Want a Deeper Connection? Apps Are Where It’s At

Marketers are going beyond text alerts and mobile websites to offer richer, more-engaging experiences

Got time to kill?

Use your phone to catch up on the latest news from The New York Times while waiting in line at the grocery store, or in the service-free subway. Trade stocks while spending an afternoon in the park. Immediately find the best restaurants within a five-block radius while traveling in an unfamiliar city. Or pass the time doodling on a digital scribble pad during those late-evening conference calls.

All are examples of mobile applications that are making our lives more convenient and amusing by providing easy access to information and entertainment. In our busy lives, applications make us more efficient and make time pass more enjoyably.

And while many mobile marketers are focusing on creating SMS-text-alert programs with marginal impact and shallow mobile campaign sites, savvy marketers are realizing that mobile applications can be a great way to create significant lifts in brand affinity, brand recall and future purchase intent.

Providing this value creates deeper connections between brands and their customers. As the capabilities of mobile applications have become more advanced in the past year, brands and agencies have positioned themselves to create more-compelling user experiences on mobile devices. These branded applications, in turn, help enrich service offerings that handset manufacturers are already providing to customers, such as Apple’s App Store on iTunes and Nokia’s WidSets.

As a result, handset manufacturers are creating easier-to-use software-development kits which provide the infrastructure and tools developers need to create cool applications and easier means of distribution to provide brands and ad agencies with the tools needed to create richer, targeted experiences.

Limitless opportunities

Widgetvine, brand, The opportunities will become limitless. Brands that leverage the full power of mobile applications will be able to integrate features directly with a mobile phone’s contact list, embedded GPS, camera and other native capabilities. That’s the big difference between building an application for an operating system and a device and building a mobile website. Additionally, because mobile applications can take great advantage of a phone’s memory and processor, they will provide better data-streaming capabilities for users to consume high-fidelity content.

When creating branded mobile applications, the goal should be to provide true service and utility to consumers, not to inundate them with disruptive marketing messages.

One strong example is the recently launched AOL Radio for the iPhone. This free download from Apple’s App Store allows users to easily discover music by getting access to more than 200 radio stations and 25 genres streamed directly to their phones.

Just imagine you are a huge New York Knicks fan, and you are traveling for business in Portland but you can’t wait until you get home to hear fan reaction to the Knicks’ latest trade. Well, thanks to the burgeoning world of mobile applications, now you can crack open your iPhone, launch your AOL Radio application and tune in to your favorite New York sports radio station, 660 WFAN, as if you were still walking the streets of Brooklyn.

And even though this mobile application doesn’t directly affect any commerce sales for AOL, continued engagement with it can generate increases in brand affinity, brand recall and future purchase intent for AOL’s new and existing consumers.

Another great example of branded mobile applications is Widgetvine, created by the Vodafone research and development group and based on the Nokia Web Run-Time platform.

Widgetvine is a suite of mobile widgets (aka applications) available for free download on any S60 Nokia device, and they serve as an invaluable tool for Vodafone consumers and Nokia-device owners. The various widgets allow users to stay up-to-date on the latest news, buy movie tickets, or check departure and arrival times for different airlines.

As the mobile-application world grows, handset manufacturers and wireless carriers will play instrumental roles in driving the growth, creation and adoption of mobile applications. Just recently in the U.S., T-Mobile announced plans to open an iPhone-like app store for every phone on its network. Like the handset manufacturers, wireless carriers see mobile applications not just as a great service offering for consumers but also as a huge opportunity for additional revenue streams. As a result, wireless carriers are also working to clear the runway for mobile applications to take off.

Overall, this is fantastic news for brands and ad agencies looking to strengthen their brand presences and relevance through mobile applications. But in order for agencies to be successful, they’ll need to start staffing up with designers and developers who are equipped to create the next generation of relevant mobile marketing vis-à-vis service-oriented mobile applications.

The consumers are waiting.

Are You Too Old To Twitter?

Never. Twitter has come of age and is even being used to report news.

There are so many great new ways people are using twitter and twemes today. Building on earlier data about flash online communities, people are now organizing groups, not just for quick events, but for causes and things they firmly believe in.

Freetibet is a great example of people determined and passionate about a cause using the power of twitter and twemes to get their message out.

Another example is the tweme #quotable.
Have a favorite quote? Use the tag #quotable and share it. Or place the quotable widget on your site.

