Birthday greetings – How might they evolve?

Last year, August 2012, I recorded all the birthday greetings I received via the various channels and posted the details in this article on Myndset. This was not an exercise in self-aggrandisement and/or auto-flattery*. It was to see what and how people are communicating on what is, quite appropriately, a personal and nominative affair!  So, this year, I was curious to evaluate the changes, thinking that it might be a way to capture how things have evolved online.  Between this year and last year, the number of people in my network has grown a bit, but other than on Twitter (+500 or so), the growth is not going to be more than 5% for any one network.

Birthday channels

Below is a table that charts the different birthday greetings year/year on a purely numerical basis.  The numbers below include a few of the belated wishes that trickled in the day after (and thanks to everyone for the kind and wonderful wishes!).

Wishes for Birthday, Birthday wishes, Myndset digital marketing

Facebook domination

Facebook birhday, The Myndset digital marketingFacebook remains the preferred channel for birthday greetings by a highway mile.  What you will observe is that, overall, the major difference year over year is down to Facebook: 183 in 2013 versus 86 last year.  And, no, it has nothing to do with having a banner year or being more loved.  Moreover, the 49th versus 48th year celebrations are both rather innocuous, so that neutralizes another potential reason for any differences.

2013 versus 2012

So, what happened?  Essentially, this year, I changed the settings on Facebook to allow people to write directly on my wall.  Last year, all wishes were automatically transformed into personal FB messages. So, this year, the messages were generally dropped onto my wall.  As we all know, Facebook vets what appears on your wall.  Over the summer, they again made changes, introducing new variables and flexibility in their algorithm, all with an intent to promote engagement.  For the birthday wishes that are posted on the wall, Facebook keeps only the posts with attachments (photos) visible. To read the remainder of the individual wall posts you need to find the last of the day’s posts and on the drop-down, View Individual Stories (as below) specifically linked to Birthday Wishes (courtesy of a parsing by Facebook).  The good news is that neither your own timeline nor your close family are besieged by the friendly barrage of messages.

Facebook birthday wishes, The Myndset digital marketing

Final considerations

If Facebook is the dominant and easiest way to send birthday wishes across all communication platforms, it is not the only way.  The remarkable aspect of the FB network (I have just under 2000 “friends”) is the disparate nature of the people that take the time to say hi and send along wishes.  The FB birthday “system” is presumably more indicative of those who are regular users rather than necessarily your nearest and dearest friends.  All the same, the messages were rather varied and, at times, enjoyably surprising.

As for other nuances on the two year’s “campaigns”:

  • Despite a bigger Twitter base, there was no increase in the personal tweets
  • The SMS continues to be the most personal space, although I received far fewer this year, possibly because I now have two mobile numbers?
  • Skype again surprised me with the number and content of messages
  • Snail Mail is completely AWOL (I received an email from a friend saying that a card was in fact on its way!)
  • Business “social CRM” messages remain rather tame and ineffective (and basically unchanged for those that did it both years).

So, in sum, it seems that Facebook is the place to go for birthday greetings.  If you want to create a more personal message, try SMS or snail mail!  And, otherwise, if you want your message to have a lasting effect on Facebook, add a (preferably funny or meaningful) photo.

If there were one birthday wish I might ask for, it would simply be for you to go by the Facebook page in honor of my grandfather and other members of the Greatest Generation, after whom I was named, and like it, if you feel it merits your click.

BFM Radio RSS Live Streaming

BFM Radio in Car 
In my car, with its digital radio station interface, I noticed that BFM Radio 96.4 (above), a French business radio station, is now getting into the RSS live streaming act.   Toggling between different business indicators (the levels of the different stock market, FX exchange rates) and the radio’s own title, the radio dial almost takes on a life of its own.  I am not sure when this change was first put in place, but it’s awfully good.  I remember seeing in the US that some radio stations now stream the songs that are playing which is even better.  However, I still think that the improvement in BFM is very good.  I will be curious to see how and how quickly other radio stations react.
Below, the Euro to US Dollar rate at 1.38.
BFM Radio dans la Voiture

Or the level of the CAC40 (France’s equivalent of the Dow Jones) at 3257 on this particular morning.

What other good ideas are radio stations implementing?

