Can Big Brands Adapt to Marketing with Meaning? – Marketing with Meaning

September 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

lululemon central park

Thanks to Seth Godin and New York Magazine, over the weekend I discovered the Lululemon brand of yoga clothing and accessories. It’s a remarkable business that seems to be sweeping the nation and broadening interest in a 2,000-year exercise ritual. One of Lululemon’s main marketing strategies is to host free, public yoga sessions weekly, such as the photo above in New York City’s Bryant Park. It’s a terrific example of Marketing with Meaning, but this case study and Seth’s post suggest to me that the evolution to this new marketing model might favor new brands over the old.

Let me first establish that Lululemon has a killer idea with its free yoga classes. Strategically, there are a few business challenges that make this idea smart. First, the classes help people who are intrigued by the idea of yoga get a feel for the concept in a low-risk way. The classes are free, and because there are many people around you there is less pressure to look good and perform well. Lululemon understands that it needs to get more people engaged in yoga to grow its sales. Give away the class, and people will keep buying the refill clothing.

Second, because the classes are large and in a very public place, they become one giant advertisement for yoga and the Lululemon brand. Actually, it’s almost insulting to call this an “advertisement”—rather, it’s a living, breathing example of how yoga makes a lot of people feel really good and stay in shape. Passersby see that this is a very socially acceptable exercise, which helps break down some people’s concern that yoga is for hippies and gurus.

So it’s confirmed: This is very meaningful marketing. But Godin uses this case study to suggest something more. He says, “I think it’s dangerous and often fatal to put free on top of an existing business model. Things fall apart.” Seth believes that businesses that have been charging for services won’t be able to adapt to the world of giving away value and hoping to be repaid in sales, loyalty, and word of mouth.

I think Seth is getting close to a very big issue but misses the mark a bit. He says that big companies are not used to giving away valuable “stuff” for free. But this is not accurate. After all, one of the most common marketing tactics in the history of commerce is the free sample. By people taking a taste of food or trying a new razor at no cost, many end up buying the product or service either because they like it or they have generated feelings of reciprocity and are compelled to repay the marketer with sales.

But the much bigger picture that Seth is raising is this: Can big companies shift from interruptive advertising to marketing that actually adds value to people’s lives—what we call Marketing with Meaning? Right now, I believe the future might belong to new brands, which rise to strength with a meaning-based approach from the beginning, while large brands might be unable to make the shift in time.

Looking at the hottest new brands in the world, many have risen to power with a more meaning-based approach. Red Bull came out of nowhere with a marketing strategy focused on events. Zappos rose thanks to social-media-powered customer service. Google became the most valuable, most loved brand in the world by continuing to roll out great, free services—and hasn’t run a single TV commercial. These brands show us that a completely new marketing approach, centered on adding value, can win.

Meanwhile, the odds seem staked against big brands despite their big budgets and historic leadership. The best model to pose their challenge is The Innovator’s Dilemma. Put simply, big, leading companies rise to success by getting better and better at one way of doing business. But when the world changes, they just don’t understand how to understand how to shift, and all of their existing processes, people, and incentives support the old way.

Traditional, interruptive, impression-based marketing is one of those existing models that a lot of big brands have gotten very good at mastering. They can tweak that commercial to perfection, squeeze out more efficiency in a media buy, and even find new ways to gauge consumer reaction to an ad (such as brain scanning) and new places to put an ad (airplane trays, anyone?). But those skills are all spent in polishing a model that has decreasing marginal returns—and with the revolution in consumer power and media options, these actions might be leading to decreasing returns, or at least widening opportunity costs from not embracing meaningful marketing.

Lululemon went from zero to a $1 billion market cap thanks to marketing with meaning. But it did so because it had zero to start with. This challenge forced Lululemon to think differently from the start. But big brands have the disadvantage of lots of money and existing equity. This mirrors the evolution of life on earth—the specialties that made plants and animals successful in one era can become weaknesses when the climate shifts.

But hope is not lost! In my new book, The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning, I share the case studies of four very big brands that have made the shift: Dove, Burger King, Nike, and The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. And, in order to practice some free-sample meaningful marketing myself, you can download the chapter that includes these case studies here.

Time will tell which brands are able to make the leap. I believe thousands of small brands will rise from the chaos, and a good number of big brands that quickly admit the challenges and commit to a new path will make the journey as well.

The post iPhone world

September 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

The post iPhone world

by Robert Scoble on September 19, 2009

One fun thing I like asking representatives from Nokia, Microsoft, or Research in Motion is “what does the post iPhone world look like?”

It is my way of sensing whether they’ve done any creative thinking. So far I’ve gotten mostly blank stares.

It’s like Steve Jobs has convinced everyone in the industry that nothing possibly can replace the iPhone on the coolest device shelf.

