Amazon Kindle Fire: Tablet Product Strategy Done Right

Today Amazon revealed its new Kindle lineup, including a touchscreen E Ink eReader and Amazon’s first color touchscreen tablet, the Kindle Fire. I can’t say I’m surprised. The day the iPad launched, my colleague James McQuivey wrote that Amazon should “go head to head with Apple on a media tablet.” In March of this year, I wrote that “iPad 2 won’t have much competition in 2011, unless it’s from Amazon,” and more recently I published a report outlining the competitive advantages and disadvantages Amazon’s product strategists will face if they launch a tablet.

Looking back at that report, here’s what we got right:

  • Amazon is competing on price, content, and commerce. The Kindle Fire, a 7-inch Wi-Fi only device, will retail for $199—less than half the price of the iPad, less than the 7-inch Barnes & Noble Nook Color, BlackBerry Playbook, and HTC Flyer. As I predicted, Amazon is indeed drawing on all its content and commerce assets including video, music, games, as well as magazines, apps, and services—the Kindle Fire comes with a 30-day free subscription to Amazon Prime, and a pre-installed Amazon shopping app. It also features a spiffy custom-built browser, called Amazon Silk, which interfaces with EC2, Amazon’s cloud server, to optimize performance. (Meaning: it’s really fast.)
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The Future Of Digital Media Buying . . . Is Now! Embrace Programmatic Buying To Increase Efficiency And Reduce Waste

 

As anyone who reads my research knows, I am the resident display ad technology geek on the Interactive Marketing team. I am fascinated by all things acronym-related, from DSPs to DMPs to RTB. And my experience co-launching Razorfish’s “agency trading desk,” ATOM Systems, in 2008 taught me a lot about what matters — and what doesn’t — in rolling out an audience-centric programmatic buying strategy, and what steps to take to set clients up for success.

Well, I thought it was time to share this story in my new report, The Future Of Digital Media BuyingIt explores how digital media buying is dramatically transforming and outlines the steps marketers must take to succeed in this new digital media buying world.

The long and short: laser-focused, programmatic media buying is now a reality and that’s a good thing for you. Here’s what’s driving the opportunity:

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Facebook Changes The Social Networking Game . . . Again

If there’s one thing Facebook is not afraid of, it’s change. Today at its annual F8 conference Facebook announced some dramatic changes to its platform. But this time it’s different. Why? Because the big social networks (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and now Google) have traditionally battled over the social graph – your relationships in the digital world and how to help build and connect them, but now Facebook is laying claim to your life. Through its new Timeline feature that recaps in one fell swoop everything you’ve ever posted and lets you feature the highlights, along with its new apps that let you discover and  share real-time experiences like watching movies and listening to music, Facebook is changing the social networking game. Of course you could argue that it was already acting as the online identity for many people, but this takes it to a whole new level.

This could also open up some big doors to marketers such as:

  • Word of mouth on steroids. As the ability to share experiences matures, companies that are effective in getting influentials to speak on their behalf will succeed more. This will make two key skills even that much more important in the future: 1) providing great product experiences that people will share; and 2) getting customers to become advocates who share on your behalf over the long term.
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How Marketing Mix Modeling Is Adapting To New Technologies And A Heightened Demand For Marketing Accountability

Marketing mix modeling solutions have been around for quite some time, providing marketers in several key categories with complex statistical models that aim to find the correlation between past marketing activities and business outcomes, like sales or market share.

However this space has recently seen significant changes, due to a few specific dynamics:

  • The proliferation of digital and social media with increasing importance in the marketing mix.
  • Marketers' increased demand for tools that are not only able to deliver insights on past campaigns but also able to give forward-looking recommendations on how to improve marketing return on investment (ROI) in the future.
  • The rising role that sophisticated software plays in integrating the ever-growing number of data streams and in enabling complex analysis to be navigated and customized via powerful graphic user interfaces.

To help navigate this complex and highly relevant space for senior marketers, our research team has published the first Forrester Wave™ for vendors in the marketing mix modeling space. We screened more than 30 vendors, shortlisted six that we consider to be the key players in this very fragmented market, and ranked them according to more than 40 different criteria. The evaluation uncovered a market in which:

  • MarketShare, Marketing Management Analytics, and ThinkVine lead the pack.
  • SymphonyIRI is a Leader but lacks collaborative functionalitites.
  • Marketing Analytics and Ninah are competitive Strong Performers.
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Why Don't European Marketers Spend More On Social Media?

European marketers are as excited about social media today as ever before. In fact, according to our annual survey, three-quarters of interactive marketers in Europe either already use social media or plan to use it by the end of 2011 – and they expect social media marketing to grow in effectiveness more than any other online or offline marketing channel in the coming years. But there’s a problem: European marketers still aren’t spending very much on social programs. In fact, a quarter of the marketers in our survey plan to spend less than €35,000 on social media this year – and many of the rest won’t spend much more than that. And most European marketers said they had no plans to increase their social media budget this year compared to last.

I think this lack of spending is both a symptom, and a cause, of problems inherent in how European marketers use social media:

  • It’s a cause, because the resources aren’t there. One of the biggest problems social media marketers face right now is a lack of resources. When it comes to social media they have trouble finding budget, staff, time, and even good help from their agencies. And that actually makes a lot of companies afraid of success. You’d be surprised how often I hear statements like "I want to start a Facebook page, but what if it takes off? I don’t have the budget to staff it full time!" When marketers are afraid of success, rather than failure, then you know you’ve got a problem.
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Gamification Q&A — Let's Play!

