Pizzaganda

Ad Biz, austin onion, authenticity, home slice, pizza, Pop Culturisms

The best marketing is authentic.  It doesn’t need to be polished by admen; rather, it is an organic, pervasive manifestation of the company’s culture at every customer touchpoint. 

Two local pizza shops are cases in point.

College Kids

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Austin Onion taps into one of the two most lucrative markets for pizza in the country: college kids.  Their shop on 5th Street is equidistant between the two primary bar districts of downtown.  Drunk tourists from 6th and drug-induced 20-somethings from 4th are both just a short walk away from by-the-slice heaven.

However, their hours of operation and quality ingredients are not that unique.  Several pizza trailers roll into this area every night to help calm the munchy giant.  What Austin Onion has as their secret weapon is a gang of employees that are really cool.

For one, the owner is involved with 9th Street BMX.  These guys haven’t grown up yet, as you can see here.  Therefore, it is only logical that the business culture of Austin Onion exhude the same sense of…how would you describe it…loose morals?

Regardless, the kids love it.  The storefront is dingy, almost as if the people work here, party here, and pass out here.  Punk rock screams from the cheap stereo sitting in the corner, and the dress code can be summed up in three words: full arm tattoo.  This shop has a line out the door almost every night of the week, and their lunch business is doing almost as well. 

Then there is the delivery service.  Here’s an idea of what will show up to your door:

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Moms w/Kids

Home Slice, started by two of my neighbors, was opened about a year ago and aims to appeal to the second most lucrative market for national pizza sales: moms with young kids. 

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In the case of Home Slice, the target audience is hipster moms (and dads), sometimes known as Grupsters.  Their approach is subtle so as to not alienate childless parties, but a trained marketing eye soon discovers that every decision has been made in an attempt to make Home Slice the alternative to Chuck-E-Cheese.

For the opening night, the couple that started the shop, Jen and Joseph Strickland, made an effort to request all of their friends come to hang out, drink beer, and act fabulous.  Oh, and bring the kids.

This set a precedent that remains intact today.  The place is teeming with kids – well-behaved, Ritalin-free, unplugged kids – who are attracted by the Pitchfork-approved music on the radio and killer graphics painted on the walls.

The owners of Home Slice have reaffirmed their commitment to cool, progressive families by making them the centerpiece of almost all their business affairs.  For instance, Home Slice is known to throw a party on their back porch from time to time, but the events are always intended to draw in a combination of Grupsters and kids.  The kids watch a pie eating contest and get balloon animals.  The parents get an excuse to eat pizza a drink beer in the middle of the day.  Clearly, it’s a win win.

Here’s what they did with the kids play/coloring book:

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As proof that cool family is more than just a target audience, the Stricklands and co-owner Terri Hannifin recently chose to close shop for a week for what they called a “cultural field trip”.  From a press release:

They’re taking 22 people from their staff to New York City to give them a chance to try New York style pizza in the Big Apple.

“It seemed like a perfect time to take a family vacation. We have a great crew here. They are hard workers helped us make this restaurant successful and we wanted to treat them to an exciting field trip to New York City,” owner Terri Hannifin said.

The owners plan to take their employees to lunch and dinner at several pizza places and have them go on a scavenger hunt.

Back home in Austin, the waiters share tips and are known to break out in chorus whenever Weezer’s Sweater Song comes up on the iPod queue. Their love for their work rubs off on the vibe people get when they come to eat.  Happy smiles, happy kids, big tips.

How cool is this?  Whereas Austin Onion targets party kids by becoming the party-pizza-parlor, Home Slice targets progressive families by establishing their own family traditions.  And is “target” even the right word?  Call it purpose, call it attraction, call it branding…whatever it is, it works.

Crank This

Community Marketing, connections planning, Entrepreneurialism & Innovation, hip hop, Mr. Collipark, Pop Culturisms, Soulja Boy, Trends, Web 2.0

Hip Hop – the music and the business – has been struggling over the past few years. According to Fox News, “though music sales are down overall, rap sales slid a whopping 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, and for the first time in 12 years no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the [2006].”

It looks as if this industry needs a fire starter, or at least someone who owns a pack of matches.

Enter Mr. Collipark.  First name, Mr.

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Mr. Collipark literally wrote the book on how a young rapper can break into the business of hip hop.  To prove he can walk the talk, Mr. Collipark went out found Soulja Boy: 

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Soulja Boy is part Mississippi teenager, part Flava Flav, part crunk (I frickin’ hate crunk), rhythmically unoriginal, and lyrically boring, but that’s not the point.

