You Cant Have One! The Art Of False Scarcity

PEOPLE, WERE FALLING FOR THE SAME TRICK TWICE IN THE SAME MONTH.

Its a good one. Its called False Scarcity.

When goods are free and widely available to everyone without constraints. do we really want them? Probably not as much as if were convinced that they are rare and have to go through a guarded gate before we can put our hands on them.

Reverse psychology, play on vain egosits very effective if you can pull it off, since economics teach us that only things that are rare have value.

GOOGLE+ A BETA PHASE, REALLY??

In the last two weeks, over 10 million geeks have rushed into Google+, the new social network everybody talks about (at least, on Google+). How did it reach such blockbuster proportions in such a small time? By framing a full scale launch as a field beta.

Its not open to the public yet! Its still being tweaked! its private people, you need an invite!

OK. Whatever you say Google, but last time I checked, 10 million users is on the higher side of typical testing requirements. By these standards, Foursquare too is still in field beta! Fact is getting an invite was as easy as just asking for one, directly on the site or through your networks (I got mine after 15 minutes asking around on Twitter).

Did they need to limit users? Come on, its Google they know how to scale servers, dont they?
Of course, it was a launch tactic designed to make G+ look cooler, and insulate Google against any risk of public failure. Reach a big number, its a success; fail, and it was just the beta phase, move along, nothing to see. Meanwhile they made every new sign-up feel like a privilege, they oversignified the early adopter status of the first members and made every geek around join proudly from the get-go.

SPOTIFY KLOUTS IT WAY TO THE U.S.

The European music business is using a similar tactic this week, in their attempt to conquer the US.
In case youve missed the headlines, Spotify is a streaming service which lets you listen to any music, for free on your computer, or on your mobile for a monthly subscription fee. All my friends in Paris, London and Stockholm swear by it, for good reasons.

In any freemium model, you want to get as many people as possible to sign up for the free version to build awareness and trial, and then get hooked users to upgrade to the premium service. You make the free version widely available, and the premium one scarce. Spotify did the reverse, partnering with the influencers-scoring company Klout.

While anyone can already sign up for premium, the free version is invite-only for now and the main gateway to an invite is your Klout score. Reach Klouts secret conditions for the perk, and you qualify for a free Spotify account plus 5 invites for your friends (note to readers Ill happily give mine to the best commenters!)

Does Spotify have to be scarce? Come on, lets be serious their challenge is to stand-out in a competitive market that is far from the Blue Ocean they came from in Europe and their big bet is to make you want an account because you cant get one (must be great, no?). Note also the great tactic for Joe Fernandezs Klout the perk is a great way to boost awareness and subscription to his own service. Win-win.

DOES IT WORK?

Time will tell. Google+ will be judged by its ability to attract more than the geeks and social media addicts, and keep them participating; Spotify will be judged on how much revenues it drives from premium services and advertising, not just on how many people line up for a free account. So its very early.

But something has to be said for the noise and momentum created by the sense of scarcity they manufactured. They did not put a price tag on free, but they definitely created desire and value. Think about it is there something in your business that you could reframe as scarce and valuable?

Amazing QR-Powered Virtual Supermarket

IM QUITE IMPRESSED WITH TESCOS LATEST INNOVATION.

Largest food chain in the UK, Tesco also operates 280 stores in South Korea where it holds a solid #2 position.

But in a country where mobile is king and smartphones ubiquitous, the retail champion of convenience needed a breakthrough to dominate in e- and m-distribution.

The shopper insight they leveraged is universal, but particularly acute in hectic Korea – shopping is a drag, takes too much time in crowded stores, and its a pain to haul back groceries through an over-populated public transportation system.

Their idea – set up a virtual shop in Seouls subway stations, with life-size replicas of Tescos most popular aisles, powered by QR code e-shopping. Point and scan your chosen products with a smartphone while you wait for the next train, pay with a click, and your virtual shopping cart will be waiting at you door by the time you get back home.

 

The Worst Viral Marketing Of All Times

ITS NOT HARD TO COME BY MEDIOCRE MARKETING FAILING TO HIT IT IN THE VIRAL CHARTS.

Most brand briefs take it for granted these days that sharing is a key measure of success, and that making it big on Facebook and YouTube is a holy grail of advertising, combining the most desirable features of peer advocacy, and free. But lets face it, most people dont want to share ads the viral video chart is a constant reminder that Evians Rollerbabies and VWs The Force are the outliers, not the norm, compared with videos that truly share.

