Penny Arcade's Influence On Tech Products Versus Forrester Research

Your perpetually-connected customers are seeking information from a much broader range of sources than ever before. If you just work with the same traditional influencers you have for years — industry analysts and mainstream media — your message risks getting lost in a sea of noise.  Instead, leading marketers are identifying key online influencers for their products and marketing to them specifically.  These influencers are highly specific, and are not the same for any two products or solutions, or even two different audiences of a single product. 

The value of reaching out to a non-traditional list of influencers was illustrated this week by Microsoft’s marketing campaign for the new Surface Pro. 

Mike “Gabe” Krahulik is the author of the long-running Penny Arcade, a popular webcomic about video game culture.  He said on Twitter he was “interested in the Surface Pro,” and due to the target audience and popularity of his comic, Microsoft sent him a demo unit.  Gabe’s not a technology journalist; he’s not an industry analyst; he’s just someone with a passionate and tech-savvy following — a following which includes perpetually-connected customers who influence technology purchasing.

What happened next? Gabe wrote a full-length, relatively positive, review of the Surface Pro and its applications for media professionals that was not only read by his audience, but became a top link on TechMeme, a tech news aggregator.

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Smart Move: Facebook buys Atlas

Facebook just announced that it's buying marketer-side adserver Atlas from Microsoft. I think it's a great move.

It's always been clear that for Facebook to realize its potential, the company would have to start powering advertising beyond its own site. Facebook has collected an incredible amount of data about people's affinities and preferences, but it lacks the brand ad units to help marketers effectively leverage that data. Although the statement announcing the deal focused on Atlas' measurement tools rather than its ad targeting technology, we expect that Atlas will soon be using Facebook's data to target sponsorships, in-stream ads, and other rich ad formats across the entire Web — and that's big news. The question now is how quickly and successfully Facebook can integrate its data with Atlas' tools, and whether they can avoid a privacy backlash as they do so. History suggests they'll struggle on both counts.

If you want to hear more about how Facebook can turn its affinity data into something that's useful for marketers, stop by my SXSW session, Affinity, Intent & The War For Marketing Dollars, at 5 p.m. on March 10 at the Four Seasons.

Brand as publisher or brand as newsroom? My POV: Brand As Storyteller.

Oreo’s recent quick-thinking “Dunk In the Dark” response to the power outage at this year’s Super Bowl put the spotlight on real-time branded content and reinvigorated the discussion about how brands need to become not just publishers but newsrooms. What’s driving this need? Today’s perpetually-connected consumers — 42% of US online adults and 37% in Europe — can engage brands at any place, any time, and at any velocity. Because of this, the sheer volume of creative content that brands must now churn out is forcing marketers and agencies to reexamine how they think about — and how they resource for — content. This challenge is not to be underestimated. But before you think about scale and real-time response, think about the story you want to tell to create brand advantage. To do this well, you need to first be true to yourself, second know your audience, and then engage your customers with a good story:

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Back From Yet Another Pilgrimage To Mobile's Mecca

 

After experiencing some of the most exhausting days in the life of a “mobile” analyst, I am back from Barcelona. I shared some thoughts before the event started (see here), but here are my key takeaways from the 2013 event. I saw:

  • Fewer high-end smartphones. Gone are the days when handset makers announced their flagship devices in Barcelona. In a communication ripped from Apple’s playbook, Samsung announced a press conference for the likely launch of the Galaxy S4 on March 14. Among the most interesting devices from a price/technology standpoint were the Huawei Ascend P2 and some of the LG handsets. 
  • More and more “phablets” and tablets. In the “phablet” category — I prefer to call them supersized smartphones — a special mention goes to the LG Optimus Pro. Numerous tablets were announced, including the Sony XPeria Tablet Z for $499, three Android Lenovo tablets, and the HP Slate 7 — an Android tablet for business users at only $169. These types of announcements are new for MWC, highlighting the evolution of personal computing and the growing importance of the screen size.
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MWC 2013: More Global And More Disruptive Than Ever Before

It’s that time of the year: the pilgrimage to the Mobile Mecca, Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona. This is my 10th pilgrimage in a row and, needless to say, the event has changed tremendously over the past few years – from 3GSM in Cannes to the new venue in Barcelona this year. While CTIA is still very US-centric and CES is still a lot about TVs, MWC is really the only global mobile event with a strong presence of operators and handset manufacturers from all over the world. Every year the show becomes not only more global, but also more open to new categories of players — such as advertisers and developers — willing to make the most of mobile technologies, and more open to connected devices that go far beyond the traditional definition of a mobile phone. Markets are colliding and mobile innovation is at the center of these upheavals. MWC used to be a telecom show focusing mainly on mobile technologies, but the event is now bringing together people from every industry.