Change Management – Cutting Dollars & Making Sense in Recession

Budget Cuts ScissorsIn these times of recession, a change is certainly gonna come… For the companies feeling the hit (not referring to Sam Cooke), there is plenty of talk of cutting budgets and payroll (though much less of the latter in France). In such environments, one speaks of light at the end of the tunnel with caution, especially if the gouging is severe. Speaking of light, sustainable development typically takes a less sustainable position in the hierarchy of expenses.

On the other end of the scale, there are those more fortunate companies that are planning major breakthroughs, profiting from a reservoir of cash and investing strategically and/or opportunistically to reap serious market share gains.

Then there are those companies flush in cash, investing strategically and that should also be taking the opportunity to eliminate dead wood.

As many managers cut dollars, it seems at times that as many are eliminating cents and plenty of good sense, too. Whether in a cash-strapped or cash-rich company, the need or opportunity to slash unproductive expenses, in my opinion, must be accompanied by two key actions in order to sustain an optimal customer satisfaction level throughout the downturn:

Clear Communication1) A clear, consistent and frequent (not necessarily regular) internal communication plan to keep everybody on board down the chain of management with the strategic thrusts and associated cuts. This assumes a clear vision. The visibility of [an aligned] top management is critical to communicate the vision, receive feedback (according to the company culture) and create unity of purpose.  When given the right resources, a well constructed internal intranet network (with web 2.0 functionality) is surely an interesting solution across a larger organisation — according to company culture.

2) And, in order to ensure optimal execution, there must be a culling of the unnecessary tasks and actions, often times associated with the prior, fatter budgets.  This is important to do in order that the remaining work and allocated resources are that much more effective.  The decision NOT to do is as strategic as what you decide to do.

Change ManagementThe first point above is about genuine leadership and getting the team behind you.  The second point revolves around the strategic execution of the plan.  These two actions are vital because, especially for the larger (older) businesses, at the heart of the issue is change management. As we all know, fear and psychology have generously contributed to the current predicament. And, going through the changes, employees at all levels experience fear (at one or other stage of the SARAH principle: Shock-Anger-Rejection-Acceptance-Hope/Healing/Help).  Consequently, they will start to act out of selfishness and defensiveness which inevitably creates breakdowns, inefficiencies and the dreaded internal politics.   Among the many typical faults made by top management are laying out a strategic plan, but not aligning expectations and creating too many exceptions.  Are the individual Goals & Objectives of the people in the different business units and functions updated and aligned?  Another common mistake is dogmatically and institutionally cutting budgets (by percentages) rather than involving the teams to find where and how to cut.  Getting the team to own the solution (strategy) means having them own the problem.

This line from Cooke’s song magically resumes the process of change management at the individual level:

“Oh, there been times when I thought I could not last for long, But now I think I’m able to carry on…”

SMS & Healthy Loving Relationships

After getting drummed into our heads that using mobile phones may be carcinogenic, I am increasingly encouraged by recent studies saying that using the text (SMS) function is good for you! For its immediacy, the acceptance of shorthand (and errors) as well as the language of emoticons, SMS and Instant Messaging (IM) communication is a very real way of communicating.  Technology and the human touch is a topic I have addressed previously in a blog post.

So, if you text a lot AND you use the word “I” when you IM or text your soulmate, chances are that you are experiencing a healthy relationship, so says this latest study in US News. With a little imagination, the study would seem to reinforce the notion that you need to love yourself in order to be able to love someone else properly.

And, an article I found on the BBC says that, with the help of SMS / text reminders, a group of people suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder*) in the UK will be reminded daily to sit in front of their light box to give a little light to their gloomy conditions in the midst of the dark, short days of winter.

Finally, knowing the number of emoticons that are included in the TXT messages, it is no surprise that there is an emotional impact from the messages emanating from our handy mobiles. On another note, I have also heard more and more about the abuse of SMS between teenagers and the notion of sextext (as yet an unofficial term according to Urban Dictionary). Something to watch out for. Meanwhile, below is a table of TXT speak in case you need a refresher, but an easier resource is here at, what claims to be, the Largest List of Text Message Abbreviations. But, whatever you do, don’t forget to use the “I” when addressing your loved one.

