Friday, December 4, 2009

Lifetime Social Value, How Sony Screwed the Pooch

About a year after I started dating my girlfriend, who is now my Fiancee, she needed a new laptop. I helped her do the research and suggested a Sony laptop. Two months after it went out of warranty, the motherboard died. This was a well known issue at the time and was all over their website. Elaine called Sony, but they wouldn't budge and would only offer an unreasonable fee of over $600 to fix the problem. During this time, laptop prices had gone down and this fee made no economic sense.

I felt horrible about it. My family has been life long Sony bigots. Our first color TV was a Sony and we've had a strong preference for Sony products ever since including desktops, laptops, DVD players, stereos, Walkmen, clock radios, etc..

Not only had Elaine bought the laptop I recommended, she recommended Sony to several other people some of whom also bought.

Elaine resolved to never buy another Sony product ever again. .....This is where the story gets interesting from a marketing standpoint. Every time I suggest buying a new product that happens to be Sony, I get brow beaten to death. Elaine also tells anyone that will listen that she'll never buy a Sony product again. The result of all this Sony dogma is that I haven't bought another Sony product since Elaine's laptop failed two years ago.

It's a real shame for Sony too. We are both in the information technology industry and to say we are heavy consumers of technology would be an understatement. To give you some insight, Elaine is willingly accompanying me to CES this January for the second time since we've been going out, and both trips were personal and had nothing to do with our jobs. I believe we are the ideal consumers for an electronics company...early adopters who generally get asked by our friends, both male and female, what models of popular electronics they should buy.

We really aren't gamers (except for Elaine's new for an early Christmas present Nintendo Wii). However, tonight I told Elaine that I wanted to get a Sony PS3 because after comparison shopping, it looks like a very credible Blueray player that will be easily upgradable for some time to come. The first words out of Elaine's mouth were: "I am not paying for that." I would have never thought to ask her to contribute to my pursuit of 1080p (Blueray resolution), but she went on breathing Sony fire and damnation for several minutes more.

Effectively because Sony had no concept of how connected Elaine was to so many tech consumers, Sony screwed themselves by not fixing a known defect with Elaine's laptop. She can't help but badger me into not buying their products which compelled me to write this blog entry as an interesting marketing issue.

This story begins before the heavy use of the type of social media that will now see this story go from my marketing blog to my Twitter account and then on to my Facebook account automatically.

From a new marketing angle, this story made me think of two principles:

1. The Perpetual Profile - Businesses don't spend enough time profiling customers after they buy. We know we want them to buy again, so if they spend a few thousand dollars with us, shouldn't we figure out who they are? Elaine is a Technology Development VP, spent $2,000 on our laptop and lives with Ken who loves(ed) Sony. Perpetually profiling people who spend bigger dollars with us would be a necessary step to realize the theoretical lifetime value we all strive to achieve.

2. Poor Product Support Judgement Calls in the Social Era will Kill Brands - Effectively, some unimpowered support rep in the bowels of Sony effectively ruined my lifetime relationship and value for Sony and I am not even the one that had the direct issue.

Both these points speak to the need to get much smarter about how we deal with our customers and increasingly the web of people they influence and those who influence them. The good news is that for the products we like, we will give away this information freely. Everything Sony needed to know to alert them, perhaps electronically, that screwing up this issue would be a costly landmine for them was there for the taking.

Sony, I think you lost your opportunity to be our One and Only, but maybe there's still hope to get your act together and save a few more people like me.

The lesson for most companies is that your installed base matters. In fact they are the engine of your growth which is now amplified positively and negatively in the social era. Fail to identify or ignore those who have been your biggest or most loyal customers and deeply suffer the consequences. We used to say that those who had a bad experience told 10 others. This may be a more modern case, but I think it is the shape of things to come. So we are going to have to revise the phrase.

People who know people who've had a bad experience tell thousands of others. (via social media).

