Thursday, December 31, 2009

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Noteworthy news

Heartfelt wishes for an excellent 2010


The end of the year and the end of this decade provide me with an excellent opportunity to offer heartfelt wishes to customers, partners, suppliers and friends along with sincere thanks for all the people who've trusted BusinessQuests over and over again this year as in all previous ones. I am particularly grateful to the people and companies who've given me opportunities to explore new spaces and to further expand my professional horizons.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seven predictions inspired by Art

The trailer of a new documentary on Art called "Lives of Artists" published by excellent and Restless Contagious Magazine provides an inspiration to share some thoughts about the importance of art for business and also to make a few predictions for 2010 and beyond, indulging the game of futurology as it sometimes occurs. Those predictions were shaped by the excellent content shared by the people I follow on Twitter and elsewhere; so I'm grateful to all of them for what they share and teach. Of course these are my predictions and therefore I'm solely responsible for any issues of rigor and overall quality.


"Lives of Artists" is supported by Coca-Cola and makes the case that Art should be disruptive, aggressive, intelligent, attract attention and push us out of our zone of comfort. The core message finds me in complete agreement, if only because no innovation and no evolution can happen unless we are projected into a different space from the one we are accustomed to. Being projected into the space of difference, change, imagination, dream, daydreaming, vision, possibility and openness is something that can happen either through internal forces of each one's psyche or through external factor and sometimes there are exceptional disciplines that create a link between inner and outer space. Most of the disciplines involved in Art are like that. It's an invitation to think, dream, dare, be-Start-Treky (blodly go where no one else has gone before), imagine, transcend current state, nudge yourself and others out of the comfort zone, flow, freeze, grow, disrupt... BE!

On a much more prosaic and practical level, the movie is supported by Coke and I think it shows the importance of content in capturing human attention and creating brand awareness and goodwill. It's among those signs that make me feel like indulging in the game of predictions:

  1. SEO will die on its feet because it's less and less relevant as content is increasingly structured and characterized during its production and publication to be easy for search engines to find and as search engines becomes increasingly smarter providing meaning on top of mere search, a trend stated in Fred Destin's remarkable post on investment and innovation trends 

  2. the pendulum will swing back and content will once again be considered important and worth paying for. No longer will we hear so much excessive language about the commoditization of content and the age of abundance, even though access to and distribution of content have indeed dramatically changed 

  3. user experience whether in the form of ergonomics or experience of service or immersive events (like Cirque du Soleil) will be paramount to actually attract attention in a commercially useful way

  4. advertising will disappear as a result of consumers developing resistance to mere "exposure" and "opportunity to see". Instead it will undergo a profound mutation to become a service to the desired audience...

  5. ... which means that the campaign logic must go away and budgets devoted to "time bound" initiative will have to be used differently on "contiuous / uniniterrupted activities" involving communities, tribes, high quality content, permanent education, true compassion for the customer...

  6. ... and that actually means that the relationship between media, advertisers, marketers, agencies and "operations enablers" (e.g. logistics companies) is going to be profoundly transformed once again in a veyr radical way that will recast completely e-commerce in the medium term

  7. business organization will evolve towards networks of businesses and ecosystems for which we are absolutely not prepared in terms of leagl frameworks, contractual relationships, labor relations, work tools, practices, methods and day to day organization. Actually I think that's the angle through which much of "enterprise 2.0" is likely to emerge

That's it for predictions and vision today. It's not a round number like 5, 10 or 20, that headlines are so fond of, but, hey it's a prime number :)

reBlog from A VC

A very interesting post on @fredwilson's blog giving an account of the recent Blackberry failure in the US. Aside from the inconvenience caused by such events, there is a lesson: Fred Wilson's article shows at a micro level how dependent we've become professionally on the (near) permanent real-time connectivity.

It also shows how interactions between theoretically distinct services increases the vulnerability of a communications system, exposes users to consequences that go beyond the failure of one system and do damage to the brand reputation of other services.

This is a good proxy for what would happen if we were to experience more or less massive disruption of the Internet itself or of a dominant provider with a strategy to embrace all aspects and layers of connectivity. Perhaps more than antitrust legislation we now need anti-single-point-of-failure legislation mandating standards of service level, trouble containment measures and adequate fallback resources for all services that are critical to the economy.

Somehow Blackberry took down mobile web access on T-Mobile, ATT, and other networks. I guess that means that Blackberry has some kind of overlay network on these carrier's data networks. I am sure that is well known to mobile phone geeks and has been true for a long while. I just never wrapped my head around, A VC, Dec 2009

You should read the whole article.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bosses, leaders & builders or Gandhi's return

Gandhi's Salt March
 In my various projects with customers of such varied industries as music distribution, microelectronics, online and interactive marketing, new media, satellite radio, timber trading and banking, I've had many opportunities to discuss issues facing those organisations that required some form of transition to a next level of maturity. Whether that was for migrating to a completely new software platform, for changing established practices in marketing teams, for reworking the business model or for (re)inventing the product roadmap, we always ended up discussing people and leadership.

These are two fields in which one can hardly do a good job without having a very clear position and mine has always been that people should be treated as responsible adults and that leadership is just not about gorilla chest thumping or "alpha" dominance as is perhaps too widely believed. To me Gandhi has been much more of a leader than a cowboy president I will not name since he's now in the closets of History. That's because "one ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching", which also means that consistency between what someone thinks, says and does becomes an ever more important element of leadership. As do concepts that have historically been considered as disjoint or even at odds with what a leader should be: mindfullness, compassion and hope. It's what Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee call Resonant Leadership. Today I came across The Builders' Manifesto (via AgileMinds), a great piece on the next level of leadership, which finds me in complete agreement. Quick quote of something I particularly liked, but you should really read the full article:

The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will. The Builder depends on good.

The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm. The Builder is inspired — by changing the world.

The boss says "I"; the leader says "we". The Builder says "all" — people, communities, and society.

