ROI This!

Last month, Al Ries criticized the overuse of metrics in marketing in his Ad Age column, entitled “Metric Madness” (subscription required). I couldn’t agree more and I especially like what he wrote about experience:

An experienced marketing executive instrinctively knows whether a marketing program is working or not. Does Apple need to waste money to determine the ROI of its marketing efforts? What Apple is doing is working. What Microsoft is doing is not. You don’t need ROI numbers to figure this out.

There are many situations where the ROI is zero and yet the marketing expenditures are worthwhile. Nothing about a brand is more valuable than its market leadership. That valuable position is worth protecting. And advertising is the best way to protect it. Nike in athletic shoes. Heinz in ketchup. Rolex in watches.

In today’s business environment (read: Internet), you make your case to the finance department with your numbers. We spent this much and we got this in return. Fine, play the game: take the actual numbers and then crunch them to tell whatever story you want.

How honest is this? In direct response marketing, you use metrics — because you’re moving product. In general marketing, you’re moving brands — perceptions, positioning, awareness. Can you measure that in the short-term? Sure you can. Does it mean much? No, not really.

I had a supervisor who talked like a big “ROI guy” and used a lot of big words. He didn’t last long — and he’s still talking ROI like it’s going out of style.

Assess your work objectively. Just keep working and stick to your convictions.

During the summber of 2007, Al Ries also said the iPhone wouldn’t be a success. Heh.

Scoops

Interesting how TMZ scooped everybody in reporting Michael Jackson’s expiration. The story, via the Los Angeles Times:

With the death of pop star Michael Jackson, TMZ gave the most potent demonstration yet of its ability to stir the pot of entertainment news. The gossip site once again left TV networks and other traditional media outlets scrambling in its wake, even as they attempted to distance themselves from a source widely regarded as salacious, if not disreputable.

Just after noon on Thursday, paramedics responded to a 911 call at Jackson’s Holmby Hills mansion. Less than an hour later, TMZ — the same outlet that broke Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade during a 2006 DUI arrest but that has also feasted on such fare as “upskirt” photos of stars — landed the scoop that the multiplatinum pop singer had gone into cardiac arrest. At 2:44 p.m., it beat rivals by informing the world of his death, which occurred at 2:26 p.m.

On a day already consumed by the death of ’70s TV star Farrah Fawcett, Jackson’s death sent TMZ into overdrive. Yet the tabloid sensibilities of the site, which is owned and operated by divisions of Time Warner, and its accompanying syndicated TV show apparently made rivals queasy. Many outlets around the world instead credited the news to the Los Angeles Times, which bannered Jackson’s death on its website at 2:51 p.m.

By 4 p.m., a huge crowd had gathered outside UCLA Medical Center, and celebrities and fans alike were submitting so many messages mourning his death on Twitter that the service intermittently crashed. CNN was still relying on “reports” from other media and telling viewers it could not independently verify the death. Only when the coroner’s office confirmed Jackson’s death did CNN relay it as outright fact to viewers, at 4:25 p.m.

The irony is that CNN is, like TMZ, owned by Time Warner. But Fox News and MSNBC also struggled with the sourcing issue.

If the lack of widespread credit bothered Harvey Levin, the managing editor of TMZ, he wasn’t admitting it.

“That’s typical,” Levin said during a phone interview when asked about rivals’ hesitation to credit the site. “No matter what they say, people know we broke the story. That’s how competitors handle it. There’s no issue about our credibility.

“Today I made 100 phone calls, and everyone else made 100 calls,” Levin said of his staff. “Everyone blanketed the city. . . . We were getting calls from everyone under the sun, established news operations, asking, ‘Are you sure?’ That’s such an odd question. We would not have published it if it were not true.”

Asked about its Jackson coverage, CNN said: “Given the nature of this story we exercised caution.” Nigel Pritchard, a CNN spokesman, declined to elaborate.

On Twitter, the volume of Jackson-related messages — up to 5,000 per minute at its peak — was so high that some users reported log-in trouble.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone acknowledged the performance lag. “We saw an instant doubling of tweets per second the moment the story broke,” Stone wrote in an e-mail. “This particular news about the passing of such a global icon is the biggest jump in tweets per second since the U.S. presidential election.”

Maybe now they’ll be taken seriously (almost).

Saved by Mobile Me

You know that new “Find My iPhone” feature? It works. You’ll enjoy reading this entertaining story from Kevin.