Twitter is a great platform for crowd-sourcing ideas and questions around certain topics. That's why I'll be hosting the next #IMChat this Tuesday, September 20th at 11:00 a.m. PT on gamification. We published our first report on the topic this week and so far we've received some great feedback from our peers and clients. To keep the momentum, we've come up with 5 questions to help fuel an interactive dialogue next week. We've also invited some leading vendors in the space to participate in the discussion, and I'll be joined by my team and researcher Jennifer Wise.  The discussion will help to shape upcoming research on the topic and gather some best practices.  

Here are the questions we'll be asking next week:

  • Have you gamified any of your marketing strategies?  If not, do you plan to in the next 3-6 months?
  • Why do you think gamification is the hot buzzword of late? What’s driving it?
  • Do you think that gamification is here to stay? Or are you skeptical about results?
  • For those of you who have tried gamification — did you see an increase in engagement? How much?
  • Do you think that social media is a key element of gamification?

Have any other questions about gamification?  Tweet me @shaw_smith2 and let's chat. 

The Global Mainstreaming Of Smartphones

Thanks to the phenomenal popularity of Apple’s iPhone and Android’s growing traction — more than 550,000 Android devices are activated each day — many product strategists tend to assume that smartphones are a mass-market phenomenon.

The reality is that in a global population with more than 5 billion subscriptions, smartphones are still niche. However, in the US and some European countries, smartphone penetration is racing past 25%; smartphones are going mainstream, albeit at a varying pace across the globe.

Consumer product strategists should anticipate the consequences of moving from a smartphone target audience of early adopters to one that is more mainstream.

When targeting the second wave of smartphone users, we believe strategists should: 

  • Design specific mobile products by better understanding new smartphone owners. New segments of smartphone owners will emerge, with a much more diverse profile than the first wave of smartphone early adopters. One way to obtain more detailed information about these consumers is to use the basic connectivity of the smartphone to establish the beginnings of a digital customer relationship. The promise of ongoing product upgrades is one incentive that may convince these new customers to share their information, but free content such as an application is more likely to win their confidence.
  • Carefully monitor new smartphone owners’ usage. There is always a huge gap between the features available on a smartphone and the actual use of these features. It is critical to constantly analyze how smartphone users are using their devices; this will allow strategists to optimize the road maps not only for new devices but also for those products and services to be delivered to the second wave of smartphone users. 
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CMO Best Practices For Hiring And Retaining Digital Talent

I’m currently working on a report around how to hire and retain good digital talent. So the CMO panel featuring Brian Lauber of OneAmerica, Jared Blank of Tommy Hilfiger, and Chris Krohn of Restaurant.com that addressed hiring and staffing was music to my ears.  A few takeaways on how to nurture your digital employees:

 *Create an emotional connection between employees and your brand. This helps to brand your company externally. OneAmerica CMO Brian Lauber finds that “Your employees are your best branding.  He tells every single employee that they are the brand. “I tell them to look like it, act like it, talk like it.” Every day. In everything they do.

 *Don’t rely on HR to do everything alone. Creating a strong digital organization isn’t just about having good recruiters. It’s about creating a culture that employees feel part of and proud of. And this lands on managers to create. Chris Krohn of Restaurant.com says his role has two primary components: 1) Make sure the marketing strategy is clear; 2) Make sure we have the right people doing the right things. 

*Create benefits beyond financial compensation. Tommy Hilfiger employees get discounts off of clothes. And buyers of media and of clothes get 10% of their regular budgets to play with. “We want people who are passionate about clothes.  And about our clothes. So we give them a reason to buy our things for themselves.  And we make them accountable for 90% of their budget.  The other 10% they can spend on whatever they think is cool.”

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Best Buy CTO Shares How Marketing And IT Should Collaborate

I’m co-presenting next week at Forrester’s first-ever CIO/CMO Forum with my colleague Craig Symons, a VP and Principal Analyst from Forrester’s IT client group.  We’re hosting a discussion around how to budget for marketing technology purchases. So it was perfect to hear Robert Stephens, the CTO of Best Buy, talk at the Exact Target Connections Conference about the role he plays in Best Buy’s marketing innovations. Stephens is the technology mastermind behind all of Best Buy’s industry-leading efforts like Twelpforce — its Twitter-based customer service organization.  Here are a few sound bites from Stephens’ presentation: 

“My job is to transform trends into reality for us.”  Stephens talked about his close relationship with Barry Judge, Best Buy’s CMO.  They meet regularly to swap ideas and co-support innovations. And Stephens doesn’t view any imbalance in the “power” either of them has over Best Buy decisions.  He’s actually come up with his own share of “marketing” ideas; for example, he came up with the Geek Squad in his lean college years. In his words, “When you don’t have any money, everything is marketing.”  I think this perspective makes sense even when firms *do* have money. What if every employee — including IT ones — thought about all of their moves as marketing ones?  That is ways to create a product, culture, and experience that promotes your firm above all others. 

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Making Connections Through Exact Target

I just spent the first part of the week at the Exact Target Connections Event. What a top-notch conference. 

  • 3,000 attendees
  • Assiduous attention to detail
  • Inspiring and fun speakers including a presentation from Aron Ralston whose survival story was retold in the movie 127 Hours
  • And terrific industry content – I’ll post the lessons I learned at the event in my next few posts. 
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