Monday, December 31, 2007

Another whimper of things past … and a sniff of things to come!

I saw this article today and it reminded again of just how much things have evolved in the 15 years since I started my odyssey in the internet industry. The articles tells how the Netscape Web Browser, the universal browsing client which transformed the way we thought about finding, accessing and interacting with information and services, is no longer going to supported from the 1st of February 2007. Things have moved on – IE (now in version 7), Firefox (thankfully which had its genesis in the same community which spawned Netscape) and the likes of Safari, Opera and others have come to dominate the browser space.

As one icon passes, we can prepare ourselves for the next big evolution in the way we present and interact with information online. This year, keep an eye out for the rise of the "browser free" internet application. These are self contained, internet based, rich media applications designed to reach specific consumers with very targeted, sophisticated and highly graphical, rich media content and services. I know I have mentioned this before, but I see the passing of the technology which made this all possible, which paved the way which brought the potential of the internet onto the computers of the masses, as a fitting signal of the next big thing.

Technologies such as Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight (we at Hyro have just launched the ABC TV Video Player in Silverlight – a real market leading innovation) and the next generations of programming technologies such as AJAX and JAVA will once again transform the way we reach, engage, do business with and service our customers. There is REAL money to be made here for those companies who get it right. The right combination of content, marketing and commercial grade technology will create new, valuable channels to market and it is great to be part of a team who is leading the way in delivering this capability.

Finally… thanks to both readers for their support this year. While I don't get too many comments, I do get some respectable traffic. I remain committed to having my say on the things which delight, inspire, surprise or just get me thinking through 2008. Happy New Year and I wish you all health, happiness and prosperity in 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007

This isn’t a game …..

Articles like this highlight for me a recurring theme that I am sure both readers are getting a little weary of. Once again I find myself railing about the fact that major corporations sometimes don't seem to comprehend the commercial significance of initiating any sort of digital activity. In this case, a major US retail group has announced that a systemic security flaw in their online systems has allowed hackers to gain access to customer confidential information and payments data for something like eighteen months. It has been described in some articles as the "biggest hack ever!"

I won't go on for ages, but will quickly comment to state the obvious. Initiating digital channels should be something which is well planned, well architected, well funded and well tested. Any digital channel is a dynamic path to market which exists in an environment which is changing all the time. New technologies emerge, new hacking techniques get created and new risks to the business continue to emerge.

This is not something which you can afford to "set and forget," nor is it something you can afford to leave in the hands of anyone but an expert. The day you turn on your new online store, mobile portal, online campaign or customer self service system, you enter into a new commitment, a commitment which requires constant and dedicated focus. The risks emerge due to the nature of the medium. Any potential hacker, malcontent or miscreant has the advantage of time, anonymity and resources to plan, trial, test and execute their initiatives. I think many corporations fail to fully RESPECT these people; they are very smart, very experienced and very capable and managing the risks a well executed hack may present demands an appropriate plan which duly considers the capabilities of your foes.

As we go into the New Year, most corporations will be looking to kick of their latest digital initiatives and it is a time to think carefully about who you partner with to deliver these. Sure your ad agency might deliver some great campaign ideas and some cool creative, but do they REALLY understand and can they really manage the technical, operational and environmental risks, challenges and opportunities.

2008 is the year for getting even more serious about digital initiatives and it is the year to work with a specialist, dedicated, full-service digital services company.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Online Shopping's got everyone hopping...

The press has picked up a few stories about the surge in online shopping this year and of course, the most timey statistics are coming from the US. A quick search for online shopping data shows that the level of online shopping occuring in the US market is up almost 20% on the same time a year ago. Good coverage can be found at and others.

Looking into this statistic a little highlights just how far we have come in a few short years. Do a search on online shopping statistics and you see mention of expectations of daily revenue topping US$800m on a single day before Christmas. This is VERY serious business, particularly when one considers that these growth statistics are being sustained of increasingly higher bases.

You also see mention in some of these articles of some of the consequences of a lack of commercial foresight on the part of some of the participants. There is much talk of sites crashing under the weight of traffic and for me, this is just unacceptable. These companies are IN THE BUSINESS of online shopping and these days of on-demand computing, massive scalability and great advances in software, data management and online marketing, there is just no excuse for your core business platform failing. The only possible reasons could be under investment, holding onto legacy technologies or just bad management.

Thankfully, we are seeing many of our clients getting on the front foot and suggested investment levels for 2008 are refreshing (and exciting for the business). There is growing acceptance of the importance of digital channels as a permanent and significant part of the "go to market" mix now and the strategies, investments and the work at hand ae reflecting this. This is not just an "online advertising" story. The investments are coming in the way our customers, attract, engage and transact with their customers as well has how they maintain relationshps once the initial transaction has occured. The thinking is sophisticated and the business opportunities are exciting.

Every year I look back at this time and think about how far we have come in just a year and this year is no different. Looking forward to next year though, I feel as though we will see even more change and the view back in a years time will contain even more (positive) surprises.

We really ARE changing the world!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

And then a million more....

This week saw the news that the number of domain names issued under the .au namespace as surpassed the ONE MILLION mark. Quite an achievement as it suggests that there is one domain name for every 21 of Australia's population!!

There is a lot in these two statistics. The sheer number of domains means that marketing and branding in this very crowded environment is just getting more and more difficult. All of the intuitive domain names are long gone (and worth a lot of money - albeit that many seem to be retained by early-age domain prospector who registered them years ago and don't have the money or business to fully leverage. Never mind, one of the big guys will no doubt eventually buy them). In fact, it is getting more and more difficult to register phonetically practical domains with under about ten letters in them. (There are businesses out there who just register tonnes of domain names and hold onto them in the expectation that someone will want them one day and will need to buy it from them!!). So .... just registering the domain name and expecting the money to flow in is well and truly "last century."

Making your domain work for you is increasingly the job for sophisticated professionals. These people bring together the right mix of marketing, creative, content, user experience, technology and ongoing management to turn a domain name into a working, commercial business. Many a dollar has been wasted by companies failing to address all of these elements in appropriate proportions.

The second message for me is that 1,000,000 domains on the little old .au namespace sends a clear message. EVERYBODY is doing this. It might surprise both readers to hear that there are STILL companies in Australia, New Zealand and Asia who do not see digital channels as the core platform for marketing, customer engagement, customer service and commerce. My job is to keep pointing out the obvious ... if you haven't doubled (or more) your allocation of your marketing and customer service budgets to digital services in 2008 then prepare to lose market share.

