Next! 2013 punditry you can draw on

We hate next year punditry. OK, so here’s ours anyway: Love em, hate em, but believe em. The New Year’s spirit is telling us it’s all true, plus the Moleskine never lies.

happy new year and peace.

2013 in 2012

ps – so? who has time for PPT & graphics? draw your own.

pps – i hope you have a minute or two leftover to respond with your thoughts in the comments section.


Now We’re in Business


Starting your own marketing agency is hard. Starting your own agency alone is even harder. Today, Hewson Group expands to a partnership between me and my wife, best friend and now official business partner, Kim Hewson. She’s a true entrepreneur, and will be our secret sauce when it comes to growth. Why she let me talk her into it is beyond me, but boy am I glad she did!


It’s hard to get out of the starting gate, but a strong team plus the newest technology always helps!

Additionally, we’re pretty sure we’ve explored every niche and corner of the marketing services industry, and for now, we’ve decided to focus squarely on the social media space. But not in a silo. You know as well as we do that social is becoming ingrained in every part of our work and personal lives. Having “social” at the heart of every client engagement we take on will allow us the flexibility to deliver on clients’ objectives across any channel or customer touchpoint with greatest success. That includes how we approach mobile, how we approach UX design, and how we approach cross channel opportunities like shopper marketing or brand story telling.

We feel everything in our culture is becoming socially enabled, at a truly accelerating pace, and agencies who make social an indelible piece of their own product are bound to remain at the edge of understanding how to engage with consumers to drive business results.

Wow, that feels better already.

Are you looking for an agency that gets your brand or business moving at today’s speed? That would be us. Ping us, we’ll be around.

Facebook will win in mobile when…

There has been a lot of press about facebook in the last few days. Especially with their recent earnings announcement pointing to their growing “problem” with mobile. Problem? What problem you say? Sure, my facebook app moves a little slowly on my iphone, but seems not to be a problem, right?

facebook marketing fail

Why am I getting diaper ads on facebook mobile?

The problem is monetization. How to get more revenue from the fact that more than a third of facebook’s traffic comes from mobile devices. For me, it all comes down to one thing. Better segmentation must be made available to advertisers, drawn from the vast data available to facebook on their user’s behavior and their explicitly stated data.

Case in point:, a well regarded up and comer in the ecommerce space, sells grocery items. They want to build loyal followers and customers, and they are using social media to advance their agenda. Good for them. Do you imagine then that they’d mean to pay to have their offers misdirected if they could avoid it? Basic direct marketing 101 suggests that smart segmentation of your offers makes for better marketing performance. Then, why, on my mobile device, am I receiving offers for diapers? Shouldn’t be given better insights into my potential buying behavior by the facebook marketing team? Wouldn’t they like to know that Bill Hewson isn’t their best segment for diaper purchases? Wouldn’t they rather pitch me on dog food or shampoo, or anything else they I would be likely to buy base on data that facebook already has on me? Of course they would.

As soon as facebook can offer smarter segmentation for their advertisers, facebook won’t have a mobile “problem” anymore.

Multimedia Chat Points to Future Online Behavior

Update: Now that Mark Zuckerberg’s sister inadvertently has sent out a pic of her and her fam using facebook’s new temporary photo sharing app, I thought it appropriate to update this post and resend it given new context. I hope you find it’s pov meaningful to you!

My kids (12 and 1415) are perceptive when it comes to my interests in all things digital, so recently, when they told me about a new service called “SnapChat“, an iphone app that let’s you send a photo and message to your friends “privately”, I paid attention. How is it private? With two key new features: 1) the picture is only viewable for a fixed number of seconds (that you, the sender, chooses), AND, the app won’t allow you to take screen grabs.

In related news, the founders of Napster, and heavy hitting Silicon Valley movers and shakers (Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake in “the Social Network”) and Sean Fanning) have introduced a new video chatting service called “Airtime” that connects people based on their Facebook profiles. What is it? How does it work? Essentially, it will allow 2 types of video chat. First is a very simple UI to give you video connections with your existing Facebook friends. This isn’t really interesting though as Facebook already has video chatting built in through their partnership with Skype.

What interesting is that the service will randomly match you with others who share your existing Facebook interests. So if you like wine, walks on the beach, the Cincinnati Reds, the movies “Stripes” and “Dog Day Afternoon”, the service touts it’s ability to find you matches who you can  chat with, live, who share your interests.

Both of these new services relate to two subjects I’ve blogged about previously. The war for “messaging” platform leadership between Google and Facebook and the ongoing battle between the conflicting human needs for connection and privacy. These two new services make those subjects ripe for further exploration.

First, SnapChat. I believe this speaks to the digital native’s desire, or dare i say requirement, for privacy within their digital communications. All of us, and hopefully our kids, have heard the news that “What goes on the internet, stays on the internet.” This is certainly true, and certainly a barrier to folks who want to have the same rights to privacy that they hold in their non-digital lives. SnapChat, and other “private” messaging services have been created solely to fulfill this need.

Next, Airtime. Anyone remember ChatRoulette? It debuted as an anonymous random peer-to-peer video chat application. You never knew who you would be paired with, and those with whom you were paired remained entirely anonymous. Given that there were zero community controls or repercussions, ChatRoulette quickly became a place for nudity spammers and others who were not behaving. A mere curiosity. But one that gained immediate exposure in digital circles as something to be aware of, even if only as a model. It opens up endless communications possibilities in theory.

