Digital is not a channel; it’s a life-connection tool.

June 8, 2009 Social media, Technology Comments (0) 143

At the 2009 International Licensing Expo, I watched intently as people from all over the world walked up and down the aisles with their faces buried in their smartphones.  There were hundreds of exhibitors, featuring some of the most exciting ideas and concepts in the Licensing Industry; yet, I’m sure many excellent opportunities were lost or overlooked merely because those exhibiting didn’t make an effort to connect with the lives of those attending.  Most exhibitors just were not in the “lifestream” of the attendees.

I decided to try a little social media experiment at the Licensing Expo to see if we could get into the attendee’s lifestream and create personal engagement.  We advertised our presence on Twitter in print and on signs in the booth, we engaged followers of the Licensing Expo Twitter feed (#LX9) on the floor, and we brought a magician to the booth to create a different life experience on the show floor.

Were we successful?

Our Twitter follower numbers are up modestly since the advertisements began to appear, but the real success comes from the buzz we generated on the show floor.  We tweeted multiple times a day, awarding prizes, sharing memorable visits and talking about our booth activities.  The folks at the Licensing Expo and others took notice and retweeted.  Many booth visitors said the tweets were the reason for stopping.

It seems that we were not only successful in getting into the lifestream of attendees but once we gained their attention, we also did well to create a memorable experience (with our magician) when they engaged.  This good memory we helped to create launched many more in-depth conversations about our brand and our opportunities.  Although, had we not made good use of the moment when we captured their attention, attendees would have been off to the next thing.

Some have said this was a successful use of the digital channel, or perhaps savvy social media marketing.  Maybe, although I no longer believe in marketing channel silos when it comes to building customer relationships (see my 2003 whitepaper, Customers are Channel Neutral for details).  Customers effortlessly move between channels, so our old definitions are no longer genuinely relevant except to say that the customer experience must be consistent regardless of when and where the customer connects.  Today, marketers must subtly connect, be accepted in the lifestream, and engage with a passion so that it creates a memory for the customer.  So, it was not the use of the social media that mattered in our experiment; instead, it was the memory we helped to create.  Social media and digital technologies are only tools to help spread the message.  What is most important for marketers to remember merely is: great stories and memorable experiences spread quickly to build brands–the channel and the tools are irrelevant.

With people from all over the world attending, the Licensing Expo provided a microcosm of what is happening in our culture.  Our personal and work lives are intertwined, and we engage both regardless of our location.  Life is no longer exclusively defined by what is happening in our physical presence.  For many of us, it resides in the palm of our hands and is illuminated by a tiny screen. As marketers, we must adapt to these changes without being intrusive or obnoxious if we are to keep our brands relevant.

As I see it, this ever-present digital and wireless connection to the world can no longer be called a “channel.”  Digital technologies naturally and effortlessly extend the relationships in our lives, and life connections are not channel dependent.

David Harkins is a serial entrepreneur, which is a more professional way of saying he is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.
When not working for himself, he has had a fulfilling career in marketing, advising both large and small companies including several in the Fortune 500 and many of America’s largest nonprofit organizations. In his spare time, he consults, speaks, writes, hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order. Connect with him on social media below:

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Playing Games with Wireless Advertising

June 6, 2001 Innovation, Technology Comments (0) 142

I read an interesting article the other day about wireless advertising. The article featured a firm called Mobliss (now PressOK Entertainment) that is fast becoming what some industry experts believe to be one of the leaders in the delivery of wireless advertising. They may very well be on to something.

Mobliss founders have developed a pretty unique business model that delivers advertising, with permission, to those looking to “save time or to kill time.” Mobliss, which views itself as a media company, has bet on the “kill time” approach to engaging the consumer. Through the use of gaming and entertainment-oriented content, Mobliss can deliver promotional messages with to wireless devices. These promotions can also be targeted, relevant and location-based. The firm has partnered with gaming and entertainment providers-Group Lotto and Tribune Media Services, among them– for branded content.

