Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Obama

What I Learned At the iMedia 2009 Scottsdale Summit – Part II

Part I can be found here.

The format at this summit was a little different. Day 1 had a neat wrinkle. The summit attendees got to hear from and comments on 5 startup companies focused on real time information and data. It was kinda like a mini TechCrunch50. This was definitely a cool experience and something I hope they keep in the summit format. We heard from:

Bazaar Labs: They currently offer a product called flixup that’s basically twitter + Rotten Tomatoes. In near real time you can get the pulse of your friends/connections and the community at large regarding movies. It’s an interesting idea that’s ripe for contextual ads. They also offer a feature where you can predict the success of future movies based on the performance of previous movies. I have to imagine studios have something similar that goes like this: Michael Bay + Explosions + Save The World = X Million 🙂 As cool as the product is, I think they’re missing the middle part of the business model. Predicting the future is neat, but how about being able to see other movies in theater and available for purchase (e.g. DVD)…then within the app being able to buy them. I’ll be watching this app and company closely.

Networked Insights: They offer a product called SocialSense that’s focused on making sense of all the crazy social media chatter that’s out there. They believe that social channels provide the best and largest real time group for research. In today’s business environment speed wins and frankly the old ways of doing research are very slow. He gave an example of two recent redesigns for recipe sites that were done by General Mills and Kraft. One of the sites (he wouldn’t say which) launched first and while not as pretty of well designed offered amazing utility. The other site was a high usability testing scorer. But, they were late to market because they focused on flawless and perfect execution. Guess what? Speed win. Site 1 has over a million users. Site two has less than 50,000. Ouch. Follow and connect with @dneely40 for more information about their company.

AdHatchery: AdHatchery.com hasn’t launched yet, but will be soon. The presenter was great and really highlighted the problems we have in the industry between publishers (sellers) and agencies (buyers). The sales process sucks. It’s riddled with phone calls, emails, and follow ups. It’s a waste of time frankly. AdHatchery is trying to make the process between buyers and sellers simpler, easier, faster, and more transparent. So imagine a concept like LinkedIn where you can post your client’s needs. Then publishers, any publishers, can bid and offer proposals specific to that RFP or business problem. The advertiser can easily evaluate the options, provide feedback, and then close a deal quickly. More importantly, there’s a community based feedback feature where you can rate/review the sales contact who provided the RFP. This is very cool. If implemented well, this could be the type of tool that can shine a light on crappy sales contacts and hopefully shun them into being better. We can only hope…

HitPost: They believe everyone is either an armchair spots announcer/pundit or can be one. Their platform (which works across all mediums and devices) Hitpost.com enables this to happen. The tool works similar to flixup, but it’s clearly designed around sports fans. People are already doing this. If you watch a live twitter feed of a sports game you’ll see exactly what I mean. HitPost ties it all together across all networks. I see a lot of promise in this one.

Track Simple: I honestly have no idea what these guys do, but I want to buy it. The presentation given was simply one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen. It was classic Obama. The presenter spoke so well you had no choice, but to say, “ummmm yeah I’ll take one.” I’m actually hoping to follow up with these guys tonight. If I learn more I’ll update this post.

In short, there’s no shortage of ideas and everyone is focusing on the real time web.

Keeping Things In Perspective – Whole Foods Boycott

Here’s the high level story:

  1. The CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, wrote an OP Ed column in the NY Times that essentially trashed the concept of the Obama Healthcare Plan. [in full disclosure, I think Mackey is spot on].
  2. The primarily left leaning Whole Foods consumer demographic took issue with his comments.  Keep in mind his comments were his alone and not Whole Foods driven or supported.
  3. As you’d imagine people called for a boycott. How many you ask…drum roll please…30,000 people at present date on Facebook.  Yes, 30,000.

PR 2.0 (ugh I hate that term) pros like are calling for everything from a public apology from Whole Foods to the resignation of Mackey (one of the founders of Whole Foods).  I’m taking the other approach and a page from politics 101.  When you openly acknowledge someone’s comments, opinions, or viewpoints you give that person and their point of view credibility.