In the light of today’s first announcements, here is my take on how to put in perspective the announcements to be made at MWC 2013 in the coming days:

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You Get Out Of Your Community What You Put Into It.

For the first time since I started my analyst role at Forrester in 2011, community conversations have surpassed social media conversations during my client meetings. Online communities and social networks have been around for many years, so why are communities such a "hot" topic among marketers? These days it is rare to find a company who has not either launched their own customer community, published a fan page on Facebook, or created a business profile on LinkedIn. These tactics are not new, so why the increased interest? I believe that marketers are finally beginning to absorb the fact that their perpetually connected customers frequently tap into online communities. Their customers frequent communities at each stage of their customer life cycle to gather information and connect with others. Today, marketers know that they can use online communities to reach, deepen engagement, and establish relationships with customers. In addition, marketers have a stronger case to increase investment in their community strategies since there is growing evidence that deploying a customer community can lead to positive ROI through support call deflection, increased leads, and stronger engagement with brand advocates. 

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You Get Out Of Your Community What You Put Into It.

For the first time since I started my analyst role at Forrester in 2011, community conversations have surpassed social media conversations during my client meetings. Online communities and social networks have been around for many years, so why are communities such a "hot" topic among marketers? These days it is rare to find a company who has not either launched their own customer community, published a fan page on Facebook, or created a business profile on LinkedIn. These tactics are not new, so why the increased interest? I believe that marketers are finally beginning to absorb the fact that their perpetually connected customers frequently tap into online communities. Their customers frequent communities at each stage of their customer life cycle to gather information and connect with others. Today, marketers know that they can use online communities to reach, deepen engagement, and establish relationships with customers. In addition, marketers have a stronger case to increase investment in their community strategies since there is growing evidence that deploying a customer community can lead to positive ROI through support call deflection, increased leads, and stronger engagement with brand advocates. 

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MOVE BEYOND THE CAMPAIGN

Standing in an aisle of a big box retailer, I bought a new electric shaver from a competing retailer’s online store. The store’s shaving display reminded me that my razor was dying. Not knowing which to choose, I twitched for my iPhone, scanned a barcode, read several reviews, explored competing products, found the best price, and ordered it with free shipping. I saved $75 over the same model I could have purchased then and there.

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It Is Time To Differentiate Your Tablet Approach

If you still believe that tablets are merely a fad or just a way to engage more affluent early adopters in their 30s or 40s, you need to change your mind — now. 

According to our latest Technographics® data, European tablet ownership is highest among 18- to 24-year-old online users — 25% of them own one! 2012 saw a surge in the popularity of tablets among this age group. Why? As with any technology that’s reaching critical mass, the profile of its adopters evolves over time — and it will continue to do so. 

With double-digit growth in tablet uptake across Western Europe in 2012, about one in seven online Europeans now owns a tablet. And with further double-digit growth expected in the years ahead, tablets are changing the consumer technology landscape. According to the Forrester Research World Tablet Adoption Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global), 55% of European online consumers will own a tablet by the end of 2017.

Tablet owners are not precious about their devices: Of those that have a spouse/partner, 63% share their tablet with them; one-third of parents share their tablet with their children. This makes tablets a far more social device than smartphones, which are much more personal and intimate.

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What's Missing From The New Digital Classroom?

View this post as it appears on ReadWrite.com

As part of my research at Forrester, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know companies developing technology solutions for K-12 and higher education. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Coursera and Udacity give students around the world access to high-quality courses for free or at a fraction of the cost of a traditional university. Platforms like InklingKno, and CourseSmart make distributing, purchasing, and consuming digital textbooks more convenient and engaging. Supplemental content sources like Khan Academy and TenMarks give students resources to learn at their own pace.

It’s worth thinking seriously about how these solutions will change the nature of education. Many of the changes are positive. We expand access to education across the globe. At the same time we increase scale, we also enable more individualized, self-paced learning, presumably at a reduced cost. For example, millions of students can dissect a cow’s eye in a virtual biology lab without the incremental cost of buying more cow’s eyes or scalpels or formaldehyde - and they could do it again if they miss something the first time. Through analytics embedded in texts, apps, and diagnostic tools, teachers will get real-time feedback and can make more-informed decisions about how to teach.

Education ≠ Screen Time

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