Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

If you could only read five articles online each week – where would you turn? Would you turn to the mastheads, to Twitter or to your RSS reader? Would you wait for the updates to come or would you go and seek them?

I’d be lost myself, without my trusted Feedly reader … it’s become my must have start to the day. Interestingly, however, I have yet to try it out as an iPhone app – even though it is installed. There is something that I prefer about the big screen – but then, that may change at any moment.

I hope you enjoy these five must-reads from last week!

  1. It has been an amazing week – for some unforgettable. So I’d like to lead out with this powerful anti-gun rant by Jason Alexander. Well worth a read.
  2. On a lighter note, Mandi Bateson shares 3 easy ways to annoy a social media expert guru. Awesome and funny.
  3. Many brands and businesses treat social media like any other form of media – something to yell at your audience. Robin Grant suggests that social is a waste of time unless you can engage your audience.
  4. Years ago I wrote that “blogs were the new CVs” – but Doug Gross now asks are social media making the resume obsolete? What do you think?
  5. Every wondered how Wikipedia should fit into your marketing strategy? David Meerman Scott shares some suggestions and a link to the CIPR guide for PR best practices.

Are You an ENFJ or Are You Just Happy to Follow Me?

I have always liked “persona mapping” as a way of communicating types of behaviour to my marketing teams. It allows us all to “work from the same page”. There are a variety of ways that you can do this – behaviour mapping, Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, demographic segmentation and so on.

But while this is a useful theoretical exercise in developing your marketing strategy, how does it apply to social media?

Generally, in social media, I look for the underlying behaviour in the social objects that people leave in their online wake. I look for clues to understand their motivations rather than seeking to contextualise their digital interactions. For example, knowing who drives knowing how – so understanding the social platforms that people use reveals interesting and useful information that you can use to chart your path to engagement.

But check out this infographic from the folks at – they’ve taken the MBTI approach and mapped profiles against social networks. How does it play out for YOUR profile (you can take this online MBTI test for a rough approximation). How does it rate for you?


Dodge Shows Startups the Power of Advertising

There is no doubt that Dodge and the team from Wieden + Kennedy have produced a great piece of advertising for the Dart. But as I was watching it … as I was listening to the sparce copy that was voiced with just the right amount of self-deprecation and assurance, I couldn’t help but think that it was describing the world of the startup entrepreneur.

Watch it – because it’s great. Then, play it again and listen with your eyes closed. Don’t think cars. Think startups.

What do you hear?

Start with a simple idea. Stop thinking. Start doing … Drink more coffee. Build a prototype. Mould it shape it. Hate it. Start over …

Now, despite the hype and energy around startups, I often wonder why they don’t take a small proportion of their often overblown valuations and invest in advertising. And I don’t mean advertising for themselves … I mean in brand building for the sector. Surely there are some grand stories to be told and some people to inspire.

If the car industry was the powerhouse innovator of the 20th Century economy, then surely we should look to the startup industry in the 21st. It’s about time we told some stories.

Did You Try and Fail? Then It’s Time to #flearn

At the recent FailCon conference in Sydney, Pollenizer co-founder Mick Liubinskas threw a challenge to the audience. “When it comes to startups, let’s redefine the language around failure”.

FailCon was a day-long event bringing startups, innovators, supporters and investors together to share stories and experiences. And while there was plenty of goodwill and intention from the folks in the audience, it wasn’t until Mick pulled out a live Google Document and started challenging the audience and putting names against action items that things started moving.a  Taking on the role of facilitator, he fired questions at the audience – what do we need to open up debate around failure and startups? How can we talk about success? How can we remove the stigma?

Here in Australia we not only have the “tall poppy syndrome” which aims to lop the head off anyone who becomes too successful – we also have what I call the “failure undertow” – where even a sniff of failure can drag your reputation deep into the depths of business obscurity. That leaves a very small area in which new entrepreneurs can navigate. And that, in turn, lowers our sense of reward and capacity for risk taking.

The folks in Silicon Valley have a completely different view of failure. In the startup capital of the world, entrepreneurs who have not survived a business failure are often considered amateurs. In fact, Dave McClure, founder of incubator 500 Startups considers his business a Failure Factory.

