Friday, November 30, 2007

Open Season on Political Logos: Republicans

On Wednesday, I posted my opinion on the logos being used by the Democratic presidential candidates. In the interest of providing fair and balanced opinionated marketing, here goes for the Republicans (shown in alphabetical order, by last name).


Nice. I like the type face, the simple design, and lucky Rudy he's a household, first-name word.

Pres - Rudy2

And not to make this all about Rudy, but I really love this one which is such a nice play on the 'I Love NY' campaign, which is one of the most brilliant and iconic ever.


Well, Mike is mixing it up a bit here, and he's being a little gutsy with the use of the yellow, but I'm not wild about this. I do think the flag-ness is well done. I probably would have liked this one better with white lettering.


And not to make this all about Huckabee, but how's about this Peter Max-ish, salute to the '60's number. Yowza. (I believe Huckabee also has an I-Heart-Huckabee thing going somewhere, but enough's enough.)

Pres -McCain

I'm going to give John some props here for the use of the navy and gold. It distinguishes him from the pack, and reminds us that he's got an untouchable military background. Not wild about the Go, Navy! color scheme, but for McCain it works. Also like the (sans serif) font.

Pres-Ron Paul

What can you say? The guys a straight shooter, and so's his bumper sticker. Simple, unaffected, boring even, but it does seem to speak well to the nature of the candidate, doesn't it?

Pres -Romney 2 

Well, if Mitt doesn't make it as president, he may be able to run the US Postal Service since he already appears to be using a knock-off of their logo. Nice strong lettering, and a wise choice to go with "Mitt" rather than your given name of "Willard." (Who wouldn't?)


Wouldn't you know I would have a devil of a time trying to download the Tancredo logo? Maybe he thinks I'm an illegal immigrant or something. I've already tried twice, with no luck, and since Tancredo has about as much chance of getting elected as, say, Paris Hilton, we'll just leave it at that.


When your biggest claim to fame is your recognition as an actor, I guess it makes sense to use your face. But I don't like it. Too much Fred's big ego going on. Nice balance in the Fred 2008/Thompson, however; and I like the upper-lower.


And not to make this all about Fred Thompson, but let's here it for this happening black and gold color scheme. But the tag line? Security. Unity. Prosperity. Hmmmm. At least he didn't use Prosperity. Unity. Security. which would have yielded an unfortunate acronym.

Well, Rudy's got my logo vote here. He wins the Republican field, with McCain and Paul tying for second runner up. And if I'm being honest, I think he's got the best overall look and feel, with Hillary coming in second.

Again, none of this is meant as an endorsement. I may have picked a Republican logo, but that's not quite the primary I will be voting in come February... 

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Starbucks Hits the Airwaves

Over at Church of the Customer Blog, Jackie Huba writes about the first television ad campaign by Starbucks. You can see the spots here.

Jackie mentions the slight decline in store visits and asks:

Is that because Starbucks has finally reached a saturation point? Or is it more complicated, the result of a series of decisions that has compromised its roots of authenticity?

She thinks it's the latter, and I think she's right; another factor, however, is plain old competition. With McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts and others moving into the Starbucks space, things are tougher for the coffee giant.

But that said, the experience of going to Starbucks has changed; what used to be a reasonable simulacrum of an actual funky coffeehouse is now a gigantic ad. Walk in, and you're bombarded by CDs, cards, gifts, and employees pushing whatever almost-not-coffee-anymore concoction is the current focus. (No, I would not like an orange pumpkin eggnog macchiato with a shot of corn syrup; I actually like coffee.)

Jackie concludes:

Starbucks is a beloved brand because of the quality of the store experience. Period. End of story. Slurp! It took years for McDonald's to re-learn that.

Well, I'd say it's the predictability of the store experience. The coffee is OK, the atmosphere is OK, but you know just what you will get. They have degraded that experience a bit, though, and I think that's a big part of their problems now.

As for the spots themselves? Well, I can't get past how much they remind me of the segments in South Park when the proprietor of Tweek's Coffee would talk about his own store experience.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Open Season on Political Logos: Democrats

Having just done some new logo work with a client, I've become more "logo aware", and have been sizing up the logos (or bumper stickers) for the presidential candidates.

I was going to do a logo appraisal of all the candidates at once, but they're are still too darn many of them. So I thought I'd break things up into two sections: Democrats today, Republicans on Friday.

Nothing I write here should be interpreted as an endorsement - especially if it turns out that my favorite logo belongs to a Republican.

First, a general observation: although I wouldn't mind seeing a little more green in there occasionally, candidates are generally wise to stick to the tried and true, red-white-and-blue color scheme. Anything else seems just weird. Unamerican, almost.

A few years ago, when Shannon O'Brien ran for governor of Massachusetts against Willard "Mitt" Romney, she chose purple and yellow as her colors. Now purple and white might have worked - I think that O'Brien went to Williams College, so there would have been a rah-rah connection to their colors - but the overall impact of purple and yellow was amateurish and cheesy. Do I think that the colors had anything to do with O'Brien's loss? Who knows? I don't think they helped her out any, and may in a modest way have given a boost to Romney's presidential aspirations.

Serifs are mostly in, too. Maybe what this country needs is a good, sans serif candidate. Maybe not an Arial or a Helvetica, but a Tahoma or a Verdana.

Another observation, some of the Democrats have green and/or rainbow versions of their main logos. I didn't find anything comparable on the Republican side. It's certainly plausible that a least a couple of the Republican candidates could make a green or rainbow connection, but that might be a path they'd want to avoid during the primary season.

Final observation, I've seen remarkably few bumper stickers out there yet. I've seen a few Hillaries, a few Obamas, a Romney or two, plus a Joe Biden belonging to a neighbor (with whom I had a recent conversation about hopeless causes).

So, here's the Democratic field (in alphabetical order):


Sorry, Joe, but this is boring. Safe but sorry. Strong font, but other than that. BOR-ING.


Not bad. I like the stylized flag motif, and the way the "y" in Hillary dips into it. Hillary's the only Democrat going with first name only, which I think works given her name recognition. (I was starting to type "broad name recognition", but figured I didn't want to quite go there.)


I kind of like this one, but the use of the red and white strips reminds me of the Polish flag. (At least I think it's Poland.)  Good that he used both "Chris" and "Dodd", because "Dodd" looks too D'ODD standing on its own. I also like the navy blue.