Worse, quite a few brands set out from the start to create what they call virals videos shot for the web with smaller budgets, that are expected to magically outperform the scale advertising productions designed for the TV screen.

OK, why not. Sometimes works.

But things start to go madly wrong when the brief takes the viral obective at heart so much, that it forgets the marketing part altogether.

 

VIRAL IS NOT MARKETING.

Just because something is viewed, and actually is good enough to spread, does not mean that its doing a marketing job. And the video below is the saddest example of creativity gone to waste. Believe it or not, this was actually made to promote a movie. Watch it and take a wild guess.

Well thats too bad. 1,6 million viewers are probably like you, completely unaware of what this is for. Not a hint there that this promotes anything. No tie whatsoever with a brand, movie, nothing.

Fortunately, this second reveal video was later released to solve the mystery:OK, now you got it (assuming you let it play until the end, which is a bit of a stretch since its essentially 90% the same as the first). Too bad this second video only got 72,000 hits, isnt it?

Delivering Happiness

Who doesnt want to read the story of a guy who created a big online shoe store?
Okay, clearly Tony Hsieh has accomplished far more than that a brand that stands for amazing customer service, a company where every employee is a proud ambassador, a message that happiness is the most powerful driver of success. Now thats worth reading about, no?

THE BIG IDEA

Delivering Happiness is essentially an autobiography. Its all about Tonys stories, what he learned on his way to creating a billion dollar business, and more importantly (in his own eyes) how he found a path to happiness by following his passion and finding his purpose.

The good news: hes a surprisingly great storyteller. His journey is a rollercoaster ride of success and failure, in particular the last ten years running Zappos and bringing it back from the brink of death almost once every twenty pages.

As per his learnings, here are the five biggest (my picks which I all agree with 1,000%):

Company Culture is the best foundation, both to create a great place to work, and to project what a brand is about through every interaction.
Experiences that go above and beyond expectations, and WOW your consumers, employees, vendors and partners, are the surest way to give them something to talk about.

Outsourcing a core competency is the biggest mistake you can make (in Zappos case, customer service and ecommerce logistics).

Alignment is a critical make or break factor: between new recruits and company culture, between customer experience and brand promise, between leaders vision and investors expectations.
Passion and Purpose trump short term pleasures and profits to create great businesses, and to find happiness.
A FEW COOL NUGGETS

About the lack of company culture at LinkExchange: It was a strange feeling to be walking around the office and seeing people I did not recognize () looking back, it should have been a huge warning of things to come.
About leaving LinkExchange before the end of his post-sale contract: People thought I was crazy for giving up all that money () it was a turning point in my life. I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion.

About layoffs at Zappos in 2000: Everyone remaining stepped up and worked harder than before () we had laid off the underperformers and the non-believers.
About being let down by third party eLogistics: It was a valuable lesson. We learned that we should never outsource our core competency. As an e-commerce company, we should have considered warehousing a core competency from the beginning.

About brand stretch: Maybe one day there would be a Zappos airline that would be about the very best customer service and customer experience.
About social media: Theres a lot of buzz these days about social media () as unsexy as it may sound, our belief is that the telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. You have the customers undivided attention for five or ten minutes, and if you get the interaction right () the customer remembers it for a very long time.

About customer service: Its okay to fire customers who are insatiable or abuse your employees.
About culture: Whats a company to do if you cant just buy your way into building the brand you want? Whats the best way to build a brand for the long term? In a word: culture.

About recruitment: At the end of the first week of training () we offer everyone $2,000 to quit () less than 1% of people end up taking the offer.
MY THOUGHTS

What strikes me the most is how accidental Tonys success really was from random encounters and ideas generated over pizza and beers, to a few key decisions made to save the business from immediate death, that end up shaping the most important assets of his company. At the same time, his success was not an accident in the sense that he chose to chase his passion, and to go all in with a project he believed in.

In Your Face! Facebook Profile Hostile Take-Over

Since mid December 2010, Facebook started rolling out a new Profile layout, which most users are now familiar with. Its most distinctive feature is the use of tagged photos to add more visual impact and personality to your page. A new line of photos now sit right at the top of the page, in plain sight for everyone to see.

Many people have since started using the new profile creatively, creating unexpected compositions with all the images on the page. They followed in the footsteps of French artist Alexandre Oudin, who was the first to hack his profile. The featured picture of this post is a great example, and you can find plenty more here, and there.

What most people dont realize is that while you can hack your profile yourself, friends can also do it to you the top picture line will show photos where you have been recently tagged by you, or by others!