As Mick prowled the stage at FailCon waiting for audience input – a voice from the back of the room rang out. We were talking failure and we were talking learning. What if you combined them? What if we could talk about “FLEARNING”?

And it was done.

Over the last couple of weeks, Mick Liubinskas, myself and FailCon organiser, Josh Stinton have been putting our heads together to build a place to share our failures and the successes that follow. We have been talking up the concept of “flearning” and are now looking wider – for stories and experiences of failure that we can share with the wider Australian startup community. We’d love to have you involved.

Take a few minutes to check out FLEARN.ORG and let us get this conversation started. You know you want to get that story off your chest – and now’s your chance.

CommBank Reaches For a Piece of the Mobile Pi

commBank-albert We have all been there … a crowded table, a busy restaurant and service staff under pressure. On the one hand there’s orders for the bar, on the other new customers ordering meals. The challenge for most restaurants and cafes is to maximise the yield – to get your customers in, fed and out as efficiently as possible.

But then comes the bill.

Everyone wants to pay by card. Some want to split bills. Some want to tip – others don’t. Eyes start to roll. A great experience has come to an end – and all you want to do is give someone some money. It should be easy, right?

So I was interested to learn more about the Commonwealth Bank’s “revolutionary” solution that they are claiming will be the “future of business”. Based on CommBank’s platform known as Pi, it allows developers (including retailers, businesses and vendors) to create business apps that run on the Android powered secure device unimaginatively named “Albert” (they claim links to Einstein).

The fact that CommBank have engineered a finance focused software platform should be enough to send chills up the spines of software vendors around the world. With an already trusted relationship with their merchants there’s a real chance for simplification of business systems here. In fact, the launch video suggests ways forward – inventory and stock management, customer relationship management and customer loyalty.

Interestingly, they’ve taken a mobile first strategy which puts them ahead of the game – not just locally but globally. There’s even a touch of “social” potential in some of the “out of the box” apps – with a micro-donation option available for those times where customers want to “round up the bill” and donate to a worthwhile cause.

Leading the Sector through Technology Innovation

1342483960 Over the last two years or so, I have liked the market positioning that CommBank have been taking. Their aggressive use of consumer technology with apps like the Property Guide App and Kaching have differentiated them from the rest of the sector. So this announcement follows a pattern of technology innovation … with the main difference that we’ll have to wait until 2013 to see Albert up close.

An App Store to Rule Them All

Effectively, CommBank are creating and delivering their own App Store for a proprietary device. It’s an interesting move up the vendor chain – working with Wincor Nixdorf on the hardware and IDEO on the human-centred design. In a clever move, this will lock-in Commonwealth Bank merchants across the country and will also serve as a platform for product cross- and up-sell.

It’s still unclear how the App Store will run, but it seems that it will follow the model set down by Apple and Google – with developers registering and having their apps certified before release. I presume there will be options that allow developers to create apps for specific merchants – I’m thinking of the larger retailers like Myer or David Jones – but there is huge potential here for franchises as well.

Thinking Outside the Square

Apple pioneered the “own the ecosystem” approach – connecting data, identity, analytics, content and proprietary devices via the “cloud” – and CommBank seem to be reading from the same hymn sheet. And when it comes to banking and security, there’s a clear case for this sort of approach.

But the question has to be asked … why not just partner with an organisation like Square – the card reader that turns an iPhone into a mobile payment gateway? It seems that the answer is Leo (yes, as in DaVinci) -  a “strap on” or cradle for iOS devices like iPods and iPhones. This allows for access to the secure Pi platform.

And while this works for the bank – I’m wondering does it work for the customers of the bank’s customers. John Pironti, security and risk advisor with the Information Systems Audit and Control Association in the US suggests that smartphones may well be more secure than our PCs:

It’s pretty easy for banks to use GPS co-ordinates, SMS text messages, phone calls or some combination of these things to make mobile access to your bank account more secure … Plus, banks can in turn use the smart phone as a type of Swiss Army knife for security — employing the various apps and embedded features in their authenticating mechanisms.

Evolution or Revolution?

There may be a kernel of a revolution here … though it’s not in the device. For all its sleek lines, Albert is an evolution of the ubiquitous EFTPOS device found in most stores across the country.