Hey, John, thanks for having the guts to go sans serif on the font. And for going a little green, too. It breaks up the monotony. But the green looks like an afterthought. Better if you swap out the red lettering for green and go after those greens directly and head on. Remember, they do vote in Democratic primaries.


I don't think the flag works here, and I think with those two "I's" and two "C's" I might have gone with an upper and lower case mix, since I find this a little dizzying to read. And as for Strength through Peace - I like the sentiment, and it's something we really ought to be talking about, but is it just me or does it sound a little Chairman Mao-ish?


No guts, no glory, I guess, but this logo looks like it belongs on a box of organic cereal, or a slab of organic butter. The circle ("O" for "Obama") is kind of cute, but other than that. I do like the look of the Obama'08 and I think it works well.


Too much going on here for my taste, and I really don't think the logo works. What's with the powder blue on the star? Yuck. And my eye is just drawn to that red splotch of flag, so I lose the reset of it. Nice balance of the Bill/Richardson/President, however.

I hope I got them all.

In any case, I've got to say I have to give it to Hillary, with Chris Dodd as the first runner up (despite the Polish flag thing).

Again, this is not intended to be an endorsement.

At this point, I am still undecided....



The other day, I mentioned that I had written a post on political logos, and my brother-in-law told me that The NY Times has just done something similar. Honestly, I didn't see The Times article. I know you're not supposed to admit it, but I rarely read The Times.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stop, Thief!

Dwight Silverman at the Houston Chronicle writes about how he had to call Microsoft and reactivate his copy of Vista because he made too many hardware changes to the machine it was running on. The twist is that it was a virtual machine (he's running Vista virtually on a Mac) and one of the benefits of virtualization is that you can change the "hardware" configuration of machine at will. (Got a memory intensive task? Bump up the memory. When done, reduce it again. Etc.)

This of course trips up Vista, which decides that the machine has been tinkered with too many times and thus is not really the same machine on which it was installed... so it stops working properly until you call Microsoft to explain that you are a real customer, not a thief.

I'm surprised people accept this so meekly (check out the comments to Dwight's post). Products that stop working when you buy them and use them legally are not well-designed products. It's a bit like having a car that periodically stops running unless you scan a copy of your title documents into it.

I understand Microsoft's wish to reduce piracy of its products; that's perfectly legitimate. But isn't there a better way than treating your customers like thieves, making them prove that they did not steal the product?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pragmatic Marketing Rule #8

This is the eighth in a series of posts on Practical Product Management Rules from Pragmatic Marketing.

Rule #8: Your opinion, although interesting is irrelevant.

As marketers, we've all had to put up with the "everyone's an expert" syndrome, in which people feel free to second guess and take pot shots at everything we do.

  • Unveil the new logo? Someone will hate it - and, of course, let you know.
  • Name the new product? Guaranteed that someone will think the name is dumb - or inform you that they once had a dog with this name. (Come on, did someone really have a dog named OmniCentraSolvAll?)
  • Publish the list of new features? Why'd you pick those ones? Why didn't you put in the one I suggested?

Color of the golf-outing t-shirt. Trade show graphics. Target market. Partner strategy.

Doesn't matter how strategic, how tactical, how important, how trivial: people second guess what marketing does in a way that they don't typically second guess, say, accounting.

So in these circumstances, the rule holds.

But on this rule, I find that I have to somewhat part company with the folks over at Pragmatic Marketing. Or, at least, it's where I put a big, fat qualifier on this one.  Because an informed opinion can be both interesting and relevant.

And sometimes the person with the informed opinion knows something you don't know. Or thinks  about something in a way that you don't. Or just always seems to have an opinion that's worth listening to.

With any luck, you'll know who the Informed Opinions are and include them somewhere in the process before the decisions are made. (After you spent all that money on the new logo is not the time to find out that an underground fascist party - or the dumbest reality show ever - uses the same look and feel.)

What can the Informed Opinion do for you?

It can save you from making a mistake.

You might have fallen in love with the new color scheme. Come on, who doesn't like avocado and harvest gold? The Informed Opinion might inform you that two of your closest competitors are using the same colors, and you don't want to look too "me, too."

UniCentraSolvAll may sound like a swell - even a uniquely swell - product name. Informed Opinion may be able to tell you that it's actually the name of a heavily-marketed condom in Spain, or the highest grade street hash in Amsterdam. (This actually happened when I was at Genuity. Of course the product wasn't UniCentraSolvAll, it was Black Rocket, and these two little tid-bits turned up after we'd started a big, $$$ branding campaign.)

You may have missed an important and compelling product feature, and Informed Opinion may be able to tell you what it is and why it's so darned important.

Of course, Informed Opinion's opinion is not so darned important if you've done your homework. But you can't think of everything, so it's always good to have a couple of trusted Informed Opinions you can count on.

As far as your own opinions go:  Offer your opinions only when asked for them. Try to eradicate (or at least minimize) any after the fact sniping and second guessing. (You hate it when it's done to you!) And keep in mind that an opinion that's informed by facts and market information is genuinely valuable and generally welcomed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Attack of the Blog Scrapers

Like most bloggers, I try to keep track of who's linking to us here at The Opinionated Marketers. And in the last few weeks, the number of "blog scrapers" - spam blogs that lift our content, run it in whole or part, sometimes with a link and sometimes not, usually with incorrect or no attribution at all - seems to have increased dramatically. The same thing has happened with my personal blog (puppy pictures, random notes and rants, etc. - if you're really curious I'll send you a link) and a news and politics blog I write for the Houston Chronicle.

Here's an example: Maureen wrote a post here recently on using church bulletins as marketing vehicles. Suddenly, this appears: something that looks (slightly) like someone saying "Hey, interesting post," except that this "blog" clearly isn't about anything at all and Maureen's name has suddenly become "Robert."

Every day my feeds of Google Blog and Technorati searches are crammed with this stuff.

I understand what these people are doing: they're gathering up content from all over the place and throwing it onto their own site as search engine bait, and then running Google AdSense ads on the page to make money off of ad clicks.

This is a problem in several ways. First of all, this kind of garbage makes blogs, blog search engines, and the web in general less useful for everybody. Second, as a content creator, I don't want to see my content being stolen and used as part of someone's spam scheme.

