Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mish Mash and They’re Making a Splash….

A new challenge for marketers is the rise of mashups – technology which allows users to aggregate their own collection of content and services from a range of different sources to create a unique, personalised internet environment.


The thinking behind this technology is not new. Over a decade ago, internet pioneer Sun Microsystems were marketing a technology called iPlanet Portal Server, a derivative of the earlier Netscape Compass Server brought to market through the Sun / Netscape Iplanet Alliance. This technology created a framework to aggregate a range of content, applications and services across an enterprise and to then present those services through a flexible, customisable interface. This was achieved by creating some common application frameworks and a mechanisms to connect to many systems located anywhere on the enterprise network. This technology slowly evolved to the internet portals (usually prefaced with the term 'my' – remember, albeit that the content available through those portals was limited to content authored for inclusion by the portal provider.


Fast forward to today and this technology has expanded from across the enterprise to across the internet. Today, mashup technologies allow us to connect content and services from just about anywhere on the internet. The most well known of these technologies come in the form of 'community sites' like Facebook, Myspace and Bebo. These sites allow users to add applications and content to their own profile and to share these with their peers, or social network. The interoperability extends to anything on the internet which complies with the relevant internet standards for the content types. Technologies such as AJAX, RSS, XML and others provide flexibility and interoperability and the platform for services to be aggregated.


A new generation of mashups is targeting the convenience and customisability drivers for users. Positioned as a personalised home page (not unlike the old portals) services such as, and even the Microsoft Live Services are vying for the crown of being the default gateway for your internet activities.


With the high levels of functionality the combinations of these services and the content and services available to be accessed, there are new challenges for marketers. In social networking sites, content and services are distributed by reference. Visitors to my home page who like an object they see there can add it to their site with a click (or two). A user may get exposed to a product or service without ever visiting the web site of the producer or seeing any other content.


Marketers need to think about how they are going to manage the messaging to their target audiences when they don't have control over the frameworks through which their content and services are being delivered. Furthermore, it is likely that the content produced will sit with competing content from rival marketers. Brand A may well be situated right next to competing Brand B as users change and update their mashups.


The trick is going to be to make sure that the content and services developed for distribution through mashups and community sites stands up in its own right; that it communicates the brand, message and proposition independently. There is a lot of merit in including a mashup component in digital marketing. Since the user has control of their mashup framework, the inclusion of an object in a users page is tantamount endorsement and we know that peer reference and endorsement are powerful marketing tools. A well distributed mashup object can be a powerful marketing tool.




Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It’s Like a Blog, Only Smaller!

Over the last two or three weeks, I have been investigating the phenomena of micro-blogging – the concept of using digital technologies (web, email, sms, mobile) to post regular, small insights about what you are doing / seeing / thinking / feeling. I have tried a couple of sites; Twitter and Plurk and am finding strengths and weaknesses in both.


I am interested to see where this goes. My first experience is that there are some people who are phenomenally prolific in their digital postings. Some people post tens or hundreds of things per day. The second thing I notice is that much of what is posted by these people is pretty inane. Spur of the moment ramblings which often lack the benefit of supporting information and context. Perhaps this is a sign of the nascent nature of this activity – some of these people clearly feel that if they have nothings to post, then they should post, well, nothing. I also feel that some of this is driven by massive egos in a micro sense – these people WANT celebrity, but only from a circle of friends and perhaps their friends. Maybe posting constantly will help them to achieve this….


On the other hand, there seems to be a pervasive sense of community in all of this. There are lots of people who "touch" each other many times a day, maybe a bit like the chatter that happens amongst families; the regular comments, observations, snappy remarks, and banter which goes on amongst the familiar. I have already seen many instances of members of these communities reaching out for information, opinions and help – and the community responds quickly. This is a good thing, it happens in the background and takes very little time to check, comment, or post. As we all move around quickly (and for some of us, widely), this can be a nice "touchpoint" for our friends and colleagues.


I think that this is another of those emerging trends which we will see find its way into the corporate environment. I can foresee teams, irrespective of their locations, engaging with their peers using this sort of micro-blogging constantly throughout the day. Many teams are doing this already through chat clients, but micro-blogging offers the benefit of creating a permanent record and all the functionality of the web (linking, syndicating, programmability and so on).


The current iterations of the technology are a bit klutzy, but like most things on the web, these move fast and the latest release offer some cool features. You can update via email, chat clients, and SMS and there are emerging services which will syndicate your postings to all your personal and social sites (check out as an example). I think this an emerging technology trend worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Presentation today – Mobile Marketing for Financial Services

I had the pleasure of presenting today to the 14th Annual Rainmaker Marketing Symposium for Financial Services. My topic was the Evolving trends in Mobile Marketing, a topic I enjoy and was happy to get all fired up about. Feedback from the crowd was great and I have been told that the presentation should be available for public consumption on the RainmakerITV site sometime in the next few days for the entire world to see.

Check it out and I hope you enjoy it.