The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace. The Builder sees the outcome.

The boss says, "Get there on time;" the leader gets there ahead of time. The Builder makes sure "getting there" matters.


The boss knows how; the leader shows how. The Builder shows why.

The boss makes work a drudgery; the leader makes work a game. The Builder organizes love, not work.

The boss says, "Go;" the leader says, "Let's go." The Builder says: "come."

This is excellent stuff.

Chambers making the case for business (re)invention

You've got to love the way Chambers has been managing Cisco for the past couple of decades and also how he took the lessons of the IBM story doing a hell of a lot to permanently sharpen strategic thinking and execution. He states very clearly why a company cannot afford to miss a major market transition, which means that a company cannot possibly afford not to monitor, analyze, measure, discuss and decide on changes in its environment, something far too many companies actually do *not* do. Better watch this sequence of his interview.

Friday, December 18, 2009

reBlog from A VC

I found this excellent quote today via Fred Wilson's blog and I thought I'd immediately try the concept. It's like thinking of new practices and behaviors at a meta-level, which is right and good if you want to see trends and anticipate business opportunities that omit "blips", focus on meaningful information (real signal) and transcend individual instances of larger waves of innovation:


The really cool thing - because our following models follow a lot of the same principles, we’ve been able to take advantage of a ton of native features:

  • Retweeting = Reblogging

  • Replying = Reblogging w/ commentary

  • Favoriting = Liking

  • “@david” = ””

  • Conversations = Reblogs, A VC, Dec 2009


You should read the whole article.

Is this the future of the magazine

When you've been watching the media space for the past few years you know the extraordinary challenges it is facing with its fundamentals, a business model that is broken, audiences that are fragmented, content that still costs a lot to produce even though its revenue generating ability has gone down the drain... Innovation is sought. Technology must be made an ally. Business will undergo massive transformation. This is definitely not about new media versus old media, but about a totally new media landscape opening opportunities to interact with audiences in novel manners and to activate multiple media formats no matter whether your initial expertise is in print, radio, television or the Internet. In that respect, Bonnier's recent roll out of a tablet that delivers the magazine to the audience is a most interesting innovation to watch. And I'm amazed with the buzz around it too.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Planet Google?

Just read a piece about where Google might be in ten years and considering the success of Gmail between 2004 and now, the author might just be right even though his forecasts may seem wild at times (e.g. Android prevailing in the mobile OS wars). That gives me an opportunity to comment and discuss a bit further Google's amazing ability to execute beautifully a bold strategy of massive innovation to deliver on an audacious vision to organize the world's information.

A couple of comments on Google in 10 years

Interestingly Devinda Hardawar (@devindra on Twitter), the post's author, reminds us that Gmail was launched only in 2004. Few people can argue it's gaining traction in the segment of people who use predominantly  email in SaaS mode and even making inroads into the segment of more traditional users who are stuck with legacy solutions like Outlook Express. Gmail grew 43% in 2008 and took #3 spot in August leaving AOL behind. It's gaining momentum and is probably a good indication of what Google can do in terms of winning market share with a patient approach that it can afford thanks to its advertising revenues.

Furthermore Devindra makes a couple of very powerful statements regarding Google Wave, stating his belief that it's much more important than it may seem on the surface and could well revolutionize the way knowledge work gets done. In keeping with a recent post on this blog, I very much agree with him and do intend to spend more time testing Wave, not dismiss it as Scoble has done, foolishly in my opinion. 

Google's execution excellence

Google ability to consistently pursue specific targets is an amazing characteristic of the company. They've been able to roll out a number of major services over the past decade accomplishing key strategic targets with each of them:

  1. search, their bread and butter and the foundation for any endeavor having to do with managing information at an age of information mostly uncontrolled proliferation. With that they accomplished brand recognition and created necessary technological foundations.

  2. email in what was not called SaaS yet, thus increasing the touch points with the market and making a first move towards managing some of the world's information.

  3. advertising based on search and content: building on the previous and targeting and industry which was both very inefficient and well endowed. With that they achieved financial viability and independence as well as consideration by financial markets.

  4. analytics, building on the previous one to help make the process of marketing communications and ultimately marketing more efficient and rational. With that they earned a position as a trusted provider of quantitative information.

  5. office productivity suite, to increase the share of their direct contribution towards managing the world's information by accessing a new kind of content.

  6. e-commerce capabilities with Checkout, to start processing transactional information on behalf of merchants and buyers.

  7. Android, to extend the reach of their services to mobile contexts and facilitate seamlessness of user experience across networks and contexts.

  8. voice services, to go beyond text and enhance the experience of users across the full range of Google services with a view to serving more and better the business world.

  9. technology as a service, to provide infrastructure as a service, operating system as a a service, storage as a service, programming platform as a service... and leverage the web as a platform.

Arguably, there's more and there are other ways of viewing what Google is doing, but in every case you'll find great consistency and clarity of purpose in strategy execution.

Google acquisitions: a string of success stories

Looking at the string of their acquisitions over the past decade (another way to assess strategy execution), the consistency of purpose is obvious and their ability to integrate acquired companies and technologies is impressive. Some people tend to focus too much on plays that did not turn out to be successful and fail to see the bigger picture: Google successfully embeds  80% of its acquisitions in the Google system, when the market average is much much lower (I'd say 20% based on the business news I've followed for the past 20 years).

Significant and successful moves included:

  • Deja in 2001, which became Google Groups, now integrated in Google Apps and arguably a successful service with important synergies with targeted advertising, Google's current bread and butter

  • Outride in 2001 and Kaltix in 2003 which became iGoogle, personalized search and the search wiki.

  • Pyra Labs and Genius Labs in 2003, which is the foundation of Blogger... No comment.
    Picasa in 2004... again not exactly a failure, especially considering the early success of Flickr

  • Baidu in 2004... and oh, China is a fairly big market they say...

