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Let’s face it: in today’s world, consumers face a barrage of up to 3,000 advertising and promotional messages every day, tuning out those that don’t appeal to what they want, need or believe in… I once read in a basic branding manual that a brand is a promise, so I guess the question is: what could one possibly promise to keep consumers from tuning out? To answer this question, first we have to find out what we stand for, and why our product is different and better. And more importantly, once we’ve made this promise, we have to be able to keep it.

I’m grumbling to myself here about branding because we are about to launch a new product (a Media Center) in a new market (in this case Windows), and we all know that when you introduce a new product, you have to decide whether the product you’re introducing will enter the market under your business brand or as its own brand, with or without a visible link to your business brand. In simpler words, we have to decide our “Brand Architecture”.

In this case, we have decided to launch this new product brand under the strong business brand identity we already have. The reason for this is simple: we have a modest marketing department and budget. It is well known that if your resources are limited, you’ll be better off if you build one strong parent brand to represent your core business and then introduce each new offering under the umbrella of your business identity. By doing so, we will eliminate the need to create and manage the identity of multiple self-standing brands, which requires an intense investment of time, people, discipline, and money.

The risk of this strategy, though, is that any flaws or problems in the new product will be linked directly to the business brand itself, thus affecting the rest of the products. There’s no reason to believe this will happen to us, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The time to brand our way to the Windows market has come, and we are oh so looking forward to it!

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Well, the 2010 edition of the Mobile World Congress starts tomorrow in Barcelona.

At my office, we’re all excited because in this edition we’re presenting our DVD Player along with Intel (Wow!). Next Tuesday, I’ll be the one with the Intel team presenting our solution for their newest platform, which is mainly focused on Mobile Internet Devices, netbooks, and other small factor devices. We’ll be at the App Planet section, don’t miss out on this opportunity to meet our team and Intel’s team, and learn about the latest technologies available for mobile devices.

I was told they’ll tape an Interview of me presenting our DVD Player, which is a piece of software especially optimized to run on Intel’s platforms, and that offers a number of really cool features, such as angle support, language selection, subtitles, menus and many other.

Wish me luck, and I’ll tell you all about it in my next post.

It’s been over two months since I last posted something on this blog. There are many reasons why this happened, but I think that the most important one is that the winter holidays came across and they sent me far, really far away from all the hustle and craziness of my job. Good thing I’m back, I really missed having this “pinch of stress” making me go round and keeping me alert.

First of all, as most of you have already noticed at this point in time, we’ve started a brand new year 11 days ago, so my best wishes to all of you and I really hope 2010 come full of excellent news and open brand new horizons to explore. That being said, I believe it’s time to make an annual review to understand what 2009 brought about, good and not so good, and try to figure out what 2010 has in store for us. A challenging task, I may add, but a necessary one. I’ll try my best to summarize and synthesize, so I don’t get lost in the details.

Here some of my thoughts:

2009

The Year of the Crisis

2009 was a difficult year for us all. Crisis and unemployment were at the center of the debate, and countries such as Spain -where I happen to live -still haven’t quite overcome the negative effects these two have brought about. At least in this country, thousands of jobs were lost to the economical crisis, limiting people’s purchasing power, slowing down the entire economy, and getting us into a vicious cycle that’s been really hard to break.  In the case of the company where I work, our primary market is the US, a country that during 2009 underwent one of the most profound economic and financial setbacks in its History. With a diminished purchasing power, more price-sensitive customers and lack of investors, marketing strategies had to adjust to smaller budgets to be competitive without foregoing quality. To give a concrete example, this difficult period meant that many of us (marketers) had to roll up our sleeves, and do the some of the dirty work we would normally delegate on advertising agencies and other personnel within and outside the company. One of the most common marketing expenses during the prosperity years was hiring advertisement agencies and paying big upfront fees for consultation and design when we weren’t really running large ad campaigns. This would save a lot of time that allowed us to focus our efforts on more strategic matters, while operational tasks were left in the hands of professionals who would report to us and give results. Given the circumstances, in 2009 we had quit the glam of bossing people around, and had to make do with good independent graphic designers, negotiate rates, and close deals with providers by ourselves.