Me? I’ve seen this play before. Remember Sony’s Walkman?

I like pretending we live in a post iPhone world.

How do we get there?

Well, what would happen if we lived in a Twitter world? One where every light switch, every device, every machine, had a Twitter account?

I asked a Microsoft executive recently why they haven’t released a .NET/Silverlight runtime that Tweets.

His answer surprised me “have you signed our NDA yet?”

That’s code for “we’re working on just that.”

After all, Microsoft probably doesn’t like it that IBM has ruled enterprise marketing with its “Smart Planet” meme.

So, why would Microsoft support a Twitter world? Because if Microsoft helped Twitter build a world where everything has a Twitter API then Microsoft would also get the keys to the post-iPhone world.


Well, let’s assume that Microsoft had .NET runtimes on everything. Right now I’m staring at an IV machine in the hospital room where our next son will be born. Why couldn’t a doctor Tweet that machine? Using a message that looks something like this:

@sequoia_iv_0451 set level to 1 pt per hour

That would change the drip rate on her machine to 1 pint per hour.

That doesn’t seem that important, does it? But now what if EVERY device in the hospital had a runtime like this and could be queried through a Twitter language?

Wouldn’t that open up new application possibilities that don’t exist today? Absolutely!

Wouldn’t that encourage new kinds of devices to be built? Absolutely!

Wouldn’t that mean we’d need a replacement for the iPhone? Absolutely!

Why? Well, let’s put it this way. If you had tons of devices in your world that you wanted to interact with TweetDeck or SimplyTweet just wouldn’t cut it.

Now, what if Microsoft made such a Twitter system more reliable? After all, if a doctor is going to have a device that will talk to all sorts of machines during surgery there can’t be a possibility of a fail whale.

Once Microsoft got .NET runtimes out in enough things they could come in and build a shadow Twitter that’s more reliable than Twitter and that has some cool features.

Then once that’s done Microsoft could ship a post-iPhone world. Why? Because they would be able to build a device that would be optimized for this Twitter world.

Oh, OK, this is all science fiction. After all it’s preposterous to think that the iPhone won’t stay on the coolest device shelf forever.



Why Free Creates Long Term Value – The Engaging Brand

September 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

Why Free Creates Long Term Value

The concept of FREE on the web is one which seems to put fear into people…I don’t know why because I believe ‘free actually is the seed for long term profitable growth‘. Free creates the commodity from which premium products can flower from…

Free is a mechanism which has moved the web to the masses….if we had paid for Twitter, Facebook, File Sharing, Skype to Skype etc then the online market would not be as large as it is now. Free for me is about creating the market place.

So free is good news….it is good news for me as I get a huge benefit from all the free services and it also allows me to attract customers, consumers, contact, business relationships….at a cost of time rather than money.


I love free because people follow the crowd then get sick of being one of the crowd!

It always fascinates me how despite being the same species, we have this inner urge to be different or to personalize our lives. But this desire means that when the mass has occurred, when the crowd has formed….the brightest brands then create value by individualizing the experience, the service, by allowing people to personalize their piece of the web.

I say don’t fear free…see free as creating the commodity from which you can build the value model. See free as attracting the market and creating the desire for the premium model.

Yet another take on Free, and this one agrees with Chris Anderson.

Technology Will Not Replace Talent – The Engaging Brand

September 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

Technology will not replace talent

Social media flattens the playing field for brand engagement in many ways however,technology can never replace talent.

The technology is the new shop window, technology is the new brochure, technology may give opportunity to all but….

….talent will differentiate the winners from the losers.

(And not the technology)

It seems everyone has a different take on where the digital revolution will take us. Here’s another opinion to add to what I’ve recently read from Andrew Keen, Nicholas Carr, and others who have gotten me thinking about the future.

On Language – The Age of Undoing –

September 26, 2009 in Uncategorized
On Language

The Age of Undoing

Joakim Jansson

Published: September 15, 2009

“What’s done cannot be undone,” moaned Lady Macbeth in her famous sleepwalking scene. If she woke up in the 21st century, she would be pleased to discover that whatever can be done can be undone, too.

Or perhaps it just seems that way in the new social spaces we are carving for ourselves online. On popular Web sites devoted to social networking, innovative verbs have been springing up to describe equally innovative forms of interaction: you can friend someone on Facebook; follow a fellow user on Twitter; or favorite a video on YouTube. Change your mind? You can just as easily unfriend, unfollow or unfavorite with a click of the mouse.

The recent un- trend has also seeped into the world of advertising. KFC is marketing its new Kentucky Grilled Chicken with the tagline “UNthink: Taste the UNfried Side of KFC.” The cellphone company MetroPCS challenges you to “Unlimit Yourself,” while its competitor Boost Mobile wants you to get “UNoverage’D” and “UNcontract’D” (ridding yourself of burdensome overage fees and contracts). Even victims of the financial downturn can seek solace in un-: ABC broadcast a special report in May telling viewers how to get “Un-Broke.”