  • ZipDash, Where2 and Keyhole in 2004, Endoxon in 2006 and Image America in 2007, which gave Google Maps

  • Urchin in 2005, which became Google Analytics subsequently enhanced in 2007 with the licensing of GapMinder's great data visualization technologies (commercial entity was called Trendalyzer)

  • Android in 2005... you have heard of the Droid success in the US I'm sure. In fact it's been estimated that 75% of all web resources visited with mobile phones in the US were either iPhone OS or Android... Nokia and Symbian are in the dust over there, so that's a decent accomplishment, no?

  • @Last software, in 2006, which gave Google Sketch still insufficiently acknowledged as a revolution in computer aided design and very used in engineering communities

  • Upstartle and 2Web Technologies in 2006 and Zenter in 2007, which power Google Documents, a foundation for online office productivity applications and online form building

  • JotSpot in 2006, which became Google Sites, an extremely powerful tool that some people like David Dossot (not exactly a tech nitwit) use to build websites and some other use to provide customized secure online workspaces for their customers (BusinessQuests humbly but proudly claims to be among them)

  • Grand Central in 2007, which became Google Voice and is still insufficiently acknowledged as a major disruption in telecoms because it does enable a form of unified messaging & communications

  • DoubleClick in 2007, which I believe holds a good share in all of its markets
    Postini in 2007, which provides fantastic anti-spam protection for all Google Apps for email users, amongst which yours truly very humbly and happily so

  • re-CAPTCHA this year, arguably a good security enhancement for Blogger
    and last but not least YouTube in 2006, which I think was a fair success amply justifying its acquisition price of 1.7 billion USD

Google is recorded as having purchased 59 companies for a total amount that is hard to assess but likely stands in the region of 15-18 billion USD. The track record of acquisitions can in no way be considered as bad. In fact I know only of one company that is better: Cisco. Both Google and Cisco are hugely analytical players, with extra smart employees on board, giving huge attention to recruitment and equally huge attention to acquisitions.

Another thing worth mentioning is Google's creation of an arm dedicated to early stage investments, which is called Google Ventures, a fund that started this year with 100 million USD. Google Ventures has made a couple of very smart bets in clean-tech with smart grid technology (Silver Spring Networks) and biotechnology (Adimab)...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Types of Twitter users show diversity of purpose

In a recent post published on American Express' Open community, where you need to be registered as Amex customer to leave a comment (so much for"open"...), Guy Kawasaki identifies six types of Twitter users, which feel right if you've been on Twitter long enough and followed / unfollowed many people in an attempt to make the experience relevant to you.

Kawasaki's six types are:

  1. Newbie

  2. Brands

  3. Smore

  4. Mavens

  5. Mensch

Go to his post for explanations.

To me the distinction between the Smore (the social media whore... you've got to love this new word) and the Brand is not that clear in Kawasaki's definition and I don't see two profiles that are in fact part of the Twitter ecosystem:

  • Hoarders, users who use Twitter primarily to monitor, capture information to gain insight. They're are a bit like Maven's but they don't necessarily seek to be recognized as experts or to be retweeted

  • Quants, non-users who have developed applications that are useful or fun to users (e.g. URL shorteners, usr grading, Tweet analytics or tags of keywords) and which can be used to gain a fine principally quantitative understanding of the Twitter landscape.

Does that make sense?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tim Berners-Lee calls for the next leap: raw data

Through a recent post of one of my contacts, I got to view for a second time a presentation Tim Berners-Lee gave at TED for the 20 years of the web. What had not struck me the first time I saw the presentation is the claim Berners-Lee makes that everything we have today of the web resulted from the idea of hyperlink / hypertext. A big bang of sorts. 

It's almost a stereotype of the kind of claims brilliant conceptual types do, because they're so focused on discovery, innovation in its rawest form, beginnings and not necessarily finished forms... which is also one of the reasons why Tim Berners-Lee was not the many economic beneficiary of the discovery. Can you imagine the turn of events had he decided to patent the hyperlink idea and ask for a trillionth of a Euro for each hyperlink created? One of the reasons why I'm not a fan of extreme patenting and rigid copyright.

In this presentation Tim Berners-Lee calls from a new leap, which he thinks is as important as the hyperlink: open availability of raw data. Can you imagine what that means if he's right? I'm ready to bet he is and I'm ready to bet it's a matter that's far more important than data: it's a matter of civilization and a defining factor for civil liberties. 

His presentation  mentions several examples and he mentions the excellent work of Professor Hans Rosling that I covered in December 2006 in this post (here are the notes of Rossling's talk back then).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The science of motivation

Daniel Pink makes once again a great case for non-conventional thinking on the topic of the drivers of motivation. He debunks a number of assumptions that most of us take for granted just because we grew up in a world driven by the fallacy of rationality of economic agents, "carrot and stick" or "reward - punishment" paradigm. Pink shows how reward schemes actually force people to narrow their thinking down to obvious paths and therefore are mostly counter productive when it comes to really challenging situations, which is where rewards would be completely justified...

Perhaps an additional proof, if there was need for one, that money does not buy motivation, talent and ability to apply knowledge. There has to be something else. Something the builders of cathedrals in Europe knew centuries back when they were not only looking for capable craftsmen, but also looking for craftsmen that had a personal win in the success of the project to build a cathedral. And in a way Pink rediscovers and refines that by identifying three key aspects to motivation:

  1. autonomy

  2. mastery

  3. purpose

Those who've been involved in neurolinguistic programming might say that these are key values and beliefs for reaching excellence of impeccability because they define aspects of the transpersonal level in Bateson's logical levels and they drive acquisition of skills (strategies), ways of doing (skills + behaviors) and ways of being (attitude, intention). There are some excellent examples here amongst which why Encarta lost to Wikipedia.

Furthermore Pink's points are highly compatible with the attributes of Resonant Leadership as discussed by Boyatzis & McKee.