Your competitors ARE doing this and they ARE throwing serious money at it. They are working with significant professional specialists (and not asking their ad agency or traditional technology provider to try and be something they are not) and they are getting commercial results ...... and once you have worked out that you too need to follow suit .... drop me an email.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ratings are grating ....

I was watching the Sunday morning news this morning (following yesterday's election results the post-mortem commentary has been interesting) and the presenters announced that "this was the last show for the year." It appears that despite all of the signs that the media world is changing, we again find ourselves at the abyss of the "non-ratings period" - that time of the year when Christmas specials and d-grade TV content makes it onto our screens.

I am surprised that this tradition has been maintained this year, particularly given the challenge of traditional media to retain consumers in light of better, faster and more compelling digital alternatives. I expect that this year will see more people sampling online content in lieu of yet another purile All-American Christmas Special (it DOESN"T snow here at Christmas ... really!) and next year will see more new strategies from the main industry players to integrate to and leverage the new, digital media mix. It will again be an interesting and exciting time and we look forward to doing our part to help our clients make the most of the opportunities these changes present.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Context is a Very Big Thing!!

I had a discussion with an industry colleague through the week about what we thought were going to be some interesting trends in online advertising over the next twelve months… it is a VERY big topic and we covered a lot (I might try and get a few more blogs out on it in the next few weeks), but one item which we are talking about more and more with our clients is the importance of context… and trust me, context is a an important trend for 2008 and beyond.

Context is about adding new dimensions to the enormous power of online advertising; using digital channels to connect an offer and the ability to act on the offer. We’ve known for a while that the potential of online advertising is enhanced by using technology to increase the granularity of advertising (making many very specific, very relevant offers suited to small groups of customers). We also know that by using a combination of digital channels we can add timeliness (being able to make an offer when it is important to customers) and location (being able to make an offer based on where a customer is physically located). Each of these individually adds a lot to online advertising, but together they take it to a whole new level.

Over the next year, we will see more and more companies talking about the importance of combining relevance, timeliness and location to service a key element which drives many (if not most) buying decisions – context. Context is about understanding the why, the when and the where of the actions of a consumer so we can provide an offer which best services the needs of the consumer.

Context is important. As we go through another year of astounding growth in online advertising (with the share of total advertising for many advertiser expected to go above 25% of total budgets in 2008) there will be more pressure on marketers to refine their execution of online advertising and to deliver the right outcomes for their business. One of the ways in which this can be executed is by delivering offers to customers which are the RIGHT offers, at the right time and in the right context for the targeted customer.

The enabler of contextual advertising is technology and understanding how to leverage technology for effective digital marketing.

For marketers, 2008 needs to be a year in which you make a “contextual ability audit.” You need to assess whether or not you have the information about your customers, the sophisticated inventory of targeted offers for each of your customer segments and the tools, technologies and processes to deliver these context based offers. You can be rest assured that if you don’t ….. your competitors do.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Face(book)ing Up to A New Reality

So Microsoft pays a bucket of cash for a thimble full of Facebook. Congratulations to the young man who established himself as yet another digital billionaire... those few years of hard work have really paid off!! (must break the hearts of those families who amass those sorts of fortune over generations... but this is business at internet speed!!)

Behind the headlines are some interesting stories. I have read three articles on this and so I still have to learn a lot more about it, but a couple of interesting tidbits come out. The first big one (and the topic of this blog) is that as part of the consideration, Microsoft secured the rights to sell banner ads (display ads in industry parlance) on facebook pages in all locations outside the US. Now THAT is interesting...

Microsoft has bought a business in which they are buying the advertising rights.... no talk of "platform integration" and "technology" ... this is all about traffic, customer profiles and marketing .. at least from my initial reading.

And all this a few months after they bought a company that sells an online advertising management platform.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nicely Niche...

Over the last couple of months I have discovered, and have been using a great new site called and I have to say this this is a great example of clever niche site dvelopment. The offering from the MapMy... team (they have several sites in the "family") is to use current generation mapping tools to allow users to (ans the name suggests) Map their run!

Based on the Google Mapping application, the MapMyRun tool allows users to draw a fairly detailed map of their run / walk / jog / wheel / whatever and then collect and create a fair bit of information about it. Obviously, you finally get a chance to find out just how far you have actually gone (and it nearly ALWAYS been less than the usual boasting value we ascribe) but you also get a whole pile ofother information. Google maps contain altitude data, so you get to know how high (or low) you have climbed. Add information such as you weight and the time you took and it will caclulate the kilocalories you have burned. It even allows you to create a log for your shoes and you can build up a record of how far those shoes have travelled.

In addition to providing an ability for me to get a better understanding of my training and allowing me to build a permanent record, the application also allows me to share my runs with others and join groups and so on. The MapMy... team have created something which is personal and pertinent and also allowed me to connect to a community. This is a very clever construction of a powerful niche marketing platform and marketers should look for similar well executed niches as channels for their targetted online marketing.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

China, Macau and Hong Kong .... welcome!!

A very brief note - we announced today that we have finalised the deal to acquire the Applications Services business of Getronics NV in Greater China; Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau.

This business, which has been in the region for more than 15 years and once traded as Wang (a VERY well known technology group), brings with it a very mature foundation for us to grow in the region. We have acquired an outstanding team, all the infrastructure and inputs we need to operate a business and a history of performance. This gives us the opportunity to further develop some strong, long term client relationships. We would never take these relationships for granted, but by focussing on continuing to provide good service, by building on the success of the past and adding new capabilities and services from the broader Hyro group, we can add even more value in the future.

It is very exciting and is a measure of how the changing nature of digital services - the fusion of marketing and technology - is creating opportunities for companies with the skills and experience to leverage them. It is even more exciting to be a part of something with the people, the vision and the resources to act on those opportunities.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The importance of being mobile ....

This week saw the publication of an article I co-authored with our Director, Wireless & Broadcast Chris Flintoft in the Marketing Magazine 2007 Digital Survival Guide. In it we talked about the main factors brand owners and marketers should consider when assessing the role of mobile channels in their digital marketing mix. It hit the stands on Monday and I expect you'll see exerpts on the website soon. It's not a bad read (even if I do say so myself) and gives some insights into just how far the mobile channel has come in just a few years. I commend it to anyone thinking about the next steps for mobile with their business

Where Angels Fear to Tread....

I experienced a bit of a "Spears-ism" on Friday night when I attended a charity evening for St Vincents Hospital. The highlight of the evening was to be a performance by Doc Neeson, lead singer of the Angels .... one of the GREAT Aussie bands of the 80s. Four songs (including the famous "Am I ever going to see your face again?") and it was perhaps better that it ended there. It was all a little sad to see one of the great performers reduced to a fatigued and rusty shell of performances past - he even forgot the words to one of the four songs he sang and had to to refer to a cheat sheet in his pocket.... still, it was all about raising money for a very worthy cause and that is all that really matters.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Searching for Sophistication....

