Will Yahoo and Intel finally deliver on the promise of Internet-enabled TV in our Living Room?

December 29, 2008
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Yahoo's Widget Channel software for TVs shows a link to Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site, stock prices, and an advertisement. (Credit: Yahoo)

At CES 2009, Intel and Yahoo will reveal the latest in their Connected TV initiative, a program they hope will “mark the beginning of their Internet-fueled expansion to the world of TV.”  According to CNET, the companies have different goals with the Connected TV initiative.

For Yahoo, it’s establishment of the Widget Channel, a software foundation that can house programs for browsing photos, using the Internet’s abundant socially connected services, watching YouTube videos, or digging deeper into TV shows–and through which Yahoo will be able to show advertisements. For Intel, it’s a foothold in an industry whose microprocessors have typically been cheaper, less powerful, and less power-hungry.

Internet-enabled TV (also called IPTV) has been a buzzword for years now, but it has also been filled with lots of empty promises for consumers.  With that in mind, the Connected TV initiative has taken a consumer view, instead of a technology view, to figure out the future looks like.  Thanks to the help of several of Intel-employed anthropologists, they concluded that:

Unlike the PC, TVs are social. People watch it together, and what they watch turns into what they talk about. Another difference from PCs: it must be simple and reliable.  When bringing the Internet to the TV, You couldn’t just turn it into a PC.

Probing further, the anthropologists asked people what they thought the future of TV would look like.  CNET reports that the answers fit into several key buckets:

  • Something that would provide relevant information in real time, such as the weather right before heading to a sporting event.
  • Something that would connect them to other people they care about, a variation of social networking.
  • Something that would let them participate more with what they’re watching, for example by figuring out where a show’s cast members already had acted, or finding, rating, and sorting content.
  • Not a full-on Web browser, nor a keyboard to clutter up the room.

Additionally,when Connected TV initiative showed consumers initial concepts, they learned that:

  • People didn’t like the Widget Channel controls appearing on the left edge of the screen. Instead, people prefer the bottom, where they’re accustomed to seeing text already.
  • People expressed a powerful desire for a big button to make the software go away in one fell swoop–no menus or arrow keys or complication–so they could get back to watching TV when they wanted. That big button is also used to activate the Widget Channel.
  • Nobody wanted yet another remote control.

All of this research has led to the latest iteration of Internet-enabled TV that Yahoo and Intel will unveil at CES 2009.  While I may be an optimist, I really think they have potential of pulling this off and bringing the promise of IPTV to life.  Here’s why:

  1. An industry alliance can drive simplicity:  The struggle for IPTV has always been the number of players involved.  You need a solution that works for the TV manufacturers, cable companies, Internet media players, etc.  The Connected TV initiative shows promise because it brings together Yahoo, Intel and multiple TV manufacturers.  If IPTV is ever going to live up to the promise, it will take an alliance like this to pull off.
  2. Connected Consumers want information at their fingertips:  When I mentioned this article on Twitter, Jon Burg asked if web-enabled TV is something consumers will care about in 2009. I think they will but only if it is information they care about and want in real-time.  For instance, every Fall I sit with my laptop open on Sundays, tracking my Fantasy Football teams.  I’d much rather have that info streaming through widgets on the TV while I watch the games.  Same goes for customized CNN news feed or stock tracker running across the bottom of the screen.
  3. Advertisers want a replacement to interruption marketing:  Lots of people have been forecasting the death of TV advertising.  But let’s face it…that industry isn’t going away anytime soon as long as TV is central to people’s lives.  However, marketers do want a replacement to the ever-increasingly DVR skipped :30 second TV ad.  If marketers can join in the Connected TV initiative, they might just be able to help shape the future of TV advertising to one that is consumer-friendly…and dare I say, even beneficial to the consumer.

Whether or not the Connected TV initiative finally delivers on the high hopes of IPTV is anyone’s guess.  But I’m hopeful they pull it off and equally intrigued by the opportunities it will open up for Brand Managers and marketers worldwide.

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Two weeks, two great conferences

October 27, 2008

Over the next two weeks, I’ll have a chance to attend two great conferences.