It works by offering a variety of message opportunities–from contextual advertising to mobile alerts–to those accessing the Mobliss servers. One example is their recent partnership with 1-800 Contacts where users, after playing the word unscramble game, Jumble, are presented with an opportunity to call 1-800 Contacts to order contact lenses. In this case, the campaign is even integrated into the game, with the word “vision” as one of the jumbled words. Like other web-based marketing programs, Mobliss promotions can be tracked and are measurable in a variety of ways.

As I read this article, I couldn’t imagine anyone sitting around playing games on their cell phones while killing time. I then remembered; the day prior I was sitting in the airport waiting to pick up a friend and found myself, for the first time, playing a game on my cell phone. The difference is that my game is loaded on the phone and doesn’t cost anything to play. To take advantage of these other games or entertainment, it requires a connection to a server, and that means I’m paying for the call and the data transfer. Call me cheap-make that “frugal”-but, I’d never do it as long as the wireless pricing models are as they are today. That does not mean, however, that others won’t. Or that future improvement in technology won’t make mobile gaming easier for everyone.

I understand that there are some 12 million wireless subscribers in the United States, with somewhere around 5.6 million who use their wireless devices for things other than phone calls. But are they using the devices for entertainment in this sense? Who knows? If they are, and I had an appropriate product for those folks, I would test the Mobliss approach.
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My thanks to Brian Levin, CEO at Mobliss for providing clarification and validation of his firm’s services, for this article.

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David Harkins is a serial entrepreneur, which is a more professional way of saying he is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.
When not working for himself, he has had a fulfilling career in marketing, advising both large and small companies including several in the Fortune 500 and many of America’s largest nonprofit organizations. In his spare time, he consults, speaks, writes, hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order. Connect with him on social media below:

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Information you need, exactly when you need it

May 14, 2001 Technology Comments (0) 148


The wireless age is upon us, but as many of you know, it’s plagued with challenges. Chief among those challenges are limitations in bandwidth and costs for developing applications and supporting infrastructure. One start-up, Roamable (www.roamable.com) is attempting to work around those challenges by leveraging the infrastructures that most organizations already have in place. Roamable’s technology platform allows an organization to offer content to users in a format with which they are already familiar-e-mail. Best of all, the content can be delivered on virtually any e-mail compatible device-from a RIM (BlackBerry) Pager to a Web-enabled phone.

For marketers, this technology, like many others can improve value to customers by providing such services as updates on order status, access to purchase history, and current sales promotions. However, what’s different, and perhaps most intriguing about this technology its ability for dynamic interaction. Unlike most wireless content that’s pushed from a business server to a user, this technology allows content to be pulled based on a user’s request-enabling information to be provided both on demand, and with personal relevancy. Let us look at a couple of examples of how this might work.

I am on my way to the airport for a flight from New York to London. It is a particularly long flight and I’m bushed so I want to upgrade my coach seat to First Class, or at least Business Class. I want to use my frequent flyer miles for this upgrade, but I’m uncertain as to how many miles I have available. Using my web-enabled phone, I press a predefined number to send a message request to my frequent flyer account. Within a few seconds, I get a response that provides not only my available miles, but also the length, if any, of the wait list. If I so desire, I can then acquire the upgrade or be placed on the wait list-all done easily and within a few seconds time as I travel to the airport.

Another example might involve applications for a direct sales force, such as dynamic lead presentation by a specific geography (“I’m on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and have a few hours to spare. What other prospects or customers are within walking distance of my current location?”). Another may be the ability for a salesperson to determine up-to-the-minute product inventory availability while closing a deal in a customer’s office.

Roamable’s technology platform provides an interesting opportunity for marketers to build applications and services designed to improve customer acquisition and retention in what is becoming an increasingly mobile society. The question is, can we figure out a way to leverage this technology while maintaining the privacy levels we all so desire.

Here are a few thoughts to ponder:

What are some of your ideas on how marketers can use this technology? Are their potential opportunities for building revenue streams using this technology?
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My thanks to Tom Feegle, VP, Business Development at Roamable for providing clarification and validation of the examples used here.

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David Harkins is a serial entrepreneur, which is a more professional way of saying he is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.
When not working for himself, he has had a fulfilling career in marketing, advising both large and small companies including several in the Fortune 500 and many of America’s largest nonprofit organizations. In his spare time, he consults, speaks, writes, hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order. Connect with him on social media below:

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