It has taken a little while to get around to this blog (end August / early September are a busy time with half-year reporting and investor presentations), but an article I spotted in one of the business papers frustrated me a little and I thought I need to comment. Both readers of this blog will know that if there is anything which gets up my nose, it is the fact that some of the traditional media and marketing businesses are now taking to selectively reporting the data about the shift in marketing and advertising onto digital channels.

The article concerned reported that online advertising company Atlas (part of the Aquantive group acquired by Microsoft recently for around US$6 billion) had done research which had suggested that "search advertising is about as effective as advertising in a directory(like Yellow Pages)."

This sounded a bit surprising to me, so I thought I would look into this a little more.

I hunted around the internet for either the report (as far as I can tell it will eventually be released here) or more journalist coverage of the report. As I suspected (and as reported in this article from BusinessWeek) there appears to be more to this data than the print newspaper had reported. From what I have been able to deduce, the conclusions of the report are not that search advertising is less effective than previously thought, but rather it is a waste of money to over-simplify your online advertising.

It appears from the Atlas research that successful online advertising is built through a compound effect of multiple types of advertising. Banners help referral marketing which helps display ads which helps search which helps websites which helps ..... you get the picture. Atlas calls this "overlap" and I think that this is another sign of the increased sophistication of successful digital services and digital marketing.

From all of this reading I have reached the conclusion that we really are still in the early stages of a significant structural change in customer attraction, engagement, servicing and transactions and the science of what we do is getting stronger and stronger every day. We see this in the work our teams are doing with our clients as the reach, variety and volume of digital activities continues to grow.

The epicentre for a lot of the client drivers for this still seems to be the US, but there is some strong innovation in Europe and som great entrepreneurialism out of Asia. Traditional businesses in our markets are coming along, but they could always do more... there is a lot of potential in the digital services market - and it is exciting to be in a company which is well placed, rightly resourced and with the right team to leverage this outstanding opportunity.

So.... I'll finish this where I started.... the traditional media continue to face some challenges as the market continues to evolve and change. There are a number of ways that they can respond to this change and adapting their business models and leveraging their strengths is probably the best of these.... feeding their customer base with selective reporting which skews the data supporting the change we are going through is certainly not.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

When online user communities aren't all that they seem...

This week saw the news that an enterprising young man called Virgil Griffiths has written a piece of software called Wikiscanner which tracks the source of edits made to Wikipedia entries. The site has drawn a lot of attention and lists some interesting results.

According to the information provided by the software on the "most sites" the Australian government has been very active, with the Australian Department of defence appearing at the top of the list. The non-government domains list doesn't provide much clarity, since many of the originating domain addresses resolve to the ISP who hosts them and these numbers will, of course, include private citizens who make changes to the entries. Trawl through the lists though and you will see some interesting corporate names pop up...

Others have covered the commentary about the motivations of these organisations for editing Wikipedia entries, so I'll focus on another perspective.

One of the challenges for organisations trying to access their customers through using Web 2.0 technologies and online communities to reach their customers is working out how to deal with the fact that some online communities may not be what they seem.

The WikiScanner experiment highlights the fact that some participants in these communities may not be who they say they are and may not necessarily be participating for the reasons for which the community was originally established. We need to be pragmatic - the very nature of these communities and tools means that we can't stop this sort of activity, so we need to use good practice to make sure that these activities do not compromise the intent of these intiatives.
Setting up an online community or web 2.0 resource is not something that should be done without a plan. The purpose should be clear - to both the organisation that is doing it and for the people who choose to participate.... and avoid subterfuge - a lot of damage can be done to a brand or reputation if you try to engage in web 2.0 activities under the guise of independence or anonymity. Be open, be honest and wherever your community chooses to step outside the intent and purpose, make sure that you deal with this in a manner which is consistent with the stated purpose of the community.

My message in this isa simple one; don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity of Web 2.0 and online communites. We have been working with these concepts and the technologies that support them for a number of years and there are plenty of tips and techniques for getting more out of them ... and for managing the realities of these new, flexible and open environments. Call in the experts (and don't listen to the first baggy-pants wearing ad agency kidwith a shagy haircut and 7 iPods) and make the most of this exciting technology and the great relationshiop and brand building things it allows us to do.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Icebergs are COOL!!

I was a little surprised when I opened the Australian Financial Review yesterday to see my beautiful visage peering out from the centre of Page 48. I was asked by the AFR for my opinions on the recently released internet advertising statistics from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and had a chance to share some thoughts about how those particular statistics really only show the tip of the real digital services iceberg. I was surprised when the journalist (Julian Bajkowski - thanks for inviting us to participate!) asked me if it would be Ok to include a photo .... I didn't realise that I would be permanently raising the aesthetic bar of the AFR IT Section!!*

There is a lot more to explore on this theme - yes internet advertising is growing at an amazing rate (54% for the year to more than $1.2 Billion in Australia alone!) but the impact on business, investment and digital services certainly doesn't stop there.

Internet Advertising measures (by my understanding) the amount of money spent on buying advertising space on online properties. These might be banner adds, iFrames, search terms, paid blogs (yes - some people DO get paid to write their blogs on behalf of advertisiers!! Not me though....) and so on. What it doesn't seem to include is the commerce that occurs around the final act of placing the ad.

Every online advertisement needs something to advertise - by definition interactive ads allow end users to interact with the offer being made. They click on the ad to go to a site, somewhere, that expands on the offer, allows them to register interest / research / buy and that gathers information about the whole chain of events. All of these things require investment - there is creative effort, execution effort, intellectual property, technology, measurement and analysis and more.

All of this goes to the fact that the interactive advertising statistics are just the tip of the iceberg. I have been asked a few times what I think this Digital Services industry multiplier might be - how much of the total investment does the actual "ad buying" represent.

In the newspaper I was quoted as saying that this might be a 2x effect, that the ad buying might be half of the total investment and today we have had a lot of debate amongst some colleagues about this fact. I am getting convinced that the multplier might be much more than that.

I will do some more research on this - I think that the market generally underestimates how much commerce is occuring as a result of the Digital Services transformation that is going on right now. And besides, if we are out there changing the world, it is important to have a sense of by just how much we are doing this.

*My mum thought I looked pretty good anyway....

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Asia's online and its doing fine......

I concluded one of my Quarterly Review trips to the Hyro Thailand office this week and one of the things which resonated during this trip was the great progress that is being made in terms of connectivity and bandwidth in that market.