The good news, Sony, is that there is a short window to learn from your mistakes. The reverberating effect of Social Media is well documented, but its impact is really just revving up. Act fast and my second LCD TV may not be another Samsung.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This is How We Do It: Social Media at Oracle

Hey. Here's an interview I just did at Oracle OpenWorld 09 on our social media efforts at Oracle. Just advance the stream to about 31 minutes and 20 seconds.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When Reality Does Not Meet Hype: AT&T + iPhone Probably the Worst Customer Experience I've Ever Had

I know we are all supposed to love these little slippery shiny plastic boxes specifically engineered to drop out of you hand, with batteries and memory that can't be upgraded giving you yet another reason to pay Apple more money.

I've resisted for some time. I was actually given one that I gave away without using it as it didn't have the features I use most often, notably MMS and Bluetooth Stereo. When the newest one launched, I did a bit of research online and decided I'd take the plunge despite my issues with its purposely designed obsolescence.

Unfortunately the experience of trying to get one ordered and working has probably been the worst consumer experience I have ever suffered through. The commercials make it look so easy, and I was actually looking forward to the experience. I had no idea how far from reality the actual consumer experience is.

When the 3Gs came out, I didn't try to rush out and get one. I waited a couple of weeks for the early hiccups to work themselves out and inventory to be replenished. I guess I didn't wait long enough.

About a week ago, I went to an AT&T store in the heart of the financial district of San Francisco. They didn't have any and directed me to the Apple store, but said that only a couple of people they sent there had been successful in getting one.

I decided to order one online through my company. The first order failed for some strange reason after I submitted it through the AT&T Premier site. After calling my bank to make sure I wasn't charged, I processed the order again. It launched a workflow inside my company that showed that service for the year would be almost $1,000. That really is a lot of money, but I use a cell phone a lot for work and also need to demo some of the applications the development group I work with has built for the iPhone.

The phone arrived on Friday. I've been an AT&T customer for many years so this was an upgrade. I was supposed to call a number to process the order. The recording told me that the automatic processing system was down. I waited on hold 30 minutes, and hour, and 30 minutes again and never got through. The last time, AT&T simply hung up. The next time I called they said the "Premier" support would not be open until Monday. One more call dumped me into a voicemail system. I gave up and decided to go to the Apple store.

A portly guy in a giant orange T-shirt with those oversized earings that permanently distort your ear lobes insists that to activate the phone, I just needed to plug it into iTunes. I knew this was rubbish so I pressed some more. "Oh activation, for that you need to go to the AT&T store. I don't know what their hours are though."

I trundle down to the AT&T Store and of course it is closed. I give up and decide I will return the next morning to see what they can do.

At the AT&T store, another forcefully insistent but clearly ignorant employee tells me I need to take the sim card out of my existing phone and put it in the new iPhone. He is adamant that there is no sim card in the new phone. I tell him that certainly AT&T ships a sim card in a phone they are upgrading. He pops it open and out drops a sim card. Having now splayed my phone open, he reassembles it and attempts to activate on his system. He then tells me this is a "Premier" account and thus he can't do anything. I ask him if he can return the phone. Yes, as it turns out, that is the one thing he can do and in this matter he actually seemed eager to help.

I left with my now 24 hour old brick resolving to give up until Monday for another hour or more on the phone.

It is very clear that this undynamic duo needs a little remedial marketing.....

EXPECTATION - Don't set the bar ridiculously high in your ads and commercials if your process is shit. Under promise and try to over deliver.

ALERT SALES - It's in excusable after 3 releases of the product that probably one of the most heavily trafficked Apple stores in the heart of San Francisco doesn't know the process for activating a phone or the hours of the AT&T Store.