The point is Soulja Boy is a Millennial.  For him, music isn’t just about sound, it is about community, it is digital, and it is open for interpretation.

According to mun2, Soulja Boy “began posting his songs on the music-based social networking site Soundclick.com, before creating his own website, SouljaBoytellem.com, and, most recently, exploding on MySpace where he’s received over 11.5 million visits and accumulated 400,000 friends.”  Soulja Boy even came up with a dance for his hit song, Crank That, and put a video on YouTube to teach people how to do the moves.

Within a few months, MySpace rated Soulja Boy the #1 artist out of 30 million independent artists on their site (in terms of traffic, plays and downloads).

But all of this was still underground.  The Hip Hop industry had not found him.

Enter Mr. Collipark.  Driving down the street one day he sees a group of kids doing the Soulja Boy dance.  He rolls down his window to hear a song he has never heard before.  After doing a search for the song online, Mr. realizes just how strong the following is for Soulja Boy, so he promptly sends Soulja Boy an instant message and heads for his house. 

I’m hesitant to transcribe what Soulja Boy posted on his blog after his meeting with Mr. Collipark as it’s a little risque for a corporate blog, but you can read it here.

The rest is short history.  Rather than package Soulja Boy and spit him out like a Hip Hop artist circa 1995, Mr. Collipark took the social network Soulja Boy had already established and expanded it.  Polished videos were soon on MySpace and SouljaBoyTellum.com.  Ringtones, message boards, photos, and schwag were all available on his home page.  Best of all, snippets of Soulja Boy’s rise to fame were posted on YouTube as a daily podcast giving avid fans unparallelled emotional connection with the artist.

Crank That Video: 9 Million Hits

Crank That Dance Instructions: 12 Million Hits

From Vodcasts to Soulja Boy TV (coming soon):

Radio stations soon picked it up Crank That because Soulja Boy finally broke into “the industry”, and in the matter of months a bunch of rich white people watching a UT football game saw this on the sideline:

Like any modern day mogul-in-the-making, Soulja Boy is a social-network celebrity. His official YouTube video for Crank That has attracted nine million views in just over 30 days while an earlier home video that teaches viewers how to do “Soulja Boy Dance” has been requested a whopping 12 million times.

Bravo Mr. Collipark, and bravo, Soulja Boy.  You have built a network and sold an artist that won’t even have an album in stores until October 27th.

In the opinion of this author, as well as this one, Mr. Collipark and Soulja Boy aren’t so much producer and artist as they are connections planner and creative director.

One final note, as I’m finishing up this blog, a guy outside my office window is listening to Crank That.  His car windows are down so that all of us can listen, or dance, to Soulja Boy. 

LBS Notes: Part 1

Ad Biz, AKQA, Digital Media, iPhone, LBS, LOC AID, Location Based Services, Media, mobile, Web 2.0

Voice and data services have become commodities for telecommunications companies.  The result is an industry hungry for innovation to increase customer base and profit margins.

According to TeleMapics, location-based service (LBS), utilizing wireless communications and global position technologies, is poised to be that innovation.

LBS is an old term largely dismissed by industry insiders as it was uveiled almost a decade ago with huge amounts of hype and zero follow-through.  However, today is another story.  LBS could very well be the defining technology of 2008, as I have posted before.

AT&T and the iPhone are the kings of LBS at the moment, but Sprint just announced they are teaming up with Microsoft.  Verizon is not far behind.

If this is the case, marketers have some work in front of them in figuring out how to leverage LBS for their respective clients.

Here is what I/we know so far:

1. Utility Beats Entertainment…For Now 

For all the hoopla we’ve seen about being about being able to watch YouTube videos on iPhones, it turns out people are not as interested in surfing as they are searching.  Adrian from Zeus Jones writes today about an interesting finding from Google.  It turns out Google Maps usage has “increased sharply” since the release of the iPhone and “hasn’t stopped rising.”  Meanwhile, YouTube availability on the iPhone has not effected usage at all. 

Adrian analyzes this, stating “There’s no denying that entertainment is a legitimate way to engage, however this [information] does prove that the barrier to entry for a good entertainment experience is substantially higher than it is for a useful service.”

