Decoding Technology Marketing

Music pushes me forward, so what is pushing music forward?

Nick Louie wrote this on Apr 7 / 0 comments

Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.

Stretch limbs. Pour coffee. Play music. My workday routine is simple, yet crucial for me to get in a productive mindset. And I’d argue it’s the music that most jumpstarts my creative thinking.

After all, music is a universal language. Fast Company, Forbes and countless other publications have written about how music can support productivity in and outside the workplace. As more people listen to music to support inspiration and productivity, the business opportunities around accessing and supporting music have become more intriguing.

Since Thomas Edison’s first cylindrical audio recording in 1877, audio technology has evolved to bring us radio, 45 and 33 1/3 RPM record players, eight-track tape players, the Walkman and the MP3 player. Thanks to these innovations, region-specific music styles from blues and jazz to reggae and hip hop were able to spread across oceans and countries.

Where being a music industry disrupter once depended on pioneering innovative recording methods or playing devices, today’s disruptors are pioneering unique services to entice audiophiles across genres, devices, geographies and cultures. Remember Napster? Whether you consider them a villain, hero or something in between, they challenged the Recording Industry Association of America’s carefully crafted profit system and the paradigm that individuals must pay for their own music. Napster changed consumer attitudes toward music sharing, opening the door for the music services we use today. YouTube, Pandora, Spotify and so many more services owe their cultural relevance and longevity to Napster.

So what’s next? Jay-Z is leading the revamp of music streaming service Tidal, which plans to sign first-window deals with high-profile artists before other services can stream their tracks. Sony and Spotify are teaming up to enable PlayStation owners to stream their tunes while gaming. And YouTube is working to launch its Music Key service of ad-free music and, yes, even background playing and offline access in the near future.

Still, none of these are groundbreaking like Edison’s cylinder or Napster’s sharing model. I believe the next paradigm shift and big market disruption will occur as negotiations between music streaming services and songwriters, artists and the RIAA become more mutually beneficial or disintegrate under profiteering. Then there’s the possibility investing in artists in new ways—perhaps helping artists publish music as an investment? If we value new music, we must value the ones who create it.

Is technology helping or inhibiting music? It’s hard to say sometimes, but I think technology is forcing all of us to get creative in how we experience music—not just at work or at home, but everywhere.

What are you doing to push music forward?

2015: Year of the Culturally-Aware Marketer

Nick Louie wrote this on Feb 24 / 0 comments

Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.

As marketers we’re tasked with understanding cultural nuances for effective engagement. But how often do we jump to cultural conclusions? In an attempt to be timely and relevant, do we sometimes set aside our better judgment or cut corners in market research?

One example fresh in my mind is marketing around Lunar New Year. Often referred to as Chinese New Year in North America, it’s a festival holiday celebrated by people across Asia and in Asian expatriate communities around the world. It’s bigger than any one county or population.

“Happy Chinese New Year” can be a welcome greeting if you’re Chinese, forging a sense of “they get me” and deeper brand loyalty. As someone with Chinese ancestry, I’ve felt this. But “Happy Chinese New Year” may feel irrelevant or ignorant if you’re Vietnamese, Korean, or of other Asian descent. When businesses extend this type of message publicly, it can be interpreted as thoughtful by some and thoughtless by others. We have the power to make people feel included and respected, so what’s stopping us? Nothing we can’t overcome with the right insight and context.

I’m guessing the NBA didn’t intend to disregard certain people with their Chinese New Year commercial. And I’m guessing McDonald’s didn’t intend to offend Muslims when they printed the Saudi Arabian flag (and, in turn, part of the Qur’an) on disposable take-out bags. It takes thoughtful research and contextual understanding to determine when audiences from different cultures expect the same, different, or nuanced inclusivity. Sometimes it also means inviting different cultures to the table, like Coca-Cola did for their “It’s Beautiful” campaign.

We have to admit we can’t win everyone over, it’s just not possible. But we can do our homework. It’s a great feeling when we’re able to communicate the right message and build a stronger relationship with our audience, so let’s resolve to do our homework and avoid cultural gaffes. Why risk taking on a reputation for thoughtlessness when, with some research and even a few different words, we can celebrate the common thread? 

Countdown to Super Brand Sunday

Nick Louie wrote this on Jan 29 / 2 comments

Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.

