Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chinese Delivery as the Canary in the Coal Mine

Working from a home office today, heard those footsteps up the walk and the inevitable clank of the mailbox mid-afternoon. The mail delivery had already happened, so resigned myself to another armload of crap junk mail flyers.

A single flyer, indeed it was. But it was the 1 in a 1000 flyer I actually wanted to read. It was a new Chinese take/out delivery place just a few blocks from my house. And I was actually seeking recommendations not long ago for a decent, reliable delivery place. So that particular mass marketing outreach actually hit the target and found a responsive prospect.

So tonight I phoned, less than 6 hours after the flyer campaign hit the streets. After studying the menu, the prices, the spiciness scale, I circled my choices and phoned. General Tso's Chicken, Singapore Vermicelli, BBQ pork. Looking forward to having it fuel a bit more work this evening and the wonderful prospect of reheated leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

So I phoned. And gave my name. Twice.

And gave my phone number. (Had to explain the area code was a business cell number...)

And then my street number. That one worked the first time.

But the deal fell apart when the person taking the order could not comprehend my 6-letter, single syllable street name. I spelled it out about a half dozen times. If this person works at the take-out shop, it's almost impossible they didn't drive by my street on the way to work.

And then I gave up. And said, never mind. And hung up. Felt terrible for being rude, but frustrated that they got my attention, sold me on the product, and were utterly unable to deal with the most basic transaction. Was there a language barrier? Perhaps, but couldn't possibly be the only issue, I'd worry if it wasn't an authentic Chinese (or Vietnamese, or Indian) culinary experience awaiting me. That was the whole point.

But the simplest question and response part of the transaction fell apart within a minute, didn't even get to the part about what food I wanted. Rookie? lack of training? bad communication equipment on their end? I have no idea. But the deal was lost. In fact I tore up the menu and chucked it in the recycling bin.

And then as a marketer I sat back, and wondered how the flyer success metrics would be evaluated at the end of the month, or quarter. And how mostly likely, it would be considered a marketing #fail.

And how that conclusion would be so very very wrong, but they'd never know it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No Harm Intended

Of course there wasn't. There never is.

Little did I think 24 hours ago that I'd be sitting in a Paris bistro going to war with the Polkaroo of all things.

It all started last night on Facebook when a friend of mine tipped me off to this bizarre tweet from one of Canada's most beloved kids' TV characters: "Polkaroo! RT @tvo: Should prostitution be legal? Tonight at 9 on TVO a farmer opens a brothel to support his quadriplegic wife in A Good Man".

Wow, I thought. Clearly must be an auto-tweet social media #fail. Why would a big galumphing barely verbal kids TV icon be talking hookers and cat houses? Given that the entire Polkaroo tweet stream is TVO retweet show listings, made a seemingly safe assumption that it was some kind of bot. I wasn't the only one who thought so, and kinda chortled at it last night. It happens, eh? This damn social media. Too many people out there in Twitterland to bother hand crafting 140 characters, FCS.

So I replied "Autotweet #fail. RT @"Polkaroo! RT @tvo: Should prostitution be legal? Tonight at 9 on TVO a farmer opens a brothel to support his quadriplegic wife in A Good Man".

I mean, maybe a helpful wakeup call that a pre-school hero, if one was to think "brand" and "authentic voice", might not really want to be heading down this particular path.

Most companies, products, people and 'brands' make some type of minor misstep in their adoption of social media. In my mind a line had been crossed. A bit funny, but no harm no foul. Maybe a retuning of the bot tweets would be the fall out (and what I thought should happen).

But no, gentle readers. I was wrong. In fact, I was informed today by TVO itself that:

@mi6agency @CherylMcKinnon to clarify: yesterday's tweet was not an autotweet nor did it #fail. Lots of retweets, new followers and viewers

My heart sank a little. And then I got angry. The "my tax dollars at work" head of steam is one thing.... but to take one of Canada's most beloved pre-verbal mutants and whore out its image and voice to ... errr... umm... whores, was a bit beyond the pale.