However, even when 2009 meant a lot extra work and effort for those dedicated to marketing (and in general for everyone in the company), it also opened new opportunities to successfully put on the market new and more original solutions. Sad at is, big companies going out of business or losing a part of their market share opens new windows for those smaller and less well known companies offering alternative solutions for lower prices. It’s widely accepted that basing our marketing strategy on the sole fact that our prices are better than those of my competitors’ is a huge mistake. However, penetrating markets based on cost-effective solutions helps, at least in the short term and as a first stage in our marketing startegy, to seize opportunities that were previously out of our reach.

The Year of Social Media

It goes without saying that no matter how deep the crisis, marketing actions are of great importance for those willing to do anything in their power to prevent the ship from sinking during the storm. No matter how little money we have, we must invest in letting our target know who we are, what we do and our advantages over our competitors. If we don’t do it, how are we supposed to sell anything in the first place? In this sense, the massification of Social Media helped many marketers to save money while targeting their desired audience. The increasing importance of Facebook, Twitter, My Space and many others led to the discovering of new ways of interacting with customers, spreading out the benefits of our products/services and engraving our brand or company name in the minds of thousands of people.

By now, we all acknowledge without reservations that the web has become a very necessary and powerful tool to developing marketing campaigns. But when it comes to technology and the Internet, I truly believe that this is just the beginning and that more pleasant surprises are still to come.

The Year of Connectivity

Either with their cells (mobiles for Brits!) or with their laptops, people like to be connected 24/7. They check their mail, text their friends, update their status, listen to music and watch videos everywhere, anytime. This behavior has become a great opportunity for marketers to profit from the ongoing online activities of hundreds of thousands of people who spend most of their time connected and, more importantly, are receptive to our message if the message is right, of course. Designing advertising campaigns especially suited for portable devices seems to be the promised land, and finding the right approach to engage people has become the objective of marketing professionals around the globe. Embedding publicity in videos, sending text and video messages with promotions to mobile phones, and designing shared revenue campaigns are among the many original ways of advertising via small factor devices.

Two important rules, though. First, not being intrusive and spamming people with countless messages or obtrusive ads that interfere with what they are doing. Second, make your ad as interactive as possible. People are tired of just being passive receptors: whatever you’re doing, they want to participate.

2010

I’m sure that many other important events occurred in 2009, and I’ll gladly welcome comments in that respect. But it’s time to move on and take a look at what 2010 has got to offer. After such a difficult year, we all hope 2010 arrive with more prosperity and enhanced horizons, but for some economies this is still wishful thinking.  The truth is that this crisis was a major setback, and some still are suffering the consequences. Our budgets will still suffer from the recent setback, and we’ll have to be careful on how we allocate resources, always keeping in mind long and medium term objectives.

This year, in the post-crisis world, marketers need to deliver customer value and differentiate from their competitors. Consumer spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by a reason-to-buy at all. This spells trouble for brands with no authentic meaning, whether high-end or low.

Marketing is getting more personal and emotional, trying to engage increasingly disloyal customers who are more sophisticated, better informed and opinionated. Social Media will keep on being a key to attracting new customers and designing strategies to maintaining the loyalty of existing ones: it’s all about improving their experience with our products/services, and making them feel their contributions are an important part of what we are doing. This will help the company boost the word of mouth, but not just any word of mouth, but the right word of mouth within the community. This means the coming of a new era of customer care. We have to be prepared to listen to them, and listen hard. They will certainly give us a lot of ideas, positive feedback and invaluable inputs, but we must be prepared to accept critics and, more importantly, do something about it. Interactive marketing is more relevant than ever, and the more we succeed in having our customers participate in our marketing actions, the more we will be able to strengthen our brand, our company name and our image.

