Dear Santa…

December 22, 2009 1 comment

What a year it has been for tech toys and new media! Apple launched a new iPhone 3Gs, the Droid landed at Verizon, Flip video recorders are becoming increasingly popular and Facebook has officially hit 350 million users globally. With all of these advances in technology and digital communications that are intended to make life easier, what do I want this year? Forget the Amazon Kindle, I want to cuddle up on the couch with a Barnes & Noble Nook.

As an avid book reader I have to admit that I am intrigued by the growing popularity of e-readers thanks to the Amazon Kindle. One thing that has kept me from purchasing the Kindle is the fact that I am a loyal Barnes & Noble customer and simply hate the idea of being forced to purchase e-books from Amazon. Enter Barnes & Noble’s answer, the Nook. It began shipping in November and as of today is completely sold out, forcing many interested customers to dish out gift certificates for the product until the company can begin shipping them again. Here is a clip of Barnes & Noble president, William J. Lynch Jr. unveiling the Nook:

Why am I in love with the Nook? Well for starters, it is supported by one of my favorite stores and is compatible with over 100 other devices ranging from PCs to the Apple iPhone. Secondly, the Nook comes standard with access to the AT&T 3G wireless network and Wi-Fi, and gives its owner the ability to browse e-books via their Nook, in any Barnes & Noble store the same way one would with a physical book in the same store. One thing I love about bookstores is being able to walk into them and browse the aisles. If I find a book I’m interested in I will oftentimes camp out in one of the store’s over-stuffed chairs and read a chapter or two while I decide if it’s worth purchasing. Having said that, being able to do the same thing with a Nook is definitely appealing. I can even lend an e-book out to a friend for 2 weeks, without charge. Sorry Amazon, but I can’t have that same experience with your Kindle.

When you couple the Nook’s compatibility features and experiential factors along with the physical space it is going to save me in my house from having hundreds of books on one tiny device, I’m sold! This could be the tech toy that changes the way I look at books forever. Yes, I hope that Santa brings me a Nook this year, and if he didn’t tell the elves to make one early enough, I hope he springs for the gift certificate. I guess I only have to wait a few more days to find out. Happy holidays and happy reading!

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On the Hunt: Job search in the 21st century

December 21, 2009 1 comment

The holidays are almost here and I would like to be among the first to say “see ya later 2009”! Yes, it’s been a rough year for not only myself, but also for the millions of Americans who have been affected by the economic crisis here in the U.S. Even as companies begin to stabilize, the amount of available jobs not only continue to remain scarce, but also are often met with fierce competition as hundreds of applicants apply for the same position. While it can be tough to stay optimistic when there is no crystal ball laying around, one thing is for certain – I’m glad I’m looking for a job now rather than 10 years ago.

It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago I was a junior in college and just beginning to think about applying for internships while wondering where I would land my first job when I graduated. While the Internet was around, its job search resources were not nearly as abundant as they are today. I remember sending out countless letters and resumes via “snail mail” to companies and agencies hoping they would contact me for an interview. Oh the hours I must have spent printing, addressing and mailing those letters while trying to avoid getting a paper cut…

Since being laid off almost a year ago, not a day doesn’t go by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for the Internet and the ease with which it has allowed me to connect with colleagues, research companies and apply for jobs. I have set up standard daily searches on meta search sites like Indeed.com and Simplyhired.com that pull job postings from a variety of sources and display them all in one central location for me to peruse. That function alone makes these sites a definite time saver.

I’ve also embraced social networking sites like LinkedIn.com and Facebook.com as a way to connect with colleagues and network with potential employers across the country. These types of networking sites have also been great for facilitating introductions with employees of companies that I am interested in working for. Without them I doubt these introductions would have been possible. LinkedIn has also enabled recruiters who are looking for candidates with a similar skill set to mine, to be able to contact me directly about a potential position.

Even though I haven’t fully embraced some of the advances in emerging media I have to say that its ability to transform my job search process from a time-consuming, manual one into a 24/7 online environment has been invaluable. What’s the next step in this evolution going to be? I’m asking Santa for a common, streamlined application process.

As my own personal PSA, if anyone is looking to hire a seasoned marketing communications professional you can find me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kmhoffman.

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Reality Series to Hit the Web in 2010

December 20, 2009 1 comment

What do American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent have in common? For starters, they are all reality TV contests that give the average Joe or Jane a chance to compete against each other in the hopes of making it big. These shows are not only popular among the talented (and untalented) hopefuls who wait in endless lines for the opportunity to audition, but they are also popular with their sponsors because of their loyal audience following.

