Friday, July 27, 2007

Unspun Website…

Last week's tip on Web 2.0 ( mentioned Amazon's new beta project Unspun is a consensus list-ranking site. It allows users to create lists (like favorite books) and have them ranked by the community.

My question: how will Amazon profit from this?

Here is my "homespun" list of potential benefits of the site:

1. Traffic - By creating a gee whiz interactive technology like this; Amazon could draw traffic to this site by creating a type of Infotainment.

2. Branding - Theory is the more people think about Amazon, the more they will think of Amazon when they're making a purchase. ("I didn't know Amazon sold OBDII Scanners. I thought they just sold books!")

3. Research - By studying results, Amazon can analyze trends and preferences and use these findings to select and promote merchandise on their ecommerce site. (The top-voted 80's album.)

4. Publicity - A press release about top Christmas gifts or best books can get noticed by the media and turn into free ink for Amazon. ("Amazon's top Teacher Movies for teacher appreciation day.")

5. Direct Sales - Look at a list like top books. The image links directly to the item at Amazon's store -- ready for you to buy. ("Wow! I can just click and buy the top ranked book.")

I'm sure there are other uses I haven't thought of. But my point isn't to build an exhaustive list of benefits; it is to point out that Web 2.0 isn't about new technology. It's about new ways to use technology.

So how can you use your website -- or a separate one to get users to interact with you and/or each other?

Think outside the spin.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bold Marketing Moves...

Often bold moves pay dividends.

This week at the Aftemarket eForum in Chicago, I took the bold move of passing all the empty seats in back to take the one unoccupied seat near the front.

Internet marketing experts spoke on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Search Engine Marketing), PFP (Pay For Performance) and Web 2.0.

Amazon V.P. Steve Frazier spoke about how his company is integrating Web 2.0 thinking.

Web 2.0 doesn’t refer to any group of new technologies, but rather the new ways existing technologies are being used in new ways. As I see it Web 2.0 is about user-centered technology – most importantly USG (User Generated Content) like blogs, podcasts, wikis, tagging, and various types of social networking.

Frazier, who oversees Amazon’s automotive aftermarket division, showed the bold moves Amazon is taking pioneering new concepts and technologies.

But the most interesting thing Frazier said was “Don’t expect your customers to tell you what they want.” Then he sat down. In front of me. So, when the session was over I took the bold move of asking him to elaborate.

“I think it’s our job to innovate,” he said. “We ask our customers what they like, but often they don’t know what they want. Or they don’t realize we already have what they want.”

We continued discussing the concept for a few minutes. I asked if he thought it was hard for them to articulate what they wanted. He said more often they can’t even conceptualize what they want.

For instance, people like best and worst lists. What if they could be part of creating one? So Amazon took the bold move and recently launched It creates user generated lists, allows you to vote and creates consensus rankings. (Take a look, it’s kind of fun.) How does Amazon profit from

You tell me. (Call it User Generated Content)

Reply or Comment with your thoughts.

Next week, I’ll tell you what others say -- and what I think.

I may even ask Steve Frazier for his insights.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, July 13, 2007

Building Loyal Fans...

Q - What do Mike Ditka, John Elway and Jon Bon Jovi have in common?

A - They all have ownership in Arena Football League teams.

I mention this because Saturday at 3 pm, CT (on ESPN) Ditka's Chicago Rush is in the final game of the playoffs for ArenaBowl XXI. (Elway & Bon Jovi's teams are out of the running.)

My family is big Chicago Rush fans. I'm talking t-shirts-wearing, sign-carrying, noise-maker-toting, season-ticket-holding fans.

We have Rush hats, baseball cards (are they called baseball cards for football?), replica Arena Bowl rings, bandanas, clappers, thunder sticks, autographed posters -- the whole nine yards. And every item we have was given to us at a game - most by Rush corporate sponsors.

Just three years ago I couldn't tell you what Arena Football was. One factor that drew my attention to the team was Ditka's promotional campaign that touted "This Is My Team!" The team played 5 miles from my home for years before that. But it never caught my full attention until "Da Coach" began to push the team.

Then my uncle invited me to a Rush open house two years ago. PJ, Beth and I went to see what all the hoopla was about. And we were hooked.

I used to think there were two ways to build a brand: build it from scratch or buy one. Both are very expensive.

Now I see one more way: have another brand help you build your brand.

Ditka, Elway and Bon Jovi are all celebs -- and each a brand in his own right. By riding on the notoriety of the owners, each team has built a strong following and done a good job of filling arenas for a relatively unknown football league.

And the cost is lower than you may think.

Ditka, coach of the 1985 Chicago Bear Superbowl team, only owns a small percentage of the Rush team. I don't know the numbers, but my guess is he gets shares in the team in exchange for his endorsement. But even a 1% ownership is ownership. And everyone wins in this scenario: Ditka, the Rush, and the fans.

In fact, the AFL recently used a variation of this ownership technique. They sold shares in the AFL to ESPN. Now it's in ESPN's best interest to promote Arena Football. Creating ownership is a strong marketing tool.

How can you use endorsements or celebrity to build your brand? How can you put ownership to work for you -- without selling any shares in the business? What logo'd items can you give your customers to turn them into "fans" and remind them of your brand?

Now if you'll excuse me I need to finish a sign before Saturday's game. So what if I'm only listening to the game at home. I'm a fan!

- Phil Sasso

Friday, July 06, 2007

Marketing Mystery...

If you're ever in the San Jose, CA area, I suggest you take a tour of the Winchester Mystery House.

The 160-room mansion, built by Winchester Rifle heiress Sarah Winchester, is renowned for it's sheer size -- and lack of a master building plan. It was under construction continuously for 38 years from 1884 until Sarah's death in 1922. It has intricate inlaid parquet floors and Tiffany art glass windows as well as doors that open into nowhere, windows that look out onto brick walls and staircases that lead into the ceiling. I toured the house decades ago, yet I still remember it vividly.

Although an interesting oddity, it is also a visual reminder of what marketing without a master plan looks like.

Managers of the most valuable brands in the world know one thing: have a master plan and follow it consistently. They avoid being drawn off track by anything that doesn't line up with their master plan. Their messages all line-up with the brand's central message and purpose. They rarely jump ship in the middle of a program or campaign -- not because everything they do always works, but because they have a well thought out, long-term plan in place. And when they do suddenly change direction it usually has to do with unforeseen competitive maneuvers or to capitalize on external changes in the marketplace and not sheerly on impulse.

Do you have a master plan? Are your marketing messages consistent? Or is your brand a mystery to prospects?

For more about the Mystery House, go to:

- Phil Sasso