We recently renegotiated a contract with our corporate internet provider and were able to double the speed of our connection, raise the committed data rate and cut the costs of our connection by around 35%. All because the general quality of service has increased and the market is getting more and more competitive.

It doesn’t stop there – many hotels in Bangkok now offer free in-room broadband internet for business travellers and the number of accessible wi-fi spots has risen dramatically over the last twelve months or so (I got to test this with my new phone – the outstanding HTC Touch which is the easiest wi-fi phone to connect to the internet that I have ever used. Oh, and it is a very functional and very pretty business phone as well!).

This augers well for the digital services industry. General statistics of levels of internet use, levels of available bandwidth and levels of commerce and advertising via digital channels are all trending upwards. It proves our experience in more mature markets – that the level and availability of broadband speeds define the critical “tipping point” for digital services adoption.

Even in emerging digital services markets, we are seeing how connected technology and changing marketing techniques are changing the world.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

China Scale.....

Followers of Hyro will be aware that we recently announced that we are in negotiations with European services organisation Getronics NV to acquire their Application Services Business in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. This isn't the place to talk about that deal, but the work we have been doing in this area has highlighted the exciting scale and growth opportunities in the Chinese digital services market.
The first observation is the scale of the the online user market (and specifcally the level of broadband penetration) in both China and Australia. The "Broadband Penetration" chart to the right shows two interesting statistics; while the number of households with broadband access in China will run at about 10x the number here in Australia by 2011 (and be up around 80 million households), the level of penetration will still only be around 25% of households.
Mapping this level of broadband access is the expected rate of growth in the online advertising market over a similar time period. Zenith Optimedia (who have lower estimates for the Australian online advertising market than most local analysts). The Australian market for online advertising is expected to grow to around US$2 Billion by 2009, while the China online advertising market is likely to be nudging US$18 Billion in the same timeframe.
Lots of commentators talk about the size of the China market. For me, the scale is matched in terms of exicting potential by the fact that many Chinese businesses (and international businesses entering the China market) are doing so with digital services as major parts of their strategies. It is another example of emerging markets leap-frogging generations of traditional technology and business models to ake the very best of contemporary practices.
It will be very interesting and exciting to continue to watch the emergence of the China digital services market. This is a very real example of this exciting evolution that is changing the world.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Virtualisations get Second Life Second Wind...

A News Corp article has caught my eye today. Journalist Katja Gaskell discusses the emerging trend of tourism destinations in virtual worlds; either virtual renditions of real-world tourism destinations or new constructions from the imaginations of their creators.

This article reminds me of the first time we saw the emergence of "3D Virtualisations" online - a long time ago, perhaps almost a decade. The technology was called VRML and we all toyed around with the technology to try and create virtual worlds through which avatars could interact. Trouble was, this was pre-broadband and even the fastest modems could provide much else other than a jagged, jerky, low-res experience. (Maybe we watched the Lawnmower Man or Tron a few too many times and just wanted to make it real). We then tried to create the 3D experience through some clever photographic handling. Cameras on special tripods and some clever photo-stitching software created 3D views of houses, hotel rooms and so on.

All of this was driven by the same thing - the desire to break the mould of the traditional presentation of information in a "document based paradigm" of text and still pictures. Sure, the internet added the hyper-link (the ability to connect information) and of course, the store of information we could access would become boundless, but the delivery was still much the same as traditional media.

People though, are sensory beings, and while text and pictures do deliver information, we prefer to use our five senses to provide a more complete understanding of the information we are being presented. One of the "holy grails" of information delivery has been to try and find ways to transform information delivery to a more "sensory rich" form.

I am not suggesting that Second Life achieves this objectives, but it is certainly an interesting first step. The ability to interact with information (and offers of course) in a 3D virtual environment offers a different perspective on the information. To bastardise a cliche, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then an interactive 3D virtualisation might evolve to be worth a thousand pictures. A 3D environment allows us to create new connections between pieces of information and new ways to present the infromation itself. Applications of this concept through environments like Second Life are creating ways in which users can experiment with these concepts and as usual, users are constantly surprising us with their ingenuity and innovation.

I have had the pleasure of speaking at the Creative Exchange Network in Melbourne (and will again this week in Sydney) about Virtual Worlds. Consulting company Mindwerx facilitates regular meetings of the Creative Exchange Network in Australia. The topic of my presentation is not about Second Life itself per se, it is about the changing ways we present information and services. As the bandwidth, processing power, rendering tools and the ability to integrate these to databases and transaction systems continue to improve, the opportunities and applications of rich media and virtualisations will continue to evolve. And it doesn't stop with virtual reality ... get ready for ideas like mixed reality - using technology to augment real-world activities... but more on that another time.

The feedback was fantastic (we had about 45 people attend, so corporate interest in pretty high). Corporations are looking for ways to reach customers in light of the increasing variety of channels and options for entertainment and obviously they will need to understand how rich media and virtualisations will figure in this. It is time to start experimenting and working out how you are going to use these innovations to change the (virtual) world.

Synergistic Thinking ....

It has been almost a month since my last post - a pretty poor record for someone who enjoys blogging (particularly having my own soapbox - complete with the opportunity for others to share what they think about my ramblings). There has been a fair bit going on.

After my brief holiday at the end of May, I have back to work and have hit the ground running... and there has been plenty to do.

The main focus has been the integration of Synergy Software Holdings Limited and the associated businesses. This is following the final approvals from shareholders and regulators in the middle of May and comes at the end of six months during which we have needed to first complete due diligence and then undergo the fairly intensive task of running a "full process" to complete a scheme of arrangment and the acquisition. That is all done now, and Synergy is now a Hyro Company.

While there has been collaboration between the groups for months (we got to know each other when we started to work together for some of our clients) the finalisation of the deal has meant that we can fast-track the finalisation of the integration of systems and processes and more importantly, get on with introducing the full offer to all of our clients. There are other places to talk about the details (market information is disclosed on the Australian Stock Exchange and archived on but I did want to share some resonating benefits of the acquisition that I have experienced.

All of this is about the people. We have an exciting, growing business in an exciting, growing industry. Success in this environment comes not only from the offer you have to make to the market, but also the team with which you deliver it. The team at Hyro has always been impressive - we have great management and an outstanding team of professionals, regarded as the best in their fields locally and internationally. With the added community of Synergy people, we have added new, fresh depth of skills, ability, experience and professionalism - I am really enjoying the way the teams have stepped straight into working as one company, one management and one team. We are much stronger for the acquisition and even better positioned to change the world.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend....