SEGMENTATION - "Premier" should not mean an invitation to traipse around San Francisco or climb through the phone tree to get crapped on. I work at one of the largest companies in the world. We spend a lot on voice and data communications because these services are vital to our business. We do have choices though at the employee level and guess what we talk...and blog. We want our company to get good value and we want good service ourselves. It's not a surprise that Apple is blowing it in the corporate market, but AT&T? You should really be ashamed of yourselves. I suggest you work on making Premier actually Premier. And Apple, come on. Even if you think it is cool to ignore the corporate market, at least you could recognize that if the iPhone is the supposed gateway drug to your other products, and someone buys the most expensive version of that product, they probably expect a decent introduction to your world.

EAT HUMBLE PIE - At both stores I sensed a great degree of smugness. Employees who insisted they knew what they were doing when they didn't have a clue. It's very clear this partnership on its third try still has many issues. When I tell you I've been on hold for more than two hours don't brashly insist that you know how to fix my problem only to send me away with nothing. Perhaps this goes back to expectation, but you can't just hire a guy with a bone through his earlobe to show the world you are different you actually have to be different.

It's takes a lot for me to sprint home two miles from the center of San Francisco to crank out such a blog entry. I am way beyond irritated with the myriad of incompetent processes and people I have encountered at this point.

I can assure you, that the only thing that will keep me from talking about this pathetic display forever will be an act of service recovery befitting the crime of the time I've been forced to waste. Apple & AT&T, if someone in your headquarters is listening, unlike your employees in your stores, I plan to waste just one more hour on Monday trying to get this phone to work. After which I will take advantage of evidently the only thing you have collectively (and oddly) mastered - the process of giving my money back.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Extra Hurdle for Marketing Through Social Media: You Gotta Make 'em Feel

So we've been chatting recently with a vendor, Corporate Visions. They follow the

approach that a message that sticks is one that's wrapped in emotion. It's amazing to see when this technique is executed well. This video that a friend pointed me to is not new new, in fact 150k plus people have already seen it. But I think the folks at (actually the agency they hired) really nailed this approach.

It's interesting to note how intertwined the notion of making a message stick, something good salespeople have known how to do forever, and our expectations associated with new and social media.

Clearly we all want to feel something, and we all have very high expectations of social media in this regard. I think this notion is perhaps an extension of my last post, The Importance of Being Earnest.

So....I now have a request.

Please add comments to this blog with links to messages that you think were made to stick - messages wrapped in emotion. I wanna see what you got.

Go ahead, try to make me cry.... or laugh. Actually, I have a strong preference for laughing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Importance of Being Earnest in Social Media; or What Facebook and Twitter Should Do to Save Themselves from Becoming Irrelevant

So who hates their personal e-mail inbox? I do! Yahoo has just become complete spam. I have maxed out the number of filters on the paid account, tagged every possible item that even remotely looks like spam as spam and yet it keeps coming.

According to 183 Billion e-mail messages are sent per day. I would give them a shout out, but it looks like this number is from 2007. Also they didn't give me an answer to the second half of my question for my 99 cent text message investment which was - how much of this is spam? Maybe the KGB just doesn't know. Afterall, they lost some of their best spooks to capitalism after the iron curtain fell.

Well wikipedia does and it is free! Wikipedia led me to this reference from the New York Times. Spamalot? Why yes we do. 94% of the time as it turns out. So approximately 2,000,000 e-mail messages are sent every second of every day and 1,880,000 are pure crap that we don't want.

My financee's brother actually works at the post office. He told me that the only thing that is really keeping them alive is junk mail. In fact, like e-mail it is the bulk of what they move these days. I got on the USPS' marketers spam list and they send me all sorts of paper materials telling me how green they are. They actually sent me a large express mail envelope to tell me they weren't going to be sending me the T-shirt they offered me. That they sent later in another large package, in the wrong size of course. Forget about solar power and hydrogen cars. It seems the greenist thing the US Government could do is close the Post Office. (Sorry future brother-in-law. I'll help you bounce pack with a new startup that sells spam filters on late night infomercials using Swedish models that austensibly made the stuff...oops that one has been done Remind me to stop staying up to watch Craig Ferguson.)