But what can be done? You could identify the host of each of these sites and send them a complaint asking them to remove the material; when I worked for a web hosting company, we actually did that when someone demonstrated that our customers were reproducing content they didn't own. Of course, we were a legitimate company, and I'm guessing when one of these sites is hosted by some tiny company in another country, it's unlikely that anything will happen. Google has a form for you to complain about advertiser behavior; if you complain about one of their advertisers stealing content, their response is that they will tell the advertiser. Google, I think they know that already.

This is Google's usual reaction to anything related to copyrights: "Leave us out of it, please." It's the wrong approach, because the more that these spam blogs turn up in search results, the more useless the search tools become; Technorati seems to be accelerating toward an advanced state of uselessness already, and if Google doesn't address these issues Google Blog Search will not be far behind.

Have any of you come across this? Is there anything to be done about it? Or do we all need to accept that when our content is out there in digital form, it's going to get stolen?

Friday, November 23, 2007

'Tis the Season - isn't it?

And so, sometime in the next day or so, the really serious business of Christmas Shopping begins.

I already hate the vacuous woman in the Lowe's ad - or is it Home Depot - who pantomimes the garland, and the dancing turkey, the giant inflatable snow globe, the ornament hooks.

I've already seen enough of the Christmas Tree Shoppe flyers for bundt cake pans shaped like gingerbread houses, for fake Byers' carolers, for snowmen plates.

I've already averted my eyes from the candy aisle at CVS, with the red and green M&M's, Hershey's Bars, Reese's Cups, York Peppermint Patties - and every other candy that now comes wrapped in festive foils. Must have. Must have. Must have. Didn't Christmas candy used to be candy canes, ribbon candy, chalky hard candies in little cardboard cartons, and a non-specialized box of Whitman Samplers?

I've already tuned out the oldies station that plays nothing but (mostly bad) Christmas music between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (I mean, I never get tired of the Beach Boys' Little Saint Nick - and who could? - but some of the dreck they play is the flip side of the flip side.)

I've already had it with "Every Kiss Begins with K". And all those car ads! Who gives someone a car for Christmas?

There's much that I love about the "Holiday Season."

Christmas trees. Christmas wreathes. Christmas music (other than the terrible stuff on that oldies station). Wrapping presents. Writing cards. "Quality time" with family and friends. Left over turkey. Red and green. Cornball reruns of White Christmas.

But the incessant, relentless consume-consume-consume drumbeat. The buy-buy-buy or you, personally, will be responsible for drop-kicking the country into a recession. The complete and overwhelming crapification of the world.

Bah humbug!

Sure makes me glad I'm not a consumer goods marketer. I'd sure as hell hate to have to play a part in all this.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Helping shorten the sales cycle

I have a client with a relatively high cost, enterprise level software product - and the usual attendant lllloooooonnnngggg sales cycle. I've lived through this before, and every time I end up scratching my head and asking myself just what marketing can do to help shorten the sales cycle.

Sometimes these things just have to run their course, things take time, the larger the organization the (likely) greater the purchasing bureaucracy, etc.

But here are a few things that marketing should make sure are on hand to help nudge that pokey sales cycle along:

  • Reference customers. Not just customer success stories, which have probably already been used in the mix to move the prospect to the stage they're at. How about a real reference customer. Sure, the prospect will ask for references when they're good and ready  - often before you're good and ready, in fact - but how about the idea of offering to have a customer call the prospect to talk through any issues the prospect may have. Okay, this can be risky - you need a customer who's knowledgeable, articulate, and supportive of you. But if you have someone who you think might help close a sale, now might be the time.

    Getting references out of the selling organization is often like pulling teeth. How refreshing when one gets volunteered?

    Make sure that you don't over-use your good references.  But if you have folks that know your product, like working with you, etc. - and they're willing to spend a few minutes with a prospect. Go for it.

    Hint: if you have a User Group, these folks will be your best bet. Also keep in mind that, although many companies don't allow their name to be used in case studies, they are okay with talking to prospects on your behalf. So just because someone turned you down for a success story, doesn't mean they won't talk to a prospect for you.
  • FYI: Something in the news that might be of interest to your prospect? An analyst report, a survey, some industry finding? It doesn't have to be about you and your company and your product. If there's something that's genuinely germane, make sure that your sales folks are armed with it.
  • Newsworthy news: If there is something that's newsworthy and new about your company or product, make sure that sales has that, too.  New release. Product of the year award. Big win.
  • ROI: I am not a big believer in ROI tools. Even when a "neutral" third party has produced yours for you, the answer always seems to be the same: buy this product and save BIG. But most big ticket decisions require some ROI analysis, and if you can provide some sort of calculator that at least illustrates where to look for savings, you'll be ahead of the game.  Case studies that attest to savings and returns are also good to have on hand. In fact, I much prefer them to the ROI calculator.
  • Incentives: This is B2B enterprise sales we're talking about, so you're not going to start shouting "Buy One, Get One Free." Or "Order now and no payments due until 2009."  But marketing may want to package up a few things - just so that sales doesn't start running amok with the discounts. (Not that I've ever seen that happen.) There may even be marketing-related incentives you can add to the mix. Maybe if they sign the deal by the end of the month, they can send two folks for free to the User Group meeting...

Remember, marketing doesn't end when the lead hits the funnel. You've got to stay right in there with sales. The longer the sales cycle, the greater the risk that the competition prevails - or that the prospect does nothing. Anything that marketing can do to move the sales cycle along will prove extremely valuable.

Real Estate Greenwashing

Greenwashing - the practice of doing something that makes you sound environmentally responsible, but really doesn't amount to much - is not new, but Houston-area real estate blog Swamplot pointed out a new twist on it: an Arizona-based real estate developer is planning new "sustainable" communities around the Houston area. Except, well, there's a problem:

Why do we need the Grand Parkway? [That's a new outer, outer beltway being built on the fringes of the Houston area - just another step toward making San Antonio a Houston suburb! -JW] To connect all those new green-living communities spreading way out into the Texas prairie!

An Arizona development company is master-planning a master-planned community for a tiny 4,000-plus-acre plot in Alvin, linking the Grand Parkway, FM 1462, and highway 288. Yes, that’s bigger than Shadow Creek Ranch.

It’s called Inspiration at Alvin, if you believe the mayor, or Inspiration @ Chocolate Bayou if you believe the Aperion Communities website.

Alvin mayor Gary Appelt announced that the expected population when the project is built out — in 30 years — is 25,000 people. That’s just over six people per acre. No wonder they’re calling it green!