In early 2010, the creators of American Idol, Simon Fuller’s company 19 Entertainment, will debut their first online series, “If I Can Dream”. Similar to American Idol, the series will feature five hopeful musicians who will be filmed Big Brother style (aka 24/7) as they live together in their Hollywood home. Footage from the house will be streamed on the show’s website, and fans will have the ability to interact with the show via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. With that, if watching the show online isn’t enough for you and you want to submit an audition video, all you need to do is visit “If I Can Dream” on MySpace (the show’s official social-networking site) and upload your video. Additional sponsors involved with the series are expected to include Ford, Pepsi, and Clear Channel.

I’ve got to hand it to 19 Entertainment. They are really thinking out of the box and testing the limits of emerging media with this one. While the concept seems like a simple one, it will undoubtedly take a lot of promotional effort and buzz building for it to take off like American Idol did on television back in 2002. That being said, if the series does catch on with consumers how long will it be before the web truly becomes a destination for original programs? I can already see premium broadcast channels like HBO developing their own original web programming – all for a small subscription fee to make it worth their while.

2010 looks as if it will be a great year for advances in emerging media, particularly if concepts like “If I Can Dream” catch on among the general population. It will be interesting to see if videos from this web-based series become as viral as that of the infamous rendition of “She Bangs” by famed American Idol contestant William Hung. Only time will tell…

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Slice it and dice it! Paramount to sell movie clips online

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Do you have a presentation that is just okay, but would be ten times more memorable with a killer movie clip added to it?  Taking from the words of the illustrious Godfather, Paramount Digital Entertainment is going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. In a recent announcement by the studio, Paramount has laid out plans to begin selling clips from its expansive movie library online.

In order to turn older movies into new sources of revenue, Paramount has partnered with technology firm Digitalsmiths to develop an online movie clip site from the studio’s library. The initial launch of the site, www.ParamountClips.com, will be available for commercial use only (agencies, businesses, broadcasts, etc.) and will include 80 films that can be searched by actor, location, film genre, or line of dialogue. Once a film is selected, registered users can slice it to create their own customized clip. Rather than having to purchase rights to the entire film, users will only pay for their clip and pricing will vary based on the selected film. Plans are also in the works to make the site available for consumer use down the road.

The movie clip concept is similar to the way in which the music industry began selling pieces of songs for use as ring tones. While a variety of popular clips from films like Forrest Gump and the Godfather currently appear on sites like YouTube, Paramount’s customized approach to movie clips will no doubt gain interest and excitement within the industry. After all, why link to a sub-par clip on YouTube when you can purchase a high quality, customized clip from the source for a reasonable price?

From a business and marketing perspective it is nice to see that the film industry is embracing emerging media beyond simply offering their full-length films for purchase in digital format. As the inclusion of video content becomes more popular among businesses and consumers alike I’m willing to bet that the other Hollywood studios will follow in Paramount’s footsteps and make their content available as well. As has been seen in the print industry, failure to adapt to change and find new ways of doing business in a digital world could spell the end of what was once a viable business. Digital media is here to stay and hopefully the film industry will do a better job of getting ahead of it and embracing it than the print industry did.

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Location, Location, Location!

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

While skimming through yesterday’s daily email from Advertising Age Digital I came across a great article by Garrick Schmitt on the “Future of Geo-tagged Marketing”. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, it refers to the method of marketing where location-based services are offered through GPS-enabled devices like the iPhone, Blackberry, and recently released Android from Google. As mobile marketing becomes more advanced it is likely that this type of marketing will become more widely accepted among consumers, providing a new field of opportunities for marketers to communicate with them.

If you thought the constant barrage of updates via Twitter and Facebook gave you too much information about your friends’ daily routines, you haven’t seen anything yet. According to Schmitt, the concept of geo-tagging is gaining ground as marketers are beginning to gear up for this new revolution in mobile marketing. Diving head first into deploying this tool are companies like Google who has recently launched the “What’s Nearby” service which locates the 10 closest places of interest based on the GPS location of a user’s mobile phone. Google also offers Google Latitude, another location-based service that is tied in with Google Maps and allows a user to share their physical location with friends via a map.