Modern marketing has become a two way conversation that utilizes traditional, digital and social mediums to connect with existing and potential customers. For those dedicated to online marketing, mastering analytics and customer intelligence is a must. Analytical skills are paramount to making complex fact based decisions and generate relevant insights from available data.

Mobile advertisement is gaining popularity and delivering results. It is expected that in 2010 this trend continues, or even grows, spanning new consumers that, up until this day, didn’t have access to small factor devices. The massification of mobiles, laptops, MIDs, etc. is leading advertisers to adjust their ads to this new formats, where contents and messages have to be strongly appealing, brief and personalized.

A challenging year, 2010, but also full of perspectives and hope!

OMExpo 2009: The Boom of Social Media is Here to Stay

Social media, social media, social media… and, have I mentioned social media already? OMExpo’s conferences went on and on about this phenomenon, ceaselessly underlying its importance. Of course all mighty Google was also mentioned, but social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, were at the center of the debate. New paradigms are being built around them, and users have become advisors who recommend other members within their virtual community the products and services they like. Nothing we don’t know or haven’t discussed so far. Contents are being created by the same people who read them, and communication is getting more and more interactive and bidirectional. It’s not only about spreading out a message; it’s about having your target participate in the creation of the message itself. It’s about listening hard to what your clients have to say… and doing something about it!

Apparently, if you want to sell something you must have common people, unrelated to your company, telling their audience that your products are good. What interest could the guy next door have in recommending the use of a certain product? None. If he says something is good it’s probably because he’s tried it out and thinks that it’s worth every penny. What better credentials? People take for granted that companies will always advertise their brands as the best there is, but are common people going to do the same unless they are really convinced? No way! And that, my friend, is called credibility, one of the most precious assets you could ever have. Viral marketing has never been so within reach, and at the same time, it has never been so complex. As in any promised paradise, social media have some advertising rules that restrict the access to heaven.  Facebook creators, for instance, are still thinking about non-intrusive ways to monetize ads without disturbing their members.

The Fun Factor

We are all tired of boring emails, ugly banners and intrusive pup-ups. Our time and attention have become priceless and we don’t want to be interrupted unless there’s something important to learn or amusing to do. Yes, amusing: this has been called “the fun factor”. Today, when everything is about passion and creativity, fun has become a big element in business marketing strategies. Take Audi as an example. They were launching the latest model of a sports car and thought about making a video that was to be posted on their website. We all know that in the past few years multimedia has become essential for on line marketing campaigns, and that visual and audio stimulus wisely combined can capture anyone’s attention. But instead of posting a common video of the car speeding away on a beautiful highway, Audi went one step further. They captured footage and made it available to their target as unedited material. The objective was having the people who visit their website download this footage into their computers and edit the images and sounds all by themselves. The participants who dared take this challenge were competing against each other and the winning edition was to become the official video of Audi’s latest model. Clever, uh?

And what about B2B?

This has always been my concern. Most marketing conferences are focused on consumers, leaving businesses aside: what people would say, what people would be interested in, what people would buy. What about companies? Can B2B marketing profit from social media as much as B2C? The answer is SOMETIMES and only up to a certain extent. Imagine you are in the syringe manufacture industry. How could you possibly profit from social media, let alone from what we have so joyfully identified as “the fun factor”? Impossible! You ought to focus on more traditional B2B marketing strategies and keep visiting hospitals and doctor offices, handing out samples and doing whatever it is that you do to sell your needles. Of course having a neat and professional-looking website will help you create a favorable image, maybe even find medical communities who have websites on which you can post the benefits of your products. But I just cannot imagine the guy next door posting a comment on his Facebook on how great his experience was the last time he got an injection. This is of course an extreme case, but very real and very common nonetheless.

Social Media for Business to Business

Fortunately, not every industry focused on business to business faces such restrictions. Some of the companies in the B2B marketing sell products and services that can actually be related to fun, spare time and technological interaction. That is at least my case. As mentioned in some previous post, we develop multimedia software to playback movies and music, two of the most popular recreational activities among computer users nowadays. In these cases, how could social media (including Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc.) and “the fun factor” help us boost our sales?

