Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Don't just sit there, adapt!

I've been reading Leonard Fuld's book on conducting competitive assessments called, "The secret language of competitive intelligence". I'm not the biggest fan of the title, but the book is interesting and applies to what I'm doing right now to say the least. I started to think about an example he brought up on research houses, about how the internet drastically changed their industry. This leads to my curious thought/statement/whatever you want to call it: when you see other forces that begin to change your traditional model, that changes the way consumers interact with your services, don't fight it, learn it and see how you can work with it.

Learning how to adapt. I think of Fuld's quote, "gone were the days when online information pioneers, such as SDC ORBIT and Dialog, information aggregators, could act as critical (and sometimes sole-source) distribution centers...the dialogs of the world lost influence since publishers could sell their wares directly to consumers". How we adapt and how fast we adapt to these changes are incredibly important in determining the survival of your company.

How not to adapt to industry change. Don't think it will go away. Many of the worlds CD and DVD retailers such as HMV thought digital music transfers would, while Apple jumped on the opportunity to offer the digital HMV's of the world. Don't pay it lip service and then not act. In response to Sony's introduction of the first digital camera in 1984, Kodak amassed more than a 1000 digital patents. They even announced a 1.4 megapixel CCD chip in 1986, but failed to bring not only this announcement to the market, but failed to capitalize on any of their patents.

What you should consider when things change. Learn everything you can about it, gauge customer reaction to it, even go so far as prototyping the idea. Begin to think about what it could become. Going back to Fuld's book, and thinking about the online information pioneers, things didn't die, they evolved. Those research houses that adapted - that began to realize mass access to information didn't result in quality information, that people didn't have the time to search for everything and required information on their speciality, i.e. Forrester - not only survived, but began to gain greater market share.

It's interesting where a tangent can take you, and if you want to read a good book on conducting a competitive audit and analysis, I recommend Fuld's book.

Monday, August 18, 2008

When the product experience overshadows the web

"I remember why I never take this thing". These were my last few words before I ended my conversation with my friend. I was near the end of my journey on the TTC. A journey that I normally avoid due to its long commute times, grimy seats, and share of odd balls. I have been thinking about this journey, and its timeliness to a conversation I was lucky to have with a user experience designer. This designer had just finished telling me about the "launch" of the new TTC website,, and there involvement with it. It was a cool conversation because of the amount of usability testing they were doing, but that's a side bar.

The more important part: the site sounded awesome, since checking it out, I would say they moved from the 1920's to the 1980's. I'm not jumping for joy, but it's a step up. For me, nothing really touches the London transport site:

But this isn't the point here. What was important, was that I realized that no matter how well the redesign was, even with its fix to the trip planner, the bad experiences I have on the TTC overshadow the improving web site. The experience on the TTC matters more to me than its presence online. My bus was crowded, it was late, and I didn't get a seat. Compare this with GO Transit's website: it is arguably now less advanced or "cool" than the TTC's, but the GO is mostly on time, it doesn't smell, I can get reading done. The "Go product" is an enjoyable experience and makes up for the sub-par site.

I thought this was an interesting problem. It made me think about its application to clients agencies choose. If the product is just a really bad experience for users, does your ability to provide them with a completely different look online matter. Aren't you just trying to provide a bandaged solution at this point. On the other side, if you can find clients that understand this symbiotic relationship. That the product experience + communication experience (here I refer to online) are both important tools in an experience formula, that they are willing to improve the product, than you have yourself a good client to work with.

It was an interesting experience aboard the TTC and it made me think about the relationship between products and what we do online.

And no, I won't be taking the TTC again unless it's a Sunday afternoon.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Knowing what company you work for

For those starting off in interactive, one of the most difficult things that occurs is not a challenging problem or an angry client. It is explaining what your company does. I'm sure you can recall saying to a friend, "I work in digital advertising" or "I work in an interactive agency". You explain it. You know it. But the inevitable result is the distorted words that comes out of your friend's mouth, "so you build websites then". Ughh. Sigh. Why can't your friend understand what you do?

