Friday, October 30, 2009

New CNN Site Did Your Web Design Homework, the country’s highest-traffic network news site, went live this week with a redesign that’s worth further study.

Not sure if it’s as “beautiful” and “visually arresting” as the CNN folks claim, but it definitely has a greater emphasis on images, video and easily digestible, modular content. Adweek says there’s a lot more interactive, social functionality, as well.

The redesign reflects an important step in CNN’s transition—from just an online iteration of a TV network, toward a distinct news site that takes advantage of the web’s unique capabilities. But good as the new site is, it isn’t by any stretch revolutionary. CNN’s really just following the lead of non-mainstream news sites such as The Daily Beast and Newser.

The difference? CNN is a big organization backed by an even larger corporate parent, Time Warner. The changes they’ve made are almost certainly driven and justified by thorough research. They’ve looked carefully at what the audience wants: a more custom user experience and greater involvement with the content. These results appear to validate the savvy design and social aspects of those alternative news sites.

That’s why it’s a good idea for all of us to pay attention. The new CNN shows that social functionality, quick-read convenience and interactive communication are now mainstream must-haves on the web.

OK, so your site won’t make Alexa’s top 500 anytime soon, but you can still benefit by deploying some of the best practices of those that do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lucky 7? Microsoft Marketing Better with New Windows

Jaded techies around the world are grudgingly admitting that, whaddya know, Windows 7 is actually pretty good

It’s not at all clear whether the launch can help Microsoft fully recover from the expensive failures of Vista. But the strong initial buzz suggests they’re doing a lot more things right this time around.

 Things like:

n      Much closer collaboration with PC makers in developing the new product

n      Going for a more evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, advancement

n      Emphasizing Windows 7’s user-inspired improvements


The customer focus is also carried through in a push for “launch parties” at users’ houses (which was noticed in the marketplace at least enough to spur its own parody video). And there’s a nice, cohesive theme going throughout, around the number 7. Read a fairly glowing overview of all the moves over at Business Week.

Looks like the MS team has determined that, if they’re going to get a cynical, stingy public to buy in this time around, they’d better involve those customers from the start, give them a product they’re looking for and tell them about it every way they can.

The result is that, for once, Microsoft seems to be setting a good marketing example.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The French, and Other Snags in Your Global Marketing Efforts

Oh, those French. So proud, so self-serious. They can’t let a fun and fitting new term like cloud computing just be.

They have to come up with their own, uniquely French name for it. The Wall Street Journal takes a quizzical look at this process as it’s carried out by France's General Commission of Terminology and Neology.

The article is worth a read as a caution for all current and aspiring global marketers out there about the many pitfalls of communicating in overseas markets.

The French may be more forceful in their defiance of “outsider” words. But they’re hardly the only ones. Truth is, every culture is quick to dismiss anything that doesn’t sound native. They won’t look too kindly on your brand if you don’t blend in.

Google translator won’t cut it. A decent translation service won’t necessarily, either. After all, you have to do more than just speak the language; you have to work to become part of the culture, to understand and respond to what customers care about and the way they think in each market.

Chances are you can’t accomplish it with your own resources alone (unless you’re, say, Coca-Cola). More likely, you’ll get through to your audiences overseas by leveraging strategic partnerships with firms in those markets. They become the keepers of your brand in far-flung places. Who knows, you might even work with them by using cloud computing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Southwest Brand Gets a Good Rap

Here's a little Friday uplift ...

It’s nothing new or groundbreaking to point out that Southwest Airlines has a great brand. But then again, maybe you haven’t seen Southwest’s rapping flight attendant:

Further proof that no company owns a more fully realized, thoroughly entertaining brand than Southwest. It makes a nice complement to the playful "Grab Your Bag, It's On" campaign they've got going.

And for David Holmes, it's made for his 15-plus minutes of fame--at the company's shareholders meeting, in the Wall Street Journal, even on Oprah and Leno.

Meanwhile, to Southwest's credit, they've appeared to be hands-off throughout. Blogs and news stories routinely attribute the origins of the phenomenon to recordings by passengers with cell phone cameras, not by anyone at Southwest posting and/or spreading the video. That's a key lesson for any aspiring viral marketers out there: it's got to at least look spontaneous.

Since Southwest and its people have been consistently supporting the company's well-grounded (or should we say "high-flying") brand for years, this video is easily assumed to be authentic. Either way, it's fun to watch on a Friday afternoon.

Friday, October 2, 2009

An Old-School Social Media Success

Using social media can help you achieve lots of big goals—gaining recognition as a thought leader, generating leads, pumping up sales, etc.

But just as often, success in social media is simply about finding more efficient, effective ways to solve problems and increase customer satisfaction.

Take this Pitney Bowes example we just read about.

The postage meter people decided that maybe they were spending too much time and money on customer support phone calls. So they created an online user forum where customers could pose and answer each other’s questions, moderated by the company.

With the help of customers’ diverse content input—kind of a crowdsourced FAQ—Pitney Bowes’ forum quickly delivered robust answers to many of the most common questions that people used to call the hotline for. In the process, they’re saving the company money and customers lots of stressful time on the phone.

And maybe the most important (and reassuring) lesson here is that they did it without using the latest and greatest platforms. No Twitter, no Facebook, no StumbleUpon—just a clear objective and good ol’ forum, with great results.