Just watch a fascinating presentation:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Real-time search pointing towards Google acquiring Twitter?

Just saw Google's video on real-time search and there was a comment saying something like "As usual with Google: just a useless BS video , and not a tiny bit of information about how you are actually supposed to use this". 

I must disagree with that because the video provides a fairly immersive experience and a good feel for what they mean by real-time search. My comment would be that there is so much Twitter in the video that one gets to wonder when will Google acquire Twitter... 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Of Google Wave, bots and complex adaptive systems

The launch of Google Wave has generated various reviews and left many with a feeling of perplexity or outright rejection because what they saw seemed so little compared to what had been promised (a lesson for every marketer out there IMO). In fact people who've accessed the platform reported several important issues summarized here.

However GoogleWave is indeed completely revolutionary and could well transform the way we deal with information, interactions, collaboration and value creation... perhaps even transactions some day.

This wiki (kindly provided on Wave by my friend David Dossot) is proof of  the revolutionary aspect of Wave as it deals with bots, each of which has a special function within the Wave ecosystem allowing it to connect and interact with other formats, platforms, logical spaces, communities and online properties. What's still very much unclear in what I've read so far (not nearly enough)  is the security model and the degree to which bots can be configured with standard behaviors but if secure and with extensive ability to configure and string together (with some of these objects providing flexibility analogous to Yahoo Pipes), then Wave could well be the equivalent of the "one ring to rule them all" and probably also "an offer we can't refuse" as the Godfather would say. 

On the even more interesting side of things, once adopted Wave becomes a real Complex Adaptive System with a greater potential for structure emergence than the open web because of the existence of rules and constraints that are neither too many (as in collaborative systems like blueKiwi or SharePoint) nor too few (as in the open web). The concept of wave being so open and so flexible provides for an ideal combination of rules and flexibility, which is necessary for CAS dynamics to really operate.

Now this is a first impression and I have not tested this stuff a lot, but if it is what I understand it to be and if it becomes what I imagine it can become, then this thing is not simply big, it's huge.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Darwinian evolution of CRM in "socialized" marketing

Just read a piece (see link at the end of this post) claiming that the CRM is dead and that with the advent of the "social customer" there would be a new way of seeing marketing through 5 Ps, the most important of which would be people. The article titled "CRM is dead: Do You Know the Five Ps of Marketing?"claims that CRM is for the dustbins of history. I respectfully disagree with that.

In fact CRM is more alive than ever with ZohoCRM, Salesforce and Siebel powering an increasing number of commercial groups in established companies as well as start-ups worldwide. From sales force automation to marketing campaigns to cross company project teams and integrated marketing analytics, these platforms are providing the means to an end: building rapport with customers who are increasingly social.
In fact:
(1) you need a clear objective in terms of quality, reach, intensity, frequency and intimacy in customer relationships,
(2) you have more than just customers and prospects to deal with especially if you embrace a vision of influencer marketing
(3) you need the technical means to achieve the above and these technical means are CRM systems

Bottom line: today's marketing and sales main challenge is to distinguish between means and ends, using the former to achieve the latter. Increasingly social customers create new requirements in terms of goals and imply the use of older as well as emergent tools and practices. No point in being too categoric about the dustbins of history: the new never fully eradicates the old but rather amalgamate to create something stronger than either of the initial components. That's Darwinian in its truest form and it applies to technology as well.


Google's speed mission continues with Public DNS

That's quite big as a move! Google is increasingly a dominant provider of network based resources: infrastructure as a service, processing as a service, storage as a service, software as a service, messaging, instant messaging, VoIP telephony, unified messaging... But they're smart enough to see that network based must have local relays, which is why there's Gears, Chrome OS, Android...etc. One has to admire their strategy and crucially its execution.

This move to provide DNS service is a very important one because it's about Google taking a key position in one of the core infrastructures of the web. A position from which they can become indispensable and from which they can effectively influence the future of core technologies powering the Internet. The next step will be for Google to offer different levels of service one of which could be completely secure high availability DNS service for business critical applications, something that would make sense as the network is more and more the computer. Sun was way too early with their vision so someone else gets to do something good with it. There are more casualties in first movers than unfair advantage achieved by being a first mover.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hiring at a Startup? Know Thy Weaknesses

Excellent piece on how to hire a co-founder at start-up phase; received via @lkratz. The article highlights some of the least common criteria to be considered when hiring at a start-up including dilution, investor relations and effectiveness of governance.


"2.0" community's stars carbon emissions via the social web

Experimentation is perhaps the most important attitude for understanding the ever changing landscape of a world constantly reshaped by infotech. From continuous experimentation hopefully comes some experience which can be used for execution of plans; we've got the 3Es of success and the cycle goes on and on.

In this post I'd like to share some thoughts about an experiment that started like all of BusinessQuests' experiments: with a weird question. Today's weird question: is there a way to find out how much carbon dioxide the "2.0" crowd of thinkers and star players is generating just by traveling the world to attend conferences, make speeches, shake hands and send those lovely "tweets" about the weather in Paris or the taste of vodka in Moscow?

Purpose of the experiment

The purpose of the experiment was therefore to find out how close I could get to assessing the carbon dioxide emissions of people like Robert Scoble, Peter Kim, Gerd Leonhard, Bradley Horowitz, Joi Ito, Lawrence Lessig... using only public information that I gathered from the "social web". So this is about using "2.0" tools on the thought leaders and stars of the "2.0" crowd, all of whom are very connected and tend to travel a lot to speak and meet in real life during conferences, not all of them interesting it must be said.

Why does it matter?

There's more to this attempt to assess carbon emissions of prominent figures of today's web than the results per se. It goes deeper to the question of what uses can actually be made of public information that we publish very willingly as part of our being part of the global networked community of what Richard Florida dubbed the "creative class", what some call the community of the über-connected, the "2.0" bunch.

