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Archive for May, 2009

In the marketing world, viral is big. It could be the latest video making the rounds on YouTube, a Twitter retweet campaign, or someone on Facebook declaring to a few hundred of their closest friends that they are a fan of a brand. It makes sense – instead of a brand directly reaching out to customers, they are now reaching out through someone you trust more – your friends.

But marketers aside, viral can have dire consequences for consumers who aren’t careful. Because for anything that can be used for good, some people will always try and find a way to use it for evil. And this is especially true in a world where we keep increasing our use of technology and the Internet. Viral has meant that those who want to do evil are able to spread this more easily than ever. Let’s not forget, the first three letters in the word “viral” are also at the beginning of the word “virus.” (more…)

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You could probably forgive some companies for not realizing the power the users of social networks have to distribute information at lightning speed. Particularly negative information. Especially considering the social networks themselves seem to underestimate the power their users have.

In terms of companies, Domino’s Pizza learned their lesson in April. It was then that two (now former) Domino’s employees, as a prank, posted a video on YouTube that showed them preparing food while adding, let’s just say special – and unsanitary – ingredients. It made the rounds on Twitter, causing a crisis for Domino’s. Just a few days earlier, Amazon.com also learned this lesson the hard way. In this case, the company removed the sales ranking from thousands of books, including gay and lesbian themed books. In the full day it took Amazon to respond, saying it was an error, the Twitter community complained the company was being unresponsive.

You would think that the social networks themselves would know the power of their users better. But Facebook, and now Twitter, have come under fire by their users for actions they have taken. (more…)

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As a customer-centric marketing professional, I’ve been taught to look at things from the perspective of a customer. Find out what people need – and then build a product to meet that need. But how do companies determine what customers need when they themselves don’t know until they have seen it?

I bring this up because of an interesting article in the New York Times recounting the experience of Douglas Bowman, a top visual designer at Google. Mr. Bowman left the company because he couldn’t use his creativity to build innovative designs. Why? Customer data was needed to back up even very small design decisions. And customer data often doesn’t support new and creative ideas.

While I still highly encourage using customer feedback and suggestions to improve and build products, I see his point. There needs to be a balance of using customer feedback along with other elements. Don’t get me wrong, customers are great at giving feedback about things that already exist – such as features that aren’t useful, or those that can be improved or added. However, they are notoriously unreliable at knowing what they want if it doesn’t exist yet. (more…)

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