A German advertising agency recently used this to their advantage for a very disruptive recruitment campaign. Five short days after the new profile functionality went up, two of their employees spent a night tagging 250 of the most connected advertising professionals, advertising schools, and journalists in Hamburg who weighted together a collective 90.000 friends. In this first ever Facebook profile guerrilla campaign, they essentially high-jacked user profiles as advertising billboards for the agency. Take a look in the video.

Im torn between awe and shock at this brilliant but very intrusive tactic.

To be honest, Im not 100% in love with the way they executed it. I dont quite understand the relevance of the In Your Face message. You had to click and zoom on the picture to get the actual message. But thats the price of getting it out there in just 5 short days after the new profile picture was launched. Kudos.
DraftFCB claims the campaign was a massive success, driving huge buzz in the Hamburg advertising community, quadrupling the number of applications almost overnight. And only costing them one Facebook friend, who did not find it amusing

ReWork

WHY I PICKED IT UP

ReWork was one of four books recommended to me by Scott Stratten, the awesome author of Un-Marketing.
To tell the truth, my plan was to read it later in the year, but so many people tweeted to me about how good it was, I had to drop my plan and pick it up. Good choice, turns out.

THE BIG IDEA

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are the founders of 37signals 10 year before Oprah sent her first tweet, they set up shop as a web design firm, then went on to create the wildly succesful blog Signal vs Noise, and the equally succesful collaboration web apps BaseCamp, CampFire, BackPack etc.

ReWork is their take on building great businesses, rooted in 10 years of experience at 37signal. As they say in the book, learning from their success because there isnt much to learn from failure. And as per this example, so goes the whole book deconstructing conventional wisdom about management and leadership, building a consistent set of guiding principles, based on strong beliefs, albeit somehow counter-intuitive at first.

In a nutshell, ReWork is about DOING versus over-thinking and planning, its about PROFITABLE BUSINESS from the get-go versus fantasy-land entrepreneurial start-ups, its about STAYING SMALL and nimble as opposed to growing at all cost and its about FOCUS. Most important of all, its about doing MORE with LESS less resources, less people, less features, less time, less meetings (the last one my favorite).

A FEW COOL NUGGETS

Planning is guessing: Why dont we just call plans what they really are: guesses. Start referring to your business plans as business guesses () now you can stop worrying about them as much. They just arent worth the stress () the problem: Plans are inconsistent with improvisation.
Making a dent in the universe: To do great work, you need to feel that youre making a difference. that youre putting a dent in the universe. that youre part of something important.

Start making something: We all have that one friend who says, I had the idea foreBay. If only I had acted on it, Id be a billionaire!. That logic is pathetic and delusional. Having the idea for eBay has nothing to do with actually creating eBay. What you do is what matters.
Draw a line in the sand: A strong stand is how you attract superfans () if no ones upset by what youre saying, youre probably not pushing hard enough () were willing to lose customers if that means that others wil love our products intensely.

Start a business, not a start-up: A business without a path to profit isnt a business, its a hobby.
Build half product: Cut your ambition in half. Youre beter off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole. (personal favorite)
DIY: Never hire anyone to do a job until youve tried to do it yourself first. That way youll understand the nature of the work.
Pass on great people: Problems start when you have more people than you need. You start inventing work to keep everyone busy. Artificial work leads to artificial projects.

Hire managers of one: Managers of one are people who come up with their own goals and execute them. They dont need heavy direction. THey do what a manager would do set the tone, assign items, determine what needs to get done, etc. but they do it by themselves and for themselves.
MY THOUGHTS

Boy, I wish I could adopt almost all of it straight away.
Hard to do within a large organisation 37signals is, by design, small, decentralized and nimble. I dont have that luxury; yes, Im often stuck in meetings that go over for too long and have too many people. But there still a lot in this book that I can put to practice in my daily job at a larger company at the end of the day, its about leadership, having a vision of where to take your brand, business and teams, and a clear compass to stay on course.

First Day As A Blogger White Belt

Boy, I did not expect that level of response. In less than 24 hours, almost 500 hits, over 20 very thoughtful comments and countless tweets & retweets. Im new to blogging but will assume its OK to take a post to say THANKS to all of you who have taken the time to read and share thoughts. I really appreciate it (yes, Dan, even you.)

Most of all, I want to recognize the amazing value of having a tight tribe, who supports my efforts as a blogger white belt.

Im talking about my friends in #usguys.