After a very different four or five weeks I am back in Sydney and life is returning to normal. Following my attendance at the IBM Partnerworld conference in St Louis, I was able to add a couple of weeks leave in the US and a swing by the UK before getting home. Lots observed and plenty to blog about, but sometimes one needs to take a break from the keyboard and this was one such welcome break.

As one does, I have been reflecting (with a slight sense of melancholy), on the whole experience I had on this trip and how much Digital Services affected the way our holiday unfolded. There was the usual stuff, travel bookings made and managed online, hotels researched and bookings made and so on, but the internet changed the our activities during the holiday quite substantially.

If you haven't been to New York City for a while, it is a BIG place and there is lots to do. As the dream-girl was quick to point out, there are unlimited choices for activities, sights and of course meals. Making sure you get the most out of the time there means making sure that you have all the information you need to make good choices. This is where Digital Services came in.

Take dining for example. With so many choices for so many good restaurants, decisions about where to eat came down to an anlaysis from a number of sources. Of course, the restaurant website presented a certain view, but we found ourselves soon looking at a rang of sources to verify and rate the claims made. While we cared a lot about wat the critics said ( and for exampe provided a range of formalised ratings systems etc) of equal, and perhaps higher importance was the opinions of 'others.' We quickly found ourselves looking at 'public' reviews and ratings., and the reviews posted on portals such as and reviews indexed by Google all provided us with the feedback of the connected masses.

These reviews mattered - we boycotted restaurants with complaints of bad service and mediocre food (and one which had a whole site dedicated to the claims of one patron that they were beaten up by the maitre de - described as a "very angry Frenchman"). We sought out restaurants that had delighted and impressed the visitors. These opinions certainly mattered.

This is not a unique phenomenon. Social sites rely on the references of others to create introductions, music stores allow users to rank songs and the video sites rely strongly on user-ratings to drive traffic and engage consumers. I guess it took my own experience of a short period of high reliance on these user opinions to guide purchasing decisions in unfamiliar markets to help me realise just how important this "referential marketing" can be.

I love the fact that this sort of transparency is possible. Corporations need to be aware that the silent masses really aren't so silent - bad customer experience and poor service are noted and communicated for all to see.

The maxim used to be that a satisfied customer will tell four others and a dissatisfied one would tell ten. Nowadays these opinions go to thousands (or more) ... another way in which digital services have changed the world.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The St Louis Kool Aid

Currently on a bit of a trek, with the last week having seen me at the Hyro Thailand office in Bangkok, followed by a trek to St Louis, Missouri fo the annual IBM PartnerWorld conference. This is my first attendance at thi conference, an important partner event in light of our recent acqusition of Synergy Software Holdings Limited, the very first IBM partner in Australia now some 24 years ago.

It is about five years since I last came to the US (the internet and tools such as better email, web conferencing, Skype and chat mean that trips to the US seem to be required less often) and something is different.

Putting aside the sense that one is "entering the citadel" as you come through customs and immigration in LA, I have developed a feeling that all is not well in the U.S. of A. It might be St Louis; the town has closed two shopping centres in the CBD in the last twelve months and the streets of the business district are empty. It is a strange town, with very few shops and retail outlets. I tried to find a pharmacist in the City yesterday and was told that there isn't one. This is not a boom-town.

It has been interesting getting to know more about IBM and the partnership we have just joined. First of all, it is very clear to me just how much respect that our new additions to Hyro from Synergy have within this community. In front of around 7,000 people at the opening general session yesterday, Synergy CEO Bill Votsaris was thanked again for the support he and the Synergy team have given to IBM over those 24 years. He was one of only two people in the whole IBM partner community personally mentioned in that speech. It is great to have them on the team.

The second thing you get is a real sense of just how impressive the IBM organisation is. It is eye opening to see the innovation they are driving; through their own investment or support of partners. In the Innovations Centre there are technologies being showcased which are realising the potential of digital channels. The internet is evolving to be hundreds of millions of people and billions of connected devices. Digital Services are continuing to evolve. The connected organisation is going to be reaching customers and doing business over myriad devices. We will continue that evolution from explicit connection through special purpose devices to an "always on state" in which embedded technology will make digital connections and the use of Digital Services invisible.

For me, the wake up calls are just getting louder. For major companies, current strategies for Digital Services must include the laying of foundations to take advantage of this "invisible internet." You will need to make sure that the consideration of Digital Services Strategy acknowledges the fact that engagement and delivery of services will happen over both these implicit and explicit technologies. The offer may be made through the rich media channels but consumption of the offer may be over one of these embedded technology devices. Offer the take away food deal through the games console and fulfil the commerce through the mobile handset. Use GPS on delivery trucks to build geospatial analysis of consumption and use this information real-time to shape the delivery of offers. This stuff is real and this stuff is happening now.

Finally, my assumptions with respect to the importance of technology in all of this Digital Services revolution continue to be confirmed. In seeing the case studies and talking to the specialists, the data available from well executed and well supported digital services strategies is vast and this stuff is gold. The power of the technology to deliver, analyse, inform and refine digital services is amazing. The winners will be the ones who understand that boundless opportunity exists for those who invest fully in leveraging our digitally connected world. Good strategy, good engagement, good content, good commerce, good technology.

Do this right and you will change the world.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Click go the Cheers Boys .....

Google has just announced that they are acquiring ad management company DoubleClick for the sum of US$3.1 billion in cash. There are a few things about this which are of note.

The first thing is that DoubleClick has been around for a LONG time in the online advertising space. Being a bit of a veteran myself in this industry (I can’t wait until I get Seniors Parking in SecondLife) I remember when DoubleClick first emerged in the second half of the nineties. Their idea was revolutionary then – attach some custom code to the display advertising used on websites and use it to automate the management, measurement and commerce around online advertising. Like most of the companies that were around then, I got the impression that they had to weather some tough storms as the business, the technical infrastructure and the rest of the world caught up with their vision. From my perspective, these were some guys with a big idea in a market which was then not quite big enough for it. Fast forward to today and they are a company which is clearly a market leader and clearly very valuable. Well done DC Guys!

The second observation is that this is an interesting acquisition for Google. They have bought one of the largest players in the digital display advertising space. Add this to their existing capabilities in search advertising, video advertising and their plays with print advertising and so on, and it appears that a piece of the puzzle (which it would have been VERY tempting for them to build in house) has just been added which really rounds out the offering for Google. No matter where you want to advertise, you can buy it from Google. I’d have to think that this puts further pressure on the traditional media buying relationships. The guys who used to be big in a particular segment or a particular geography are now under competitive threat from a competitor who is HUGE everywhere…. What does this mean for the local online media buyers who’s annual revenues are a fraction of the interest costs on the funds applied to this transaction…..