The real value lies in the platform. As we know from social networks, power always accrues to the platform – and the underlying data – the patterns of purchase, customer relationships, business process enablement – could represent significant value to small businesses. And if CommBank could swim up the value chain a little further to deliver customer experience analytics not ONLY to the small business but to the consumer, then they may be onto something.

The thing to remember, is that in a world where business innovation arises out of the customer experience – it’s your customers who are creating the demand-pull for business innovation. And that’s where disruptive technology like Square come into their own. So, if I was the CommBank, I’d be already thinking of version 2 – and wondering just how I could put the power into the hands of its customers customers.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

This week is like a bag of mixed treats – delicious snacks that you can savour individually or dive in by the handful. Some are good for your brain, some for your heart and others will make you want to get out and try things for yourself.

I Hope you enjoy reading these – and that you find something that hits you in the right spot.

  1. Have you ever wondered why your press release doesn’t get an airing with the media? Trevor Young may have the answer for you! Take a look at his Five Tips for Pitching the Media.
  2. I used to work with someone who was difficult to interview. Knowing that I was going to write our conversations up, he’d try and talk as if he was writing. It was weird. As Bill Delaney says, Talking Isn’t Writing.
  3. Does your brand have a reason for being beyond the profit motive? Maybe you should rethink what you do and consider storybranding, says Jim Signorelli.
  4. Stories remind us that we are human – fallible and mortal. Valeria Maltoni shares some of the cultural assumptions that underpin the way that we construct our most important stories.
  5. The always brilliant Ann Handley shares a personal reflection on the history of the future – life with and without your loved ones. Read it. It will make you cry as well as smile.

Customer Experience is the Future of Retail

One of the things that interests me about retail is the potential for performance – for art, drama and transformational customer experiences. But so few retailers deliver this. In almost every case, I am underwhelmed by the retail experience. The range on offer is limited, understocked or difficult to find. Customer service – should you actually be able to find someone to serve you – tends to be cursory and uninformed. Sure there are exceptions … but these tend to be localised – known and loved in pockets across the city.

One of my favourites are the jovial, knowledgeable and friendly “grandpas” at Bunnings Warehouse who are not only helpful but willing to share a lifetime of home maintenance experience. When I bought my first lawn mower years ago, I was guided through the different options and brands by a man who might have been my own grandfather. He not only sold me the option he thought was best for my needs, he also gave me tips on mowing – time of day, technique and even suggestions to get the right kind of edge close to the vege patch. This high touch customer service humanises the vast spaces of the hardware warehouses that have become weekend Meccas for Australian home owners with more than a passing interest in DIY.

My local salon, MGs for Men, also takes a very different approach to customer experience. It’s neither a bare bones barber shop nor a relaxing pseudo-day spa, it’s closer to a testosterone laden workout. Staffed by a team of edgy, tattooed young men, it feels closer to a gym with squads of buff personal trainers prowling the tiles whipping their charges into physical shape.

But fewer of the larger retailers can claim anything like this sense of brand personality. In fact, I often feel awash in a sea of beige.

Going online is no better. Australia’s major retailers ignored eCommerce for decades – insisting that it was a fad and that shoppers would eventually return to the bricks and mortar experience for the convenience of immediate delivery, sizing in-store and handling returns. Harvey Norman and David Jones have recently revamped their sites – which is a welcome improvement – but still falls far short of a “transformational experience” with limited or no thought given to the online customer’s buying process. The sites are designed around the way that the retailers categorise their range rather than helping customer discover or browse – there are no sizing charts to give the customer a sense of confidence and there is no help or customer support to be found. The visual clutter sends confusing signals to the online shopper and – and there is scant regard to the social dimension of shopping with a basic nod to Facebook here and a review tab or two there.

Compare all this with the trends and opportunities presented in PSFK’s Future of Retail report for 2012 – the “new brand champion” and “retail on-demand”:

  • The new brand champion acts as not only an advocate, but an affiliate to your retail business. They use their social-savvy connections to advocate and sell on your behalf and profit themselves in the process. They also provide vital input into the product rage, design offers (think “crowdsourced buyers”) and deliver shopper-to-shopper customer service.
  • Retail on-demand is the fully digital experience – delivered by ANY connected device. Shoppers trade their data for better, more tailored options and service – from auto-curated shopping to “fit with a click” technology that takes the guess work out of online purchases.