*SAD affects around 2% of UK citizens and between 1.5-9% of US citizens depending on the state in which they live. According to the wikipedia entry, 20% of the Irish (2007 study) were said to suffer from SAD and 10% of the Dutch.

BootB & Pratiks – Website Reviews

I have spent the morning looking at and rating two different “community” sites with different concepts: Bootb and Pratiks, with proof that not all sites are created equal.

BOOTB – “unlimited creativity”

I discovered a new concept in the Internet world which appeals to me no end. It is called BootB, for Be Out of the Box. Available in 12 languages at launch (officially launched November 2007, but went “live” during 2008) Bootb it is still just in the beta phase. With several big name clients and plenty of media coverage around the world (LCI TV in France, WSJ, Guardian and more), I have to believe we are on to something here. BootB is a perfect example of “crowdsourcing.” Pier Ludovico Bancale, CEO and Founder, has pulled together a pool of some 10,000 creatives around the world who are there to submit their creative executions to briefs put up by companies who are looking for quicker and cheaper alternatives to the traditional Agencies. The minimum price is $1000 and the creator of the winning submission gets 80% of the earnings. I have not tried my hand yet on a brief, but in the era of collaborative, open innovation, BootB has a fun design and several success stories in its pocket already. Here’s how it works. As the site says, BootB is the Republic of Unlimited Creativity… the world is your [creative] oyster at BootB.

One annoyance for BootB: the sign up is particularly painful to navigate (scroll doesn’t work, small text, odd calendar system) and, worse yet, the sign up information isn’t rolled over into your profile, so you get to do it twice.

BootB FINAL RATING 5***** out of 5.

—-

PRATIKS – “video guides for life”

The second site I have come across is called Pratiks.com, available in English/French/German. Pratiks is a site collating consumer generated video guides for life. The idea is for consumers to post their “how to” videos regarding practical parts of life. In the channel mosaic, you will find a number of chapters, most of which are as yet empty of content: Love Charm, Car Bike, Beauty Fashion, Kitchen Cocktail, Do It Yourself Decorating, Law Money, Practical Life and more. In Beauty Fashion, for example, you can find an amateur video for how to do a chignon or how to apply a lipstick – seems to be aiming at the teenager. In Law Money, meanwhile, you find topics such as death & succession as well as divorce (neither of which has found any takers, duh). In “Unusual Hobbies,” you find such unusual hobbies as football (single most popular game in the world), bicycling, golf and tennnis… When there are videos, they are virtually all in French, making the English and German flags a case of oversale. And, without even waiting for further content to be posted, I cannot state that I believe this site will not last long. YouTube and its peers have sufficient search functionality to allow to find videos on how to play many pieces of music, play cricket or just have a laugh… things that pratiks can’t do. Then again, I did get a laugh out of the poor quality of some of the videos.

One final annoyance, the English site is riddled with errors in English. Just on the English language Profile page, it writes “CONGRATULATION MINTER” and “Invit your friends”. A bit sloppy. And some of the text has yet to be translated from the French.

Pratiks FINAL RATING 1* out of 5

Your rating please!?

The future of Mainstream Media in today’s world of citizen journalism…

Why the decline of traditional Main Stream Media?

Down Arrow - The Downward Spiral of Mainstream MediaWhy the decline of Mainstream Media? This question has been argued and tossed around in many a media organization’s board room over the course of the last five years. Clearly, for news organizations in particular, time is running out to find a solution that will allow the economics to work.

From a supply perspective, the proliferation of choice and the democratization of media Masses of Dots -- the proliferation of media outletsplatforms have rendered the “space” extremely congested. There is a niche for everything and, unfortunately, one could argue that the objectivity of “serious” and researched news is becoming a niche as well. The ability for serious news organizations such as NPR, the BBC or CNN to maintain worldwide coverage, much less afford overseas news bureaus, is virtually a luxury of the past. Consequently, the number of in-depth investigations has been declining in quantity and in quality.

From the perspective of the consumer, over the course of the last 20-30 years, the sources of information have been corrupted either by overt financial concerns and objectives, or by the lowest common denominator style salesmanship (epitomized by the ‘entertainment’ of News of the World and other such rags). This 2001 article from LA Times offers a good recap [proof enough that the subject has been around].