The third observation is that there is clearly a “race to scale” play going on here. Google are a very smart company and they clearly have the strategy of being number one in each offering in each market. US$3.1 billion invested here is but one option which would have been available to Google (they could have aggregated smaller players, maybe taken a multi-geography approach or as I said above, even toyed with the idea of having a go themselves) but al of these would have taken TIME to reach the scale required to achieve a “Number 1” strategy. By thumping down the cash they have created an opportunity to dominate another segment of the digital advertising market …. And changed he horizons for many companies in many markets around the world.

My fourth (and final) observation is that these guys paid, US$3.1 billion … in CASH. A business that throws that sort of cash from operations is incredibly powerful. For market segments where geographic boundaries are irrelevant (like media buying is now) this creates a new competitive terrain and will accelerate the challenges for those companies who have been a bit slow establishing their strategies to survive or thrive in this new Digital Services age….

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I Have Caught Lihiriatum Digitalis ....

I am sitting on the balcony of a friend's place on Lihir Island, a small, extinct (I hope!) volcano on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean and part of the beautiful country of Papua New Guinea. My friends have been bought here by the gold mine, a rich ore body in the caldera of the now extinct volcano. One of the few independently held gold mines in the world (Rio Tinto sold out their share a few years ago) it is an awesome enterprise - and it is one of the most ecologically friendly gold mines in the world.

The gold mine is the largest geo-thermally powered gold mine in the world. While working inside the caldera of a volcano does present its challenges (the rocks are warm underfoot and try working with explosives when the temperature inside the drill holes gets up over 140 degrees celcius!), when the volcano is in the tropics and it RAINS A LOT (over 7 metres a year), one side benefit is naturally occuring steam .... and lots of it! Lihir Gold Limited uses this steam to power two geothermal power stations which produce around 56 MW of power and power a big chunk of the production process (and the township).

I could go on about the mine (clearly a man never grows out of his fascination with Tonka Toys... some of the machines are really COOL!) and maybe I will in other places, but this blog is about the impact of Digital Services and the things I see as I go about my work and travels.

For the people who live on the island and work in the mine, the internet has fundamentally changed their lives. The mine has installed a fairly significant internet link to the island and this extends to services such as internet access in all company buildings and wireless internet access in the residential areas. For the residents, this is an important connection to the outside world and to families, friends and services which were once, literally half a world away - and this, in discussions with some of the locals, means a big difference in quality of life. Necessities (or luxuries) are now available at the click of a button and the regular freight services mean that many of the things the locals were previously deprived of are now able to be ordered and delivered. This is helping the people stay longer, enjoy their time here more and that is good for the community and good for the business.

For the company, it is also clear that the internet is changing the world. Supply to the island and the mine is more competitive than ever and it is clear that the benefits are filtering through to the operations. The amount of information to support the operation and about new products and innovations is extensive, changing the way the people who run the mine plan, innovate and operate their business.

It has been good to come somewhere as "real" as Lihir to see how the technology and services we have been working on for more than a decade are really making a difference. Living here in a digitally connected environment no longer means that the place these people choose to live and work in defines the opportunity and lifestyle they have available. I am writing this blog from a tropical paradise and have done banking, managed a couple of share investments and even sent a present to a friend while I have been here... looking at a Lihirian Sunset with a cold SP Lager in my hand, it is easy to imagine catching Lihiratum Digitalis.....

When I contemplate this community and this business a decade ago with basic telephone services and compare it to today and the luxury of online commerce and digital services, I get a clear sense that this is a very tangible example of how we have really changed the world.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy Birthday SHB .....

It has been a hectic few weeks - another trip to Bangkok to work with the excellent team there and a lot of activity around the completion of the Synergy acquisition for Hyro and all sorts activities surrounding end of year reporting and the ongoing growth of the business as a whole....
one personal high-light has been the celebration of the 75th birthday of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We took the walk today over the Bridge and it remains an outstanding experience.

The ingenuity, the endeavour and the persistence to see a dream realised 75 years ago teaches us some lessons today. If you believe that the thing you are doing today will lead to change and benefit for generations to come, then nothing is too big, too complex and too challenging to take on. When you dream big and follow through ... then you get to change the world.

It is an amazing thing the Sydney Harbour Bridge ... drive over it, look up and say a word of thanks to those who never gave up ..... well done guys .. you DID change the world.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


A quick post to celebrate the fact that the wizards at Hyro got to celebrate not ONE, not TWO ... but TWO AND A HALF "Ami" awards at the 13th annual AIMIA awards in Sydney on Friday night.

The team are amazing - they got nominated as finalist SEVEN times (more than any other group!!) and they WON two awards and got a Highly Commended in a third category.

WOOO HOOOO to you guys.... see... you ARE changing the world.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nibbling, gnawing and slowly taking the cream....

I was sent a link to this article by a friend of mine and was asked what I thought... so here it is. (apologies about the link requiring that you register before you read it, but the NY Times article is, to my mind worth the effort).

The article describes the arrival of the "virtual ad agency" which, when you get past the fluff of it, describes an innovative business which uses a pile of stock materials (stock TVC footage, stock creative, stock print templates etc) to offer advertisers the ability to "make their own ads."

That itself is not new - desktop computer applications and web hosting companies have been doing this for years (and to be frank, there is a section of the advertising market that this is perfectly adequate for). What is new, is that these guys are explicitly stating that they are trying to commoditise some of traditonally "easy money" activities of the traditional agencies.

Take, for example, a large agency group who does the ad work for, say a car rental company. I am sure that in addition to the topline agency and production fees, there is a nice little earner in paying the studio juniors to localise the TVC ads for every single location - dropping in the branch address and phone numbers 500 times for 500 local TV stations. Well, not any more. The business model of the"virtual ad agency" seems to include the ability to "self-edit" these TVCs on the fly - pushing the effort and cost to the customer and the revenue and margin away from the traditional agencies.

I am sure that this, in itself, is not going to be the straw which breaks the agency camel's back, but it is yet another sign of the "pressure at the margins" that traditional agencies are facing... a torture by a thousand cuts as one more thing after another gets challenged or changed by this exciting Digital Age age we live in.

How agencies respond (evolve??) will be an interesting space to watch over the next couple of years. As many have already proven, it is hard to "race" into the digital services space since it takes a lot of time, effort and experience to build up quality capability in this space (we have been constantly improving for more than a decade!) and simply throwing money at it won't help. It is time for agencies to really get their heads around where they really add value and to get out of all those things which are outside of this.