Whether the results are accurate to the gram of CO2 or not is not that relevant; the fact that the emissions can be estimated with published user data is much more relevant though because it means there is probably a way for people running private intelligence services or marketing organizations (sometimes a nuance without a difference) to do pretty accurate estimates of other dimensions in the lives of the connected crowd from revenues to groups supported to books bought to relationships and addresses... It's food for thought and that's not only for those of use who are active participants to social media and social platforms' permanent beta.

The results

So here are the results (spreadsheets here), using just Google Docs and an amazing gadget called Panorama Analytics for creating pivot tables on Google Sheets. The chart gives average emissions of carbon dioxide for prominent "2.0" figures who were kind enough to allow open access to their travel information on social travel site Dopplr.

For convenience, given that the load time of the Panorama gadget may be long, there's an Excel version of the chart below:


How was this done?

The total distance traveled by each of the people listed here was
broken down into plane, train and car travel making three sets of
assumptions (called scenario 1, scenario 2 and scenario 3) about the
relative importance of each transportation means in the traveler's
total travel distance. The traveler's date of activation of the Dopplr
account was used to calculate the number of months over which the total
distance was traveled and the free carbon footprint calculator provided
by the website was used toestimate the carbon impact of each traveler for each of the three scenarios.


From people to industries to institutions, the ubiquitous network and network based applications are profoundly transforming the way things get done. For all the generous talk about the openness, creativity and sharing enabled by social media, the central issue of what public information says about each one of us is getting hotter and hotter even as people from different background converge to bring solutions to address "digital identity", "e-reputation", "brand protection", "buzz", "intelligence", "monitoring"...

Since the very availability of such information and the thought of how it could be used undoubtedly sends shivers down many spines, it follows very logically that the kind of information we processed in this experiment is also information that has real marketing value because it makes sense. It has meaning. Something that is not necessarily true of all the detailed metrics and analysis we get from sophisticated tools that measure visits, bounces, clics, actions, hits, views or deliveries. At the end of the day less may very well be more if that "less" goes more to the heart of behavior tying back to real life of real people with real dreams, hopes, fears, joys and aspirations. That is the real core challenge for marketers today.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Socialized Media: The Powerful Effects of Online Brand Interaction

Brian Solis analyzes in a very compelling way the value of online interactions about brands. Taking things from his angle, there is more than simply a case for online social interaction and for fully fledged social marketing (not just social macomms): there is a good basis for demonstrating ROI and analytics beyond mere lists of metrics and figures.
Definitely worth reading. This has important implications on the future of marketing.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

The wise learn from other people's experience

"The wise learn from other people's mistakes and fools from their own." So goes an ancient proverb that some say was first written in Aramaic. As far as I'm concerned, I have been more often a fool than a wise person. That may be because I prefer experimentation to inertia, feeling that Randy Pausch was so right when he said in the Last Lecture that in life "experience is what you get when you you didn't get what you wanted". This post is about experience sharing and it was prompted by a visit to Genaro Bardy's recent post on a presentation made by Kevin Rose.

Few things are more valuable for entrepreneurs and venture investors than getting the account of some real-life experience, whether it speaks of "success" or "failure" is completely irrelevant so long as the content is genuine and the analysis honest. When speaking to customers during workshops, trainings or coaching sessions I often encourage them to examine cases of other entrepreneurs they might know. I also advise them to cut through the crap of accounts entrepreneurial successes and  failures:

  • in the former crap is neat logical explanations of how the successful entrepreneurs identified and captured an opportunity (i.e. they knew what they were doing from day one, had a definite plan and eventually ended up exactly where they'd wanted to be) and 

  • in the latter crap is justifications and excuses pertaining to everything but the entrepreneurs themselves (i.e. they did everything right but someone else messed everything up or the circumstances caused them to fail despite their "perfect" plan).

In this post, I'd like to comment a bit further on this matter of sharing experience and use a presentation made by Kevin Rose as an example of the practice of honest and factual sharing of experience gained through different entrepreneurial initiatives.

Accounts of how entrepreneurial ventures unfolded are interesting insofar as they allow us to see how a given entrepreneur acted, both successfully and unsuccessfully, through expected results and unexpected twists and turns of the economy, in the context of a specific industry.

In such accounts there are elements that are very peculiar to the industry or to the entrepreneur and could not possibly be replicated. For example, Steve Jobs has very peculiar ways of doing things and much of his ways cannot be replicated even if we try to immerse ourselves Inside Steve's Brain (very interesting book) and in the business of social marketing there are practices that work very well but could not possibly be applied to financial services where regulatory constraints set clear limits on the nature of open community driven interactions. On the other hand, entrepreneurs' account offer elements that can be replicated and can be used in other contexts, in other industries, by different people. Very often these elements are good practices, activities, initiatives and sets of assumptions about the business. For example, Jamendo's founders could teach volumes about their initial assumption that open sharing of content under Creative Commons licensing would pave the way for new forms of distribution of and interaction on music. Their input would be valid for other forms of content and could be used to examine the impact of social media on traditional media or to carry out an analysis of the current war between Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, Google and Bing.

One great example of such account is Kevin Rose's presentation in which he shares his experience of practices that worked well at Digg, Twitter or WeFollow. His low key approach is great as he is giving us a perspective on what worked and what did not, to tell us how to go with the flow and listen to users in shaping a service and to honestly state he is on constant experimentation. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect in Kevin Rose's presentation lies in his relentless drive to speak of practice and not to preach for a theory or abstract construct. Practices can be replicated elsewhere giving due consideration to the peculiar aspects of a given business or industry.

Taking your Site from One to One Million Users by Kevin Rose

View more presentations from Carsonified Team.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A sobering view on "cloud computing"

Ellison's public rant about "cloud computing" is a sobering reminder that sometimes efforts to simplify the communication on technical topics actually blurs the picture, creates confusion and makes us less rigorous than we should be in our quest to understand what innovations are coming, as well as where the technology of business and the business of technology are headed.