First, I will be in Dallas Monday, October 27 through Wednesday, October 29 for the Forrester Consumer Forum.  Not only will I get to watch my friends David Armano and Deb Schultz give a great presentation on “Return on Insight”, but I will also meet Jeremiah Oywang and Adam Cohen for the first time in person.  If you want to follow along, check out the cool Social Media Dashboard that Critical Mass put together.

Second, I’ll be out in San Francisco for the Web 2.0 Summit November 4 through November 7.  The folks at Federated Media invited me to take part in a workshop called “Consumer Brands Tackle Marketing 2.0” on Wednesday morning.  This was a conference I have had marked in my calendar for a long time so I was really excited at the chance to join their panel.

If you happen to be at either of these conferences, drop me a note.  Would be great to join-up over drinks.

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4 Reasons Digital Matters to Your Brand

October 15, 2008
Courtesy of Will Lion on Flickr

Courtesy of Will Lion on Flickr

It continues to amaze me how many brands do not invest in digital, choosing instead to stay with the safety of traditional mass media (ie TV and print).  When asked why, you will hear a lot of different answers, but none that haven’t been proven wrong time and time again.  Digital is measurable.  Digital can provide solid ROI.  Digital can drive trial and awareness.

But if you are still struggling with justifying your digital investment, I think there are 4 important reasons digital should matter to your brand:

  1. Digital enables relationships and community
  2. Digital tells a story around your brand
  3. Digital is a key part of an integrated campaign
  4. Digital builds brand equities in new ways

Read the rest of this entry »


Alan Wolk & New York Times Describe Social Media’s Defining Moment

September 7, 2008

If you haven’t read Alan Wolk’s blog The Toad Stool, he wrote a post this week that should be your reason for visiting.  The post is in response to an article in the New York Times called “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” by Clive Thompson.  Alan sums up why you should read the article by writing:

It’s probably one of the most important articles anyone associated with the digital world can read, since it will be talked about by people outside of our world for years to come, and may actually mark the very moment that social media goes mainstream.

Those are bold words….but Alan is dead-on.  This article is one of the most impactful I have read in a long time.  It reminds me of when I first heard people talking about the writings of Malcolm Gladwell.  So get over to Toad Stool and read his thoughts and then read the whole article over at the NYT.


Is it a digital revolution…or just an evolution?

August 31, 2008

Photo credit - Badger.20It’s going to be a crazy week up in Cincinnati.  I’m trying to find a house before our move back, taking part in a P&G digital training, drafting two Fantasy Football teams, and attending a Tweet-up on Wednesday. 

So this week I wanted to turn the conversation to you on something I’ve been pondering lately.  It is a broad question, but I’ve been wondering how the Digital “Revolution” is going to change the way we do business?  It’s a question that many of my favorite marketing bloggers have been asking as well: 

Alan Wolk of The Toad Stool summed up the Real Digital Revolution as being:

…about consumer empowerment, the ability to research and learn about products and services and make decisions independently from, and in spite of, any sort of marketing and advertising messages.

Brian Morrissey wrote in AdWeek that Brands Need a New Kind of Leader to navigate the new media landscape:

The hiring of dedicated teams reflect the rising importance of social media in companies. Once thought of as an interesting new media channel, social media is increasingly seen as a catalyst for changing how companies operate. It points to a new corporate structure that favors open over closed, dialogue over monologue, and decentralized power over command and control.

And of course, Pete Blackshaw has talked about the importance of digital brand advocates for a while now:

Brand advocacy matters today because it precipitates an indelible digital trail of commentary that publicly rewards or indicts brand performance or the fulfillment of brand promises. This digital trail acts like media in both intimate and incidental ways, consistently affecting awareness, trail, and ultimately purchase of products — or the defection from them. And yes, this has everything to do with business growth and health.

So, how do you think the Digital Revolution is going to change the way Brand Managers work?  And is it really a revolution or just an evolution about connecting with consumers in new ways?


My new gig – P&G Digital Brand Strategist

August 7, 2008

So I can officially announce that as of October 1st, I will be P&G’s new Global Marketing Digital Brand Strategist.

