Check em out!

Back in the 1970’s, I enjoyed watching Hawaii Five-0.  Steve was the boss and he’d routinely ask Danno and Chin to “check em out” — investigate the person, company or organization. They had their sources. Can you imagine what tools they’d use today? They go right for the smartphone and social networks, quickly solving crimes in many cases.

The same could be said for purchasing managers. Their jobs’ requirements haven’t changed much from the 1970’s, but their tools sure have. The whole process has gone electronic and more direct, for sure. But how do you “check em out?” Would you believe social media is making an remarkable change there, too?

You better believe it. According to a survey presented by DemandGen Report,  the impact is very real:

The survey also showed the growing influence social media, blogs and other Web 2.0 tools are having on the BtoB buying process. A majority of respondents said Twitter and LinkedIn influenced their decisions during the “Solution Analysis” and “Problem Identification” phases. Nearly 90% indicated that blogs impacted their research during the “Solution Analysis” phase and 3 in 4 respondents said social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Delicious were utilized during the early Analysis phases.

“The early survey results validate what we have been seeing in our own business as well as through the results of our customers,” said Scott Mersy, VP of Marketing at Genius.com, the sponsors of the survey.  “There is a lot of research and conversations taking place outside of the traditional sales funnel and BtoB companies can realize greater revenue by reaching out and responding to these interested prospects.”

BtoB buyers are also increasingly interested in sharing their experiences after they have completed a purchase, with more than 60% of respondents indicating they shared the learnings from their research and buying process with others after the fact. One-on-one discussions were the most common platform for sharing insights, but blog postings and participating in discussion forums on LinkedIn and other social sites represented a growing area.

I believe it.

Let me give you an example. Say, for instance, you’re in Terre Haute, Indiana, and you’re asked to find a good source for truck parts. One of your colleagues suggests Andy at Illiana Truck Parts, so you “check em out” on the Internet. Google it and you get the usual, including the company’s site.  Oh, but the second link is to The Fastline Blog and a story on “The Cleanest Junkyard You’ve Ever Seen.”

Interesting post. Seems like a nice guy — somebody I’d buy from.

Andy Nickel, President of Illiana Truck Parts

World’s Most Egg-citing Parliament

The Ukrainian Parliament is more entertaining than most. C-SPAN should add it to their mix of non-U.S. content, although we’d lose some in the translation. We can understand the chatter at the House of Commons. Only us Ukrainians can understand this stuff.

The latest comes to us courtesy of President Yanukovych, who signed an extension to keep the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, in exchange for a 30% discount on natural gas deliveries. It’s no yolk this goes against Article 17 of the Ukrainian Constitution: “The location of foreign military bases shall not be permitted on the territory of Ukraine.”

Marketing Via YouTube

I love this production…

Real Social Media Research

Should you put up a Facebook page for your organization? Is it worth it? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, but the answer is YES.

Nielsen and Facebook presented a joint study at ad:tech San Francisco 2010, entitled “Advertising Effectiveness: Understanding the Value of a Social Media Impression.”

The study was based on opt-in polls of more than 800,000 users on Facebook pages, using Nielsen’s BrandLift research methodology to measure consumer attitudes on more than 125 ad campaigns. It found that ads with social media context, defined as “lightweight endorsements from friends displayed within the ad units,” increased ad recall by 1.6 times that of ads without the endorsements; increased brand awareness by 2.0 times; and increased purchase intent by an unspecified amount.

Get a copy of the report here.  It proves an integrated approach among all media — paid, earned and social — can work hand-in-hand in generating the kind of brand awareness we marketers strive for. The study has implications beyond Facebook.

Another study, released as a free eBook by Shabbir Imber Safdar and Shayna Englin, gets into real detail from a non-profit’s persepective. “Is Your Nonprofit Facebook Page Worth It?” uses a real world example, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Nonprofits need to answer a few simple questions to justify the time and expense they’re investing into maintaining a presence on Facebook:

  1. How effective is the work I do on Facebook in producing bottom line results for the organization?
  2. What should I be doing differently on Facebook to improve my results?
  3. Should I take resources away from Facebook and devote them to something else?

Unless you can answer these questions, Facebook will become yet another unproven checklist task you must do without justification because “everybody else is there”.

Both are worth reading.

Oh, and the image at the top of this post was used to produce this spot for the Palm Pre last year…

An Authentic Business

The piece in the current issue of Inc. magazine on Five Guys Burgers and Fries impressed me so much that I’ll need to visit one of their local outlets.