Here’s how it starts…

Myself and two compadres, Ryan and Mark, are in Chicago (each of us for the first time) to attend Brickworld, the world’s largest Lego convention. Yes we’re a bunch of dorks. Yes you totally wish you were here too.

Last night, after seeing Second City improv, we ate at a pleasantly sketchy dive bar in uptown Chicago, where the food was mediocre and the characters were questionable. I definitely had my iPhone while at our table, and I definitely did NOT have it (whoops!) when we were 100 feet down the street.

I raced back into the bar, not even particularly concerned, but it was gone like baby. In less than five minutes, with very few people in the small place, my beloved JesusPhone had managed to vanish into a black hole. Our waitress was sympathetic, and I left a number, but I was immediately glum about my prospects of seeing it again.

So I felt like about zero cents, but then we giddily realized that I had *just* activated the brand-new Find My iPhone service. Even better, Mark had a Sprint (yes, Sprint) USB dongle giving him Internet access over 3G on his MacBook Pro. Excited to try it out, we hopped onto me.com and clicked the Find My iPhone link.

After reading the story, you might agree the Mobile Me feature is worth it, too.

Construction Barrel Monster

That’s pretty cool.

ArtBistro picked up on the AP story from the weekend, about artist Joseph Carnevale:

When Joseph Carnevale chopped up three stolen orange and white traffic barrels from a construction site to create a massive sculpture of a roadside monster thumbing a ride, the North Carolina college student said he saw it as a form of street art.

Police just saw vandalism.

They dismantled the 10-foot “barrel monster” and arrested Carnevale. Hundreds of online supporters want the charges dropped and the publicity has turned the history major and part-time construction worker into a local celebrity.

Even the construction company has become a fan, and wants the 21-year-old to create a replica of the figure that led to his arrest on June 10.

“It’s surprising how many people have called attention to it,” Carnevale said.

The college junior hadn’t spent much time planning when he set out the night of May 31 and snatched the barrels from the site near the North Carolina State University campus where he studies.

“I had the idea in class that morning, and it kind of grew in my head, until it was something I had to do,” he said. He went back to his apartment and in an hour and a half returned to the site to assemble the freshly painted pieces before driving away.

What emerged was a hulking figure that seemed to extend a thumb, seeking a ride from passing cars. The next morning police dismantled the creation and took the pieces in for evidence while they searched for the perpetrator.

Although photos quickly spread on the Internet featuring the “barrel monster,” it was an N.C. State newspaper article that offered enough clues to lead police to a Web site that identified Carnevale. Police charged him with larceny and destruction of property, both misdemeanors, and he’s scheduled to appear in court next month.

Carnevale, an Indianapolis native, prides himself on his street art, but said he’s most interested in guerrilla photography — making art and snapping images from restricted locations.

That the construction company whose barrels were used is happy with the publicity is no surprise. For days, the company was identified as “Hamlin Associates.” Wrong! The name is actually Hamlett Associates, and they could use good marketing attention. Maybe Mr. Carnevale can introduce them to somebody who could overhaul their Web site. The Christian Science Monitor got it right — and the construction company probably should produce replicas for all their construction sites. Sell it, baby!

Local TV station WNCT has the video. And here’s the AP report…

A Million iPhones

Apple said they sold over a million over the weekend:

Apple® today announced that it has sold over one million iPhone™ 3GS models through Sunday, June 21, the third day after its launch. In addition, six million customers have downloaded the new iPhone 3.0 software in the first five days since its release.

“Customers are voting and the iPhone is winning,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With over 50,000 applications available from Apple’s revolutionary App Store, iPhone momentum is stronger than ever.”

Good for them. I got one, too — and I love it. Had a BlackBerry for years and the browsers are simply not comparable, and the apps, well, I’m just getting started. According to Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, 12% of those who bought the new iPhone 3GS were switching from BlackBerry, and 28% were switching carriers.

I’d have to agree with Steve Wildstrom, the iPhone is unstoppable:

Competitors have at least as much to fear from the new software, which is free for the original iPhone and iPhone 3G and a $10 upgrade for the iPod Touch (a Wi-Fi equipped iPod you can think of as a phoneless iPhone). Apple moved to match and, in many cases, leapfrog the competition.

Now, I’m not surprised. After using it for a couple of days, I know first-hand what a superior product it really is.