What does this mean for marketers?  Well, in a nutshell, focus on building mobile utility for your customers if you hope to get the greatest return.  Table the mobile entertainment unless you have some creativity worth a pencil – this may break through the barrier Adrian mentions above.  Or, optimally, pair the two together…just don’t forget the utility.

2. The Battle for Ad Turf

The mobile advertising space is basically virgin territory, but already people are working to carve out space and build standards for mobile marketing.  The “people” are search engines, carriers, and new platforms.

Search Engines: Google AdSense for Mobile enables online publishers to target location-based advertising to anyone using their browser from a mobile phone.  The opportunities here are endless from a marketing perspective, but they are limited at the moment.  Currently, Google only offers AdSense for Mobile on basic text ads. 

Carriers: Another player vying for space is Australian telco Telstra.  Per ITWire, Telstra has “launched a trial of location based coupons from major retailers such as KFC and Pizza Hut. In the trial, users can request a coupon to be sent to their mobile phone from banner ads on a variety of websites.

By clicking on the banner advertisements, consumers are provided with information on the promotional offer and the ability to enter their mobile number to receive a coupon via SMS. For Telstra mobile customers, information on their mobile also includes a map of their local area and the location of the nearest stores plotted on the map.”

New Platforms: ProximityMedia has built out a system that can push out relative content to Bluetooth phones.  Their demo is tacky but interesting:

3. LBS = SMS + MMS + WAP

Wonky?  Yes.  Let me explain.

SMS – A.K.A., Short Message Service – A.K.A., text messaging – can easily be sponsored by corporations.  Envision an ad on top of your text message.  In turn, you can text for free.  Lots of marketers like this idea because it seems so darned simple.

Well, LogicaCMGrecently did a study of consumer reactions to sponsored SMS (or SMS Advertising) and discovered that Northern Europe and the U.S. would be “extremely unlikely” to use the product.  The conclusion here is free SMS isn’t that important in America – after all, unsponsored SMS is only five bucks a month.

However, SMS advertising has shown success when it is paired with multimedia messaging service (MMS) and wireless application protocol (WAP).  For all you non-wonks (a group that includes me), a good example of MMS is any mobile message that includes images, videos or music, and WAP is basically a phone that can connect to the Internet.  Put all three together, and you get yourself a promo.

For instance, a radio station in Boca Raton, FL, recently teamed up with LOC-AID (a LBS technology provider) to build out a scavenger hunt called Dash for Cash.  In it, people got SMS, MMS, and had to use WAP to find clues that would lead to $10k in booty. Supposedly the thing was a hit.  You can see more here:

4. LBS doesn’t have to sit on your phone

We have all seen the LBS billboards in Minority Report.  Tom Cruise walks by a board that customizes to his presence.

Well, we aren’t there yet, but AKQA recently got us closer.  This time last year, they built out a billboard campaign for Yell.com that was placed on the sides of London buses.  The billboards were linked to GPS that enabled them to be customized as they were on route.  Interactive, local maps were also put in at bus shelters.  Killer.  And they didn’t even use a phone.

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More later from me.  Anyone else have a best practice/insight for using effectively using LBS in marketing/advertising?

iTV now myTV

Ad Biz, Co Creation, Digital Media, iTV, Joost, Media Technologies, myTV, Web 2.0, widgets

Most people in the business of marketing know of Joost if they haven’t already had the chance to play with it.  For those that don’t, let me sum up their service as high-quality, full-length, time-agnostic television broadcast through the Internet. 

Given that it’s a web-based platform, Joost offers viewers basic Internet services as they watch.  For instance, you can instant message your buddies across the globe as you simultaneously watch the same show.  Your screen looks something like this:

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(The IM components are in the upper-left and lower-right corners)

Joost aptly calls this IM service a “widget” that can be put on top of your primary content (the show you are watching) as add-on components.  Other examples of widgets on Joost include a news ticker, rating tools (upper-right corner), and an alarm clock.  All are made by Joost programmers. 

The problem thus far is that Joost hadn’t opened up their widget source code so that people could upload their own widgets into the system. Combine this barrier with the fact the programming available on Joost comes from broadcast corporations like MTV and you quickly realize that iTV is not necessarily “myTV”.  I don’t get the rights to upload content – like I do on YouTube – and I don’t get the rights to upload widget applications – like I do on many major social networks.

Well, Joost is opening up, and we should all rejoice.  MIT’s Advertising Lab noted today that Joost has opened their Widget API (or source code) to anyone interested in adding new features. 