So what exactly is a Digital Brand Strategist?  Well frankly a lot of that is going to be figured out on the job since this is a completely new position for P&G Marketing.   At the highest levels, the job will be helping drive P&G’s capability in digital marketing, branded content, social media, mobile and a host of other “digital areas”.  My job will be helping guide and equip my fellow Procter & Gamble Brand Managers / Marketers across the company with the tools to develop their digital marketing strategy.  Here is part of the job description:

Accelerating the company’s Digitial Marketing expertise and efforts across the globe is one of the current top priorities. Our commitment is to equip our brand building community with the knowledge and capabilities to create and execute a Digital Marketing Strategy.  Specific responsibilities will include:
– building & running the global digital marketing network
– leading digital marketing training program (content & delivery)
– ‘collect & connect’ of best practices & inspirational case studies
– demonstrating use new digital capabilities for internal communications

This role will involve strong external networking and communication to bring the outside in and keep us in close touch with leading edge capabilities and expertise.

I am super excited about this new role because it allows me to dive headfirst into two areas that I love: Digital Marketing and Brand Building.  It will also allow me to meet and work with many of the people in the online community who I have grown to respect and admire while writing Hard Knox Life.  And with our changes at the top of our marketing leadership, the job will be even more interesting.

As part of the job I will be relocating back to Cincinnati so I’ll be getting ready for that move over the coming 2 months while finishing up some major projects on the Walmart Team.  If anyone is looking/wanting to buy a house in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I can get you a great deal on mine!


Has brand building changed in the digital age?

August 6, 2008

AdAge had an interesting article yesterday by Allen Adamson, managing director of the New York office of branding consultancy Landor Associates.  Adamson, who is also the author of the upcoming book BrandDigital, writes about “the impact that digital technology and dynamics are having on brands and brand building.” A few key points really jumped out to me:

  1. The Digital Space has not changed the basic principles of brand building:  While Digital is about more than just new tactics, it hasn’t turned the basic concept of brand building on its head…at least not yet.  Brand Building is still based firmly in the WHO, otherwise called your customer, target market or any host of other words.  It is about understanding what makes that person tick, what motivates them and who they are as a person.  Likewise Digital has changed the importance of Brand Equity.  Your brand still needs to stand for something meaningful in the hearts and minds of the consumer.  And you need to stand for this something in every way that you communicate with your consumer.
  2. While Digital hasn’t changed the basics, it has “magnified” them:  The digital age has made it easier than ever to find “instantaneous feedback” about your target and what they think about your brand.  In this “transparent, shareable environment”, you don’t need to wait for a focus group to learn more about your customer.  You don’t have to wait for a Brand Equity Scan to come in every 6 – 12 months.  Instead you can listen to the conversation from your customers about your brand online with blogs, Twitter, and any other number of tools.
  3. With Digital, consumers can become part owners in brand development:  With the digital space, it becomes less about orchestrating a giant mass media campaign through TV and Print with a control message, and more about giving consumers the tools to make a brand their own.  With digital, consumers can quickly spread word about a brand…the control is out of the hands of the company.
  4. Success Fators of Digital Brands:  Adamson also interviewed Gary Briggs, former CMO of eBay, who outlined 4 success factors of Digital Brands including A.) Comprehensiveness, B.) Playfulness/Fun, C.) Ease of Use, and D.) Trust.  Of these, I think Playfulness is the most interesting one, especially if fun is at the heart of your brand equity.  Subservient Chicken worked so well for Burger King not only because it was a fun digital experience, but also because it built BK’s equity of “You Can Have It Your Way.” 

The challenge of building our brands in a digital world will grow exponentially in the future.  The winners are going to be those brands that not only recognize the branding opportunities of digital but also capitalize on them.  Adamson wrote that in his research:

“It was fascinating see which traditional branding organizations were highest on the digital-learning curve in adopting new technology to further their branding efforts and which were taking their time getting up to speed.”

That quote perfectly captures the opportunity in my career at P&G that I will be talking about in tomorrow’s post.