So where am I going with this? Well the Post Office is dying a slow death at a rate of one cent price hikes a year and service cutbacks until we all give up. E-mail is almost dead on arrival. Myspace and Friendster lost their mojo before they even tried to stretch to reach my demographic. What do they all have in common? They are filled with crap!

Recently I've been experimenting with feeding content to Twitter. (see The Need for Feed). I am trying to use the technique for good - serving up interesting data sources that people can actually use. I have become painfully aware of the potential to use these techniques for evil though. Last week two guys I went to high school with both crapped in the walled garden that is supposed to be my Facebook account on the same day. They both posted some BS about this new energy drink called efusjon. It's a multi-level marketing company selling some acai berry sugar water. Supposed to save your life not just dangerously elevate your sugar levels and rot your teeth. Apparently part of their "viral" marketing was to get some dudes from my high school to spam me with their fake musings about this garbage.

There you have it. The beginning of the end. One day you'll nod knowingly when your using instead.

Attention all entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley - this is your shining opportunity. Build us a social communication platform that keeps this crap out! Of course we need to buy things to keep whatever it is we are talking about afloat, but can't you at least try to address our interests? If Facebook did this they would know that the only acai berry I consume is made into Pinkberry style frozen yogurt. That's unrealistically specific for the time being, but you get my point.

So what does it mean to be earnest in Social media? It means making a college try to be relevant. Sure we can't all possibly keep up with the information demands of the hungry new communication mediums alone, but we have to try to keep content flowing that is at least interesting to our audience.

I am going to offer up The Cocktail Party Rule for Social Media.

If it is not a reasonable leap from the context or the topic in a group chat at a cocktail party, don't go there.

I send a link to this blog to our corporate Twitter account. I work at Oracle Corporation and market our CRM solutions. I think it is a reasonable leap that someone interested in CRM may be wrestling with the same new marketing concepts I blog about.

On the other hand, if a group of guys is gathered around the punch bowl, Mojito vat, beer tub, or Franzia box (depending on what kind of cocktail party you are having) talking about whether the Palm Pre has a snowball's chance in hell of tarnishing Apple's shine, you don't bring up the fact that your wife, the tennis coach just started selling some acai berry fizzy water out of her trunk.

It's a nonsequitor and it is annoying. It's worse than annoying in fact. It's that feeling of trepidation every time you open up your Yahoo inbox or your mailbox for that matter.

So what does this all mean? The power is in your hands. It's in all of our hands. Just use the The Cocktail Party Rule for Social Media and we'll all be fine, and we won't stop having to change communication mediums every 6-12 months. ....or will we?

See you on Farcebluch.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Need for Feed: RSS & Twitter, Why They May be Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

The challenge with all things social media is keeping them up-to-date. Blogs can be a serious drain as they beg for content like Audrey in 'Little Shop of Horrors.' If you are using Twitter to communicate with your network and push relevant content, you may be experiencing the same thing. Even keeping up with 140 character posts can be a grind.

Recently, I've started experimenting with pushing some of the content that I feel is most relevant to the people I interact with as well as the public at large. It's been fun to watch the reactions and the results. is a feed I set up that aggregates what I consider to be the best CRM Bloggers out there. You'll note that I have 33 followers in just a week without even trying. The feed of this twitter handle in turn feeds one of our Netvibes pages. Entropy yes, but we are serving up content at different potential access points for different users.

I also set up a fun feed of Odd News which I love to read while on the bus. It started on @pulverman on Twitter and is now featured on @OddNewsNetwork. @pulverman will now be an aggregation of the top Marketing 2.0 blogs starting tomorrow as well as my shorter musings on the world of Marketing 2.0. From the same feed as OddNewsNetwork I select one post at random once a day and feed my personal Twitter feed, @bolobao. This in turn updates Facebook providing a bit of fun for friends to see and comment on.