The Aperion web site includes some heady copy (and fairly insipid music - why, oh why, does anyone think a web site should play music without asking first?) like this:
The Inspiration Community family Life District and our Community ConnectionsTM program merge the best of the Internet with traditional social interactions . . . to celebrate life in a whole new way.
Because just talking to the people next door is just so 20th century.

I'm sorry, some marketer is going to hell for writing this stuff. Six people per acre is not sustainable, no matter how many buzzwords you wrap around it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good customers often behave badly

Your best customers are sometimes the ones who give you headaches. Consider this survey of music piracy in Canada:
The researchers conclude that that people who download more music actually buy more CDs. They report: "We estimate that the effect of one additional P2P download per month is to increase music purchasing by 0.44 CDs per year."

This basically means that if someone downloads 270 songs a year via BitTorrent, he or she will buy 9 CDs more than someone who only downloads 27 songs. So, in a way illegal downloads actually convert into more CD sales.

Overall the researchers found no difference between pirates and other people in the number of CDs they buy. They did not find a positive or a negative relationship between filesharing and CD sales. So, at worst, filesharing isn't the cause for a drop in CD sales. It might even be a boon to it.
The music industry's spin on this issue has been that there are good people who buy their music, and bad people who steal it - and bad people, the lawyers are on their way. But it turns out that the biggest downloaders might be the biggest buyers as well. Whoops! It doesn't seem to be that simple.

This happens in many industries. A group of customers behaves in a way that you didn't anticipate and which causes you problems. The rub is that these "bad customers" may be telling you something important about your product or business model.

In the case of the music industry, the message from downloaders was "we hate the way you sell us music and want something that fits our needs." The industry reaction has been elaborate technological schemes to prevent piracy (often irritating buyers along the way, until someone find a way to defeat the technology), or plain old brute force. The result? An industry that's gone to war with its customers. It doesn't really matter who's legally right; that just can't end well.

The right response, of course, was to understand why those "bad customers" were not acting according to the business plan. Because the people who push your product into new applications or insist on ignoring your distribution model and doing what they want are the ones telling you where the new opportunities are - or where you've missed the mark in satisfying customers.

After you finish cursing them under your breath, you need to embrace those bad customers and learn from them. They may give you a headache, but they also may be the key to your future success... or, in the case of the music industry, survival.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pragmatic Marketing Rule #7

This is the seventh in a series of posts on Practical Product Management Rules from Pragmatic Marketing.

Rule #7: Be able to articulate your distinctive competence.

So why, exactly, should someone buy your product or service as opposed to the other guy's?

It may seem obvious that you need to be able to tell a prospect what's distinctive about you, too often as marketers we get caught up in just getting the features and benefits out there.  Our product is really good, and we want everyone to know about it, so we'll just tell you what it does and what it does for you. It's particularly easy to fall into this approach when you've found yourself playing catch up with the competition. It's also particularly easy to fall into the trap of picking up on some minute feature that nobody cares about and making a big show about how and why this is a big differentiator. I've certainly done it: our product is the only one on the market that brings a smiley face up on each screen...the only one written in an obscure, arcane language...the only one that comes in a plain, brown wrapper.

Note to marketers/note to self: a differentiated aspect of your product, no matter how meritorious (or not) is NOT a distinctive competence.

No, your distinctive competence is something that you generally excel at - and that benefits your customer.

We all know that standard ones: you're the most efficient, and thus can charge less or provide more streamlined service and support; you've got the most advanced, the very best product; you're the most in tune with your customers and what they actually want, need, and value.

Everything under the sun that you can come up with as a distinctive competence may very well fall under one of these categories, but it may not sound exactly the same.

What might your distinctive competence be?  Here are a few examples:

  • You may have deep-seated knowledge of an industry that enables you to develop products that solve vertical-specific problems in ways that generic, horizontal applications just can't do.
  • Your engineering approach may enable you to react to customer enhancement requests and other emerging requirements more rapidly than others.
  • Your implementation team may be so proficient that they can easily and cost effectively customize/integrate your application.
  • Your training approach may enable your customer to easily get new employees up and running.
  • Your automation strategy may let your customers painlessly and quickly purchase and implement new modules.

Whatever it is, you need to know - and, as the man said, be able to articulate - just what your distinctive competence is.

And it should go without saying that it's reality based. Prospects and customers will suss it out pretty quickly if you're blowing smoke here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More on Apple and Social Media

Following up on my earlier Apple post... after writing that I saw that Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim wrote an item called Apple’s Social Media Hell - Why it Needs to Repent, talking about Robert Scoble's outburst about his malfunctioning Mac.

Andy's point is that as Apple becomes more mainstream it won't be able to defend on a legion of hardcore fans to come to its defense. I'm not sure that's true; I don't think the fanboys are going anywhere. And I take issue with his example; he compares Scoble's post to the "Dell Hell" blog item of a while back, but there's a crucial difference; the Dell Hell item was someone complaining about specific Dell service policies, whereas it sounds like Scoble's Mac wouldn't start so he immediately fired off an obscenity-laden blog post. (Me, I would have tried a few things like booting from the install disks and then called AppleCare). That, plus working in a complaint that Apple doesn't give him free stuff, makes the Scoble post more like the screams of a toddler having a bad day than anything serious. If Apple were the most social media oriented company on earth, they still might want to skip responding to Scoble's post. (Or leave it to Fake Steve Jobs!)

It's an interesting question, though. Does increased popularity force a company like Apple to tune in to social media?

Tech Marketing Summarized

I'm not a big fan of the "I'm a Mac" ads; mostly, I think they talk to the Apple faithful, not potential new customers. The Mac guy comes across as smarmy and smug, while the PC guy is more likeable. And in some cases, they're just not accurate. (And I'm writing this on my beloved Macbook!)

But I just love this one, for reasons that have nothing to do with Apple:

The PC guy is the typical techie; he just wants to talk about technology honestly. The PR person gets endlessly frustrated, because he just tells it like it is. Haven't we all seen this over and over? The Apple guy is, of course, an annoying marketing director, who wants to talk about his key messages without the engineers getting into irritating details. Haven't all of us who've worked in tech marketing lived this?

There's also a funny irony about this ad; Apple is terrible at having open conversations with its customers, and Microsoft is not. Apple is still caught up in carefully controlling the conversation and offering only calculated, filtered statements. While users are left speculating about what's next from the company, the Microsoft Mac development team is blogging about their work, including the upcoming Office 2008.