Even though location-based services like Google Latitude are beneficial to the consumer, the idea of geo-tagging unleashes endless possibilities for brands to develop them as a way of micro-targeting consumers. For example, being able to reach consumers who are within a certain distance from a retail store and target them with mobile promotions could aid in driving consumer foot traffic into the store and increase sales. Restaurant chains could provide a branded location-based service that looks up and lists restaurants within a certain distance of the mobile user based on cuisine or price while also providing a sample of the menu. The possibilities are just as exciting as they are endless.

As with most emerging media, geo-tagged marketing will be an exciting addition in the world of mobile marketing to be watched and experimented with early on. Having said that, even though consumers are likely to love the convenience of these services, there are also privacy and safety concerns that will need to be considered and addressed before they will receive widespread adoption. Speaking from a consumer standpoint, while I would love to have the ability to use these services, I wouldn’t necessarily want to be broadcasting where I am to the world 24/7. As far as mobile marketing is concerned, the early showing is that the future will be all about “location, location, location”.

To read Gary Schmitt’s article in its entirety, click here.

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Coca-Cola Embarks on Expedition into Social Media Frontier

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

January is drawing near and as it does global beverage manufacturer Coca-Cola is gearing up to launch its most adventurous social media effort yet. Announced back in mid-November, the Expedition 206 campaign is sending three lucky fans, or “happiness ambassadors” as they have been dubbed by Coke, on a journey to search for happiness all over the world.

Once 2010 rolls around, Toño, Kelly and Tony will begin their yearlong journey in Madrid, Spain and will travel approximately 275,000 miles across the globe, stopping in each of the 206 countries where Coca-Cola is sold. Along the way the trio will be documenting their journey and interacting with other consumers via a variety of social media tools including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Additionally, the group’s journey will be documented on the official Expedition 205 website, www.expedition206.com.

What is so unprecedented about this campaign? Well, unlike the social media efforts of the majority of Fortune 500 companies, this campaign is solely centered on the communications efforts of three consumers. Expedition 206 is unique in that it is one of the first large-scale corporate social media campaigns to essentially surrender the brand and give its social media reins to consumers to represent the brand how the brand is portrayed. With their mission set, it is likely that the Coke “happiness ambassadors” will be able to really connect with consumers in other countries on a level that marketers can’t do themselves or from an office cubicle in Atlanta. In this way Coca-Cola is using social media to make the brand not only about consumers, but extremely accessible to them as well.

Toño, Kelly, Tony and Coca-Cola will face some challenges as they cross into un-chartered territory when it comes to their social media efforts and how they are seen, particularly in countries that are sensitive to outside journalistic reporting globally. Are they considered freelance journalists? Nomads? Only time (and social media) will reveal where the quest for happiness takes these three lucky travelers.

Be on the lookout for Toño, Kelly and Tony to be hitting the social media scene come January. Here some ways to stay updated on the group’s travels:

Website: www.expedition206.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/x206
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cocacola
YouTube: www.youtube.com/expedition206

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Corporate Blogs: Marketing Spiel or Valuable Source?

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

This week I’ve been paying particular attention to how companies use social media on a daily basis to connect with consumers. While brands like Coca-Cola and Macy’s seem to update their Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts multiple times a day, other companies are also using their corporate blog as a way of communicating with their consumers.

Blogs provide consumers and companies alike a way to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns on topics of their choosing. The owner of the blog has control over what gets published and can also control which reader comments can be seen by the general public. As a tool for marketing communications purposes, a blog can be a great way to discuss topics that are of interest to a company’s consumers, but are also relevant to their products or industry in general. That being said, do consumers see the information posted in official corporate blogs as being a valuable source or one that is purely full of marketing messages intended to sell product?

In reality I think the answer could go either way depending on the blog being discussed. One the one hand there is the Direct2Dell Community, which is Dell corporate blog. This one truly feels like Dell from the minute the home page loads. Dell has used this forum as a way of facilitating discussions with consumers on upcoming products, providing information on product shipping delays, and general industry topics. Dell also uses it to learn what ideas resonate with consumers most through IdeaStorm, which allows users to post product ideas and rate others contributions.

One blog that leaves a little to be desired is Kodak’s A Thousand Words blog. In one word, this blog is just boring. For a company that manufactures some really cool products and can pump out some great photography, I’m not really seeing that feeling come through here. The articles are only okay and the layout is hard to follow. A little re-design and some more thought into how the consumer views this blog might do Kodak some good and make the blog more valuable for all parties involved in the long run.

Do you trust official corporate blogs more than unofficial ones? What are some of your favorites?

Still interested? Here’s a link to a great blog post by Paul Boag on the “10 Harsh Truths about Corporate Blogging” from the Boagworld blog.

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