BQ's intelligence for Cleverwood


On this page is a collection of resources that I consider interesting enough for Cleverwood people. This is a subset of my continuous watch of the market. Not supposed to be targeted monitoring or to reflect actual business priorities of Cleverwood, but rather part of my ongoing experimentation with tools and practices. Hope it's useful and enjoyable.

Selection of online resources

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Open source house initiative

An interesting initiative. One wonders what impacts may result from it on the building industry and on industries like timber trading whose activity is closely related to housing. Ultimately it's quite possible for this Open Source House Project to make a measurable contribution to sustainability and environmental protection.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

BQ's intelligence for GentleSecurity

Noteworthy news for GentleSecurity

The purpose of this page is to concentrate resources identified by BQ as useful for the development of GentleSecurity's business plans. It is solely the BQ perspective and has not ambition to be an exhaustive monitoring of online resources.

Noteworthy news

Documents & studies

None so far.

Slideshows & videos

None so far.

BQ's watch of news for BrainsFeed

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The facilitation boost for teamwork

A very interesting post was published recently in a blog dealing with the point of confluence of marketing and neuroscience. It shows that bringing an outsider in any team endeavor actually improves the performance of the team effort. The post focuses particularly on decisions made in team contexts and on problem solving. This is very much in line with the kind of experience I have with workshops organized for customers on specific issues they want to deal with. In most cases we end-up achieving significant progress in an amazingly short time and with work that feel effortless although it's actually very demanding. The following are the top factors of success in my opinion:

  1. focus on a specific issue: each workshop has a very specific focus area and my job as facilitator is to make sure everybody remains focused on the issue at hand or jointly agree to tackle another issue, but the point is to guarantee everybody is on the same page and all decisions about the topic to handle are made explicitly not by the usual "agenda drift" many meetings have

  2. supporting process: during a workshop there is always a "backbone" in the form of a process that we follow and that process comprises specific sequences of work involving techniques borrowed from The Fifth Discipline, IDEO's method cards, NLP or Edward De Bono's Six Thinking Hats

  3. external facilitation: as an outsider I have considerable freedom to ask stupid questions and approach the issues under discussion from original angles something perhaps an insider might not dare do or think doing as it's not easy to escape from established ways of doing inside an organization

So the effect of external facilitation seems to be visible in scientifically controlled experiments, something I find really interesting. The article clearly states that you don't need to bring in expensive consultants to get the "outsider effect" and that's rather good news because it's a great argument for enlightened entrepreneurs and managers who want to mix people from different functional areas. Now I believe there is much more to it than "just" importing an outsider in a team process if we want maximum impact. The effect is most likely much greater if the outsider has developed an expertise in this type of services.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Power of time-off

Some interesting inspiration at a time when it's so "normal" to always be reachable and connected and active and "oh-my-Gosh" so busy...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Slides from the conference at Technoport

A mini-conference about the basics of how to use search marketing to develop the business was organized today at Technoport with eTeamsys and BusinessQuests presenting.

Mike Mitchell, eTeamsys' CEO, spoke about the challenges and the major trends affecting search marketing, with a highlight on e-reputation. When speaking about e-reputation he showed how search results about Clearstream are currently affected by a high-profile trial that took place in France recently and by video content making a number of negative claims about the Luxembourg-based player in securities clearing & settlement. By contrast, Mike showed how search results about Euroclear were consistent with a more desirable image for such a player. That was pretty interesting and I certainly recommend you look at the slides with evidence of the difference between the search results of these two players. Now you might ask what the impact may be since these are B2B players and their business is unlikely to be affected by that kind of results as industry insiders will filter out the noise. Well, it may well affect the ability of the organization to recruit talent (remember how people became uncomfortable saying they were working for Philip Morris a few years ago or how people working for virtually bankrupt investment banks were being very discreet about that last year?). And since there is a war for talent and these organizations do need good IT people, there may be an impact. At any rate I'm not sure you want your brand to be tarnished even if that can boost your PageRank, right?

I spoke for BusinessQuests to highlight:

  • the imperative of aligning online strategy to overall business strategy

  • the scarcity of human attention, 

  • how to consider people when publishing content online, especially when you want your ads to get clicked and to lead to actual commercial results

  • the need to think in terms of audience, experience and influence when defining your approach to search and more largely your online presence

  • what can be done in the field of analytics in terms of audience profiling, content performance and ultimately business performance 

The two sets of slides are to be found below.

eTeamsys on search marketing

BQ on objectives driven online presence

Slides from the conference at Technoport

A mini-conference about the basics of how to use search marketing to develop the business was organized today at Technoport with eTeamsys and BusinessQuests presenting.

Mike Mitchell, eTeamsys' CEO, spoke about the challenges and the major trends affecting search marketing, with a highlight on e-reputation. When speaking about e-reputation he showed how search results about Clearstream are currently affected by a high-profile trial that took place in France recently and by video content making a number of negative claims about the Luxembourg-based player in securities clearing & settlement. By contrast, Mike showed how search results about Euroclear were consistent with a more desirable image for such a player. That was pretty interesting and I certainly recommend you look at the slides with evidence of the difference between the search results of these two players. Now you might ask what the impact may be since these are B2B players and their business is unlikely to be affected by that kind of results as industry insiders will filter out the noise. Well, it may well affect the ability of the organization to recruit talent (remember how people became uncomfortable saying they were working for Philip Morris a few years ago or how people working for virtually bankrupt investment banks were being very discreet about that last year?). And since there is a war for talent and these organizations do need good IT people, there may be an impact. At any rate I'm not sure you want your brand to be tarnished even if that can boost your PageRank, right?