According to the Joost forum (where Joost fanatics talk shop), the ideas for new widgets are pouring in.  Here is just a select few (with marketing implications in parenthesis):

  • Queuing – drag/drop/select movies/shows to go into a viewing queue similar to what Netflix offers (marketers could build target audiences by queue content)
  • Show Tagging – let people mark great moments in a show to indicate their favorite/worst moments (think 0f this as a copy test…for better or for worse)
  • Content Screener – let people take a survey that then generates content recommendations (more options for targeting, options for paid search)
  • Shopping Widget – syncs with programming so that people can buy what they see (allows marketers to advertising products in widget that are seen on show)

There will soon be a day when all content is a la carte.  Passive programming and active components will intermingle at my discretion.  TV? Internet?  Who cares?

TV + Internet = iTV

iTV + co-creation = myTV

American is the Coolest

American Apparel, Bob Hope, Cultures & Fringes, Made in USA, Pop Culturisms, Trends, USA, Voltron

The year was 1984.  The day was December 25.  I was crying.

My hopes of a year filled with wonder and excitement had been dashed, and I blamed Santa.  He had not given me a piece of plastic critical for maintaining a competitive edge with friends at school:

Instead of getting the coolest of all cool toys, I sat next the the tree and clutching yet another Transformer. It was alright – better than my brother’s He-Man action figure – but it was no Voltron.

Oh, Voltron.  How I coveted thee…I had to maintain composure, express gratitude, and make it through the day.

The holiday season of 1984 will go down in infamy for two reasons, neither of which has anything to do with Japanamation.

The first was the Cabbage Patch craze. My family avoided it as we had no girls younger than 45. The second was the Made in the U.S.A. campaign that was launched just after Thanksgiving that year. Here is a snippet of that work (the only I could find).

Few campaigns from my upbringing are as powerful as this one started by the Crafted With Pride in U.S.A. Council, a conglomerate of American textile companies angered by what was inevitable. As America entered a post-industrial state, it sequentially shipped all of its industrial base to newly-industrializing countries. Clothing was the first to go. Soon everything else would follow.

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“Made in the U.S.A.” became a battle cry for blue-collar Americans and lunch-pail conservatives. It became synonymous with flag-waving, trade unions, and a belt that was quickly rusting.

Flash forward 20 years to a New York Times article published this past week.  From the article:

“Made in the U.S.A.” used to be a label flaunted primarily by consumers in the Rust Belt and rural regions. Increasingly, it is a status symbol for cosmopolitan bobos, and it is being exploited by the marketers who cater to them.

For many the label represents a heightened concern for workplace and environmental issues, consumer safety and premium quality. “It involves people wanting to have guilt-free affluence,” Alex Steffen, who is the executive editor of www.worldchanging.com, a Web site devoted to sustainability issues, said in an e-mail message. “So you have not only the local food craze but things like American apparel, or Canadian diamonds instead of African ‘blood diamonds,’ or local-crafted toys.”

With so many mass-market goods made off-shore, American-made products, which are often more expensive, have come to connote luxury. New Balance produces less expensive running shoes abroad, but it still makes the top-of-the-line 992 model — which the company says requires 80 manufacturing steps and costs $135 — in Maine. A favorite in college towns from Cambridge, Mass. to Berkeley, Calif., each model 992 features a large, reflective “USA” logo on the heel, and an American flag on the box.

American Apparel, which carries the label “Made in Downtown LA” in every T-shirt and minidress, famously brought sex appeal to clothing basics that are promoted as “sweatshop free.” In the process it won the allegiance of young taste-makers.

If Bob Hope were alive today, I’m sure he would have a thousand jokes to talk about this turn of circumstance.  In the matter of a generation, “Made in America” has switched from blue to white collar and from protectionist rhetoric to progressive idealism. 

For more information on the “Made in America” movement, check out the following:

Still Made in the USA 

From NYT:

Ms. Sanzone, 47, who lives in Alexandria, Va., started [this website] three years ago to list and promote American-made products, for environmental and economic reasons, she said.

Unlike many “Buy American” Web sites, which feature images of weeping bald eagles or quotations from Pat Buchanan, Ms. Sanzone, a Democrat, keeps her site nonpartisan. In the last month, she said, traffic has jumped fourfold, with new visitors including vegans, green shoppers, “Free Tibet” activists and visitors from the Web site democraticunderground.com. Many said the recall of Chinese-made toys inspired them to act, but many also told her that they were starting to expand their focus beyond toys.  