And so I replied: "@tvo so pimping out a child-centric "brand" for followers and ratings on a clearly not child apprpriate [sic] subject is #goodsocialmedia?"

To which I was assured by the official @tvo account"@CherylMcKinnon @polkaroo RTs to an adult audience to raise awareness of the complex issues in TVO's programs. No harm intended"

When I thought this was a mistake, it was kind of a giggly ... oops! Bet they won't do that again reaction.

When I was told it was on purpose, the bile rose. Because one of the most respected, educational, level-headed television channels in North America chose to pimp out its own.

Just threw up a little inside my mouth.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Those Rose Coloured Glasses Aren't What You Think They Are

One of the best things I've done in my tech career is to respect the importance of 'The Old Girl's Club'. Honestly, it's nice to have a circle of trusted female friends in the tech business who gets the world you live in, and with whom you can share a glass of wine and a laugh on the road as easily as debate an acquisition or analyst report.

Over the last couple of months I've been lucky to connect with a few ex-colleagues, thankful that between family and work and travel pressures we can find an evening to unwind and catch up.

So why have these last few encounters left me feeling so agitated and frustrated over the prospects of these dear friends? It's because some companies are toxic to female ambition. Anecdotes take on the power of reality when pooled. When story after story of stalled promotions and broken career promises all sound exactly the same, there is more than coincidence at play.

From what I hear anecdotally, can it really be true that an enterprise software company has less than 2% female representation at the VP or above layer? I'm curious to find more industry stats on this... so please pass them along. I think we are ripe for a little transparency in this area.

Some info that was shared with me this afternoon:

In Silicon Valley companies, men and women in technical careers are equally likely to hold mid-level jobs, but men are 2.7 times more likely than women to be promoted to a high-ranking tech jobs such as vice president of engineering, or senior engineering manager - from 2009 survey

According to the U.S.-based National Center for Women in Technology, 41 per cent of women leave technology companies after 10 years of experience, compared to only 17 per cent of men; 56 per cent of women leave at the mid-level point. If current trends continue, NCWIT says, by 2016 the information technology industry will be able to fill only half of its available jobs. ITWorldCanada article 2010

Why do I care? Because companies that lip-synch commitment to diversity and innovation need to own up to their lack of execution. Because the women who feel stuck and trapped need to figure out a way out or up and remember that there's a whole other world out there. Because in this world of tech that values communication, new modes of collaboration and an embrace of trusted personal communication via social media, new skills need to rise to the top of the food chain.

After the latest such dinner I tweeted my frustration.... That glass ceiling is pink for a reason. It's stained with the bloody cracked skulls of all the women who have been bashed against it. And then just gave up and left.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Anthropomorphication of The Brand Must Stop

"Engaging with the brand" "What the brand seeks to accomplish" "The voice of the brand" "What the brand desires" "Creating a personal relationship with the brand"

I've had it. A brand does not have goals, nor desires, nor friends, nor a voice. Marketers and PR people need to stop this crap. In an era where so-called civilized nations are now ascribing elements of citizenry, speech rights and standing in the democratic decision making of our societies to corporations, pretending that a logo, a message, a tag line or a product preference is a person is BS.

Stop it now.

This is an utter waste of the potential of what social media can accomplish. Connect people with people. Help them find their voice online. I have no problem using these platforms for commercial purposes and market education, but the ongoing anthropomorphication of the word Brand has got to end.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Roadkill Marketing

My Twitter and Facebook networks saw me throw a hissy fit this week when I proclaimed a strong negative reaction to a short cartoon marketing video. I'm not reposting a link to it, figuring I've probably already driven more traffic to it than they ever expected.

The final scene showed a little cartoon humanoid hit a brick wall at high speed, shattering the wall, pancaking him/herself and splattering on the ground, only to be gawked at by his fellow humanoids. The point was to explain how to make your digital mailroom more compliant with regulations.

Oh, I get it. Nice little piece of content there... shame if anything were to happen to it.

Now there were a couple of defenders of the piece, appreciating the unique approach, liking the graphics, and in that respect I agree. If nothing else, debate got stirred - not a bad outcome for a marketer.