So it's a big funny to see Apple dinging Microsoft for PR spin. This funny post from Fake Steve Jobs is a bit closer to the truth. As a big fan of Apple's products, I'd like to see them take a lead from Microsoft on this count.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Majoring in History

I worked for many years for a now defunct software company called Softbridge.

Softbridge had a long legacy (by software company standards) of technical excellence, and we traded on that legacy.

In our marketing literature, we touted the fact that we were one of the few companies that was on the dais with Bill Gates (at Windows of the World at the World Trade Center) when he released the first super-duper, truly graphical version of Windows. We were there because Microsoft had used a bit of our technology - the recorder - as one of the utilities that were part of Windows.

As I recall, we got very little money for it, but we did get a mention within the product. And we got bragging rights.

Which we used.

Well after our recorder had been replaced in their product, we still hyped the fact that Great God Microsoft had used a piece of technology from little old us.

For a while, this made sense, and it certainly spoke to our technical credentials.

But the recorder was no longer in use by Microsoft, and the techies who wrote the code were long gone, and still we included this piece of our lore in every presentation, proposal, and piece of collateral.

Similarly, when I worked at Genuity, we never failed to remind people that our roots were in BBN and that we had, in fact, invented the Internet. (Sorry, Al Gore, luv' ya and absolutely acknowledge that you had something to do with getting the whole thing off the ground through your legislative work, but "we" had a lot more to do with it than you did.) One of our engineers had, in fact, come up with the use of the @ in addresses. So, "we invented the at-sign."

Having an illustrious history is wonderful. It's something that you, as an employee, can take pride in, and it is something that can help underscore your bona fides.

But in both the case of Softbridge and Genuity, I think we made too much of our history, exploiting it well beyond it's "sell by" date. It was important to us, but what did it really do for our customers?

No, while we were leading with all our yesterdays, our customers and prospects wanted to know what we could do for them today, and what we would do for them tomorrow.

I've been thinking about this because I have a client with an amazing pedigree. Their history makes Softbridge's recorder and Genuity's @ look like party favors. They make a lot out of it, and are rightfully proud of it. And it is, of course, interesting to the market.

But just how interesting is it?

How closely tied is it to the day to day work they're engaged in now? How relevant is it to their customers? Just what is the connection between their history and their customers' business needs?

I'm thinking that the answer is "not very", which is an assumption that we will soon be testing.

No, they'll never lose their interest in their history. And why should they? It's there, and it helped make them what they are today.

But I'm thinking that at some point in the not to distant future, this company will no longer be majoring in history. Minoring, maybe. But majoring, no.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Whole Foods Makes a Whole Mistake

I understand why the Whole Foods board decided to ban company executives from blogging or commenting on any non-Whole Foods site, a decision that Houston Chronicle business writer Loren Steffy talks about on his blog. But it's the wrong decision.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey got in hot water, you may remember, for posting about the company's battle to buy competitor Wild Oats without identifying himself.

Steffy calls the new policy "stunningly obvious," but it's not. Yes, it's stunningly obvious that executives should not be revealing non-public information or pretending to be someone else in their online activities.

But no online participation anywhere outside of the the company's own sites? That's a mistake. Don't you want your people to be establishing an online presence, networking, and showing their thought leadership in relevant communities?

That's like telling the Wall Street Journal, "Sorry, you can't speak to Mr. Mackey, you're not a Whole Foods publication." PR folks have been getting angling to get executives into publications forever, because there is a real benefit. The benefits in the world of social media are similar, and Whole Foods is making a mistake by locking up their top people online.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pragmatic Marketing Rule #6

 This post is the sixth in a series inspired by Pragmatic Marketing's 20 Rules of Product Management rules for technology marketing.

RULE #6: Product management should help sales channels, not individual sales people.

Obviously, when you're developing market approaches and sales tools, you're product and company will be best served by your focusing on those that can be widely deployed across an entire sales channel, direct or indirect. Take it from someone who has gone so far as to edit the (completely cretinous) letters to prospects written by a hapless sales person, we all would have been better off if I'd just created a prototype letter and made it available to everybody.

And like a lot of marketers, I'm sure, I've spent all sorts of time concocting presentations on demand, pitching in on last minute RFP responses, etc. - when the same time could have been spent making sure that the materials needed were available in a shared space, to be used by all. (Naturally, even when all that good stuff is out in shared-ville, you'll still get last minute emergency requests. But all you need to do at that point is direct folks to the url. Knock yourself out!)

Just say no to recreating a slight variation on the wheel every time a salesperson calls and asks you for something.

Similarly, when you're eliciting feedback and product input from sales, better to hear from many voices, rather than respond to the bleating of the lone sales wolf whose input is colored by the last lost deal.

But perhaps it's because I've spent so much time in small companies where there were only a handful of sales people, there are plenty of circumstances in which you want to work with individual sales people.

First off, there are some that you're just going to find more pleasant, helpful, and insightful. In my experience, these have also tended to be the most successful sales folks. You could argue, then, that they don't need your help.  Maybe. But, as a marketer, you need to acknowledge that you might need theirs for reviewing sales tools, great feedback, access to customers...Yes, there are plenty of reasons why you want and need to develop relationships with individual sales people. And sometimes that will mean providing individual help to them. The good news? They're not the kind who'll ask for it unless they genuinely need it.

Of course, just as time spent helping out dunderheads detracts from working for the greater, common good, so does time spent working with the A students.

Hmmmmm. Maybe Pragmatic Marketing's 100% right here, after all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BlogWorld Expo

Last week I was at BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas. Lots of interesting stuff at the conference, and here are a few highlights.

There were apparently about 1500 people registered. I don’t think that many came, but it was busy. The crowd was an interesting mix; lots of bloggers, lots of business types, and then a whole cadre of political blogger (for one specific conference track), military bloggers, and Christian bloggers.

The sessions were... okay. One thing that became clear is that the knowledge level of attendees was all over the map; in one break, I spoke to a physician who just started blogging, an experienced podcaster who consults on building podcast audiences, and someone from an ad network. There were sessions where I thought I could have spoken and offered as much, and others where there were clearly knowledgeable people at the podium but things weren’t well organized. I did wish that the organizers had provided a little more detail on the sessions, so that it was clearer who the audience was; I was regretting some of my choices.

Here’s the question that I could tell people had, but no one seemed to have a crisp answer for: How do I do a social media marketing program? It’s clear that this is still somewhat uncharted territory, and there’s no accepted process for how this works - just best practices and mistakes to learn from. Which, in fact, makes it all more interesting and makes these types of conferences more valuable.