Where did all of this un- activity come from? Ever since Old English, the un- prefix has come in two basic flavors. It can be used like the word “not” to negate adjectives (unkind, uncertain, unfair) and the occasional noun (unreason, unrest, unemployment). Or it can attach to a verb to indicate the reversal of an action (unbend, unfasten, unmask). Both kinds of un- are ripe for creating new words. The negative variety of the prefix has been particularly fertile for spinning off nouns, at least since 7-Up first branded itself as the “Un-Cola” in the late 1960s. In the business world we now find unconferences and unmarketing, predicated on the notion that we need to rethink traditional models of conferences and marketing. And beware of unnovation, the opposite of innovation.

But it’s the reversible un- that has really been getting a workout lately, even more so than its semantic sibling de- (as in declutter or defragment). Our expectations that any action can be taken back have been primed by a few decades of personal computing, which injected the founding metaphor of “undoing” into the common consciousness. An early glimmer of our Age of Undoing appeared in a prescient 1976 research report by Lance A. Miller and John C. Thomas of I.B.M., drably titled “Behavioral Issues in the Use of Interactive Systems.” “It would be quite useful,” Miller and Thomas observe, “to permit users to ‘take back’ at least the immediately preceding command (by issuing some special ‘undo’ command).” Useful indeed!

The undo command would become a crucial feature of text editors and word processors in the PC era, assigned the now-familiar keyboard shortcut of Control-Z by programmers at the research center Xerox PARC. In the software of the ’80s, some undo commands became “multi­level,” allowing users to take back a whole series of actions (called the undo
stack), not just the most recent one. Ad-hoc un- verbs began to emerge for these reversible innovations. In 1984, the software company NewStar introduced the unerase command for its word-processing program NewWord, while I.B.M.’s VisiWord countered with undelete. From there it was a quick step to unbolding, unitalicizing and even un-underlining your errantly formatted text.

The Yale University linguist Laurence R. Horn sees an earlier technological metaphor at work in the flurry of un- verbs. As Horn writes in “Uncovering the Un-Word,” a paper in the journal Sophia Linguistica: “The prevailing sense is that for something to unhappen, the tape of reality must be set to Rewind. That this is a practical impossibility . . . does not make the metaphor any the less attractive.”

Rewinding the tape of reality is an appealing metaphor in science fiction, unsurprisingly. Nancy Etchemendy’s young-adult novel, “The Power of Un,” features a middle-school student who operates a gizmo called “The Unner” to go back in time and undo past events.

Songwriters have also made poetic use of the un- prefix to imagine the reversal of irreversible things, notably falling in and out of love. It’s a useful lyrical trick in such genres as folk rock (Lucinda Williams’s “Unsuffer Me”), R & B (Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart”) and country (Lynn Anderson’s “How Can I Unlove You?”). But as Horn points out, imaginary unloving has been going on for centuries in English literature, from Chaucer to Brontë: Jane Eyre confides, “I had learned to love Mr. Rochester; I could not unlove him now.”

What sets latter-day un- verbs apart from these historical examples is that the “reality rewind” is no longer a flight of counterfactual fancy: it’s built right into the interfaces that we use to make sense of our shared virtual worlds.

Facebook, for instance, allows you to register approval for a posted message in a very concrete way, by clicking a thumbs-up like button. Toggling off the button results in unliking your previously liked item. Note that this is different from disliking something, since unliking simply returns you to a neutral state. This kind of instant reversibility is now an inescapable facet of our digitized life — like it or un-.

Ben Zimmer is executive producer of, an online destination for word lovers. He has worked as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. William Safire is on hiatus for a few weeks.

A beautiful article about language trends and un in the digital world.

Report: Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted on Twitter | Popwise | Fast Company

September 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

Report: Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted on Twitter

BY Dan MacsaiThu Sep 24, 2009 at 4:00 PM

If I wanted to make sure this post did not go viral–according to the standards put forth by Hubspot viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella in “The Science of Retweeting”–I could promote it on Twitter by posting something like this:

was bored watchin the game on tv and saw this thing about RTs…made me lol after i had really bad stomach cramps

Note the lack of punctuation, the use of of slang and abbreviations, the limited vocabulary, and the awkward overshare–all traits that Zarrella
can now definitively say would turn Twitter users off. How? Because the avid Twitter-er and author of the upcoming The Social Media Marketing Book spent nine months analyzing roughly 5 million tweets and 40 million
retweets (which are usually symbolized with an “RT” on Twitter). He
noted when they were posted, which words they used, whether or not they
included links, and more. Then, he says, he compared the two groups to
get the first “real window” into how ideas spread from person to
person: “Retweets may seem like a small idea…but many of the lessons
[they teach us] will be applicable to viral ideas in other mediums.”