But it played to the most wretched message of Fear. This is what has disturbed me greatly over the past few years about the evolution of the Compliance message in ECM. It smacks of veiled threat, assuring your personal or professional damage if you don't buy a certain tool. The message encourages rigidity and conformity when what successful businesses need today is agility, critical thinking and the courage to toss out broken stupid processes. It's why the "New ROI = Risk of Incarceration" LOL line wasn't actually funny after 10,000th vendor repeated it.

Seriously, aren't companies sick and tired of the scare tactics yet? Where's a vendor with grace and vision and shares this optimism with their customers and partners?

Compliance is an outcome of doing good business. It's not an objective in itself. It can't be. Other than for vendors and consultants who thrive on selling fear.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Free... As In Beer....

Thanks to the contestmeister Jon Marks (aka @McBoof) over at his Jon on Tech blog. Nothing like some late night wine-fueled giggles amongst some of the sharpest & funniest content management gurus.

Also thanks to my 'groupies' who made the effort to read & vote. I think all of us are pretty lucky to have found a career path in a part of the tech industry that sometimes seems a bit nerdy, but fundamentally fuels the digital legacy our future generations are going to have to puzzle through.

A great bunch of people - even the competitors. Who I whomped. Twice. ;-)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Social Networking Strategies for Business - Workshop @ Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce

The Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce hosted a full morning workshop for its membership on January 26, 2010. Was really honoured to be invited to lead the session and get to meet an incredibly diverse & social-media curious group of local entrepreneurs and managers. From small boutique chocolate makers to global leaders in insurance - and a few dozen others in between... nice cross section of the business leadership in this region.

This workshop will always be a work-in-progress. I love keeping it up to date with new examples, lessons learned, tuning the focus for specific audiences, keeping on top of the cool new tools & platforms that can be helpful for businesses wanting to add social networking into their outreach programs.

For this Chamber of Commerce audience, I focused on four key areas where businesses can benefit from the social media tactics:

  • Lead and Demand Generation - how to find prospects and interest for your products or services
  • Customer Care and Service - understand the buzz around satisfaction levels, finding new ways to ensure customers are satisfied and feel respected
  • Competitive and Market Intelligence - stay ahead of the game on new trends in your market, learn about what your competitors are doing - the good things and the bad things
  • Recruiting and Talent Acquisition - how to find and assess great candidates, and build contacts with specialized free-lancers and contractors to fill your skills gap
Using these four themes as organizing principles, we had a great interactive discussion exploring many of the common platforms and channels in the social networking space: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare, YouTube, blogs, wikis, and specialty communities.

I hope the participants all walked away with the confidence and ambition to try at least one new thing this week.

And a thank you to my management team at Nuxeo for letting me invest some time in this workshop. It keeps my skills sharp, relevant and proves that we walk the talk when it comes to giving back to the community.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Favourite Fridge Picture

Inspired by my friend (and former boss) Daniel Kraft and his new venture iFridge, here's my favourite photo of a fridge.

It's my Baba's fridge. She passed away 2 years ago, a very sad time for my family.

My Baba was born in a small town in one of those regions that changed their borders every time the winds of war shifted... Ukraine/Poland/Belarus... a difficult time. She was born the same year as Queen Elizabeth. After she came to Canada - a displaced person and a teenage bride and mother, she developed a real fascination with the Queen. They actually looked like they could be sisters. Same hair, glasses, shape of face.

On one of my first business trips to London, I found that postcard of the Queen. Almost life sized picture of her smiling face. So I sent it to my Baba. She put it up on her fridge when she got it, and never took it down. Over the years I'd go home to visit family for the holidays, and it made me smile that the postcard of the Queen was still there. She looked at it every day, and I hoped she thought of me and was proud.

My aunt told me once that she would even talk to it from time to time.

At the church after her funeral service, the family gathered and I turned to my aunt and asked for one small favour. She granted my request and it put a little smile on my face on a day bereft of smiles.

So that postcard of the Queen is now on my fridge at home. And I see the big smile and remember my Baba, knowing she's watching out for all of us.