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Steve Jobs as a marketing maven


Apple announced Wednesday that its co-founder, two-time CEO and face of the company, Steve Jobs, had passed away after a seven-year struggle with pancreatic cancer.

To detail each of Jobs’ game-changing creations would prove too lengthy for a single blog post.  Suffice it to say that a number of articles, books and even a movie have already delved into the life of the college dropout who went on to become one of the most successful and recognizable tech whizzes of our time.  The first authorized Jobs biography will hit shelves later this month, giving both the fanatics and the Mac-curious more to digest.

While a great deal of attention has been paid to the awesome (and I mean “awesome” in the truest sense of the word) gadgets conceived and created by Jobs, little has been said about his adeptness on the commercial side.  Business 2.0 once called Jobs “easily the greatest marketer since P.T. Barnum.”  Indeed his charisma, stage presence and signature style (black turtleneck and jeans) secured him the status as Apple’s most popular MC.  Although his role as marketer and showman was secondary to the innovator mantle, it still supersedes other CEOs and digital gurus.

To honor Jobs, here’s a look back at some of his most memorable marketing moments: 

1. “1984” Macintosh Ad, 1984: Directed by Ridley Scott, aired once during the Super bowl and named best commercial of the decade by Advertising Age. ‘Nuff said.


2. “Knick Knack,” 1989: The first animated feature created by Pixar, which Jobs purchased from LucasFilm and took to new heights. While not a reflection of his marketing prowess, the streamlined cinematography seemed to channel the crisp iMac ads that would run nearly a decade later.


3.  “Think Different,” 1997: While Jobs might not have created the iconic slogan, family, friends and followers consider him the embodiment of the phrase.



4. Silhouette iPod ads, 2001: Watching those dark figures rock out against candy-colored backgrounds gave you the irresistible urge to buy an iPod and join their legions.



5. “Get a Mac” campaign, 2006 to 2009: Probably the funniest Apple ad series of all time. Laidback Mac (Justin Long) always outshined his hopelessly flawed counterpart, PC (John Hodgman).


6. “New Soul” MacBook Air commercial, 2008: Yael Naim’s feathery voice provided a nice backdrop to the introduction of the first laptop to fit in a manila folder. Everyone was humming the tune throughout the year.

apple mac air envelope1 

7. iPad ads, 2010: Like its iPhone predecessor, the iPad commercials highlight a user-friendly interface and diverse functionality.  A neutral voiceover and soft piano keys add a simplified touch.

ipad advert e1268053004115


Farewell, Steve Jobs. Thanks for the gizmos, the tech revoultion and the vision.

Nicole Duncan

Tablet: Toy or laptop-succeeding tool?


describe the imageWith Amazon unveiling its Kindle Fire tablet today and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series garnering more than a few good reviews, the tablet is poised to become an established piece of tech rather than an Apple-only gizmo.  While the iPad started the craze, the success of other (but not all) renditions hints at future price slashes and app-tastic innovations.  Touch screens, intuitive layouts and petite proportions have the digital slates on their way to becoming a household item.

 But what type of household device will it be?  Will it be a work-home hybrid like computers and smartphones that serves both professional and personal purposes?  Or will it lean more toward the unnecessary-but-fun luxury category where e-readers, mp3 players and gaming consoles reside?  The jury is still out to lunch.

In June 57, percent of owners polled by Resolve Market Research reported that they used their tablets to supplant laptop applications, including work-related tasks.  These findings might indicate a laptop-tablet battle for computing supremacy, but another study has come to a very different conclusion.  A survey by Citigroup revealed that of 1,800 polled in the U.S. and U.K., 62 percent would purchase a tablet as a new toy or leisure gadget.  Only 18 percent reported they would use the device for work.

Of course these surveys cannot be arranged into an apples-to-apples comparison— the most glaring distinction being that one polled tablet owners and the other asked would-be consumers.  As more companies, like Amazon, enter the tablet club, the market dynamic will continue to evolve; only time will tell if and how the tablet will fit into the tech ecosystem.  