This was a great way to inspire others and recognize those nuggets of wisdom or moments of genius.
On those days when things just don’t seem to be going well, it’s a nice to review the tweme and pick out some inspiring quotes.

Mother’s Day there is the tweme #mom to recognize the funny and precious tales of mothers.
There is even a tweme called “I’m the Mom Who” or “I’m the Mom Whose”

While there may be a few guilty confessions in there, the goal is to gather funny sayings from your kids
throughout the day, or recount funny scenarios, not to pour your guts out or tattle on anyone (including yourself!) in 140 characters or less.

Here is an example:
I’m the #mom who has the 4-year-old son who wants to buy his preschool teacher a gift certificate “For Zales, for diamonds!”, for the holidays.

I think that all of these new uses encourage groups and tribes to think about ways you can organize, recognize and inspire others!

Social media tools are quite powerful and small ideas can blaze through the networks and have incredible impact!

If You Remember the Sixties You Weren’t There?

If you remember the ’60s, as the joke goes, you weren’t there. It was the perfect storm of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. A hippie haze of happy days. And a few not-so-happy days.
Dozens of books have been written about the decade, but 40 years later, author Rob Kirkpatrick has narrowed it all down to one epic year: 1969.

The subtitle of his new book, 1969: The Year Everything Changed (Skyhorse Publishing, 288 pp., $24.95), may sound hyperbolic, but Kirkpatrick makes a good case that it was a year “of landmark achievements, cataclysmic episodes and generation-defining events.”

“A lot of people talk about 1967 as ‘The Summer of Love’ and 1968 as ‘The Year the Dream Died,’ but there wasn’t one book about 1969. It fills a gap,” says Kirkpatrick, 41, who was 1 year old when rain fell on the throngs of rock fans at Woodstock.

1968 had seen the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Then came 1969, which Kirkpatrick calls “a year of extremes.” It was a tumultuous time when it seemed as if history were being made almost every day:

The top ten songs of 1965 were incredible…does anyone know them? All classics.

1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
2. Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
3. In The Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett
4. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag – James Brown
5. My Generation – The Who
6. Mr. Tambourine Man – Byrds / Bob Dylan
7. Yesterday – Beatles
8. The Sounds Of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
9. Ticket To Ride – Beatles
10. The Tracks Of My Tears – Miracles

Obama Pen

President Obama signed all of the inaugural documents with a pen made by A.T. Cross, a company based in Lincoln, R.I.

Lori Geshelin, marketing manager for A.T. Cross, said the company was notified by the Obama-Biden transition team and had just less than a week to deliver the pens.

The specially designed Cross Townsend black lacquer rolling ball pens feature the presidential coat of arms and are engraved with President-elect Obama’s signature on the barrel. He will use them to sign a series of inaugural documents and executive orders for the new administration.

The Cross Townsend Collection, including the black lacquer finish ($135) similar to the ones to be used by Obama, are available at the Lincoln company’s Web site.

A distinctive, limited edition 10-karat gold Cross Classic Century pen ($120) bearing the new president’s signature and an emblem with the presidential seal is also available on the Official 2009 Presidential Inauguration Store Web site.

The gold pens are made in Lincoln.

Have You Ever Googled Yourself?

I am embarrassed to say I have…I am also embarrassed that I don’t have many mentions!

You have to love Robert Downey Jr.

In a Newsweek Oscar roundtable, he’s the only one who comes clean when a panel — including Brad Pitt, Anne Hathaway, Frank Langella, Sally Hawkins and Mickey Rourke — was asked if it’s hard for them to draw a line between their private and public lives, and if they ever “Google” themselves.

“Dear God. No,” answers Pitt.

Pitt: “Never. First of all, I don’t really know how to operate a computer.”

Do you have a BlackBerry?
Pitt: “Oh yeah, I have a BlackBerry.”

Anne, what about you. Do you Google yourself?
Hathaway: “No.”

Langella: “It’s not a good idea. It can be painful and it can be self-aggrandizing.”

Hawkins: “What do they say about don’t believe any of it?”

Downey: “Oh, I love all that s—-, personally. Sorry. I love just it. Because it’s a hoot. Some people overstate their support, like they know you. Other people are busy doing something else and just want to go on this chat site and say some despicable character assassination, which I honestly think they kind of nailed it. I do have that shortcoming. It’s really fun.”

