Category Archives: Products

Dawn of talent behind Social Tech

Imagine what happens when the talents behind “social” brings us together in a “network” or better yet, in a 2000+ virtual choir directed by Eric Whitacre.  The massively viral application of talent to social media technology suggests that Social Tech in general is dawning.  In this effort, recognized composer Eric Whitacre conducted YouTube auditions and received YouTube performances from strangers all over the world to create perhaps one of the best examples of applied Social Tech:

I have always been a sucker for applied technology, and social media is an amazing tool in the right hands.

Years ago there was the desktop publishing craze, where fonts, column layouts and “printed” marketing copy was within reach of anyone with a Mac/Win 3.x and a laser printer. The technology opened the door and many stepped through, eventually professional designers embraced the technology and we saw fewer fonts per page as a result.

In many ways, history is repeating itself with Social Media marketing and digital marketing in general.  The new marketing channels provide efficient inbound and outbound capabilities, and increased speed, but fundamentally it is another channel to use in the context of a marketing strategy and more importantly in the hands of a talented practitioner.

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Enter Gen Z – Gamification

It is great to see technology get turned into something that allows people to relate to one another in natural, fundamental, and expressive ways.  Today Lithium Technologies hosted a discussion on “gamification“, a social interaction construct suggesting through some research that people are more productive and engaged when immersed within a game-like environment.  While many would argue that life is a game already and trying to gamify it more is like trying to make water wetter, the important point they make is that we are instinctively more sophisticated in out ability to handle social media technologies, right to the point where we can express our real live selves online across different platforms.

Enter Gen Z.  Watching two particular Gen Z members, who happen to live under my roof, fluidly and seamlessly push the social limits of how they interact with one another down the hall, their many friends across town and around the world, is truly inspiring.  Like watching birds in flight, their interaction in the connected world is seamless or not at all.  They each have overlapping circle of friends connected via text, social media, chat, and more importantly those connections are expressed seamlessly in their real life interactions and over good old fashioned telephone.  If a technology does not support that interaction, the child-like gamification interactive environment, they simply ignore it.  Oddly enough, they just reloaded Half Life coop mod this week to play with their friends down the street – these are friends that get together swimming earlier during the day.

In a previous post I commented about Gen X and Gen Y marketing, and now here we have Gen Z quickly approaching.  Needless to say they are very adept at social interaction, and take the technology so much in-stride, they are able to focus on expressing themselves instead of trying to project themselves.  Subtle difference but huge in terms of mindset:  there are so many self-expression outlets for them, and any particular social media channel is yet just another channel.  While Gen Y and X are busy trying to install social media in various aspects of their lives, trying to keep close tabs on the differences between say LinkedIn and Facebook, Gen Z’s are learning social skills beyond any of the mediums and actually taking the underlying social channels for granted simply exploiting the values of each seamlessly.

Gamification is one social media skill and an important step towards expression, which itself lies at the heart of collaboration.  My Gen Z’s are already there, making due with the social media product capabilities they have today, waiting for leaders in the field like Lithium Technologies, Google and others to do more in applying technology to this amazing product-enabling area.  And what an impact social channels are making:

If product folks get a high out of seeing this kind of thing evolve before our very eyes – consider me stoned and lucky to have first-row seats.


Gen X and Gen Y Relevance

Would you market the iPhone on speeds and feeds?  How about the latest gaming graphics rig?  With gas prices creeping up by the minute, MPG specs will turn heads as much as horsepower did years ago.  Today more than ever, successful products must take into account generational relevance in addition to increased innovation.

A short while ago I was asked to comment on how to position a late-entrant commercial chat product from a young rock-star startup against well known enterprise-class incumbents.  From a design standpoint the new chat product was brimming with usability, integration and functionality enhancements.  It could easily compete with the top-3 products on features alone, and arguably leave most in the dust.  Integration features abound, the chat product could easily be a drop-in replacement for chat modules within MS Communicator, Chatter and Sametime.  Self-contained and highly scalable, tested extensively under monstrous loads, it was enterprise-class hands down.  The product’s marketing was replete with features and innovation.  Smart design and clever copy abound.  Feature roadmap three years out with every imaginable integration with social marketing, iPhone, Android, Skype and all the major instant messenger platforms.  Pricing was aggressive and aimed on market penetration.  So why were they having ad-hoc success in major IT shops?

Looking at their sales pitch, one major point stuck out:  they were selling to themselves.  They had great success with friendly, like minded organizations, largely Gen Y startup or mid-sized business units in larger firms.  Their enterprise IT prospects however, later in their careers, managing greater organizational risk/scope, motivated by business goals perpendicular to chat product capabilities, were also staunch Gen X decision makers.  The multiple chat vendors in the market, and the very likely possibility for features to be made on demand by enterprise software incumbents, created further hesitation on the part of their enterprise IT accounts’ decision makers.  Their market strategy had gaps in addressing both Gen Y and Gen X attributes.

I summarized those attributes for them, edited below, which provided a useful reference from which to target marketing materials and sales activities.  For “Payments”, the chart suggests that marketing and sales should keep in mind Gen Y as the Early Adopters, are valuing Pay As You Go over the Gen X’s preferred ROI/TCO approach.  Opinions are swayed by the Trusted Advisers for Gen X, and role-model Heroes grab the attention of Gen Y.  And so on down the Attributes list.

There was some editing done to online marketing and additional marketing campaigns, including scheduling some editorial reviews with the traditional IT press, appeared on the launch plan.  Their effort is under way.

As food for thought to their sales approach, I recommended the classic but still exceedingly relevant “Power Base Selling: Secrets of an Ivy League Street Fighter” by Jim Holden.  The whole point being that they should look deeply at who they are selling to in IT.


Product Teaming

When conceiving a product, all features must be directly tied to end-user value – this is obvious.  Teaminged with collaborative products along the product lifecycle to enable a complete end-user solution?  Not so obvious.  What’s more, most products will require features outside of the easily-defined technical circle of utility – financial, operational, development and support utility are as important.

The K6 products gained single-digit market share on price, with manufacturing challenges, chipset support, and competitive onslaught of Market Development Funds limiting its penetration.  This is an excellent example of a product seeing limited success in spite of its product features being more than adequate to compete.  It is not sufficient to aggregate features into a package, put a brand on it, and assume it will do well, independent of its ecosystem-peer products and other factors in the value-chain.

After the merger with NexGen, AMD had a product with which to compete against the Pentium.  For motherboard, video and chipset support, AMD turned to the PC industry’s hardware manufacturers or IHVs.  For software compatibility, in the days when Windows was something to circumvent for performance and flexibility, AMD had to enlist the support of ISV, the Independent Software Vendors.

To gain market share, AMD had to prove that its products were compatible with Intel’s.  To help negotiate price points with Acer, IBM, HP and other buyers of AMD’s processors, processor performance against the Intel models had to be demonstrated.  One of the popular games at the time was Quake, and AMD made every effort to support the Quake brand with optimizations to GLQuake, motherboards, drivers, all to highlight the comparable floating point performance of the CPU relative to the Pentium.  Even a bus tour, the Quake 3 Bus, was organized in support of the franchise.

A fledgling league of players formed the PGL and were pushing into new directions in gaming, later to become leaders in social media, and perhaps one of AMD’s greatest contribution.

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