When you consider that Whole Foods’ sales haven’t suffered, the stock price has stayed flat, new consumers are becoming Whole Foods customers (I’m guessing they’re stealing right wingers), and the boycott number is a miniscule 30,000 people all on Facebook, I wouldn’t acknowledge, respond, or give credibility to these people.  I don’t see the value or the return on investment.  There’s more potential to do more harm than there is good.

Again, look at the profits since the boycott – it’s on a huge upward trend:

Every person that has a blog or a twitter profile thinks their voice is important.  I’ve got to tell you, it’s not.  Sorry, but it’s the truth.  There’s a hierarchy for whose voice matters and I’d venture to bet that the majority of the 30,000 people are on the bottom of the list.  Sometimes you’ve got to keep things in perspective.

Guest Post – Should We Selebrate Errors?

I’m out on vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

In April 1985, the management of Coca-Cola announced a decision to change the flavor of its flagship brand. New Coke came in a new can, with updated red and silver graphics replacing the traditional red and white look. The rest is history: a large public outcry ensued and after 79 days the new was replaced with the old. This was 24 years ago. Now imagine what would happen if Coke would do the same in today’s world: Just like David Neeleman from JetBlue Coke’s management would have to apologize on any radio and TV station that wanted to hear from them. Just like Starbucks, they would have to create a newcokeidea.com. Just like Comcast, Coke would have to create @newcokecares. And just like many brands experienced, the public flogging would have been merciless, constant and extremely painful.

While we always ask brands to experiment and test, we have a schizophrenic relationship to mistakes: Deeply outraged and always ready to forgive. Mistakes happen in the land of endless possibilities all the time; the cultural mix is just too volatile. Everybody has to deal with the limits of political correctness, limits that continue to change and evolve. But, beware: if you cross that line of good behavior, taste and decent business practices, you better be prepared to present yourself as a shameful sinner.

The public expects the spectacle of admission and asking for forgiveness from the sinner. Just like a dog, craning his head away to display submission, it’s a spectacle that doesn’t change anything about the balance of power – but it’s a double dose of Valium for our religion-based psyche, asking for salvation that supposedly lurks around the corner. There’s a reason why self-help books were invented in the United States.

Fossils like Nixon or Rumsfeld didn’t get it when they proclaimed not to be crooks or didn’t admit any mistakes. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, remains one of the most popular Presidents, even though he lied about his affair until he finally asked for forgiveness. When you mess up, book yourself on Larry King and claim to be a changed person. As long as you’re not a heinous racist, people will forgive the poor sinner. Or better, the rich sinner.

Add to that a crumbling infrastructure and an economy constructed out of weak intellectual constructs based upon unproven theories. While advertising continues to showcase a perfect world, people have to deal with imperfect products and service. Europeans or Japanese wouldn’t put up with this for long. But we do. Piecemealing needs a lot of patience:

In my almost 30 years in Europe, I never experienced one blackout. Living in Los Angeles, we had at least 30 since I moved here. Phone companies that don’t show up for hours. Contractors that leave ruins behind. Customer Service agents barely able to speak English. Electronics that need to be returned to the store, just to malfunction again. And, at the end, agents ask you “Did we serve you well today?” Even though the answer is “Hell, no.”, the ritual remains the same.

The throwaway culture is so deeply ingrained that we don’t mind if a $300 camera stops working after 3 months. We just get a new one.

Just have a close look at contractors: There are no real standards, no training, no real foundation to be proud of your work. You can visit super-expensive homes and see shoddy craftsmanship when it comes to details. Such a tolerance for poor work standards allow for immense creativity when everything works out well. When it doesn’t, we always have this new tool of Web 2.0. Every time I go to Best Buy, I have a bad, bad, bad experience. But the Twitter existence of @bestbuycmo and my few exchanges with him lulls me into this idea that they really care. And they want to change. Or is it just enough to show the public that you’re reacting to criticism and we use this reaction as a Xanax to calm our anger? Sure, it’s nice that @richardbranson is on Twitter but he never answered any of my tweets when I asked him about the poor website experience that lead to a missed sale for Virgin Atlantic. And don’t get me started on Virgin’s Customer Avoidance program.