Explaining it from the wrong angle. I think we have trouble explaining what we do because we are trying to define ourselves strictly as marketers. We, the digital community, are product designers first, and marketers/advertisers second. We create digital products. We have information architects, project managers and builders. We create exceptional designs but also consider the experience of the user when they interact with the digital product. Secondly, we consider our digital products place in the advertising social circle, and what methods will help make people aware of this new "building".

So next time, when someone asks what you do, tell them you design digital products. A simple metaphor helps us most of the time.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What do you do when you are at blog theme cross-roads?

I read an excellent article by David Armano by Logic + Emotion ( and one of the things that immediately stuck out in my mind was, what do we do when our theme of our blog changes? I agree with David 100% on the fact that we need a theme or angle for our blog, but what do we do when we find ourselves at theme cross-roads?

This has direct application to me and people like me. We can't expect the blogs we initially create when we first start out in our industry to have the same theme after a few years of experience. My theme now, "What it is like to start out in interactive" is already starting to shift as I learn more about the industry.

Thankfully, I was able to pose the question to a veteran blogger, Jason Theodor. His advice, "
don't worry about your blog changing. People will expect it to. You will eventually move to an area that is your speciality/interests you, and there will be readers who follow you there and readers who don't." It made sense. I also thought of someone else who changed their theme/angle and went on to have their "readers" accept them, and that person was Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln first started out in politics, his platform was not the same one he used to bring the Republican party to the white house. It was only after experience in the field and being surrounded by great men such as Edward Bates, that he became the strong proponent of freeing slaves in America and developed one of the greatest presidential legacy's on this.

So don't worry when you first start out and your blog theme changes. Expect it to. Lincoln did and he became arguably one of the greatest presidents the U.S. has ever seen. But if you have a well developed theme 10 years from now and suddenly you make a radical departure, just call that a mid-life crisis.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Websites worth taking a look at

I have been heads down in a few things lately: scouring every source I can find to develop a persona checklist, reading Ulwick's, What Customers Want, and studying the way Sherlock Holmes framed problems and its application to modern strategy.

In between these various tasks though, I have begun to compile a list of websites and blogs that anyone who is new to interactive should take a look at. Enjoy:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Customer Experience Management

I've always been fascinated with customer loyalty, and have recently begun a mini academic study on the difference between Customer Relationship Management and Customer Experience Management (CRM vs. CEM). Working at a digital agency now, I can clearly see the distinction between CRM and CEM. CRM is a total tool. It is something that your company has to make a key priority and institute it within the entire company. As an agency, it is something you cannot do on your own. CEM, is all about managing customer experiences. And this something an agency, specifically a digital agency, can have a significant amount of control over.

In Meyer and Schwager's article, HBR Understanding Customer Experience, they define CEM as the user experience which encompasses every aspect of a company's offering. It is an experience at every touchpoint that a consumer evaluates with an expectation vs. the actual experience. If the expectation, the hype doesn't actually live up to the experience, then you have a serious gap. What was most interesting in this article and I find relevant to the interactive industry, is that more and more important touchpoints are beginning to occur on the web. Things are becoming more complex in the digital field. More choices are available and their are more options to pursue them. We thus begin to see one or two key touchpoints on the web become a dozen, and consumers expect at least a consistent experience and are floored when you deliver something completely innovative.

Digital agency's that begin to come back with CEM offerings to a clients CRM offering will offer a great deal of value, instead of a frustrated client. I'll finish off with a good example: "A customers experience with an Apple device begins well before the purchaser turns on their iPOD. It may begin with a t.v. commercial or product placement in a movie. It may have been your friends iPOD or product sample in the mall." What this says to me, is that a digital agency can control a few steps in this process and that is it...for now. As Apple and many other companies begin to shift their primary product offerings via the web, more of the touchpoint process will be online, and be made better by an agency