As I always say, I really enjoy my job because we get to change the world.... the challenge for some others is learning (fast enough) to live in this new world we are creating.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Four-sight in Second Life????

Having just come back from some “time on the island” in Second Life, I decided I would climb down from my virtual soapbox and give my digital one a whirl.

The source of my passion is an article from the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.

I am in the fortunate position of having a LOT of experience in the Digital Services industry, having founded what was probably one of the very first, if not the first, web development companies in Australia over a dozen years ago. Over this time, I have seen EVERYTHING we have on digital channels “come”, and a fair few things “go.” I was there when we built the first online store in Australia, I was there when we took the first credit card payments, and I was personally chased out of the boardroom of one of our biggest banks who told me firmly “people will NEVER want to do their own banking over this thing called the internet.” I reckon I am pretty qualified to have my say.

In my time in this industry, I have learned that when some of the big things happen, it is important that one doesn’t race to conclusions based on the here and now, but rather that one takes some time to consider the potential.

I remember when the first nerds learned that they could hit the keys on a mobile phone in a certain order and make a tune – a pretty poor rendition of “The Locomotion” soon followed, but we knew then that musical ringtones had potential and that the mobile phone was a platform of unlimited potential (the early subscribers to WAP services were measured in their – low – thousands in the early years and look at that industry now). I remember logging onto my first online auction, a clumsy, unstable sort of affair which relied more on the goodwill of the people involved than it did on the technology and the presentation. I remember the first time we delivered “personalised content” to a consumer via a website, really just a different interface for people who were already customers, rather than new visitors who were yet to buy. In all these cases, we pretty quickly discovered that where we started was only the early execution of a potentially limitless idea. And in all cases, from that day on, we explored, experimented, learned and invented.

At Hyro, we now employ more than 300 people throughout Australasia who share the outcomes of that process of discovery with our clients who are now embracing the reality that Digital Services are permanent, persistent and important.

Second Life is one of those “big things” which is a platform of limitless potential and is an early execution of a very big idea. We have been working on gaining an understanding of the future that Second Life telegraphs for several months now and have ourselves launched into the virtual void with our own island – a place in which we are trialling recruitment of virtual citizens* for real world jobs – acknowledging that the sorts of people we want to work with include people who already “get this Second Life thing.”**

We are learning that the internet is no longer “flat” – built only around page like text and graphics, but has amazing possibilities for new ways of communicating ideas and offers. Rich media is increasingly important and this already goes beyond the materials we create and distribute to things ordinary people devote their time, intellect and creativity to. Some of this is a video in a video site, some of this is virtual commerce in Second Life, some of this is things that are yet to be invented. We are learning about a new style of business – why is there commerce of $US1 million a day in second life? What is of value? Why do people want to trade these things? Why do these communities form? What opportunities do they present? We are learning new technologies, new creative media, new styles of interaction…. We are discovering the potential.

An aside - I do despise simple, reverse engineered statistics such as the claims in the article that there are "only about 3,000" Australians in Second Life at any time, drawn by multiplying the number of active users by the estimated number of total users from Australia. This calculation doesn't take into account time zones (note that Australian's are awake while Americans are asleep) nor does it provide any basis of validation. Truth is, we don't know how many Australians are active in Second Life at any point in time - and this will change throughout the day. Sure it isn't millions right now, probably not even hundreds of thousands, but does it matter? I remember when I got my first mobile phone back in the 80s - we counted the number of people who owned and used these klutzy wirless handsets, with poor battery life and dreadful call quality in the tens of thousands then.... and now, there is more than one mobile handset for every Australian (excluding the aged, the infants and the invalids).

So, is Second Life a waste of time? Not at all. Our recent history is littered with companies who have seen places which should have “naturally been theirs” in this connected, digital world taken by rivals or start-ups (or even worse), all because they failed to see the potential and weren’t brave enough to invest a little time and a little money understanding it before they dismissed it as frivolity.

Maybe there are some lessons there….. the last time this happened, some companies had their backs turned while we got on with the job of changing the world....

* The irony is not lost on me that the very publication which carried the article I am ranting about in yesterday's edition is the same publication that I applaud for promoting our current innovations with content licensing and virtual world recruiting - thanks to the folks at the SMH for the balanced reporting!

**Nice Virtual Photo from the entry point to our virtual recruitment centre of me and my digitally buffed colleague Chris - they didin't name us in the article but we know who we are!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Digital Divining...... The Next BIG Things!

Now that the sunscreen has been put away and the clogged roads back to the city have been endured, it is time to devote some attention to things Digital for 2007 – so here are my predictions of the next big things in the digital services space....

  • Saturation Reached - The latest ABS survey shows that Internet Usage has risen STEEPLY. Now > 50% of all internet users use broadband. In higher income households, access to the internet is over 80% (and at 90% for >$120K p.a. households).

    This is significant - more homes than not (and the most of the wealthiest homes) have high speed internet access. This firmly establishes the internet as a viable, permanent and essential channel– an essential part of the overall mix.

    A digital strategy is no longer optional and an under-funded digital strategy is a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Boom Go the Strong Brands - Smart companies have clung onto control of their brand in the online space.

    It is increasingly important to be clear about your brand, what you offer, who you want to reach, your values, etc. Confused brands will suffer in digital channels - consumers can click away faster than you can explain.

    Brands which have compromised their position through quickly inked deals based around shared branding, being one of many players in a portal or, shock-horror, who have been sold short-sighted media plans from agencies (adding some banner ads to a traditional media buy is not a digital strategy), will see the strong, clear brands stride past them in building strong, commercial value-adding customer relationships.

  • The Start of The Invisible Internet - with the arrival mass-market of high-speed wireless internet (3G data) we will see new “always connected” devices. Special purpose entertainment devices, smart-billboards, connected POS devices and more.

    Consumers will no longer have to consciously connect to consume digital services, advertising and content…. And the internet will start to become “invisible.”

  • The rise and rise of digital services - 2007 is the year of digital services (commercially connecting advertising, marketing and technology).

    Digital channels allow you to make an offer to a customer, with a built in ability to "act" on that offer - which means customers providing information, transactions and customer self service. This is REAL business with REAL money changing hands and the numbers are getting big. Corporations want experienced specialists who can connect the creative, the content and the commerce in a robust and secure way - and that is the domain of the Digital Services specialists.

  • Internationalisation at break-neck speedInternet usage in Asia is growing at twice the rate of North America and internet users in Asia, Europe and Latin America outnumber the North Americans by 3 to 1. Investment in commercial solutions in these markets is on the increase, so expect new competition in international markets - and expect these international players to reach further into yours.