The advent of the Internet and especially Social Marketing tools have fundamentally changed the way brands deal with mistakes (Or issues, as the PR person loves to say.) But, in some ways, we have retreated to life in the Middle Ages: Public pillorying continues to thrive in the new marketing reality. Just ask Motrin. Or better, ask @scottmonty. He was one of the latest victims in a discussion about the usage of his private brand to shill ( I mean, work the Social Marketing angle) for Ford. @chrisbrogan had to deal with a lot of backlash for his Kmart promotion (And, yes,, I was one of many who thought he might have gone too far.) And, @keyinfluencer was treated as the second coming of Hitler when he made a stupid remark upon his arrival in Memphis. Everything brands and people do is inspected, dissected and torn apart. Everything is public now: your location on Google Latitude, your deepest secrets on @secrettweet and your beer pong pictures on Facebook that will cost you a job offer in the near future.

We are stumbling through this new reality, enabled by technology and embracing David Armano’s brilliant statement of “Always in beta.” It’s a mindset based in Silicone Valley where you start a company yesterday, go bankrupt today and start something new tomorrow.

Just look at startups: slap a ‘Beta’ on your site and when you have a bad user experience, point back to the beta sign and explain that it’s half-baked now but will be perfect at some unknown time. (Translated: never)And crowdsource the user to eliminate those bad experiences because the user knows better than anyone in the company anyway.

This mindset might have worked in the good times, it sure doesn’t work in recessionary times. Trust me, real life doesn’t have any beta. Failure is not an option when you have a family to feed. A mortgage to pay. This ideal of ‘Always in beta’ is the perfect mindset for Silicon Valley. But it’s a mindset that doesn’t connect with the majority of America.

However, this experimentation thing we work through every day has a huge effect on our lives: People are getting used to trying out things that are not ready for public consumption yet, things that don’t claim to be perfect. The idea of making mistakes because it is part of the process starts to become very common and a typical mindset in executive suites.

Just look at our economy: Nobody really knows what to do during the current crisis but, besides the dopes on CNBC, we’re okay as a country when Obama’s economic team tries out things nobody has ever done before. And, while we’re at it, let’s throw up www.recovery.org and make sure Obama joins the conversation soon to get a Twitter ovation that the government is right there with us. Hey, if it doesn’t work, somebody will come up with a new theory and we’ll try that again. Will real people are suffering, losing their houses and hope.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big believer in the power of Social Marketing. I believe that traditional, one-way advertising is destined to fail in this new technology reality. But I want to see real change, not Twitter band-aids, I’m not interested to live in a Doritos world where amateurs are crowdsourced to be the advertising monkeys of big brands. Or Starbucks claiming to allow their customers to be part of the solution. And offer Folgers-style coffee 2 months later. All these crowdsourcing efforts push the responsibility for finding and mitigating mistakes to consumers. While, at the same time, decisions continue to be made top-down.

Let’s continue experimentation and testing, we desperately need it. But, at the same time, let’s build something solid and durable. Something that will stand the test of time and not crumble under pressure. That’s my biggest concern with the Kmart and SeaWorld experiments: They are just stopgaps. Nothing more. They don’t move us along to a new marketing reality where people are real participants and brands really listen and take people seriously.

Brands and fellow government, we do believe in the audacity of hope. We do think there’s change possible we can believe in. But, don’t use these tools to fool us again. To make us believe into this new world where we have a say and are part of the process. Just to be left out again.

We won’t be fooled again.