There was only one stinker of a session, and that’s pretty good.

The pay to promote people (Pay Per Post et al) were out in force, and I’m sure weren’t thrilled when a keynote speaker described their business as something that could cause the death of blogging. I have mixed feelings about that whole game, and really question whether opinions for cash is a good model or one that won’t just make people distrust bloggers the way they distrust everyone else.

One final note: the exhibitors seriously needed some basic training in how to staff booths. This is always an issue at shows, but I actually gave up on talking to a couple of vendors because the booth staff were deep in some internal conversation that I couldn't break into. Really, folks, aren't you there to talk to the people at the event?

But all in all, worthwhile, and I will think about going back next year.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What do you do if you're NaviSite?

If you're a B2B marketer in the tech space, you've no doubt heard by now about the major fiasco that NaviSite, a web hosting provider, has been dealing with.

They acquired another company, and in the course of consolidating customers into their Massachusetts data center, hit a perfect storm of botched operations and bad luck. As a result, they've had a whole slew of customers with their web operations  out of commission for days.

Now most web hosters can't and don't guarantee "six 9's" (99.9999%) of uptime, which computes to something like 2 or 3 seconds of downtime a month. Based on how much redundancy they're willing to pay for, customers are guaranteed varying levels of uptime - different 9's, as it were. But when you're in "one 9" territory of availability, well, you've got a problem.

Both Mark Cahill over on Vario Creative and Mary Schmidt are offering their usual sharp commentary on the NaviSite debacle - Mark from the added perspective of someone whose clients have been impacted by the NaviSite outage outrage. No one seems to feel that NaviSite marketing is responding all that well, I'm afraid. They seem to have lawyered up, likely on the advice of their lawyer. This is, after all, a big one. Hosting customers have Service Level Agreements that specify remedies when there are outages. As a veteran of the web hosting world, I've read a lot of those SLA's and I don't recall the redress for outages of quite the magnitude suffered by the NaviSite customers over the last week or so.

In any case, I've been doing some thinking about what I would be doing if I were NaviSite marketing.

It's pretty easy for me to put myself in their shoes because, for a while there, I was the director of product marketing for NaviSite's web hosting business. So it could have been my shoes that had stepped in this one.

What would I have done from a marketing perspective? Communicate, communicate, communicate.

  • Place information, including call numbers, prominently on the home page. I don't mean devote all the real estate to this issue. Just enough so that people impacted get the message that you're taking this matter seriously. Include in this message a "don't worry" statement for existing Navi customers who aren't impacted.
  • Update this every 4-6 hours, letting people know when you'll be posting updates. Stick to the schedule, even when there's nothing to report. However, if there's something big in the interim, don't wait to get it out there.
  • Also on the web site, have a video of the company President/CEO making a statement about the matter. No spin. No excuses. Facts, remorse, and a promise to get to the bottom of this.
  • Prepare lists of talking points for customers impacted, customers not impacted, prospects, press, and analyst.
  • Divide up the list of customers impacted and have someone give everyone a personal phone call. Use the talking points, but mostly have the callers settle in for an earful of abuse. Let the customers vent. They deserve to. Do not exempt senior management from making a few of these calls themselves.
  • Divide up the list of customers not impacted. Have senior management make a call to the Top 100 (or whatever the golden list of most important customers is called) and assure them that they're not in anyway impacted by this, that this won't happen to them, etc.
  • Send e-mails to all other non-impacted customers, assuring them they're OK.
  • Ask sales for a list of prospects who need a call from senior management. 
  • Call an all-hands meeting so that everyone in the company hears first hand what's going on. This meeting should be brief - there's too much work to do. Update employees regularly via e-mail.
  • Have someone monitoring the blogosphere to see what people are saying - and who's saying it. (Obviously, it's more important to listen to customers and people like Mark Cahill, who has impacted customers, than it is to pay any attention to, say, me. Don't make defensive comments, but if there are misstated facts, correct them without making any excuses. Just make sure that what you're saying is correct. (And try to make sure that only "deputized" employees speak out on blogs.)
  • Reach out to key press and analysts, who will appreciate hearing directly from you, even if they don't cut you any slack.

Maybe NaviSite did all this. Maybe Navi marketing wanted to do all this, but management had other ideas.

Even if NaviSite - marketing and management - did everything right in response to this operational fiasco, I would be surprised if NaviSite can salvage 50% of the customers whose business they've botched. Whatever remedies they offer them, people will be pissed. They'll be suing. They'll be walking. Competitors are, no doubt, already swooping in.

Impacted customers aside, NaviSite has a lot to worry about. This is a big black eye for them. Prospect and renewal negotiations just got a whole lot harder, as customers and prospects will be demanding concessions. Employees have to feel like crap (or cynically justified  because "they" f'd up). Navi is a small player, but they're a public company. I haven't looked, but their stock price may take a hit.

Good luck to the good folks at NaviSite - and there are plenty of them.

I don't see this one going away for a while.

Friday, November 09, 2007

BlogWorld Expo: Media Choices

Good talk this morning by Leo Laporte on new media publishing, in which he talked about how podcasting has stalled out (in terms of adding users) in a way that blogs and online video haven't. He made some good points about which media work for what types of communication (video - emotional, audio - conversational, text - analytical) which make sense as general principles, albeit with plenty of exceptions.

But I wondered, as he spoke, if part of the problem with podcasting is just setting. Listening to audio at a computer is a departure from how we usually listen to talk programs, which is in the car. (In fact I do almost all my podcast listening in the car.) So I wonder if podcasters are just stuck because the opportunities for listeners to give them attention are much more limited than with video and text.

Church bulletin marketing

The other day, I had lunch with my friend Peter. He lives on Boston's North Shore, and I went up his way. We went to a very nice little Greek restaurant in Peabody that was just about empty.

Peter has been there a couple of times and told me that, while it's not usually this empty, business is far less than the brisk business that the good food and charming atmosphere would seem to merit.

We started talking with one of the proprietors - the wife of the couple who own the place. (Maria is also an artist who's responsible for the decor and the art work hanging on the walls. Not to mention the waitress and hostess. Ah, the family run business...)

It seems to me that this little restaurant is a classic example of a business that could benefit from a little advertising in small local papers and church bulletins.