To support the “Buy Rad a Voltron, Already” movement, send checks to:

GSD&M’s Idea City

828 West 6th Street

Austin, Texas 78703

The Age of Objective Value

Ad Biz, Analysis, Blogosphere, Deep Narratives & Commentary, Research & Insight

Zeus Jones is a new agency in Minneapolis started by a bunch of ex-Fallon guys including Adrian Ho.  Their blog is excellent, and Adrian is one of the primary authors.

From his entries, I’m seeing a pattern.

Only July 8th, Adrian wrote an entry entitled the Abstracted Economy.  In it, he made note of the fact we “have transitioned from a world of things to a world of services.”

Service now makes up 90% of the US economy. 

To put it another way – doing things for people, not selling (or telling) things to people is the vast majority of enterprise in the world’s largest economy. 

Then, on August 21st, he posted this data from Financial Times.  It shows the increasing role of brand as a percentage of corporate value:

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Although I’m sure this data has Baudrillard and McLuhan smiling in their respective graves, Adrian noted “there are some signs that the reverse [of this trend towards brands playing a dominant role in corporate value] appears to be happening.”

Increasingly creating brand value is not about occupying mindspace or deepening symbolic value, instead it is about doing tangible things that create value. I found this latest story about Etsy (via: Influxideas) quite telling in that regard. [Etsy] clearly saw as the logical next step for the development of its business the need for an old-fashioned retail experience. To build greater extrinsic value in their brand they have chosen to build intrinsic value. Further, they have chosen to take a step that makes little business sense from one perspective; they have taken a fully virtual business and tied it to the world of atoms. I think there is something very important happening here because our models of branding are based on the notion that a brand exists in the minds of customers. That they are entirely symbolic. Those of us with classic brand training are ingrained with the notion that brands exist entirely divorced from any physical or tangible manifestation.It is ironic that as our lives and worlds become increasingly virtual, some of the concepts that were entirely virtual are migrating towards the physical.

Amen, brother.  I like your thinking, and I’m seeing it everywhere.  Just recently one of my favorite business models, Threadless, announced they were opening a store for the very same reaons as Etsy. 

But I digress.

Stepping back for a minute, what is the pattern?  In my opinion, the shift from a tangible- to service-based economy (from industrialism to post-industrialism) is directly tied to society’s changing views on brand value. In fact, if you look back at the three primary eras of recorded civilization – agriculturalism, industrialism, and post-industrialism – you will note that there is a theory of brand value synonymous with each.  Therefore, in the age of post-industrialism (e.g., service-based economy) we need a new theory of brand value: 

Argriculturalism = Intrinsic Brand Value

The Intrinsic Theory of Value follows the history of a theory that began with Aristotle. It holds that “the good” or value is inherent in certain things regardless of their context and consequences, and regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the person involved. In other words, value is in the object and the object alone. The person who values such an object has no value inherently; thus, value is impersonal. The quintessential example is the intrinsic value placed on a pocket watch – the value is in the artistry and sweat equity of the craftsman, not the man who wears it on his wrist.

Industrialism = Subjective Brand Value

The Subjective Theory of Value follows how the theory of value swung to the opposite pole with the dawn of industrialization. Formalized by Carl Mengerand the Austrian School of economics, the subjective theory of value holds that, to possess value, an object must be useful in satisfying wants of an individual and scarce in terms of availability. In other words, value is in the eye of the beholder, is personal, and is a human characteristic. Therefore, brand value is based on customer beliefs and those beliefs must be measured and reinforced to ensure a brand remains relevant and healthy. Using the watch analogy, one individual is a Tag-man and another a Rolex-man.  Both Tag and Rolex rely on a specific audience with specific desires as these end-users hold the value that can ultimately be applied to their brands.

Post-Industrialism = Objective Brand Value

The Objective Theory of Value was first posed by Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan in the 1960s. They rejected the intrinsic and subjective theories of value on the grounds that both polarize and paralyze man’s judgment (e.g., the evaluation is muddy at best because value is an attribute of only one party). They saw the “objective” theory of value – a value theory separate from their controversial theory of objectivism – as one where value is seen as the relationship between both parties rather than an attribute of one. Unfortunately, their theory was tabled as it was ahead of its time. Companies would continue to use the subjective theory of value (what Adrian referred to as extrinsic value) well into the 21st century, masking purchase decisions behind a veil of product personality and emotional connections that were/are shallow at best.