So what are the main issues?

Certainly, the internet has played a role in unfurling the problem. The democratization of journalism is, to my mind, just a reaction to the lack of the right offer. Consumers, pressured for time, have largely rejected standard hour programming. In virtually Don't Trust Corporate Mediaevery household, the television is competing against the computer, much less the IPOD — although the radio seems to be holding its own. In the realm of news, consumers today are looking for customized information, in byte sizes. For many, the relationship of a consumer with his or her local news team is visceral. The consumer is looking for some form of connection – because the news is feeding the psyche, helping to rationalize events around him or herself. There is, in this relationship, an inherent wish to believe it is truthful — i.e. that the news is authentic. And I would argue that the problem of news organizations can be quickly related to the problem of established brands: how to stay authentic, flexible, customized and in touch with its [mass] consumer? As Noam Chomsky says in his article “What makes Mainstream Mainstream?“, media organizations have typically relegated the consumer to be passive. He writes, the consumers’ “…job is to be ‘spectators,’ not ‘participants.'” So, too, say many brands.

For news organizations, it strikes me that the main question is: What is news for?

Local Culture. Today, it seems that news has reduced itself in large part to a form of entertainment, completely hamstrung by viewer ratings. By extension, news is feeding water cooler talk: sports results, weather forecasts (hardly news) and local sensational events. News organizations are intrinsically local and their bias on news reports is strongly linked to the local point of view such that, with a worldwide satellite dish in your home, you can find two widely different sides to many of the international stories [when/if they are covered, that is].

Learning. If encouraging reading (and writing) were part of the objective of news and printed media, then why has the standard of Reading & Writingwriting plummeted (you can find English mistakes on the front page of any major reputable newspaper, including the Financial Times virtually daily).

Advancement. If, more nobly, the goal of news is the advancement of society, then it would seem that the mass majority of people are tuning out. The case is still made that, by having the coverage of certain genocidal regimes, enough international outcry will mobilize an international intervention. In this regard, from a western standpoint, “serious” news is more or less a portal of democracy.

Ted Turner said, in one of his typically brazen interviews, that such information and news is important. Unfortunately, he used weather as the perfect example (and not only is weather not news, it is highly speculative) since, with this information you can know whether to wear a raincoat, etc. Not exactly newsworthy news or 100% accurate.

Turner also cited in this video (which I will endeavour to post when I find it on YouTube), that news coverage helped to uncover Hitler. However, news neither uncovered Hitler, nor helped to sway or stop him. And, news coverage has not helped the continuing carnage and tyranny in many African countries. Propaganda, on the other hand, plays a whole other role in this type of context.

No doubt that Turner is a great philanthropist and was a business titan. Where Turner’s vision has taken on a whole new meaning today, he said back in this late 1970s interview, that “we all can learn from each other.” This notion of collaboration is highly interesting in today’s context of citizen journalism and web 2.0. Maybe we just have to learn from each other.

If, as some say, news is the first day of writing history… sports and weather have no place in that frame. The important notion for news organizations to grasp is that they need to provide meaning. News should be able to connect and interact with its audience. Of course, news needs to be pertinent and researched. But, above all, news should have sense. Sense to help progress our society. Sense, such that its viewers learn and grow. The BBC (and NPR) have this component in their genes — but typical
ly have been too stand-off to interface with its audience. So, the big news agencies are going to have to learn to lose some control, engage with their audience (i.e. work with citizen journalists) and in the meantime focus on providing a meaningful message. Over time, what will matter is not the quantity of people watching the BBC (although that is a critical part of the economic equation today), but on the quality of the people watching: the opinion leaders, the community heads, the bloggers and godfathers of viral messages… Clearly, the new media department at the BBC is making headway and, once the dust settles, hopefully, they and enough of the “serious” stations can find their place in providing meaningful, sensible and objective news for what is, now, a worldwide audience.