Clearly, Australian retail is some distance away from this type of experience. But it’s not the trend or distance from the trend to the reality that most concerns me. It’s the lack of vision. The trends point in a fundamentally different direction from that followed by Australian retailers. The trends are focused on the customer experience and are centred on the customer journey. For the most part, Australian retail barely acknowledges the existence of the customer. We won’t be able to fix Retail until we fix retail. It’s time to get back to the customer experience.

PSFK presents Future of Retail Report 2012

View more presentations from PSFK

Dude to Dude – Bullying and Harassment is Not OK

The internet can be a messy, chaotic and unpredictable place. You can see some of the best and some of the worst of humanity on display … with the implicit understanding that we are all free to express our opinions.

Over time, many of us create personas through which we air our views and opinions. For example, I tweet using @servantofchaos but also use @gavinheaton – which has a different focus and audience. The ease with which we can setup these accounts often provides people with a false sense of anonymity.

But what happens when you witness bad or bullying behaviour? Do you say something, write, call it out or step back into the shadows of the social web?

I have always believed that to witness and NOT raise your voice in protest gives a silent nod to the behaviour you are witnessing. This sometimes makes for confrontation but often also leads to unimagined change. But whatever the outcome, speaking up at least gives permission for others to take your part or express their own uncertainties or fears – and that can only be a good thing.

Because the thing is … this is NOT just ONLINE. The technology is just another mask – and behind that screen is a real person.

Katie Chatfield shares a great video that provides some leadership. Jay Smooth’s Ill Doctrine blog is a treasure trove of in-your-face commentary on the nature of politics and masculinity. Here he talks about the appalling situation that confronted Anita Sarkeesian while running a Kickstarter project – finding herself the subject of a concerted and vitriolic sexist attack.

What I love about the video is that he addresses men specifically. One of my favourite lines (towards the end) is:

“No matter what scene on the internet is your scene, if you are a dude on the internet and you see other dudes in your scene harassing women or transgender people or anyone else who is outside of our little privileged corner of the gender spectrum, we need to speak up. We need to treat this like it matters. We need to add humanity into our scene to counteract their detachment from their humanity.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Take a few minutes to watch this clip – and then think about your scene – work, home, politics, sport, online and off. Find ONE way to add humanity into your scene and you will make this world a better place.

Give Bullying a Kick – Start with Dandelion

As anyone who has experienced bullying will tell you – it’s not only an unpleasant and humiliating experience, it can leave a lasting footprint on your memory and change the way that you relate to even the most important people in your life.

But bullying can be stopped … as long as other know about it. The challenge is getting kids to talk to their parents about being bullied, or seeing bullying behaviour.

At the recent FailCon conference in Sydney, I had the chance to hear about Dandelion – an interactive story that encourages kids to talk to their parents about bullying. Built for iPad helps to build a way into difficult discussions in an imaginative way.

The Dandelion project is currently seeking funding through Kickstarter – with the App + Wristband pack great value for only $14. You can back the project with as little as $1 or take out the Wish Come True Pack at $5000 with benefits including lunch with the author and a day’s creative direction workshop from the folks at Protein One.

There’s only a few days left to get behind this great project. Give bullying a kick and start with Dandelion.

Mobile First But With a Social Heart

Increasingly I hear people talking about a “mobile” first strategy. This approach recognises that many people are consuming your content and engaging with your brand on mobile devices as a first choice. No longer are your customers waiting to get back to their desks at the office or at home to check your website, video, email offer etc. Their interest is immediate and opportunistic.

The thing that interests me with mobile is not simply its convenience or its immediacy but the way that it changes the way that a customer will experience your brand. However, the device itself is not a driving factor in this – it is the customer intention.

Think about it … sure you can connect with your customers, provide them with convenience, usefulness and even value. And you can do so at a time that is convenient to them. But you are doing so within a context – and that context is “social”.

This interesting presentation from the Hubspot folks shares 50 amazing facts about mobile marketing – but look closely. Much of what people use their mobile devices for is to augment their experience within a social dimension – shopping, entertainment, location based check-in and so on.

So, by all means, go with a mobile first strategy. But to be successful, make sure that you have social at the heart of your efforts.