Here’s an excerpt…

When we first opened, the Pentagon called and said, “We want 15 hamburgers; what time can you deliver?” I said, “What time can you pick them up? We don’t deliver.” There was an admiral running the place. So he called me up personally and said, “Mr. Murrell, everyone delivers food to the Pentagon.” Matt and I got a 22-foot-long banner that said ABSOLUTELY NO DELIVERY and hung it in front of our store. And then our business from the Pentagon picked up.

Focus on your customers by giving them a good quality product and they’ll take care of you.

Oh, look: there’s one in Edison (Wicks Plaza). I’ll have to go there soon.

Coco Opens in Oregon

Conan O’Brien begins his “LegallyProhibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” tonight in Eugene, OR. The show sold out quickly:

Conan O’Brien’s Eugene stand-up show April 12 sold out in just a matter of hours, a Hult Center spokeswoman said Thursday.

Conan is kicking off his U.S. tour in Eugene.

Libby Hightower with the Hult Center said her and her coworkers were as surprised as many Eugenians when they learned Conan would play here.

“I think most of us around here were going ‘really?'” she said.

A promoter for the show said they didn’t use any paid promotion to get publicity. Instead, they relied solely of word-of-mouth and Twitter.

Interesting: they used only Twitter to promote it, where he has more than 818,000 followers, not to mention over 986,000 fans on Facebook. Great twitpic this morning.

Negotiations with Fox are ongoing, with progress being made, via The Hollywood Reporter

When Conan O’Brien takes the stage Monday to kick off his U.S. comedy tour, the most important critics to impress will be the owners of Fox stations.

Talks between Fox and O’Brien’s reps have made significant progress in recent days toward a deal that would bring the late-night host back to broadcast TV. But affiliate concerns about airing the new venture threaten to derail any agreement.

Fox entertainment chairman Peter Rice and entertainment president Kevin Reilly have been in regular discussions with O’Brien’s camp, led by agent Rick Rosen, manager Gavin Polone and lawyer Leigh Brecheen, including at least one face-to-face meeting on the Fox lot over the past two weeks.

While such issues as O’Brien’s specific compensation and ownership of a new show are still being discussed, the host has agreed to key concessions, including lowering his salary and slashing production costs.

“It will be leaner and meaner,” a source close to the negotiation said.

But the host won’t commit to Fox unless the network can guarantee that stations will air his show in all or nearly all of the country.

And as of now, that’s far from a done deal. Some Fox affiliates are less enthusiastic about taking on O’Brien’s show. Airing O’Brien’s show means affiliates have to eat the cost of any sitcoms or other syndicated programs already booked for the late-night slot while already kicking up a retransmission fee to carry the network.

“The question is how much can one network ask of its affiliates?” an insider said.

Dissension on the Fox side is worrying negotiators that a deal might not be complete in time for the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers on May 17, if it happens at all. Without clearing the show nationwide, O’Brien and Fox would risk an uphill battle on several fronts. The show would generate lower national ratings and might fight the perception of having distribution issues, which would increase the risk of stations abandoning the format. Affiliate threats to stop airing NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show” was a key factor in the network’s decision to kill the show and return Leno to late-night.

For this reason, O’Brien’s team is still looking at alternative options, declining to enter exclusive negotiations with Fox. That said, Fox and O’Brien have cleared several points of agreement.

Fox and O’Brien want the show to air on Fox stations from 11 p.m.-midnight, which would give it a 35-minute jump on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman.”

The budget for the new show would be considerably less than O’Brien’s most recent stint on NBC, getting the host back to his scrappy roots after trying to fit the more bloated “Tonight Show.” O’Brien’s “Tonight” cost about $90 million a year — including O’Brien’s $12 million salary — but Fox is aiming to pay less than $60 million for the new show.

O’Brien’s show would likely be based in Los Angeles. Though some critics felt NBC mistakenly moved O’Brien from New York to L.A. when he took over “Tonight,” the host has not discussed with Fox the possibility of moving back. Keeping the show in L.A. would make it easier to book Hollywood talent.

There are, however, still several open issues. O’Brien wants ownership of his new program, like David Letterman, whose Worldwide Pants owns “Late Show.”  But Fox would prefer to keep O’Brien as a highly paid employee, similar to NBC’s relationship with Leno on “Tonight.”

Both sides remain hopeful that a deal will be struck, but the sense is that the affiliates now hold the keys to making that happen.