full report is 22 pages, and won’t be available until tomorrow (UPDATE: It’s here). But
Zarrella offered me a sneak peak–via Twitter, no less. Below, his nine
most effective ways to get retweeted on Twitter:

1. Link Up (But Don’t Use TinyURLs)
In Zarrella’s sample, links were three times more prevalent in RTs than normal tweets (19% to 57%), suggesting that their mere prescence could help buoy your bon mots. (Not sure whether that holds true for sporadic use of French terms.) But choose your URL shortener carefully: Newer, shorter services, such as,, and, were much likelier to get retweeted than older, longer services, such as TinyURL. Ouch.


2. Beggars Can Be Choosers
Although conventional wisdom suggests that SPAMmy pleas, such as “PLEASE RETWEET,” would be generally ignored, Zarrella found the opposite. “Please” and “retweet” were his third and fourth “most retweetable” words, preceeded only by “Twitter” (duh) and “you.” Also worth noting: “Check out” and “new blog post” were Nos. 19 and 20, respectively.


3. Avoid Idle Chit-Chat
Okay, let’s face it: We all occasionally tweet about “boring” activities, such as sleeping and watching TV. But alas, these are the types of words and phrases Zarrella dubs “least retweetable.” “There are a number of ‘-ing’ verbs, including ‘going,’ ‘watching’ and ‘listen-ing,'” that were not retweeted very often, he writes. Translation: Unless you’ve got a really interesting life–Shaquille O’Neal, anyone?–do not legitimately answer Twitter’s “What are you doing?” prompt.


4. Don’t Be Stupid
So much for abbrevs and emoticons. 🙁 Zarrella’s RTs not only have more syllables per word than normal tweets (1.62 vs. 1.58), but they’re also more intellectual: Per a Flesch-Kincaid test, comprehending RTs requires 6.47 years of education, while normal tweets require just 6.04.


5. Semicolons = Satan
A whopping 98% of RTs contain some form of punctuation (compared with 86% of normal tweets), with colons, periods, exclamation points, commas, and hyphens leading the way. (Where you at, question mark??) But Zarrella really sticks it to semicolons, calling them “the only unretweetable punctuation mark.”


6. Break News
This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but original content is way more popular than stuff we’ve already read: The words in Zavella’s normal-tweet sample were each found 89 times in other tweets, on average, while words in the RTs were found just 16 times.


7. Use Proper Nouns Properly
Most RTs were heavier on nouns, proper nouns and 3rd-person verbs, suggesting that headline-style tweets–such as “Lindsay Lohan Escapes From Rehab Facility”–are more likely to go viral.


8. Bottle Those Emotions
Sorry guys, but nobody wants to promote your f—ing, stupid feelings:
Tweets about work, religion, money and media/celebrities are more
retweetable than those involving negative emotions, sensations, swear
words, and self-reference.


9. Tweet at 4 p.m. on Friday
‘Nuff said.


Click here to follow me on Twitter.

» Gravity Summit NYC – Twitter and the Real Time Social Web at Gravity Summit – We Educate, Inform, and Empower

September 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

Gravity Summit NYC on November 16, 2009 will be squarely focused on this new phenomenon as it relates to business.  Rodney says that “Twitter is a particle accelerator”.  According to the definition on Wikipedia, a particle accelerator is “a device that uses electric fields to propel ions or charged subatomic particles to high speeds and to contain them in well-defined beams. An ordinary CRT television set is a simple form of accelerator. There are two basic types: linear accelerators and circular accelerators.”

Businesses who embrace this high-speed, laser focused social energy will find themselves well ahead of their competitors.  Join us on November 16 in New York City to hear how Current TV, AdWeek, Deep Focus, Operation Smile, the Roger Smith Hotel, Intuit, Domino’s and others are riding this new wave into the social web and how your business can jump on board.

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Courier: First Details of Microsoft’s Secret Tablet – Microsoft courier tablet – Gizmodo

September 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

It feels like the whole world is holding its breath for the Apple tablet. But maybe we’ve all been dreaming about the wrong device. This is Courier, Microsoft’s astonishing take on the tablet.


To watch the video, you’ll first need to install the flash player.


This looks absolutely beautiful. I look forward to playing around with one in real time and seeing just how versatile it is.

And as an aside, I wonder if there’s a way to slap a keyboard, even if it’s just a touch keyboard on the screen, on this thing? Typing is much faster than writing so I see that as a potential advantage in the versatility of a tablet like this.

September 25, 2009 in Uncategorized
Check out this website I found at

Apparently some people still believe that the way to handle adverse ideas is to attempt to ban a book. This is an amazing map that shows the reported attempts to ban books.