In the meantime, marketers would be wise to keep an eye on the public’s sentiments.  So far tablet ads have focused on versatility and ease of use, but should iPads, Kindle Fires and Galaxy Tabs become common office tools, those themes will need an upgrade.

On a lighter note, Disney’s upcoming Appmates for Cars points toward the toy (albeit awesome toy) category. Now all I need is an excuse to race Lightning McQueen at the office.

Nicole Duncan

The many faces of a social network


To the chagrin of many users, Facebook has given itself yet another facelift.  The latest changes include a Top Stories feature, a real-time chat and comment tool and a revamped album view. 

Top Stories is an enhanced version of Facebook’s tailored news feed, which now features blue tabs, indicating which stories have occurred since the user’s last login.  The new ticker tool shows real-time updates in a small corner on the upper right side of the homepage.  When the chat box is opened, the ticker attaches itself at the top. (Please note: this feature does not appear active on my account at publishing time).  Among the other changes are a Friends lists (‘Circles,’ anyone?) and subscribe buttons.  The full details of the new settings and tools are posted to Facebook’s FAQ page.

While many of us are still adjusting to the new features, even bigger plans are underway for a complete renovation— one that will make past nips and snips seem inconsequential.  As Mashable’s Ben Parr reports, “The Facebook you know and (don’t) love will be forever transformed.”

Before this social czar becomes unrecognizable, here’s a stroll down memory lane of previous (and often equally infuriating) changes.  If you’re still longing for the simple Facebook of yesteryear, The Social Network briefly showcases several past versions.

facebook 2004 640

2004: Fresh, streamlined an innovative.  It was a time when college students were asking their distant friends, “Has your school signed up for the Facebook?”

facebook 2006 640

2006: The homepage gets its first major overhaul with news feed. Facebook groups with names like, “Bring the Old Facebook Back!” crop up. This was also the year the floodgates opened to the public, not just students.

facebook 2008 640

2008: Perhaps taking a page from Google’s Gmail, the social network adds a chat feature.  If you’re like me, you haven’t been signed in since then.

facebook 2010 640

2010: What had started as an intimate webpage now feels like an overcrowded party.  Privacy concerns soar while the The Social Network paints a less-than-flattering picture of founder Mark Zuckerberg.

2012: Facebook takes over the Internet?  Everyone jumps ship to Google+?  Share your thoughts in our comments section.


Nicole Duncan

A new information overload


describe the image

We’ve discussed the need for new content aggregators and the rise of corporate curators, but at what point will the information selectors need their own filter system? 

Applications like Summify, Flipboard and Google’s already-hyped Propeller cut the middleman out of the curation equation.  By applying algorithms, these services determine which stories are most relevant to individual users.  While not foolproof, the apps go a long way in preventing media fatigue by delivering bite-size samples of an information feast.

Conversely, encourages users to inject a human element into the calculation and become publishers themselves.  At first the idea is appealing: Handpick the stories and then share them with your audience.  The fatal flaw of this system lies in its assumption that all users have an audience with whom to share their selected stories.  Efforts to dodge information overload is leading to a surplus of curators, which brings us back to square one. 

Rather than searching through mountains of stories, we might very well be sifting through an equally colossal amount of curators.

Nicole Duncan

Offline is back on


gmaillab unpluggedSomewhere along the way to smartphone ubiquity and tablet trendiness, offline became an unsavory word.  Not as repugnant as dial-up or spam, but certainly not magnanimous like 3G.  Social networks, web searches and general connectivity became more important than offline activities like word processing and Minesweep.  The short-lived popularity of netbooks is a testament to the notion that if you’re not connected, you might as well turn your [insert device] off.

But what if you’re in a cafe that has no wireless?  What if your Aunt Elsie’s house is out of range of your 3G network?  Unless you had the foresight to download your work beforehand, such situations serve as flashbacks to pre-2008 computing.  The only difference is that now your choice of activities is even more limited as offline has been left to the wayside by many digital innovators.  