Uwe Hook is a Social Marketing non-expert who blogs at conversationagency.wordpress.com and twitters at @convagency

All Corporate Websites Should Be As Good As The New WhiteHouse.gov

To say that I’m not a Barack Obama fan would be an understatement. I don’t have to be a fan of him though to be a fan of the things he’s doing. As Senator Obama was being sworn in yesterday, January 21, 2009 a new website for the White House was launched. The new WhiteHouse.gov is a remarkable improvement over the previous site.  This image on Flickr captures the before and the after really well.

This a screen grab of the web site just after Senator Obama became President Obama.

The new site is simple, clean, and very easy to use.  The main feature area is large, dynamic, and sets itself apart from the rest of the content.  The footer isn’t wasted space.  It serves as a site map and jump off point into key areas of the site.  I could go on and on about how much the new site improved upon the old site, but I’ll save that for a future post.

What I want to focus on today is what we can learn from President Obama’s approach to the web site.  On many levels we can draw a parallel between President Obama, the United States, and WhiteHouse.gov, with corporate america.  President Obama’s counterpart would be the CEO of the company, the United States the company, and WhiteHouse.gov the primary website for the company.  Assuming we can all agree with that, let’s look at what companies can learn from the new WhiteHouse.gov.

  1. Communicate Why The Site Exists: The new web site says “Just like your new government, WhiteHouse.gov and the rest of the Administration’s online programs will put citizens first. Our initial new media efforts will center around three priorities: Communication, Transparency, Participation.”  This is great; it’s clear to visitors, why the site exists, its mission, and provides a filter for future content and initiatives.
  2. Have a Point of View: There’s an entire section dedicated to the President’s “Agenda.” The agenda outlines not just all the issues they are tackling, but their specific point of view. The site states, “each President is confronted with new and unique challenges. Learn more about the Obama-Biden Administration’s positions on everything from health care and the economy to alternative energy and foreign policy.” Great move. Don’t let the media influence and mess with the context of your words. Instead clearly articulate what issues are important to you and what you’re doing to address them. Perhaps the challenge many companies have in doing this, is they simply don’t know what they are tackling.
  3. Set Expectations: President Obama will be delivering a weekly video address online.  The site states, “President Barack Obama plans to publish a weekly video address every Saturday morning of his presidency. Visit this page every week to watch the President’s most recent video.” Fantastic, not only are you going to actually communicate with me, you’re going to do it on a regular basis.
  4. Humanize: From the weekly video to identifying Macon Phillips as the director of new media for the White House and positioning him as a White House blog contributor, there is a name and a face. I now genuinely believe that when I see a blog post from Macon, President Obama, or someone else from the White House – it’s really their thoughts and opinions, not someone from “PR.” That’s progress.
  5. Involvement: This is perhaps the most transformational change.  Non-Emergency legislation will be posted to the site for 5 days, so that the public can review and comment, before the president signs/doesn’t sign it. Could you imagine a company like 3M making decisions they are considering available for comment by employees, share holders, the Minnesota community, etc.? I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but we can hope.
The government is large, complex, unruly, cumbersome, and often ambiguous.  The new WhiteHouse.gov is a great step toward changing all of that.  If an entity as big as the government can have a blog, promise weekly video updates, identify key contributors, welcome consumer/public feedback, and clearly articulate their points of view, why can’t every company?

Getting The Vote Out

Noticed some really interesting things online this morning (election day). Google, who usually spruces up their logo for certain events and/or occasions, was noticeably quiet. While others, like Facebook and Yahoo! were actively engaging with their visitors. Very cool. To me, when we talk about social media, this is what we’re talking about. These companies are getting involved in the conversation and making their visitors part of the story. Nice work.

Google on Election Day
Google on Election Day


Facebook Election Day
Facebook Election Day


Yahoo! Election Day
Yahoo! Election Day

Quick Update
I’m not going to say it was because I blogged about it, but it looks like Google finally updated their logo. Check it out here.


Google Election Day Updated
Google Election Day Updated