I spoke for BusinessQuests to highlight:

  • the imperative of aligning online strategy to overall business strategy

  • the scarcity of human attention, 

  • how to consider people when publishing content online, especially when you want your ads to get clicked and to lead to actual commercial results

  • the need to think in terms of audience, experience and influence when defining your approach to search and more largely your online presence

  • what can be done in the field of analytics in terms of audience profiling, content performance and ultimately business performance 

The two sets of slides are to be found below.

eTeamsys presentation on search marketing

BusinessQuests presentation on online marketing for real people

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Top global brands: big swings and US dominance

The list of top global brands was published a few days ago by Interbrand and BusinessWeek. The top 10 brands are largely the same as last year, but the list of brands that have made the biggest gains is interesting: Google (+25% in brand value), Amazon (+22%),  Zara (+14%), Nestlé (+13%) and Apple (+12%) make up the top-5 of the year's winners. Brands that have lost value are (unsurprisingly) those of financial institutions with UBS (-50%), Citi (-49%) and Amex (-32%) leading the pack.


A break-down by country shows the US brands account for nearly two thirds of top global brands, while the top 3 countries of origin (US, Japan, Germany) are home to over 80% of top global brands (see chart - click to enlarge).

The total value of global brands based in the US reaches an amazing 744.2 billion US dollars, while Japan's are worth about 91.8 billion dollars, only slightly above Germany's 91.2 bn$.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The agency that WOWed me

This is an excellent piece of communication by BooneOakley a marketing agency (whose site homepage is actually this YouTube video - quite radical and why not after all?) that is very successful in:

  1. showing what its target customer's burning problem is

  2. identifying its key competitors

  3. highlighting the weaknesses of the competitive options

  4. differentiating itself not only in terms of rational content of this piece but also in terms of location, style, spirit, tone, coolness, fun and cleverness

  5. showing ambition without falling into the trap of becoming pretentious or arrogant

I found this video via Cleverwood on Geert Polleunis' site and blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

P&G lead by example in engaging constructively: Ariel's facts and figures

Recently I posted some thoughts based on a case study that questioned the practices of P&G which stood accused of trying to fool customers by falsely stating that the new bottle type of Ariel contained "10% more product" (tan the previous type of bottle presumably). 

Much to my surprise, I got an answer from somebody working for P&G who reacted within just a couple of hours and that's quite impressive since this blog has never been about building audience or making noise and is therefore not particularly influential. I'm absolutely WOWed by P&G ability to monitor online resources and take reasonable action on any alerts and that's the kind of defensive marketing tactics modern brand management should always feature. More often than not that's not the case.

In this post there's a quick analysis of the facts provided by P&G, which infirm the assertions of the presentation although they do not necessarily prove the accuracy of the "+10%" claim, which I'd rate as "almost true" or "true enough" if I were to run the "truth-o-meter". Naturally that means there is no reason to state that P&G is fooling their customers and the very fact that they engaged in a discussion with this blog shows that they're treating online sources and people out there in a very respectful manner.

First let me give you a copy of P&G's reply, which I found very well formulated, very factual and showing great respect for a very humble blogger without any influence whatsoever. To respect privacy I'm witholding the name and details of the author of the reply:

 Dear Alex,

I’m working for Ariel (P&G France) and I’m regularly looking, thanks to a Google alert, what is said on the web about the brand. That”s how I’ve found a post you made on your blog and on about the “Ariel and the mathematics” French power point presentation. I also read your post titled “No you cannot fool your customers P&G... or whoever else”.

I’m kindly writing to you to draw your attention on the fact that the data in the presentation are wrong. The author of the presentation, who lives in Germany, has already acknowledged his mistake, distances himself from the content of the presentation and regrets having circulated it.

What has happened?

The author of the presentation did not compare the Ariel bottle from 2009 (+10% more content; 1.4L content equalling 20 wash loads) with the real predecessor from 2008(1.26L content equalling 18 wash loads), but with an older bottle from 2005 (1.5L content equalling 20 wash loads), that he found in his house.  

The compared Ariel bottles origin from different years and during those years we have launched several new product generations. According to the production code the featured old bottle was produced in the year 2005, the new product is from 2009. Our products are constantly improved to fulfil the increased consumer needs. In comparison to the product of the year 2005, new Ariel liquid 2009 offers a formula that has been constantly improved over five years, plus it offers an improved washing result by an even lower dosage per wash load (now 70mL per wash load versus for example 75mL still in 2005). This can be seen on the dosage instructions on the back of the bottle.

We hope we could clarify the misunderstanding with this statement and we would really appreciate if you could post this statement online or if you could delete the initial post itself.

Of course, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for more information.

Best regards,

Now to translate the content's of P&G response into dry facts and figures I created the table below to try to assess the actual impact of changes to Ariel's bottling in terms of effective quantity of product provided to consumers. Since we do not have any idea of the evolution of the product's price in inflation adjusted terms we cannot say whether the 2009 bottling is a better deal or not, but depending on whether they could actually do 18 or 20 (18+2) wash loads with one bottle the effective quantity purchased could either be a real increase of 11.1% or an unchanged situation, but it is in no case a decrease of 5% to 7% in quantity provided as shown in the presentation:

Needless to say I'm very impressed that P&G was able to spot the post within only a few hours from its publication, that their response was so swift and effective and I can see why they've been so good at building world class super valuable brands: Ariel is #84 and worth close to 7.8 billion USD in the 2009 top 100 and Pampers is ranked #31 and valued at 18.8 billion USD. For your convenience I'm embedding the ranking of top 100 brands below:

Global top 100 Brands 2009 -

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No you cannot fool your customers P&G... or whoever else

Customer empowerment is nothing new these days. (Nearly) every marketer knows that they cannot afford the luxury of communicating brand value or product proposition without taking the customer into account. Those who don't are a species in danger of extinction. However before they go extinct they run the risk of killing a couple of fine brands painstakingly built by their owners to connect to specific customer groups. Here's an example which was sent to me by a friend; it tells the story of a new packaging of Ariel laundry wash liquid that's supposed to offer "10% more product" to the customer, but in fact contains 0.1 liter of liquid less than the old packaging while promising "18+2 washes", something the customer is expected to swallow as a vast improvement of 10% over the "20 washes" of the old packaging... Somebody who used to work for P&G in the seventies told me marketers and sales people in the house used to say "you can think the consumer is stupid, but cannot tell the consumer they are stupid". Well, we've got news for you P&G: these times are over. Enjoy the slideshow and if you're a marketer who doesn't know better, please read Paul Isakson's vision of the future of marketing.