I don't know if all demoninations have church bulletins, but Catholic churches all seem to. And even with church closings, there are still a whole slew of RC churches on the North Shore.

What Maria needs to do is design a little ad - something I'm guessing she'd be quite good at - and float it in a few bulletins and I'd bet they'd get business. Throw in a "buy one entree, get one free" promo, a senior special, or a free appetizer. I'm pretty sure people would come.

Folks read church bulletins - sometimes even in church. Folks read local papers - they even read the ads.

And respond to them.

We don't read any church bulletins in my house, but we do read the little freebie local rags - and clip every lunch deal coupon we find.

I hope Maria tries an ad or two in the local church bulletins. Cheap. Easy. Read.

I'd hate to see this wonderful little restaurant fail because nobody knows they're there.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

At Blog World Expo...

Greetings from Blog World Expo in Las Vegas!

Interesting assortment of people, speakers, and vendors. This morning I attended a really good session on corporate blogging led by Debbie Weil, definitely a voice of authority on the topic. The panel included bloggers from Kodak, Cisco, Southwest Airlines, and HP.

Here’s a question that I asked that I don’t think anybody has a definitive answer to: how do you measure the success or the results of a corporate blog? Is anybody in a large corporation turning to their blog team and asking that? My guess is that before long, having a blog will be an obvious necessity, and no one will be looking for specific ROI measurements... but still, there will likely be some measures that people pay attention to (traffic, links back, etc.).

How do you measure the success of your blog?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What's with the Geico Ads?

First there were the clever little pay-attention ads with the gecko. Geco, Gecko. Get it? Pretty soon a company you may not have heard of was a company you couldn't help but have heard of.

Did this increase Geico's business? I'm guessing it did.

Then there were the cave men...

Not my favorites of all time, but reasonably well done, if you overlook the connection.

Geico. Cavemen. Get it?

Well, no.

And they were still running the gecko ads all along, were they not?

Now there are the retro ads - some in black and white.

Chatty Cathy dolls. Beverly Hillbillies. Cabbage Patch Kids.

And the greeting card for Dear Old Mom. Is that a Geico ad, too?

I don't get it.

Maybe it's just me, and this is way too much for my feeble little beebee brain to take in, but I find these ads a real mish-mosh.

Maybe if, like the cavemen ads, they were somewhat thematic, I would like them better.

Kids toys of the 50s/60s: Chatty Cathy. Mr. Machine. Tony the Pony.

B&W TV Shows: Beverly Hillbillies, Mr Ed, F-Troop.

Cabbage Patch Kids: Why stop with Ben Winkler? Weren't millions of CPK's with unique identities "born" in the 80s? (Arrabelle Louise. Destiny Maude. Gilbert Anton....)

Plus they're still running the gecko ads. (Don't know about the cavemen.)

I get that Geico wants to be known for their clever ads, but this current suite, I think, misses the mark in terms of how well they work together.

The good news is that, now that baseball season is over - having ended in an entirely satisfying way for those of use who live (and die) in Red Sox Nation - I will be watching far less ad-addled television.

Come April, who knows what Geico will be up to. I just hope it hangs together better than the current batch. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Web 2.0, Web Two Point No, and BlogWorld Expo

I am heading off to the BlogWorld Expo this week; if you're going to be there, let me know. It looks like a good conference and set of vendors, so it should be the center of the world of blogging for a few days.

It's interesting, though, to note that while blogs have become absolutely mainstream, some companies don't get it. Have a look at Mary Schmidt's tale of complaining to American Airlines and mentioning that she'd blogged about her bad experience with them, and how they replied:
We have received your email, however, because of company online security procedures, we do not engage in researching online blogs. However, your perspective has been noted. Ms. Schmidt, thank you for your interest.
Because of security reasons, we can't look at a web site? Oh, okay. That was followed by the ultimate "Please drop dead, you annoying customer, you" closer:
This is an “outgoing only” email address. If you ‘reply’ to this message by simply selecting the reply button, we will not receive your additional comments.
The whole tone is "Look, we really don't want to hear your stupid complaints." It's hard to imagine why airlines like American are in trouble these days, isn't it?

How behind the curve is American Airlines? They still haven't figured out blogging and social media, and others are already getting over it. One of the biggest cheerleaders of all things Web 2.0, Steve Rubel, suddenly announced that he's realized that all these companies doing pointless things in overly complicated ways with no prospects of ever making money are kind of silly:
Let's face it, we're skunk drunk and it's because of money. It's almost like we all need to enter Betty Ford Clinic 2.0 together. This time, it's not stock market money but private equity, M&A, VCs and to some degree the reckless abandonment of logic by some advertisers who are perpetuating what is sure to end badly when the economy turns. Hubris is back my friends.
I don't disagree with Steve, but he's been one of the biggest cheerleaders of everything silly on the web. (And he admits that in the blog post: I give him a lot of credit for that.) He's not alone in this assessment; apparently the money guys at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have figured it out, too:
"We have absolutely no interest in funding Web 2.0 companies," says Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins. He mentioned this during an after dinner conversation last week. He said he had recently told John Battelle, one of the organizers of the rapidly growing Web 2.0 Summit conference, that the term no longer had the same positive cachet it once had. In the VC community it clearly has a negative one.
But lest this be seen as sudden sanity onset, consider this commentary from Tom Foremski in that same blog post:
Web 2.0 companies will now have to reinvent and redefine themselves. And reprint their business plans. They should also remove any mention of "long tail economics." I have a bad feeling about the longevity of that term in the investment community. It sounds a touch too W2.

Nixing anything "long tail" is an easy way to future-proof a business plan for a few months longer.

"Social graph" is doing great right now, so make sure you pepper your business plan with that term. "Social platform" still has legs. And "attention economy" is a ricochet term with a bullet.
That passage makes my head hurt, mostly because he's right. But it leaves me wondering what ever happened to ideas having some relevance beyond buzzwords. The idea of Web 2.0 has not gone away. The long tail concept is an interesting and valid one, but the term became trendy and started being applied to all kinds of things that weren't particularly "long tail," and now it's pretty much just something to set off our BS detectors. The same is true of all the various social media buzzwords.

There are valid concepts behind all of this, and people will figure out how to make businesses based on them. Of course, for each of those businesses, there will be 99 hopefuls with half baked ideas vomiting out a stream of buzzwords in a sort of dadaist Word Salad 2.0.

