Can you get it TOO right?

April 28, 2008

apple-pc-mac-peopleYou’ve seen the ads. The Mac Guy talking with the PC Guy.  One very cool, easy going guy. The other flawed, but inadvertently lovable.

TBWA\Chiat\Day rocked these ads and sales for Apple have never been stronger, But according to a story I heard on NPR’s Marketplace, all is not well in Mac land.  Or maybe it’s more apt to say that maybe the account planners at Chiat got it a bit too right.  In a study done by Mindset Media, they found that Mac users are more likely to eat organic food, drive hybrids and, well, generally think a lot of themselves.  And that’s what they see in the Mac Guy.  Trouble is, a lot of Mac users don’t actually like that image — or self image.

So the question is, when it comes to understanding who your audience is, can you get it too right? When does confidence become smug?  Where’s the likability?  Do you need to leave room for the aspirational qualities your audience wishes they had?

Interesting questions.  And, come to think of it, seems like Mac Guy has been bending over backwards to be a little more charitable lately …

The value of eyeballs

April 19, 2008

Scrabble screen

This is going to be a grab-bag post.

First, I was on my way home from work listening to Marketplace on NPR.

Tangent number one.  Am I the only one who waffles between liking Kai Ryssdal Kai Rysdalor thinking he’s incredibly smug — getting depressed by his subjective encapsulation of the day’s economic news? But I digress.

The main point of this post was the Marketplace story that talked about the market value of social media sites. The thrust of the story was that there is essentially no real model for how they are going to make money on a site like Facebook.  Last year they made about $150 million but the market cap is $15 billion.  That’s 100 times earnings. With IBM and GE trading at roughly 2 times earnings, it does seem pretty out of whack.

I don’t know what to make of it all.  But I do know this.  I actually spend a lot of time with my eyeballs on my Facebook pages, and I know a LOT of people who do the same.  At some point, in some way, that’s going to prove to be very, very valuable.

Which brings me to tangent number two. What would compel me to hang out on Facebook? Well, it’s generally entertaining.  But I have a dirty little secret. I am totally addicted to Scrabulous. And I spend a lot of time looking at those screens.  I have seen ads for personality tests, online savings account, the Cirque show that’s coming to town and lingerie. Now, unlike when I’m at Google, I’m not in research or buying mode. I’m there to play Scrabulous, so I’ve never clicked.

What does it all mean?  Does it mean that advertising doesn’t work in social media situations? Or that the quality of creative and targeting just hasn’t improved to the point of being compelling for me?  Or that digital applications like this should be judged as equal parts branding and direct response?

Seems to me that where lots of eyeballs are, there’s a very viable business model to follow.  What do you think?

Greencollar jobs: a coming boom, or myth?

April 18, 2008

An Inconvenient Screen Shot

I was in the car the other day listening to KUOW (Seattle’s NPR affiliate) and the story was about whether “greencollar” jobs are a real, potential economic boon, or just a bunch of hype.  They interviewed a guy named Todd Myers from the Washington Policy Center, a “free market think tank.”  Mr. Myers said that all of the talk about new opportunities is “almost a hundred percent political.”

It’s his opinion that we’re not creating any new jobs, we’re simply moving them from one segment of the economy to the other — old tech jobs to new tech jobs.

As I drove along (yes, alone, but at least in a Prius) I found myself shaking my head thinking that it was such a waste to be minimizing growth opportunities.  Who’s going to win from such an argument?  (Yes, I understand that some people will win, but at what cost?)

If you saw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, perhaps you recall the same eureka moment I had realizing how big the opportunity is ahead of us, should we choose to embrace it as citizens, consumers and businesses.  It was 71 minutes into the movie (according to my DVD player) and Gore is making the point that when thinking about the climate crisis, many people move directly “from denial to despair”  without pausing to consider the business opportunities that are created if we respond in the right way.  He talks about the “false choices” many promote, claiming that we have to make a choice between the environment and the economy.  (As an aside, the screen shot above is from when when Gore explains a slide from a presentation he attended at the first Bush White House where the presumption is that we have to choose between nice, shiny gold bars and the entire planet.  It’s one of many moments in the movie where you see that Gore reaally does have a sense of humor).

As I watched that movie, it was blindingly obvious to me that great economic opportunity is in front of us.  Gore cites the examples of the markets that might be available for American made cars if our fuel economy standards weren’t the worst (by far) in the world.  As my wife and I gather resources to build a new home — one that we’re striving to be as sustainable as we can feasibly do — we see it.  We’re talking to people and companies that probably didn’t exist three years ago.  I’ve attended the Built Green show and Greenfestival here in Seattle and there sure are a lot of people who seem to be making a living at this.  Granted, they didn’t all just crawl out from under a rock — they are likely moving from other jobs.  But it sure smells like opportunity to me.

What do you think?