Ariel Et Les MathéMatiques Capitalistes

View more presentations from alex Papanastassiou.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Coherence essential to leveraging "social media"

Today I spent some time going through the "WTF is social media - one year later" presentation, which I find excellent. It's embedded below for your convenience and below are some of my thoughts on the matter.


The WTF material is really good stuff full of common sense, good thinking and it provides a sobering view of what this thing called social media could be used for. Focusing on fundamentals of business and on phenomena we've been able to observe over the past few months and years, the authors actually help business people who are a bit lost with all the chatter about social media and collaborative workspace. Observations and statements of what "social media" (for lack of a better word) could be used for are excellent and it's a pitty there is only little content about concrete ways in which to leverage the different aspects of social media... but of course who wouldn't understand that the authors would gladly provide that as part of their services at Brand Infiltration ;)

Now the presentation is also excellent food for thought and here are a couple of those that emerged going through the slides:

  1. I am not entirely sure the method you use is what drives business value: I mean that whether you go for high tech "social online super dooper media"  or low tech "true caring for customers" the method will not built rapport let alone create a "mystique" for your brand. Look at Cirque du Soleil and how they went from a "spectacle de rue" in Québec to an amazing global business running over 15 shows on all continents and generating over 700 million USD in turnover by creating unique, magical, immersive and truly memorable experiences for their customers. Did they need social media to do that?

  2. this whole issue of genuine engagement of prospects and customers
    starts within and that modern tools and practices simply make an
    organization more transparent and more porous therefore exposing both
    what is coherent and beautiful about its way of dealing with customers
    and what is slightly less desirable which could be hidden from view in
    the old world. From that perspective tackling brand building, community
    management, customer acquisition and engagement or even intelligence
    gathering simply from the angle of tools and practices is futile. You
    need to achieve deeper transformation of cultures and that's quite
    another challenge that requires capabilities and authority no CMO has
    on her own today. It takes the whole corporate leadership team to
    commit to a radically different way of running the business... And I don't think it's about unleashing complete chaos but rather about combining opposites, transcending old discipline and including it in new forms of managerial practices, pretty much like the Obama
    presidential campaign did: central control of all mission critical
    aspects and complete delegation of authority for everything else,
    taking care to project an image of collaboration & participation.

  3. the mere fact that spending time on social media is one of the favorite online activities of Internet users today is not enough to demonstrate that from a business perspective you can actually do something useful in that space at an economically acceptable cost. It might only be a biased observation but, it does seem to me that:

  • people gladly engage when there's a worthy cause for which there could not possibly be the slightest suspicion of commercial manipulation or commercial

  • the rejection of initiatives that seem to be "remote-controlled" by major brands is almost immediate in many cases

  • when a space is new like for example the blogosphere a few years ago or Twitter a couple of months ago, the signal / noise ratio is good enough to derive value out of that space with spectacular returns on investment whereas things become much more difficult when more people bring more content and more potential interactions

  • the possibility of interactions does not means that there will be interactions, let alone true conversations where people actually listen to other people and truly seek to understand what they mean by what they say, an effort that requires focus of attention and that can be tedious enough to require far more time than is allowed by the culture of the immediate, fast and short of social media

  • interactions don't mean transactions let alone economically useful or even profitable transactions

So social media is probably an excellent phenomenon for specific businesses and for a whole range of purposes and not only marcoms as rightly pointed out by the authors of the presentation... But it's only a tool and as such it's only as good and relevant as the skill with which it's applied to the pursuit of coherent objectives by congruent organizations who will make more than half-hearted committments to the new world of open participation. And that may not be a world for everyone, so expect to see more established organizations die as their environment changes to the point of transforming some long established practices into deadly sins.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Isakson's future of marketing updated

Paul Isakson recently presented an updated version of his excellent "What's next in marketing and advertising" presentation. His content is embedded below for your convenience and my thoughts follow.

The presentation contains many excellent observations and assertions, broadly making the case fora radical shift in the way professionals of this industry see their work and the world. Points I particularly liked in Isakson's presentation:

  1. quote by Clay Shirky saying that "a revolution does not happen when a society adopts new tools. It happens when society adopts new behaviors." - how true...

  2. marketing must speak to people, do things (what things would be interesting to discuss) with and for people

  3. marketing will be collaborative, generous, experimental, helpful, playful, personal, honest and participatory

  4. to get there commit yourself to something bigger than yourself, listen carefully and replace the thought that the world is an audience by the opposite (I would say each audience is a world and each person a universe)

  5. "the best way to get people to do stuff with you is to first join them in what they are already doing"

20090801_TheEconomist_USAdvertisingSpending Isakson accurately identifies some pretty important trends that do represent a change that may explain why this recession is particularly hard for advertising, with recent figures from the US market showing sustained fall in spending. In short the world is changing and as people, who now have a voice in the public space thanks to the web,  become better educated about advertising and marketing tactics they are less likely to fall prey to mechanisms that used to work so well... Or in fact seemed to work so well because there was no real way to tell and everybody accepted a situation of waste of as much as 50% of money spent to convince consumers to trust specific brands and products. That bit about measuring the effects of initiatives and having more relevant petrics is missing from the presentation and I think it should be there because metrics is not just a minor operational aspect but rather a highly strategic one: if you derive knowledge from unstructured information and act on that knowledge you do have an edge that is likely to be worth multiples of what it cost you to create it.

Overall excellent food for thought again. Thank you Mr Isakson!