Interesting times, anyway. Meanwhile, off to Las Vegas.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pragmatic Marketing Rule #5

This post is the fifth in a series inspired by Pragmatic Marketing's 20 Rules of Product Management rules for technology marketing.

RULE #5: Product management determines the go-to-market strategy; Marcom executes it.

First off, much of my career has been spent in companies where product management/product marketing and marcom were housed under one very small group. Heck, I've been in places where they were all me-myself-and-I. I've also worked in companies, as a product manager, where product management was outward-facing to limited degree - establish requirements, go on sales calls - but leave most of marketing to marcom. These were places in which there was no such thing as a separate, specific product marketing function, and in which much of what product management focused on was project management during the development and roll-out cycle.

But when I worked at Genuity, we had separate product marketing and marcom groups, residing - for much of my tenure there -in separate organizations, connecting up on the org-chart level only at the president box.

This would have worked out fine if someone in the president box, or in the EVP boxes just below, actually agreed that there were two separate functions, with different roles, responsibilities, and expertise. And declared that the two different groups were going to get along.

Well, that never happened and, although the reasons had little to do with marketing, is it any wonder that Genuity went out of business?

Although I had many good friends and colleagues in Marcom, relationships between us (Product Marketing) and them were generally non-productive and rancorous.

Marcom was under sales, and much of what they did was what sales wanted them to do. Now, I'll get into why this is a bad idea at another time, but suffice it to say that sales wanted the short term hit, not the long term build. It never seemed to matter what the overall corporate strategy was, if sales didn't think they could easily sell it tomorrow it didn't get marketed today.

Marcom also owned all the budget, so Product Marketing was always in the position of begging if there was any program we wanted to do.

Sometimes the budget stuff played out in ridiculous ways. At one annual sales conference, there was an exhibit hall for the products. We all had draped tables, signs we made out-of-pocket at Kinko's, photocopied sell sheets, no lights, and lame-o promotional gimmicks to attract the sales guys' interest.

Marcom shipped in trade-show booths - beautiful lighting, nice signage - at which they showcased their new corporate brochures, ad campaigns, web site, and corporate giveaways.

We had the content, they had the stuff.

Shouldn't we have come together on this?

But, no.

The enmity between the two camps was just too great.

The rap on Product Marketing: no sense of the real world, i.e., sales.

The rap on Marcom, content-less big spenders.

Political battles at the EVP and VP levels - characterized by all sorts of sniping and such wonderful endeavors as trying to set up redundant, parallel groups in their own organizations.

Truly, I spent half my life at Genuity just trying to define organizational roles, unruffle feathers, make peace, and just try to make some sense out of things. (For most of my time at Genuity, I headed up Product Marketing across all products.)

I may not be Mahatma Gandhi, but if I couldn't get things to work out, ain't no one was going to.

What a waste!

So, I'd add on a bit to Pragmatic's rule: make sure that the roles are clear, and insist on an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

You Have Got to be Kidding Me

Next week I'm heading out to Las Vegas to attend BlogWorld Expo, so tonight I'm looking through the list of exhibitors to decide who I really want to make sure I see. And on the list is a company called Entrecard. I've never heard of them. When you click the link on the event site to find out who they are, this is what you see:

That's it. That's the whole thing. No links, no explanation, just "Hey, give us your email address!" (My first thought was, "Drop this, losers.")

Honestly, there are good landing pages and bad landing pages but there's also another category I can most kindly call "idiotic."

I don't know who these people are are, I don't know what they do, but I'm supposed to give them permission to bug me? I think not. Work with me here, people. I'm going to be there; all you have to do is pique my interest so I'll spend five minutes at your booth, thereby giving you the opportunity to wow me. You're not even trying.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Giving your Marketing Away

Mack Collier has a nice piece in MarketingProfs about show social media changes marketing. It's a nice piece because it doesn't overreach and has some specific examples what companies have done and what you can consider doing yourself in this arena.

He notes:
There are risks involved. Letting your marketing speak in the customer's voice instead of your own can mean that sometimes your intended message isn't communicated as you would prefer. But if your marketing is spoken with the customer's voice, it will be more authentic and will better resonate with your target market.
This is the part that people often forget; give your customers power and tools to talk about you, and they might say things that aren't what you would have chosen. Still, for many marketers, the power of motivated customers outweighs the risks. It also, I think, keeps companies honest; if your customers start saying things you don't like, there's a reason, and you ought to be thinking about that.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why Doesn't Everyone Do This?

Mobile phones are highly personal objects, and as a result, getting a new one - no matter how great it is - can be traumatic in some ways. You have a lot to relearn. How do I add that person to my contacts? How do I swap calls when I get another call coming in? How does the conference calling work? Whoops, that button hangs up the phone (sorry, whoever I was talking to). What's that button on the side?

And when using an operating system designed to cram information into a tiny screen, and that relies on a couple of multipurpose buttons for input, it's obviously challenging for the developers too. So there are two problems: deciding whether you'll really like a phone, or wind up hating it after using it a couple of months, and learning all that stuff when you get a new phone.

I'm in the "now that I know it I hate it" phase with my phone and am thinking of getting an iPhone. And so I actually sat and watched the twenty-minute "guided tour" video that Apple's got on their web site.

You know what? Not only is it a good sales piece, it's something that I wish I could have watched for every phone I've ever used.

As I watched, I thought about thumbing through a Motorola phone manual once upon a time to figure out how things worked (usually finding that "this service is carrier dependent, so go figure it out yourself" for many of my questions), and thought, Why didn't they do this? (Especially since Motorola generally makes lovely hardware with demented software.)

Yes, it's a sales piece - but it manages to tell you how to do everything. Make a call, take a call, switch calls, conference people together, add people to your contacts, use other applications while talking to somebody, get your email, send a text message, and so on.

It's very handy for a potential buyer because it gives you a real sense of what using the phone will be like - not 100%, of course, but more than you'll get playing with it in the store for ten minutes. And if you've just taken one out of the box, it's the twenty minute "here are all the basics you need" primer that is notably absent from other phones.

I've railed in the past about dumb use of video to present information better communicated in text. This is the opposite; this is an excellent use of video to show you things that would sound complicated in print. If I get an iPhone the first thing I'll do is sit down, phone in hand, and watch it again and follow it along, and I think it will help me avoid the "first week of new phone" issues of hanging up on people, missing calls, and so on.

The thing is... it's so obvious. Why isn't there one of these for every phone that has more than basic calling functions (which is to say, pretty much every phone)?