However, at the dawn of post-industrialization, a new form of customer has emerged that is rejecting the subjective and intrinsic forms of value. They evaluate their purchases through objective lenses (this is where Adrian was headed when he saw the merger of intrinsic and extrinsic values). For this new audience, one that marketing fails to yet fully understand, the watch and the wearer are irrelevant. Instead, it is the relationship between the two, promoted by the service of companies on one end and consumer action (co-creation, consumer-generated media) on the other. 

This new audience, using a new method of evaluation, wants an honest and open relationship with the company (what GSD&M’s Idea City calls “Purpose” and what Zeus Jones calls “Marketing as a Service”). Companies must incorporate the objective theory of value in their marketing if they hope to sell their wares in the post-industrial/information/Web 2.0 age. 

If you’d like to read more on how the Objective Theory of Value will impact advertising (and planning) you can check out this chapter from my book.  Its a bit dated as I wrote it a little over a year ago, but I think it still holds water:

chapter-2.pdf

2008: The Year of Circulation

barcode, Co Creation, Digital Media, GPS, LBS, location based marketing, Location Based Services, Media Technologies, mobile, mobile marketing, NeoMedia, Node, Ubilabs

2006 was the year of connecting.  Some call it social networking. Time named it You.

2007 is the year of conversing.  Some call it consumer-generation.  Others like the term co-creation.  Wired named it crowdsourcing.

2008 will be the year of circulating.  Some call it mobile marketing.  Others refer to it as location-based (LB) services, media and/or marketing.  It currently lacks a fancy name.

Circulation – literally meaning free movement or passage through a system – has been on the minds of marketers and media for quite some time.  Today, we call our efforts “mobile content”, and some of us have shown investing in the mobile infrastructure can pay off.  However, because the current infrastructure has so many limitations, greate examples of mobile content still elude us. 

But 2008 will see mobile devices come into their own.  The technology being unveiled today will start to impact how everyday people choose which company (and brand) to patron tomorrow.

Everyone’s favorite example of this is the iPhone.  It has a mishmash of applications that make it more of a mobile computer than phone.  People can seek out coffee shops using Google maps and GPS synchronization.  The opportunities for Starbucks to get in the middle of this are endless.  And they will…in 2008.

But the iPhone is just a piece of a larger puzzle still being put together.  Other parts include geo-positioning devices in cars, RFID tags embedded in products and places (and people), the further expansion of WiFi, mobile media access, mobile barcode recognition, and all the related applications and services that come with it. 

Combined, they allow us to take our social networks and desires to co-create to the streets.  We will commune, we will converse, and we will do it without constraint.

Examples of Location-Based Services/Media

Mobile Touring by Ubilabs

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MobileTouring is an authoring tool for tours. Anybody (you, your company, a city’s convention/visitor’s bureau, etc.) can set points of interest online and enrich them with a photo and short text information. In turn, anyone that has the system uploaded on their mobile phone can create customized tour specific to their needs.  No more dirty headsets at museums.  No need for three+ travel books fore each city you visit.

Bar Code Scanners by NeoMedia

Scanner:                                                      Phone with Code:

scanner.jpg                   camerawithcode.jpg

Neomedia has deployed mobile phone scanners at concerts around Europe. Fans and concert goers purchase electronic tickets over the Internet and instantly receive a text message containing a two dimensional code (Data Matrix or 2D) on their mobile phone. The code can easily be scanned at the concert’s point of entry by mobile scanners for immediate event access. In doing so, NeoMedia demonstrates the use of optically processed mobile codes for real-world financial transactions.

Explorer v3 by Node

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The Node Explorer is a small handheld computer with stereo headphones which is connected to a central server.  The Explorer’s integrated GPS location sensor is able to pinpoint the exact location of its user, triggering images (still and video) and broadcast sound and video, in a targeted format (e.g., content can be customized by language, age group, particular interests, special needs, etc.)

Examples of Location-Based Marketing

Got any?  I’m sure all of us will next year.

Friend is a Four Letter Word

Cake, core tie, friend, Pew, Rubel, significant tie, social network, total network, Trends, Web 2.0

What does “friend” stand for in a world connected by a series of tubes?  This has been an ongoing debate for the better half of a decade, but the growth of Facebook has reignited the burning question of what it takes for me to consider you a friend (or the other way around).