A few minutes later, Hathaway pipes up: “OK, I have a confession. I lied before when you asked if I Googled myself. I do. I embarrassed by it because I know how terrible it is.”

Who wears a watch these days in Asia?

Casio sales are down. Why? The time is on my mobile phone. Wallet sales? Down as well with the advent of the E-Wallet why carry cash or credit cards.
The typical Japanese woman can swipe her phone at any register at McDonalds, 7/11, Coke vending machines or even to get on the subway and then on their way home they may watch 5 channels of broadcasting. She most certainly will buy her latest fashion on the phone as well.

A land-line phone? Shanghai kids have skipped that and many have skipped the PC as well…the phone is their link to create, and communicate.

Who even types a URL these days, most Korean teens just point and click and a curious looking QR code takes them to a micro-site, a phone number, a coupon, directions or even a video.

Immediacy is the key to the fast paced consumerism of Asia these days.

Because of rapid economic growth in many parts of the world change is the norm and consumers are fast adopters of technology.

Consumers have more choices than ever before. More careers, more lifestyles, more products, more information, more entertainment.

They even have more money. But, with more decisions to make they also have less time so they are using technology.

Now they can go shopping without leaving the house, they can work at home and socialize at work. They lead multiple lives within a global online community.

It might seem revolutionary but today’s children will never know anything different. And if you want to get close to tomorrow’s customers, you have to operate in their world.

DEMOCRACY is coming to online shopping.

I am always skeptical about on-line recommendations but an old colleague of mine at Forrester, Peter Kim, seems to think consumer word of mouth has great value.

Scores of Internet merchants have recently begun following Amazon’s lead by posting customer reviews — both flattering and flaming — of products they sell, and directing shoppers to sources of the most highly rated items. For example, shoppers can now find frank assessments of everything from Rolling Stones concerts to computers on sites like TicketsNow.com and CompUSA.com, among many others, as well as portals like Pricerunner.com and, in the coming months, MSN.

The trend arises both from an increasing tolerance for candor among retailers and from the emergence of inexpensive technology to track and post customer opinions on individual Web sites. This promises to give customers a new way to shop. Perhaps more surprisingly, it has bolstered the sales of some early experimenters.

Take Petco, the pet supplies retailer. The company’s Web division last year tested the service of a new technology company, Bazaarvoice, of Austin, Tex., which essentially polls retail customers (and also helps merchants screen reviews for inappropriate content as they are posted on the site).

According to John Lazarchic, Petco’s vice president for e-commerce, 30 days after the company placed links near products asking visitors to write a review, more than 1,000 products attracted comments. Petco then featured the highest-rated products in marketing e-mail messages. Those messages generated five times as many site visits as previous approaches.

Earlier this year, the site devoted entire sections within each pet category to “top rated” products. Shoppers who browsed products that way purchased at a 35 percent higher rate than those who browsed assortments arranged in the traditional manner. And those who bought from the top-rated sections spent 40 percent more than those who did not.

“I think we’re one of the first, if not the first, to create a primary shopping experience that’s driven by the voice of other shoppers,” Mr. Lazarchic said. “It makes sense, though, because if you look at studies that are being done, consumers will trust the voice of another customer before they trust the retailer or manufacturer.”

Indeed, according to a survey by Forrester Research, a technology consulting firm, 6 percent of customers say they believe marketers’ advertising claims, and 62 percent say they feel there are too many ads in the media. Forrester also found that fewer than 10 percent of consumers said that television ads influenced their purchase decisions, while more than half said that the recommendations of friends and family changed their purchase plans.

“It’s pretty clear that people are trusting the words of other consumers more than what’s broadcast on the airwaves,” said Peter Kim, an analyst with Forrester.

Benjamin Button Gets 13 Oscar Nominations

The Dark Knight, the superhero thriller that was expected to make history as the first comic-book adaptation to take a best-picture nomination, and Gran Torino, which the Hollywood veteran starred in and directed, were left out of the contest for Oscar’s top prize.
Instead, the far more serious Holocaust-themed The Reader took the fifth berth and its director, Stephen Daldry, also managed to slip into his category.

The other nominees announced for top prize in the 81st Academy Awards Thursday morning in Los Angeles followed the script of the prognosticators: the era-spanning fable The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which led the crowd with 13 nominations; gay-themed political biopic Milk; TV-landmark drama Frost/Nixon; and romantic crowd-pleaser Slumdog Millionaire.

Let’s see what happens Button is a great film!