Airtime aims to fix all the negatives about ChatRoulette. Because you sign in with your Facebook account, you are immediately accountable for your behavior. To protect users further, the service monitors activity looking for signals of misbehavior (nudity, etc) and removes transgressors immediately. You are allowed to keep your privacy as long as you wish when chatting with strangers, or reveal your identity as you wish. Who will use this service? Initially, I believe it will be the curious, the lonely, and the social scientists among us who plumb the depths of human behavior. Eventually, I can see a service like this becoming mainstream as the barriers of video chat interest continue to come down and video chatting experiences like Google Hangouts continue to mature and gain acceptance.

Will these new services have impact on your online behavior? Maybe not with SnapChat, but imagine that twitter, or even Facebook decided to allow a “private” messaging capability that erased your content after a short viewing window for your specifically intended audience? Wouldn’t you consider using that feature on occasion if not regularly? If it takes off as a behavior, what will that mean to marketers who are beginning to depend on the data available from sources like the Twitter “firehose”? Could it kill the nascent “Sentiment Analysis” craze that companies like Radian6 are leveraging?

Maybe not with Airtime, but eventually, businesses are going to be looking to engage with their customers via video chat. If both parties can identify positive opportunities for connecting, might it not lead to new ways to gather information, learn new stuff, be entertained, accomplish account service tasks, even buy stuff?

I can’t wait to find out. What do you think of these new communications opportunities? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Goggles and Tags and QR Codes, oh my!

Why is it so hard to get the american smart phone-carrying public (approximately 40% of the country by now) to understand and adopt various methods for tying offline things to online, mobile information? For instance, picture this, you’re standing at the spice aisle looking at all those crazy spices that McCormick has up there, and you want to know the difference between Cardomom and Chili powder. All you do is scan the back of the package of each wit your smart phone, and Voila!, you’ve gotten a mobile video sent to you autmoatically taht explains what Cardomom is, where it comes from, and what it can be used for. It even might text you a new recipe using it. Genius! But wait:

You’d think it would be simple, but it’s not taken off yet. I first heard about QR Codes from Ogilvy in 2005 and thought it was immediate genius!: a living call to action that could be plastered anywhere and work to bring objects and places to life digitally like never before! Augmented Reality without all the messiness of actual Augmented Reality. But something is blocking that from happening. 2D barcodes and other offline-to-mobile calls to  action are wasting on the vine. Why?

What’s happened in the last 6 years, and why doesn’t everyone use QR codes naturally? Why don’t most people even know what a QR Code  is? (There’s one pictured on the left over there)

The answer lies in the story of Sony versus the world in the days of the VCR wars, when it was up in the air which would rule the home recording marketplace, VHS or betamax. VHS won. Why? Many reasons, but the main one was open standards. Anyone could make a VHS tape and it would record and playback in anyone of dozens of manufacturers’ machines. Except Sony’s. Until they gave in, and the whole world went VHS (other than video production houses, who knew betamax was better quality!)

So what lesson can we learn from the VHS/Betamax battle? Open source usually wins. But now, you have Microsoft inventing their own tag system. and you have ScanLife doing the same. And other companies as well. And now you have the geniuses (really, geniuses!) at Google coming out with Google Googles which let you visually search for information just by picture recognition, and you wonder, why should the simple QR Code ever be the winning format? Because, it’s cheap, it’s easy to create and render, and it’s, basically free. I created the one in this post in about 2 seconds. just google “QR Code Creator” and you’ll get lots, they all work great, no app downloads or anything required.

To read/take advantage of any of these codes or services, you need a smart phone with a camera. The other thing you need is a reader, an application that sits on your smart phone (well, let’s not count RIM/Blackberry as very smart here, and just say iPhone and Android) which you can get for free from your fav appstore. Why won’t this work on your basic feature phone? It will on some, but the software for reading the code through the camera of your phone has to be baked in since you can’t add new apps to most feature phones (by feature phone, i mean a non-smart phone, just your basic Motorola Razr or whatever)

So what will it take for my forecast that QR codes will take off as a form of connectivity between physical things and digital information? First, the smart phone manufactures and mobile phone carriers will have to start putting QR Code readers on every deck (this is already starting to happen with Sprint, Samsung and a handful of others in the US). Next, marketers will have to come up with new methods of connecting with their public targets. McCormick would do well to take my suggestion up there and put it to test. Last, the public will have to become more aware of the codes’ usefulness and willing to use them with ease and comfort, ideally through a customer service application they “have ” to use. Airlines are already using QR codes sent to passengers’ smart phones as substitutes for boarding passes since they have the scanners already at the boarding gates.

As they say, “It’s HUGE in Japan!” Well, QR codes are huge in Japan (90% of consumers use them regularly) and Korea, and large and growing in Europe. In the US, like the mobile phone market itself, the fragmentation that has led companies like Microsoft to come up with their own “cosed  source” approaches, means that we’ll have to just be patient and await the great 2D barcode shakeout.

In the mean time, if you’re a marketer, ask your agency why they haven’t recommended putting a QR code on your packaging, your print advertising, your direct mail piece, and even your business cards. They should have already done so, and if they have, it may be time to listen.