One of the tech behemoths that started this shift was Google: It introduced free programs like Gmail and Google Docs much to the chagrin of software developers.  This May the company released its own netbook, the Chromebook, which seemed to solidify its commitment to the online occult.  

You can imagine my surprise when I learned that Google was rolling out an offline version of Gmail.  The application, which can be downloaded through the Chrome Web Store, is similar to its tablet version in appearance and functionality.  As a dumbphone user who loves frequenting wifi-free cafes with my laptop, the ability to read, respond and sort through old e-mails without a connection is a major boon.  Traditional mail servers like Outlook, Thunderbird and Apple Mail have worked offline for years, but their mobility limitations, screwy settings and bland appearance kept them from reaching Gmail rock star status.

Google announced that it plans to extend this capability to Google Calendars and Docs as well— the latter of which will prove tricky given its collaborative nature.  And if the search-engine-turned-tech-giant decrees “offline” to be an option for the 3G world, others may soon follow in its path.

Nicole Duncan

Socially disconnected at the worst time


twitter and facebook for 2011 hurricane season updates

Mother Nature seems to have it in for the East Coast this week, which began with an unusually strong earthquake and will end with an unusually far-reaching hurricane.  In moments of crises and bizarre weather, being in the loop is not just comforting, it can also be crucial to staying safe.  

While the four major wireless carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint) are preparing for high activity levels and potential outages, Hurricane Irene could knock out electricity, Wifi and wireless towers.  Shortly after the earthquake Tuesday, many carriers (especially Verizon) were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls and texts.  Even failed to load for several minutes, presumably due to extreme amounts of traffic, although a shaken server could also be to blame.  

If the default sources of communication including cell phones, landlines, e-mail and social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc., were down, what would you do? Granted, the chances of an Armageddon-like outage is highly unlikely, but it still begs the question.

PC Magazine has a roundup of the best devices and apps for disasters.  While some of their recommendations like the weather apps and FEMA Twitter feed would require some wireless waves, others like the hand-crank radio work regardless of connectivity.  

Not to say that you should blow your savings on a solar-powered oven, but if the past week is any indication of natural disasters to come, a couple of Walkie-talkies might be a worthwhile investment.

Nicole Duncan

The (new) Final Frontier

For the space lovers, history buffs and event junkies who do not have tickets to Cape Canaveral for the  final shuttle launch, rest assured.  NASA will stream live footage on its website while the popular media site Spacevidcast will up the ante with an interactive component that allows users to ask the astronauts and engineers questions via Skype and Facebook.  Viewers without access to the live footage can utilize Twitter by following the Atlantis crew or one of the 150 Twitterers chosen by NASA to watch from the VIP box.

Although U.S. officials maintain that space-faring expeditions will continue, for many the retirement of the four remaining shuttles marks the end of the Space Age.  Thirty years ago when the first shuttle launched, the communications channels were a vastly different landscape.  Telephones were restricted to businesses and residences; people sent messages through snail mail; and encyclopedias were the best vehicles on the information superhighway.  Now the products of the one revolution will shepherd out its predecessor— a simple reminder of the dynamic (and often unexpected) nature of progress.

As you watch this historic event from a live stream on your 3G smartphone, consider how much has changed since 1981, and think of the possibilities that have yet to come.

Nicole Duncan

4th Annual OMMA Social: Daily deals soar, Facebook Studio fizzles


ay omma social

Internet Week New York would not be complete without an assembly of social media mavens.  On Thursday, MediaPost hosted its fourth annual Online Media Marketing & Advertising Social Program at the Marriott Marquis.  With more than 30 speakers, panelists and presenters, the event brought together the socially savvy from gaming developers to digital entrepreneurs to branding specialists. 