The most recent post I have seen on this subject is by influential blogger Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion.  He states:

[Having friends] is becoming more about quantity and less about quality.

This can be a very good thing. I am friends with people in social networks from other countries. Technology makes that possible.

On the other hand, these same technologies enable anyone to add me as a friend, even though we’ve never met.

It leaves me all confused about what friendship will look like in 10 years. It seems like it’s declining in quality, even as technology scales it in quantity and helps our networks spread far and wide. What’s your view?

This is a very good question, and thanks for asking.  Personally, I don’t think we should be using the term “friend” to discuss the impact of social networks like Facebook.  The term we should be using is “tie”. 

Several years back, the Pew Internet and American Life Project published a report entitled The Strength of Internet Ties.  It was a brilliant piece and available for free download here.

Pew’s approach was to ask participants about three types of connections they have with their respective social networks (both real-world and web-based). The first and most important type of connection they measured was “core tie“.  Core ties can be defined as the people who are in our inner circle.  For instance, my core ties would be people like my wife, my parents, and a close set of friends and advisors with whom I can share pretty much anything on my mind – hopes, fears, happiness, sorrow, etc.

The second type of connection Pew measured was “significant ties.” These are the people outside a person’s circle of trust but with whom he or she still has close connections. Examples of my significant ties are my coworkers and the guys I play disc golf with – I know them well enough to invite to a party but not necessarily well enough to talk about…well…let’s not talk about it.

Both core ties and significant ties are considered part of a larger, third type of connection called “network.” My network includes everyone I have some level of interaction with, like the waitstaffs at my favorite restaurants, the neighbors I wave to from my front lawn, and the homeless transvestite who receives 15% of the mayoral vote each time the city holds an election. No, I didn’t make the last one up. He likes to drink his morning vodka out of a coffee mug while wearing a skirt on my lawn, and he’s part of my network.

To (hastily) sum up Pew’s research, the Internet expands our total network but rarely expands our core or significant ties.  True, we may converse with mom via email, but we would have connected with them regardless (e.g., if we didn’t have email we would have called them).

As a result of access to the Internet (and social networking sites), my total network looks a bit like this:

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Note, the terms “Industrial Network” and “Post-Industrial Network” are my terms, not Pew’s.  It is my opinion that the Internet and social networks like Facebook are part of a larger, more fundamental change in the ways we connect with other people.  For more info on this, you can read the .pdf I attached here.

Moving on, the graph above makes it clear; the Internet may expand my “total network” but has little impact on the people I connect with on a daily- or even weekly-basis.  The question of “friends” shouldn’t come into this discussion because “friend” is highly subjective (e.g., is the transvestite as much of a friend to me as my wife?)

Therefore, let us table this discussion of what a “friend” is and discuss the impact of social networks on a persons “total network”.  The question should be what are the benefits of increasing a person’s total network?  There are many, I’m sure.

Additionally, let us remember what Cake had to say about the word friend:

Fake Cop

Billboard, Community Marketing, Cop, Entrepreneurialism & Innovation, Pflugerville, Sign, Smyrna

The New York Times reports the town of Smyrna, Tennessee has posted life-size, corrugated plastic cutouts of cops holding speed guns at busy intersections in town:

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From the AP report:

The idea for the posed patrolman came from Jim Gammon, whose sign company sits on busy Front Street. He suggested it as a way to slow drivers and then printed up the two-dimensional police officer. After less than a month on the street, the cutout is working so well the city has asked Gammon to make another.”Any time they’ll see it, (motorists) immediately slow down,” Gammon said. ”The trick is to keep them guessing.”

Sometimes Miller even stands behind his plastic twin and catches speeding drivers who apparently aren’t fooled by the cutout.

Here’s a shot of Real Cop (Miller) standing behind Fake Cop:

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I love it.  A guy with speeders outside his sign shop decided to take a stand.  And what better way than with a little creative advertising?

It seems to be catching on.  The town of Pflugerville, Texas – a suburb of Austin – has recently followed suite and posted their own Fake Cop:

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This guy is posted in front of several schools and will make rotations throughout the entire I.S.D. over the next few weeks.  Fake Pflugerville police will then make their way around town as sort of a mobile billboard campaign against speeding.

This got me thinking…there is a stop sign posted in my front yard.  It could use a little somethin’ somethin’.  Maybe a symbol that, on this block, all is well.

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