    Digital channels are truly international - learn to reach, support and service customers in their local markets and learn to use their local language.

  • YOU will reign SUPREME - it isn't insignificant that Time Magazine named YOU as the Person of the Year, acknowledging that 2006 was the year in which user-generated content went mainstream and the power of the connected consumer bubbled to new levels.

    This trend of the collective power of informed (and uninformed) connected consumers will accelerate. Brands could be built and broken in days and weeks as the harshest judges of all - the customers - build on their new-found power to no longer be the silent majority.

    Be careful what you say, be careful what you do - because I (and many, many, many more "I's") am watching you!!
I could continue with some more of the traditional "wallpaper predictions" ..... Internet Advertising Will Continue to Rise (no kidding!) .... eCommerce will continue to grow (of course it will!) ..... More customers will serve themselves via digital channels (why wouldn't they?) ..... and convergence will continue (what's going to stop it?), but these things are now stating the bleeding obvious.*

The next big things of 2007 and beyond are those deep, cultural, structural things that will redefine the marketplaces in which we work.

It is an exciting time - the momentum is building and there is growing evidence that we are, in fact, changing the world!

*(Albeit that they weren't so obvious when I was saying them in years past - mind you, I am the guy who, in 1995, was kicked out of the boardroom of one major bank in this country because "customers will never want to access their bank accounts over this 'internet thing' you talk of….").

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The weekend edition of the Australian Financial Review pickedup a snippet on the news-wire that the number of people in the US who have dropped a "traditional telephone service for wireless" rose by 40% to 21,000,000 in the first half of 2006, when compared to the first half of 2005. It went on to say that "about 11% of households had at least one wireless and no wireline phone service."

This is an interesting, but certainly not surprising trend. As somewhat of an "old man of the internet industry" here in Australia (I started what I believe was the very first web development company in Australia in 1994) I have a long and vivid memory of the talk about the "wireless dream." As early as the mid-nineties we were talking about the potential of wireless, and even worked on a few early projects in TCP/IP based field-force automation and very early SMS. The issue was always about the bandwidth and the capability of the devices.

Fast forward to 2007 and it is a very different time. There have been significant advances on both sides of this equation; devices today are amazing and continue to surprise and delight and the wireless networks, well, WOW. I know I have raved about the Telstra NextG network in past blogs, so I won't do that again, but we are in a world where we have now got 3.6 Mbps to the handset (and mooted to be upped to 14.4 Mbps - faster than I get on my ADSL2 connection at home!!).

As for the devices, the handsets available today are fantastic, and the ones on the way look as thought they are going to offer us even more (the Apple Phone [lawsuit pending] looks pretty and clever - no 3G though - and some of the innovations from the major phone makers - like the Nokia N95 - look tremendous). These are incredibly powerful, flexible and capable multi-media computers, sitting in the pockets of consumers, business people, etc.

The link here is that we are reaching, in my opinion, a point of confluence of critical factors which will see mobile access become the dominant connection for consumers and business within the next few years. As consumers get more and more from their mobile, the attachment to the "wireline" will become less and less. In fact, we are probably already at a point where consumers can get MORE from their mobile connection than they can from the old bakelite rotary dialer on the telephone stand in the hall. I reckon the telco's have to like it, more use of mobiles and more acceptance as the primary telephone connection (and a connection to an individual rather than a connection to an address!) means more chances for value added services and new revenue streams.

All of this augers well for us and our position as a leading supplier of mobile solutions. There aren't any excuses for there not being a strong, comprehensive mobile strategy in the plans of every major corporation or government agency; consumers and businesses have the latest mobile technology (or will get it in the next 12-18 months) and are using it... and are turning off some of their traditional communications channels

If you haven't got a plan, call me, because we are REALLY good at this stuff..... and it is this stuff which is a very strong sign that we ARE changing the world.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

CANON ..... Can Do!!!

One of the benefits of the Christmas / New Year break is that it is a great chance to catch up on some reading. In amongst the recreational reading (I recommend Two Lives by Vikram Seth, the guy who wrote the very successful, very readable, albeit huge, A Suitable Boy) I have also had a chance to catch up on a few magazines.

In the middle of all this, I came across the PC Authority Reliability and Service Awards for 2006. According to the magazine's publishers, over 8,500 consumers submitted opinions on 142 products / services / vendors via an open, online survey. Consumers were able to nominate any vendor / product / service in each category, but for inclusion in the survey sample there needed to be 100 individual responses. Based on what I can deduce from the overview provided in the magazine, this seems to be a pretty good quality survey - responses from consumers are at their own discretion, submitted by themselves without interviewer intervention and the sample sizes have some statistical validity.

Amongst this, the standout vendor for me was Hyro client, Canon . Canon was the winner in three categories (most significantly they won EVERY CATEGORY THEY WERE NOMINATED IN!):
  • Inkject Printers - 94% of over 1800 respondents said they would buy from Canon again (only two products received more than 1,000 respondents in this category)
  • Laser Printers - 94% of respondents said they would buy from Canon again
  • Digital Cameras - 96% of over 1700 respondents (twice as many respondents as the second most rated product) said that they would buy from Canon again.

This, in my opinion, is a remarkable result. There is an old maxim in customer service (badly paraphrased) that a satisfied customer will tell, at most, 4 people about their experience, while a dissatisfied customer will tell 10. In an online survey (where the user must be self-motivated to submit a result) to have that many customers provide responses and for the quality of the responses to be so high is testimony to the serious commitment and tireless effort this company puts into supporting and servicing their clients long after the initial sale.

I like these sorts of surveys - in my experience they usually deliver fairly frank and "pure" results. It is hard to contrive an outcome when the results are collected anonymously and the number of respondents is so high. Canon can take a lot of pride in these results.

There is a lot for other companies to take from this example. While advertising (online and ofline) provides you with an opportunity to express your value, proposition, brand values and more, the online environment provides a real opportunity to LISTEN to what your customers are saying about you. There are lots of examples of the power of the 'blogosphere" to garner consumer action when things aren't right (recall the famous Apple iPod battery campaign which kicked off in blogs in 2004/05). This is a great example of the alternative; customers using the internet to tell you when you are getting things right. The new customer relationship is bi-directional and smart marketers are tapping into positive feedback and customer referral, delivered online, as a means to increase customer loyalty and of course, generate sales.

If you are after a "Digital New Years Resolution" then I commend you to expand your online marketing plans for 2007. Leverage the power of the internet as a bi-directional customer engagement tool - this is one of the very tangible ways that what we do can help to change the world!

Happy New Year and we wish everyone a prosperous, rewarding and digitally enhanced 2007!