For readers who just stumbled upon this post by accident, or are still puzzled by the #usguys Twitter hashtag, heres what you missed.

we realized that our Twitter handles were taking almost half of the 140 allowed characters… and so we decided to create our own hashtag as a clever work-around: #usguys was born. As our conversations continued, we were promptly joined by others. And others. And more.

Faster than it takes to say twitanalyzer, #usguys had become a 24/7 live Twitter chat with close to 1,000 tweets per day on topics ranging from marketing, social media, innovation… to just plain fun! Check out Chases post for his side of the story

#usguys feels like it has a lot of potential and I have no idea where it will take us. But I think it went from 5 to 350 members in a few weeks because:

its a place for people who want to engage on Twitter, not broadcast… Use of the hashtag is really meant as an invitation for the group to respond,
… with a real spirit of openness and inclusion; as we welcome anyone who wants to jump in with a positive mindset, #usguys levels the playing field between social media beginners and heavy-weights. It doesnt matter if you have 12 followers or 120,000 (and to be clear, #usguys is not for guys, its just a name,)
… and high responsiveness; stats show that 71% of all tweets are ignored not in #usguys! We have a strict no tweet un-answered policy so you wont feel like youre wasting your time.

Yesterday, I discovered this policy extended to first blog posts, and Im really glad and grateful.

Even if solete and realchaseadams joked that I should not get too excited about my numbers, since they respectively read my posts 200 and 75 times. I dont know if that part is true. But I know that the stronger ties with this small group had disproportionately more impact on my blogs debut, than any of my other 1,000 Twitter followers.

So take this advice from a Twitter & blogging beginner find your tribe and engage deeply.

Or join ours!

PS Id like to put it on record that this makes me a bit nervous about whats next for my blog. I simply hope I dont let you down. Yesterday night, my good #usguys friend Anne (solete) suggested I should keep the pace and write two posts per day. Hum… sorry, Anne, thats not gonna happen.

Wheres All The Transmedia Storytelling?

Im really excited about the launch of Defiance, a new SyFy TV show set to start very soon (I hope). Or is it Defiance, the Trion Worlds shooting MMO, set to launch equally soon on PC, PS3 and XBOX 360?

Actually, both.

First of its kind, Defiance will be a true trans-media property with a common story told through television and video gaming. Both set in a near-future post-apocalyptic earth, the show and the game will take place in different cities, but will share the same world events, and even exchange characters at certain points in time. Love it!

But what somehow amazes me is that there arent more such platforms, 5 years after MITs Henri Jenkins coined the phrase transmedia storytelling in his stellar book Convergence Culture.

A REFRESHER ON TRANSMEDIA STORY-TELLING

Transmedia storytelling is quite a simple idea: its the integration of multiple media platforms to deliver a story in a deeper way. When Star Wars gives you six movies, an animated TV show, countless books and video games all united by the same History and Universe, its trans-media storytelling.

The reason its so engrossing (no, not just the revenues), is that it lets fans dig as deep as they want into the story, and creates the kind of knowledge imbalance between them that stimulates water-cooler conversations.

Watch Titanic, and you have exactly the same amount of information as everyone else whos seen the film. But watch The Matrix series without the Animatrix shorts or without playing the Matrix Online, and youve missed part of the plot. Thats where conversations can happen between the fans who know the day Morpheus died, and those who dont (its May 26th 2005).

Done well, transmedia lets an audience engage superficially with your content on one outlet (and enjoy it), or dig as deep as they want into your universe to become true fans.

A GREAT CONCEPT, NOT A LOT OF EXAMPLES.

Im puzzled at how few of these platforms have truly come to life. Sure, theres the Star Wars example Defiance is coming promises that Pottermore will stretch the Harry Potter franchise beyond the conclusion of the books and films series.

But why not more? Is it really that hard to do? That long or expensive to plan? Or simply is it that the audience is not as active and engaged as the concept assumed?

The QR Code Is Dead Long Live The QR Code!

This past weekend, I published a post lauding Tescos use of QR-codes in Seouls subway; an hour later, I retweeted an article titled Death To The QR Code which called them obsolete and invited marketers to drop them altogether.

So yesterday, my friend Robin  called out this small inconsistency. How can I praise QR codes one moment, and bash them the next? Amnesia? Schizophrenia? or maybe just fickleness in my points of view?

Dont worry, Robin did not suggest any of those things, but she did ask me this: just wondered which you agreed with.

Its a fair question.

Actually, I agree with both. And heres why.

A REFRESHER COURSE FIRST.

Skip this paragraph if you already know about QR codes.