The comedy tour, which launches Monday night in Eugene, Ore., might help matters. O’Brien will generate plenty of headlines in the coming weeks, which should help keep his profile strong as his team tries to lock down a deal. Plus, starting Monday night, local station owners get a chance to sample O’Brien’s act live in person.

Excellent promotional plan by Team Coco.

Ride Your Bicycle

Good news. Google Maps now has bicycling directions available. They’ve been cooperating with our friends at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to add their info, too:

“We’re thrilled to be working with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to make RTC’s extensive bike trail data available through Google Maps and Google Earth,” says Shannon Guymon, Product Manager for Google Maps. “Bikers all over the country now will be able to explore new trails or find specific directions in their local community with just a few clicks of their mouse.”

The inclusion of RTC’s trail information in Google Maps comes at a time when people are clamoring for biking opportunities. In the last year, RTC has seen an unprecedented surge in its TrailLink.com users. TrailLink.com is the most robust, national resource for rail-trail maps, pictures, descriptions, listings and directions to more than 30,000 miles of trails.

“The demand for trail maps and information has never been higher, especially as more people recognize biking as a viable, inexpensive and healthy alternative to driving,” says Rails-to-Trails President Keith Laughlin. “Sharing our trail data is an exceptional way to introduce the world to what 150,000 RTC members and supporters already know—biking is the ideal way to get where you’re going. The addition of biking directions to Google Maps makes life easier for bikers, whether they are commuting to work or biking for fun, and it can introduce our network of trails to a whole new audience of cyclists-to-be.”

I think its a great idea and can’t wait until it becomes widely available (only in beta now).

UPDATE: I was so inspired by this, the CartoonGoddess and I rode the Greenway the next day — fromPierson Avenue all the way to the Garden State Parkway. The railroad bridge over the Parkway remains…

The rail, to trail…

I can wait for completion — I like the mud. Paved, ADA-compliant paths are OK, but it doesn’t make you feel like you’re in the pre-historic New Jersey.

Vinny-O’s

As an artist, Vincent van Gogh had a vivid and productive imagination. However, I don’t think he ever dreamed his works would ever be reproduced using Tootie Fruities, Cocoa Dyno-Bites and Frosted Mini Spooners.

Humanities teacher Doyle Geddes and his students at Sky View High School in Smithfield, UT, used cereal from Malt-O-Meal to reproduce Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” on their gym floor, measuring 72 x 90 feet.

The details, via The Herald Journal

For the last few years, Doyle Geddes has wanted to create the world’s largest reproduction of a master painting. Using two tons of breakfast cereal, that dream became reality Saturday with a re-creation of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” that covered an area 72 feet by 90 feet.

Geddes, who teaches humanities at Sky View High School, led more than 150 of his students through the process of creating a replica of “Starry Night” 30 times the size of Van Gogh’s original painting.

“To the best of our knowledge it is the largest re-creation of a Van Gogh work of art in any medium,” he said. The re-creation – made with blue, purple, red, green, yellow and brown cereals – was displayed in a gym at Sky View.

As he looked at the completed project Saturday, Geddes said, “I think it’s better than we even expected or dreamed that it could be.” He thinks Van Gogh would be happy with the re-creation, too.

“I think he’s smiling on us today,” Geddes said.

Preparations in Sky View’s gym began about a week ago, Geddes said. They first spread plastic sheeting on the gym floor and then made a grid that created 4-foot boxes across the area. Using that grid, he said, they drew the contours of “Starry Night.”

“It’s as close to the original as it can possibly be,” Geddes said.

Friday night, students caulked one-inch strips of card stock to the plastic sheeting along the drawing of the painting. Areas were labeled by color and Saturday morning, they filled in the spaces with the appropriate color of cereal. Cereal was spread one inch thick.

Saturday morning, Geddes, who wore a Van Gogh tie for luck, said he was a little worried about running out of cereal, but they ended up having enough.

“Our math was good. Our drawing was good and it resulted in a great final product,” Geddes said.

He estimated it would take almost five hours to fill the space with cereal. When they got working Saturday, however, it went faster than he anticipated. It took three and a half hours to fill the area with cereal.

But students didn’t just dump cereal in the bordered contours. Andy Chaparro, student project manager of the “Starry Night” recreation, said that to add texture and form to the piece, some cereal was crunched.

Geddes said the Malt-O-Meal factory in Tremonton donated Tootie Fruities, Cocoa Dyno-Bites and Frosted Mini Spooners, Square One and Lowe’s also donated supplies, he said. Geddes said people were supportive of the idea from the start, and that students have been excited, too.