Basically, our sales channels target hardware manufacturers (such as Dell or HP) who can embed our software into their products, offering their clients computers and devices with our solutions pre-installed in their basic pack. Big companies like these sell thousands of units a day, and having a small share of this business would certainly translate into prosperity for us. But why would a company like Toshiba or Sony decide in favor of our products instead of going for the more traditional solutions already swarming around the market? The answer to this question could have many different approaches, some of them being that our products offer quality software ruling out reverse engineering, or that we have come up with a different approach to multimedia with innovative ideas, or that we offer the most cost effective solutions available. All these arguments are valid, but what if we could include a more irrefutable line by telling them that their potential clients just love our software? What if these big companies suddenly realized that in the decision making progress of people buying a computer the fact that our software is “inside” these devices is actually taken into consideration?

There is yet another desired target for our B2B marketing strategy: Software resellers and distributions. It is obvious that the more people talk about our software and the more they want it, the better placement our products are going to have on the resellers’ and distributors’ web shops.

We need to create a virtuous circle in alliance with the final users and we will only be able to achieve it by communicating directly with them. And hence the triumphal entrance of Social Media.

Sales Channels

But, are we really up to this titanic challenge? In my opinion we have no choice. We have to communicate with the people susceptible of using our products to find out what they like, what they think, what they need and, while doing it, make a lot of buzz so the big shots notice our presence and acknowledge our importance. This is where we contact people who blog and twit, especially well recognized experts who prescribe our solutions through social media. Also, this is the moment to encourage people to talk about us using tools such as Facebook and when we stimulate the debate and open an ongoing communication channel.

Sales Channels + Socila Media

And how do we do it? We need to relate our website to the mentioned social media. Placing links to our site is a “must”. We have to be careful in keeping certain coherence between what we tell our prescribers and we offer in our web. People learning about us through our website will want to post comments on our Facebook page and follow our twits. Understanding the process from the other way around, people who follow our twits or post comments on our Facebook wall will need to visit our web page, and so forth.

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SEO becomes one of the key players to achieving such an important task. Contents acquire relevance and people have to be able to find whatever they’re looking in a rapid and efficient way. Emailing campaigns are transformed into interactive experiences where the addressees are invited to interact in playful and cooperative ways. Marketing today is not only about communicating and advertising, it’s about entertaining, and that’s the key.

Hey, long time no see! It’s been over 3 weeks since my last post. Many things have happened, and the truth is that I’ve been very busy and also very sick with the flu. I hate it when I get sick… and then again, who doesn’t!

I’m still working hard to figure out an inexpensive and efficient way of improving our website. Also, I’ve been trying to locate all major bloggers and opinion leaders in the Open Source community so they talk about us… I love my work! Aside from that, there’s been a lot of analysis and dirty work (which I also love, by the way). Got a new Business Development Manager for our company, and he seems to be so the right person for the job. Really hope he manages to introduce our products at a corporate level. We’ll see. Our commercial director seems to be happy with him, so be it.

What else is new? Well, yesterday we decided I was attending the Online Marketing Expo Barcelona.  So, next October the 29th, I will be learning all about innovations and trends in digital marketing, SEO, digital interaction and so forth. Conveniently located (this conference is being held at World Trade Center Barcelona –the place where our offices are), looks like the Online Marketing Expo is going to be an interesting one. I’ll surly write all about it in this space.

Tarde, mal y nunca

Durante los últimos meses, hemos estado trabajando en un cotometraje muy chulo que se titula “Tarde, mal y nunca”. Todavía está en fase de postproducción (algunos detalles de montaje que tenenos que perfeccionar), pero ya hay varios teasers circulando por la red. Dirige mi esposo, yo produzco, y ambos tuvimos la suerte de contar con actores talentosísimos y maravillosos que regalaron su esfuerzo y su tiempo a este pequeño proyecto, además de un equipo técnico fuera de serie, incansable y muy muy profesional. Gracias a todos.