In a nutshell, QR Codes are simply URLs in disguise, and work with smartphones.
Their purpose is to make life easier while on the streets: rather than type in long web addresses, simply point the camera and be taken straight to the site. While codes look quite basic, theres enough possible permutations to create billions of variants, each implanted with the address of a unique webpage.

Applications are very broad for example:

two-steps outdoor campaigns with a poster teaser and a website reveal (e.g. Zappos),
store shelves that pack real-time product reviews (e.g. Best Buy)retail chains opening virtual supermarkets (e.g. Tesco)

BEFORE THEY BLOOM, QR CODES ARE OBSOLETE.

I do think Business Insider is right. Outside of Japan, QR codes have hardly taken off with the general public. They are increasingly picked up by advertisers and retailers but lets face it, they are already marked for a premature death.

Clunky. If QR codes are new to you, you probably pointed your phone at the one featured in this post. And nothing happened, because you need a special software. You have to know about it, search for it, download it. A big barrier for the mainstream (as a side note, I recommend Scan for iPhone – very snappy).

Ugly. Real-estate is limited on packs and ads – so do we really want to deface products and commercials by including these strange glyphs? When the cool factor wears off, all well be left with is more clutter.

Out-teched. In a world of Wordlens and Google Goggles, somebody please explain why I need a QR code to get to a website on-the-go, rather than just scan an object, a logo, a word or simply a printed URL. Word and shape recognition are not science fiction, technologies exist. Imagine a Kinect-phone, and I could even mime it if I wanted to. Fact is, theres already better than QR codes to link the real and digital worlds.

BUT I WILL STILL USE THEM.

Wait, what?
Yes, I will use them.

So ugly that they force an audience to notice them in the middle of layout. The flaw of more advanced real-objects shape recognition is that no-one knows what can and cant be scanned. With QR codes, there is an obvious signal that extra content is just a click away. Granted, not everybody will act on the signal, but for those interested, its a great way to send out an invitation.

Nothing looks more like a QR code than another QR code. And thats a good thing. It enables much deeper relevance than, say, scanning a logo. The logo is the logo; scan it, and youre taken to only one place. But with QR, you can create unlimited codes for specific applications, and take your audience to a different webpage whether the code is on a pack, a poster or in a store. Why not have unique codes for each location, and serve content that is customized to the street level?

Call it a fad, call it a bubble, but I think there is a window to use QR codes right now. Consumers are getting used to seeing them, so its no longer an individual marketers job to educate – at least for the younger tech-savvy audience. Of course, getting potential users to download the software is still a challenge but its our job to deliver compelling content and value to make it happen!

Turn Your Blog Into An iPad App!

Turning your blog into an amazing iPad friendly app is is what a new WordPress plugin promises, and it only takes a few clicks.

Or rather, let me rephrase.

What the new Onswipe plug-in does, is turn you blog into an iPad app-like experience, complete with swipe gestures, Flipboard-like layouts, and your own springboard icon.

ITS VERY COOL TRY IT.

Theres nothing wrong with viewing a blog on the browser of an iPad today, the screen is big enough and most sites translate well; but with close to 20 million iPads already in circulation, a dedicated and adapted experience is a great plus to offer your readers!

HERES A FEW SCREEN-GRABS TO ILLUSTRATE WHAT IT ACTUALLY DOES.

Home page without the plug-in:

Home page with the plug-in:

Your own app icon on the iPad Springboard (#5 in the bottom bar):

What posts themselves look like:

THIS FIRST VERSION IS STILL A BIT ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES, BUT OFFERS A VERY COOL EXPERIENCE.

Comments and FB/Twitter/email sharing are integrated, and work great. You can easily customize your icon, fonts, color scheme. Id love to see more customization options, but thats a pretty good start, and gives me hope for more future apps and services to help individuals (or small businesses) publish touch-friendly content! I hear a built-in equivalent service is now available for wordpress.com hosted blogs but as I walked away from that a few months ago, I have not been able to check.

On the please improve in version 1.1, Id list a few bugs and issues.
No show-stopper there, but the experience will be better when the following is fixed or added:

embedded videos dont play,
the loading screen function does not seem to be working,
post titles are a bit too transparent, and hard to read against some busier images,
incompatibilities with a few java-heavy plug-in; it takes a little experimentation to activate (I had to de-activate a couple),

some key blog functions are missing, in particular the ability to subscribe by email or RSS, to browse by date or tags, to search etc
in standalone app-mode, the layout loses some space at the bottom of the screen (as the safari top bar disappears), and navigation switches back to Safari when you click on a link to another part of the site, which is a bit annoying,