ask her to fill out a form to get the feed we can find out other demographic information.

If you need more convincing that you should add RSS to your marketing mix, read Alex Barnnet’s Email v RSS, Email Marketer v Customer Matrix. You’ll see when and where you should use it.

One place that is indisputably a good place to have an RSS feed is on anything that could be considered PR for your company. Business Weekreports Sun’s president and COO Jonathan Schwartz’ blog is proof positive that you can successfully use blogging for PR. In the article, they say Sun’s competitors are checking out what he has to say. What could be better than having someone in your company seen as an authority on a topic and share their knowledge with your clients, competitors, and interested parties. Also if you’re a company like say, Google, who has a cult-like following, you can benefit from a Google blogabout what’s going on inside your hallowed halls. It can give your followers (and investors) the feeling that they’re a part of your company.

Even though there has been a bit written on the subject, more serious attention needs to be given to using RSS for marketing. I think we’re seeing the baby stages of what marketers can do with RSS, and how consumer can finally feel in control again over the messages they recieve.