Experts emphasized that simply attracting followers and heavy users is no longer sufficient; companies must now seek out the heavy influencers to help spread their message.  CEO of Optimedia Antony Young argued that seven of the 10 most influential touch points are still word-of-mouth.  The “socially connected” will drive the discourse.  As Kailei Richardson of PointRoll noted, “Consumers will talk about you— you have to be part of that conversation.”

The social media landscape is still full of uncharted terrain.  Groupon increased by 250 percent in the past year with Living Social close behind at a 182 percent.  Whether such growth can be sustained by participating businesses remains a point of conjecture.  In addition to daily deals, marketers continue to face surprises with interactive platforms.  A senior vice-president with NBA Digital quipped that company executives first learned of Shaquille O’Neal’s plans to retire from his Twitter page. 

While some of the presentations offered little insight (the Facebook Studio demonstration was unceremoniously bashed via Twitter), OMMA Social gave professionals the opportunity to learn, share and reflect.  Panel moderator and AGILITI CEO Jason Heller grounded the sometimes-abstract nature of the new marketing vehicle:

“Social media is just a lens that magnifies what happens in the real world.”

To read more about OMMA, see #OMMAsocial on Twitter.


Nicole Duncan

Chatroulette’s Viral in More Ways Than One

The World’s First Condom Specialty Shop, Condomerie, has a fantastic video up on YouTube of an HIV Awareness PSA they executed on Chatroulette back in April. In the video, an almost nude woman sits back holding a sign that says BINGO in front of her chest. As though she’s about to give a peep show to her audience, she moves closer to the camera until the smaller message on her sign is legible, “You’re now in touch with an HIV infected person. Don’t play Russian roulette in real life.” While the message and execution of this guerrilla effort are definitely smart and powerful, please be forwarned that this video contains risqué, albeit censored, imagery.


Bespoke Analytics for Custom Communication



Social media strategy and metrics are difficult pure and simple. Much of the time, a brand’s social media presence is initiated as an afterthought, an add-on to the brand’s overall marketing strategy. Traditional marketing strategies are more often than not, too shallow for social media because broadcast voices are impersonal and closed. Staking a claim on the social web and then tossing out brand messages from that platform does not make for effective social media marketing.

To create a truly relevant presence through social media, brands need to find out where their target is living online, who is leading them (you always gotta find those popular kids/social influencers/trust agents/what have you), and then figure out how to engage these influencers. This cannot be done without doing LOTS of initial research and continuing to develop post launch ad to custom tailor our communication in real time, in accordance with both the insights we gather while “live” and the data patterns we notice over time.

Last night Marshall Sponder, a SEO and web analytics expert, spoke at the 140 Characters Conference MeetUp in NYC about using real time analytics for real time communication. Marshall referred to a high number of missed opportunities he’s seen for brands that have ignored real time data and that have neglected to continually analyze and customize their methods for gathering and interpreting the data. Additionally, Marshall honed in on, well, honing in, stating that to truly understand how their real time engagement works, brands must TAKE….. THEIR….. TIME…… and customize. Marshall reminded everyone that even though trustworthy real time communication is (seemingly) off-the-cuff, over time and the patterns we record when pulling regular data will point to distinctive insights about how to optimize our engagement methods.

Marshall discusses this in detail (with a focus on geo-location tools) and with a case study on his blog.

Jump to Brian Solis’s recent post about Behaviorgraphics. Brian describes a long list of types of communication styles and he also argues for enhanced engagement with and customization of our data.

“Genuine engagement is inspired by the research and data we accumulate as we analyze the social web and the specific activity and people who define our markets and audiences. We are now required to tailor our stories and distribute them specifically in the channels that cater to the technographics and socialgraphics of our customers. In order to truly earn relevance and prominence within our communities, we also need to connect information and objects dictated by the personality traits of those influencers who in turn activate and move markets.”
Read the rest of his post here.

That said, we need to spend more time listening to our consumers as we develop (and redevelop) our social media strategies and stop treating the concept like an afterthought. The more data we gather and the more time we spend analyzing data from this sphere of communication, the better our brands will engage with it and the more effective our communications will become.

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