Chaparro said when he first heard Geddes talk about the project, he felt some disbelief.

“This is incredible,” Chaparro said. “When he announced it to us I almost thought it was just a joke … it’s a dream but I didn’t think it would ever come to pass.”

Geddes said they chose to recreate “Starry Night” because of its beauty and recognition. To accompany the display of “Starry Night,” there were also 28 smaller Van Gogh recreations that students made with cereal.

There was a public viewing 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Afterward, the cereal was put back into totes and given to a pig farmer that will use it to feed pigs.

“So ‘Starry Night’ is going to the pigs, and I think Van Gogh would be happy with that,” Geddes said. “I think he’d be quite happy … I think he’d be happy that we’re doing it and I think he would love the madness of his work of art going to the pigs.”

Geddes said he began assigning projects like “Starry Night,” but on a smaller scale, years ago “to break up the monotony of the classroom routine” and to offer students “a different experience with art.”

He said he hopes that after students work on the “Starry Night” project, they have an appreciation for and a greater connection to art.

“When Van Gogh created this, you know, 100-plus years ago, it said something about him as a person, about the time that he lived, the culture that influenced him, and it’s also part of who we are,” he said.

Geddes dream is the result of what he describes as “an overactive imagination.” He said the idea may have been ambitious but, he hopes students learn to dream big.

“Let your imagination go,” he said.

Those little piggies in Utah are getting some kind of sugar rush now.

“Top City” is Tops Today

Loved Google’s name change to “Topeka” on April Fool’s Day yesterday. What a great day to be in Topeka, Kansas!

Ed Adler’s piece in the The Kansas City Star is terrific…

When you live in the state known for Toto, tornadoes and Obama’s mama, it pays to have a sense of humor.

But Thursday, April Fools’ Day, the folks at Google weren’t kidding when, to honor the Kansas capital, the company changed its online logo, just for one day, to read … “Topeka.”

Yes, worldwide — from Bangor, Maine, to Bangladesh, from Kansas to Kuala Lumpur — anyone who logged on to Google.com saw the name “Topeka” pop up in Google’s characteristic blue, red, yellow and green.

Talk about going global.

Of course, turnaround is fair play. Google was just being neighborly in a Midwestern way, like returning a casserole dish with a casserole in it.

Early last month, Mayor Bill Bunten of Topeka, hoping to lure Google’s “Fiber for Communities” project — a technology initiative that, for free, aims to wire several chosen communities with ultra-high-speed broadband Internet some 100 times faster than what is now available — signed a proclamation changing Topeka’s name for the month of March to Google.

All month, if you called up www.topeka.org, the page read “Google” in the upper-left-hand corner. The logo was still there on April 1.

“Someone called it a monumental suck-up. Sure! We’re not proud,” Bunten said.

From Google’s official Web site Thursday:

“We’ve been wondering ever since how best to honor that moving gesture. Today, we are pleased to announce that as of 1 AM (Central Daylight Time) April 1st, Google has officially changed our name to Topeka.”

The Web site went on to talk about Topeka, Kansas’ (sorry — Google, Kansas’) august history “gracing the nation with Margaret Hill McCarter, the first woman to address a national political convention (1920, Republican); Charles Curtis, the only Native American to ever serve as vice president (’29 to ’33, under Herbert Hoover); Carrie Nation, leader of the old temperance movement (and wielder of American history’s most famous hatchet); and most important, Alfred E. Neuman, arguably the most influential figure to an entire generation of Americans.”

Neuman, is the goofy face of Mad magazine.

The Google Web site also showed the sign outside the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters declaring “Topeka.”

Bunten said Topekans recently did more to attract Google’s notice. At a hockey game, 500 fans lined up on the ice and spelled “Google” with their bodies.

Google has a tradition of pulling April Fools’ Day pranks, once telling users that high-speed Internet could be obtained through their plumbing.

Bunten has no idea whether all the horseplay actually has increased Topeka’s chances of becoming one of several chosen communities. Google plans to announce its decision by the end of the year.

“But we have brought our city a lot of attention,” Bunten said. “I think it’s just an extension of a good sense of humor that we have and that they have.”

Curiously, as of about noon Thursday, Bunten still hadn’t logged on to Google.com to see “Topeka” pop up.

“I had an 8 o’clock meeting,” he said. After that he was deluged with media calls from around the country.

He also said that it was probably time to take the Google name off the official Topeka Web site. It was only supposed to be up there for March.

“We’ll probably take it down,” he said. “We don’t want to try their patience.”