On slow news days, I know that at least the feeds I've set up are keeping various sites up-to-date with interesting content.

These are early days in my feed experiments, but I imagine marketers everywhere are struggling with these same issues.

Like a good blog post, I think in the final analysis, what you chose to feed to your social marketing efforts like what you post on your blog will be judged on relevance. If it is relevant - aggregated feeds crafted with the love and personality you apply to a post - it will be appreciated.

I'll no doubt keep tuning my feeds to make them ever more relevant and interesting. I just sent my Yelp reviews to my personal Twitter (@bolobao) and our Delicious posts ( to our work Twitter account (@OracleCRM). Perhaps RSS and Twitter aren't quite as cozy at PB&J yet, but I would like to submit that we all have the need for feed, even newspapers, making this combo perhaps your own personal Associated Press.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Unicorn Factor @ The Twitter Conference

140, The Twitter Conference just ended - a conference focused on the tools and trends of the real time web . We were there to see what we could leverage immediately in our marketing efforts. One of the presenters revealed the perfect quote originally served up as a tweet to sum up much of the content at events like this - 'All Unicorn, No Cupcake.' We got some Cupcake nonetheless, taking away a few gems.

Here's a fun fact from the conference. Did you know that there are now 10 thousand apps leveraging the Twitter API? Lots of these utilities and their founders made an appearance at the show. Very inspirational. Literally one guy not in a garage, but living above the garage in many cases. The guy next to me today had a very cool venture going that he was driving in his free time when he is not working at an mid-west farm equipment manufacturer. Seeing the entrepreneurial energy and the great utilities in progress is clearly not the source of my comment above, as I think many of these folks are delivering real Cupcake.

The Unicorn part of the reference relates more to some of the panelist consultants, conference groupies, and technology observers. No point calling him out here, but a well known social media observer told the audience that people are just going to need to get better at creating filters . Pure Unicorn. This from a guy who has 5 computers to geek out with wallstreet style while tracking the social web. Can you imagine joe six pack trying to promote his lawn fertilizer business with the same rig? Absolutely not.

There was also a ton navel gazing musings on the future from the panel jockies who aren't sure if they put the clothes in the dryer before boarding the flight to Mountain View. The exception to this was was Jason Calacanis who gave an excellent view of the likely future of Twitter and the real time web complete with possible screen mockups. He offered real justifications and potential business models for what he proposed. The rule, was unfortunately the folks from Twitter by providing just vague notions of where they are headed and really demonstrating for all that the business that they created has clearly gotten away from them.

In the battle of Cupcake vs. Unicorns though, Cupcake did win out in the passion and brilliant ideas of the developers that showed their wares. Search, analytics, collaboration, etc. The Unicorns occasionally offered value too when they pointed to the best of these utilities like, an elegant and simple way check the sentiment of posts for your brand.

Bottom line. The real time web is here. Time for all marketers to figure it out. Time spent waiting to figure out if Twitter is going to make it or come up with a business model is time wasted. The notion of needing to make sense of real time data from customers, employees, friends and enemies not to mention your car, house, and maybe even a pet or two is happening whether we like the notion or not. Learning to converse in this new world takes time, so it is best to start now.

I guarantee there will be a real time web solution without the need for a frequent Fail Whale in our near future. True, the utilities out there are numerous, sometimes shaky betas, and arguably all features vs. complete applications. Having said that, there are a lot of brilliant ideas to get your head around like location centric twittering, real time integrations with enterprise apps, and tweets that are automatically triggered and trigger other social interactions automatically. whew.

My advice for businesses......chances are your Twitter "phone" is already ringing. Answer it and begin unravelling how to leverage the Real Time web for your company.

First assignment - figure out what a # tag is and peruse the details from this Twitter conference using the tag #140tc. I'll let you apply your own Cupcake filter.