Throwing the baby out with the bath water

January 28, 2008

From today’s NYT:  In reply to a blogger’s complaint about a current Target ad, Target sent an email to the blogger that said “Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets.”  (emphasis mine). 

Wow!  The notion that any company has the chutzpah to completely disregard a major communications channel takes my breath away.  I’m not commenting on how seriously they should take, the founder of which sent the complaint — I don’t anything about that particular blog, though I’d guess they’ve had record traffic today.   

I do know that “conversational marketing” is the most fundamental shift in marketing that’s happened during my career.  To eliminate all blogs – one of the major manifestations of conversational marketing — from consideration, with the arrogant-sounding, broad-brush, across-the-board statement that Target used makes me wonder what they’re doing over there in the marketing department.  (Jeez guys, at least don’t say it that way, even if that’s what you’re doing.)

Figuring out how to “participate” with the blogosphere is hard.  It requires resources and it’s messy because there’s no control on the number or quality of bloggers.  It requires a willingness to slog through a lot of meaningless drivel to make sure you don’t miss the important stuff and to engage on some issues that normally wouldn’t get your attention. 


Bruce: welcome to the blogosphere

October 4, 2007

Since I started this blog, my friend Bruce has periodically fed me fodder for possible posts.  Now I’m glad to see that Bruce has launched his own blog.  Check it out.  I first met Bruce through the aviation world and he’s the author of a very well received book on Microsoft Flight Simulator so it’s no surprise that many of his posts are about flying.  Today though, he abruptly changes tack, and takes on the very weighty topic of the frequently inverse relationship between religious dogma and scientific progress.   I enjoy talking with Bruce about this kind of stuff and I’m very pleased he’s now sharing his thoughts through his blog. 

Blogging is a little like exercise

August 23, 2007

Once I get into the exercise habit, I actually start to enjoy exercising.  At first, I have to make myself do it but after awhile I look forward to it and hate it if I miss a day.  But when I stop for any reason – I’m working really hard or get sick – then I have a very hard time getting started again. 

The same appears to be true for posting to this blog.  For years I said I would never blog; that I didn’t have enough ideas to populate a blog regularly.  And the first few posts were difficult but once I got the hang of it, it seemed like everything in my daily life had blog potential  Then a couple of weeks ago I became very busy and stopped posting. I wrote five posts between August 1 and August 5, but since then I’ve written one brief post on August 15 (and Martin Eberhard did the hard work for me). 

So, I’m adopting the same strategy I do when I need to start exercising again.  Just do something!  Anything!  The initial effort doesn’t have to be that big.  Just start.  So here it is.

Masterful blogging

August 15, 2007

Martin Eberhard of Tesla Motors really knows how to blog.  His post today on transitioning out of the CEO role at Tesla is one of the best I’ve ever read.  His message provides personal insight into the management change in a way no other medium could capture so well.  He is reassuring, while at the same time acknowledging a difficult moment for himself.  His voice comes through clearly, which is not surprising – Martin is a great writer.  

Easy-to-start vs. easy-to-use

July 30, 2007

I started this blog with WordPress because it was so easy.  As a special purpose tool, WordPress let me start writing after just a few basic decisions.  I wanted to jump in and WordPress made it very easy to do that.  (I could as easily have chosen Blogger or TypePad; I didn’t do a competitive evaluation because I assumed they would have feature parity.)  But now I’m ready to do more and I’ve been unpleasantly surprised at how quickly I find myself in code-land. 

It took me three full hours to figure out how to add an RSS subscription capability to this blog.  I poked around on WordPress for a good hour trying to figure it out.  Then I had the brainstorm to go to Feedburner, which I use to sign up on other people’s blogs all the time.  Signing up for Feedburner was pretty easy, but I struggled for a couple more hours before successfully getting the link to show up on my blog.  In the end, I was able to find a spot on Feedburner’s site that automatically generated some html code for me to copy into my blog template. 

That was three or more weeks ago.  Now I’m trying to figure out how to let readers add my posts to or Digg.  Déjà vu.  I am shocked and dismayed that I have to deal with html code to get access to these basic features.  Easy-to-start has given way to hard-to-use. (Am I am missing something obvious?  Would TypePad or Blogger have been better choices?)   

On the other hand, Sampa has RSS subscription and all kinds of widgets built in.  Sampa’s a little more difficult to start with in my opinion because the richness of its capabilities translates into more upfront decisions (though they’ve made lots of improvements and will continue to do so), but right now those built-in Sampa features are looking awfully good.

Too personal?

July 25, 2007

After just a month of blogging, I’ve realized how gray the line is between professional and personal.  I’ve always been appalled at the amount of personal information that people share on MySpace or other social sites. Yet two of my recent posts were written during and about my trip from Seattle to Atlanta.  Anyone online could have figured out that I was out of town.  It feels a little like putting a note on my front door saying “Burglarize me”.  Some great bloggers, including Fred Wilson and Brad Feld, regularly mix personal and professional content in their blogs.  I’m not going to go that route but now believe that any authentic blog will inevitably blur the distinction.

It’s all about the experience

June 24, 2007

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been interviewing design firms to help tweak a client’s logo and to help create some key materials. Something interesting has happened since my last logo design project for Eclipse Aviation in 2000.  Design firms are now all about the “customer experience”.  They no longer talk about imbuing a graphic icon with all kinds of meaning.  They are much more passionate about the consistency of the brand everywhere, from the products to how the company treats its customers to the look and feel of the web site.  In part, this is long overdue common sense. (How much can one little mark convey, anyway?) But it is also a reflection of how the web has changed marketing.  Companies can no longer unilaterally control their brands – almost everything to be known about a company will become known so it is essential for companies to eat, sleep and breathe their brands.  In the wake of the pompous remarks at the unveiling of the London Olympics logo a few weeks ago, I’ve found my recent experience refreshing.