The State of Contemporary Art & Ads as New Art

In a world suffering from an overabundance of ‘contemporary’ moder art, is it not possible that advertisements will be the best “representation” of our era? Surely, this is what Firebrand TV is counting on (opens Oct 22 2007). The plethora of new art–exacerbated by new media for content (mashups and the like) as well as the impact of new media on distribution–is creating a new level of noise that makes art as investment near impossible. And there is the issue of the quality of the new art being produced. Today’s art is a reflection of today’s society (as it always is). Yet, the statement is not particularly reassuring. So much of the art is merely gimmickry. In the rush to be ‘new,’ many so-called artists are using whatever new media comes to hand and are pouring out art for art’s sake (at best) and meaningless creations (at worst). Even if there is some good quality art being produced (and I count some talented artists among my friends), it is increasingly difficult to know where to look. Take a glance at this list in Wikipedia of “contemporary artists” which is purportedly vetted at some level. I challenge you to figure out which are the deservedly ‘famous’ ones and which ones may be just a passing fad?

So, if “modern art” doesn’t have the same value to some of us, maybe we can find solace in the ads which, because of the new media possibilities, will have to become increasingly ‘intelligent’ to make it through the noise.

In any event, here’s a site worth visiting if you are interested in marketing and communication: Ads of the World is an archive of ads that also serves as a community for ad freaks, showcasing a selection of ads (including video) from around the world.
Contemporary Art
Two of my favorites: Learning to draw (right). “We teach that tricky area between 2 and 3.” Particularly a propos regarding contemporary art.

Ads as new artAnd, one of the ads where the message is in the detail… from France 24 (on the left). Beyond the news. When you go visit the site, you will see the detail and the beauty of this creation. And, along the ecology theme, check this one out too: just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

After Ads of the World, the other groovy ad site I can recommend is Inventor Spot and a special mention for Tops in Transport. My two favourites for the Transport theme: National Geographic (left) and Canon (right).

Bottom line, there is still plenty of room for great creative. There are lots of opportunities for using new formats inspired by new technologies such as the flexi-double bus (however it may be called technically). And the ads to encourage fitness also got my attention. I add one more just in admiration of the simple conceptual imagination.A blog that gave me some inspiration: Witty Sparks: Countless Creative.

When a blog becomes institutional

iblog doesn’t stand for institutional blog

I have been a fan of the freakonomics blog for quite some time — a testament to the power of a good book (now available for $17 on amazon, down from $28 list price!) going on line per se. However, the very notion of a blog is up for grabs at this point as this lunch over ip article points out. Freakonomics is an institutional blog, an anathema to blogging as considered in the blogging world of the [recent] past.

The evolution of blogging

Now that we have more than 70 million blogs (per techorati), it may well be time to add some marketing muscle to the very term of a blog (beyond splog). As Bruno Giussani points out, the blog concept is migrating and, with it, the ways of communicating. Blogging is even entering into an evil phase as this IHT article points out. Incentive enough to make sure that I have a comment policy (see below).

I take note of Joe Jaffe experimenting with the interface of his jaffe juice blog, facebook, twitter, itunes podcasting, and potentially so many more (netvibes, bloglines, myspace, linkedin, plaxo. flickr…). Same idea over at Twist Image, with Mitch Joel, where we are looking at ways to concentrate the multiple [social] media avenues to grow your on-line community. And it’s true that agglomeration is the new buzz word which is going to be a major part of the near-term evolution of the net, not just blogging. The web has cast a wide reach with a whole host of new opportunities, but managing the tangle of [even one’s own] links and gaining critical mass will be the name of the game in the future. By the way, I do love the new Google blog search which is helping to clear up the confounded blog search.

Anyway, as far as blogs are concerned, we might consider creating subcategories of blogs. I propose that we create a new list of definitions for what we have broadly been calling blogs. That list could go something like this:

  • persoblog for those personal life blogs, shortened to plog
  • communiblog for community blogs, shortened to cubelog polyblog for multiple author blogs, polyblog (like it as is)
  • musiclog for the music aficionado, mclog
  • marklog for marketing blogs, as is
  • medialog (aside from the issue of the company of the name), for news blogs
  • shoplog for shopping addicts, as is
  • institulog for institutional blogs (ban the idea!), i-blog (perish the thought twisted)

and final idea (for today that is):

  • noblog for not only bullshit logs…

The question will become: who is capable of setting the pace and giving these names? Us, the community of bloggers… but that’s a whole of people to galvanize. Probably will need the New York Times or Herald Tribune to pick up a piece like this one and then, kapow, it’s off to the races.