Ya en años anteriores habíamos filmado un par de cortometrajes independientes, pero el resultado de este último es muchísimo más profesional y de verdad esperamos que nos abra las puertas para futuros proyectos.

Los dejo con una probadita de “Tarde, mal y nunca”. Ojalá que lo disfruten.

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Another week has passed in the blink of an eye, so quickly I could cry. So many things to do in so little time!  But let’s stop whining and recapitulate the most important concepts mentioned in the previous post to continue developing more ideas.

First, we defined Facebook as a social network (we could say that it is in fact the social network par excellence) offering a set a software tools available on the Internet that create a space designed to host virtual communities integrated by different individuals who share common interests. We also established that Facebook is more suitable for entertaining than working, and also discussed its advisability for companies willing to create a corporate profile. We mentioned the subject of ‘Influencer Marketing’ and how this could be achieved via Facebook. Finally, we said that in the following post we’d discuss why this is a great tool for small companies, too.

columnasFrom the marketing perspective, we could start by saying that Facebook offers to companies a whole lot more than corporate pages. Its marketing tools for businesses rely on three different foundations: the Facebook Pages (like the examples we mentioned with Aspirine and Coca-Cola), Social Ads, and Statistics.

Let’s analyze these foundations one by one:

1. Facebook Pages: companies can create Facebook pages which can be assimilated by other Facebook users (individual who are potential consumers). This way, such companies can interact directly with these individuals by posting videos, photos, texts, etc. All this movement will later be seen by users on their “News Feed”, which is a very efficient way of boosting viral marketing.

    Needless to say that viral marketing is one of the most appreciated tools marketers have at their disposal, due to its efficiency in reaching the desired audience, its low cost and the fact that it gives credibility.

    2. Social Ads: or simply ‘Social Advertisement’ has been around for years. According to Wikipedia, it ‘represents ad formats that engage the social context of the user viewing the ad. Whereas in traditional, non-social, advertising the ad is targeted based on what it knows about the individual person or the individual page, in social advertising the ad is targeted based on what it knows about the individual user’s social network’.

      In this context, companies with Facebook Pages can benefit from it through actions taken outside the social network that later will generate a series of people who will recommend this company or its products/services to other users. A good example of this could be a company promoting a certain product by organizing an event where they hand out free products to opinion leaders who will later use them, confirm their benefits and spread out the word using Facebook. Either if they comment on their personal Facebook pages or if they enter the company website to write something about how fun the event was, how well the product worked, etc., this comments will appear on the user’s friends’ News Feed, awakening the curiosity of other members in their social network who will immediately relate such product or company with quality, fun, etc.

      3. Statistics: these will measure the ‘buzz level’ that any given product or service has reached among Facebook users. This tool will provide valuable information on how well or how badly our marketing campaigns are working and will allow us to react accordingly and in a timely fashion.

        After reviewing these basic concepts, it is obvious why most of the big companies invest resources in keeping their Facebook accounts, regardless of the number of fans they have. Having a Facebook Page is helpful when they have the right connections and their pages attract the attention of those who actually have an influence over their community. But why should a small company spend time and money in something like that?

        Here some of the reasons:

        1. Opening a Facebook Page is free.
        2. Maintaining the page updated does not consume that much time or resources.
        3. You do not require highly skilled professionals to create and follow up your Facebook Page (anyone can do it).
        4. The more extended your social network is, the stronger your presence will be. You can ask friends, coworkers, colleagues, etc. to join you community and invite others to join it as well.
        5. If it does not work as you expected, you didn’t invest any money, so you don’t lose that much, and the fact that your company has Facebook page will not be negative for the company.

        Well, I think the advantages of having a Facebook Page for companies are palpable. So, my friends, let’s not waste another second and get started! Hope to see your Facebook company profile very soon!