HALP

HALP: that’s what a Farker submitted this afternoon in the “business” category after the announcement from Hewlett-Packard and Alcatel-Lucent. Judging by the punchy lead in the story that ran in today’s SilionValley/San Jose Business Journal, HALP is indeed an appropriate name:

Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) and Palo Alto-based HP (NYSE:HPQ) said they will jointly market products that enable end-to-end transformation for service providers and enterprises.

Where did they get that language? Oh, from the HP press release

Once the definitive agreement has been executed, the companies will jointly market solutions and capabilities that enable end-to-end transformation for service providers and enterprises.

The companies plan to launch a global go-to-market program to transform communication networks into converged, next-generation infrastructures. As a result of this transformation, service providers will be able to efficiently deliver new, revenue-generating services. HP and Alcatel-Lucent also plan to offer services to manage the new and existing infrastructures for customers looking for flexible sourcing options.

HP and Alcatel-Lucent also plan to create a joint go-to-market initiative to provide communications solutions to mid- and large-size enterprises and public sector organizations. Alcatel-Lucent products in areas such as IP telephony, unified communications, mobility, security and contact centers will be integrated with HP IT solutions. These joint solutions are planned to be offered to enterprises through HP resellers or as managed services.

Furthermore, the alliance will create new end-to-end customer solutions that take advantage of both companies’ product portfolios for the enterprise and telecom markets.

I’ve done my share of B2B marketing and this kind of language doesn’t excite people much. Alcatel-Lucent’s is a little cleaner:

Through the alignment of their offerings and common solutions HP and Alcatel-Lucent plan to create a “one-stop shop,” relieving service providers of the burden and complexity of coordinating the transformation of IT and telecom infrastructures. Similarly, the companies plan to empower enterprises to effectively create and manage truly integrated communication environments.

The alliance will create new end-to-end customer solutions that take advantage of both companies’ product portfolios for the enterprise and telecom markets.

No matter how you figure it, this does seem to add up to a pretty big deal.

Persian Version of The Orange Revolution

People in Iran are taking it to the streets, much as Ukrainian did in late 2004, in what became know as the “Orange Revolution.” In Ukraine, there was real election fraud. The ensuing protests lasted for weeks, and new elections were ordered. Through the Internet, news was getting out continuously and people unified/organized their protests.

What’s happening in Iran? Were the elections rigged? News is getting out, in spite of Tehran’s two main routers being blocked for a while.  Amazingly, the U.S. State Department actually asked Twitter to reschedule maintenance:

Senior officials say the State Department is working with Twitter and other social networking sites to ensure Iranians are able to continue to communicate to each other and the outside world.

By necessity, the US is staying hands off of the election drama playing out in Iran, and officials say they are not providing messages to Iranians or “quarterbacking” the disputed election process.

But they do want to make sure the technology is able to play its sorely-needed role in the crisis, which is why the State Department is advising social networking sites to make sure their networks stay up and running for Iranians to use them and helping them stay ahead of anyone who would try to shut them down.

For example, senior officials say the State Department asked Twitter to refrain for going down for periodic scheduled maintenance at this critical time to ensure the site continues to operate. Bureau’s and offices across the State Department, they say, are paying very close attention to Twitter and other sites to get information on the situation in Iran.

Because the US has no relations with Iran and does not have an embassy there, it is relying on media reports and the State Department’s Iran Watch Offices in embassies around the world. The largest such offices are in Dubai, Berlin and London, all home to large Iranian expat communities.

But officials say the internet, and specifically social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, are providing the United States with critical information in the face of a crackdown on journalists by Iranian authorities.

Noah Shactman reports in Wired’s Danger Room on citizen-based warfare:

More and more of Iran’s pro-government websites are under assault, as opposition forces launch web attacks on the Tehran regime’s online propaganda arms.

What started out as an attempt to overload a small set of official sites has now expanded, network security consultant Dancho Danchev notes. News outlets like Raja News are being attacked, too. The semi-official Fars News site is currently unavailable.

“We turned our collective power and outrage into a serious weapon that we could use at our will, without ever having to feel the consequences. We practiced distributed, citizen-based warfare,” writes Matthew Burton, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined in the online assaults, thanks to a “push-button tool that would, upon your click, immediately start bombarding 10 Web sites with requests.”

Love the Internet — for many reasons.  Who would have thought it could do so much as a great equalizer? Think about all the businesses it’s turned upside-down — and what it has done for informing all who want to know.