T-minus 3 days until Super Bowl XLIX and there’s a lot at stake—an NFL championship with bragging rights, millions of dollars in bets, and likely billions of dollars in hopeful advertising. In fact a lot of people don’t pay much attention to the game, instead tuning in solely for the commercials. Charming, hyperbolic, even tawdry commercials, and until the late ‘90s technology companies weren’t spending on this Super Bowl tradition. So what changed? 

Thanks to the Internet, tech brands became relevant in new ways to new people. 25 years ago most people didn’t know about or understand the Internet. For instance, news anchors Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel are considered trusty fountains of information by millions of Americans, but the premise of the Internet flummoxed them on their own show back in 1991. Their confusion was understandable but short lived.  Katie, Bryant and millions of others got online and started to see the Internet’s potential. For the first time, existing tech companies could showcase their offerings to anyone at any time, and new companies were being born online. These days the Internet makes much more sense and, thankfully, we can look back and laugh at our confusion.

Now that the Internet is part of daily life for most Americans, tech companies and advertising agencies are capitalizing on the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT). On Super Bowl Sunday, people will be watching the big game and the ensuing commercials on such connected things, and tech companies will be advertising even newer connected things. That’s right: we have a thing for connected things.

Don’t believe me? Check out Ad Age’s list of who’s buying commercials for Super Bowl XLIX. From Microsoft to Mophie, I count eight overtly-tech brands, not to mention several others like BMW with IoT offerings. While the article doesn’t say how much each brand is spending in dollars, we can safely assume they’re trying to outdo each other.

This Sunday, whether you root for the Seahawks or the Patriots, we’re bound to see some great tech commercials. Which will be best? We can debate that over Doritos and Budweiser sometime soon.   

Best of CES: An Open Interview of Things

Nick Louie wrote this on Jan 14 / 0 comments

Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.

170,000 attendees. 3,600 exhibitors. Bright lights, big city and even bigger screens.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the things at CES. How awesome would it be to “test sit” some self-driving cars or have the smartest home in the neighborhood? But it’s the trend underlying these innovative products—and the commercial and regulatory implications of them—that’s on my mind.

One of the best things to come out of CES 2015 was Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro interviewing Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler. “The Internet of Things type of opportunities that are out there on the (CES) floor…demand open networks.” Wheeler is referring to the FCC’s struggle to “make sure innovators and consumers have open access to the networks” while “creating an environment that provides sufficient incentive for Internet service providers to build more and better networks.” And from what I can tell, throughout the interview Wheeler champions the needs of consumers over ISPs.

Wheeler’s public opinion may foreshadow how the FCC intends to craft its open Internet plan, slated for unveiling on February 5 and voting on February 26. If the FCC reclassifies ISPs as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act, it would subject them to stricter regulation than they currently face. “That would be a stinging defeat for ISPs and a victory for advocates of a stringent approach to net neutrality—including President Obama, who appointed Wheeler”, says the Los Angeles Times.

No blocking, no throttling of applications, no paid prioritization and greater ISP transparency are the FCC’s goals. This sounds great to the consumer in me, and I’m guessing many people who are innovating new technologies share that sentiment. But what is commercially reasonable—for both ISPs and innovators and consumers? What will incent ISPs enough to build and improve their networks so innovators and consumers can keep innovating and consuming? What plan has the legs to span the congressional aisle and not get overturned?

Wheeler points out that the wireless industry is regulated under Title II and that “for the last 20 years the wireless industry has been monumentally successful—hundreds of billions of dollars of investments as a Title II regulated (industry).” What’s that old adage about flies and honey? Perhaps the same applies to humans and unrestricted Internet access.

I’m eager to hear the FCC’s plan. An open Internet fosters an environment where everyone has equal access to innovate and enjoy the fruits of our technological labor, like the things at CES. If ISPs are allowed to further dictate who gets greater and faster access to the Internet based on what you can pay, we all suffer. Let’s choose an open Internet and thrive instead.

New Year, New Marketing Resolutions

Nick Louie wrote this on Jan 6 / 0 comments

Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.

By now those empty champagne bottles, bent party hats and spent fireworks are swept up, leaving you with possibility. Take a deep breath. Go ahead, breathe in the New Year. Now that your mind is clear, what are your resolutions for 2015?

No, I'm not talking about eating more kale or stair stepping or cutting out the smokes. I want to know how you intend to become a better marketer this year.

Last year was busy. I can vouch because I didn't conquer everything on my list. I wanted to be more data-driven, stay current on SEO best practices, optimize all of my writing for social sharing... But hey, there's a silver lining—marketing goals can carry over into the New Year.

Are there marketing goals you didn’t accomplish last year? Maybe you’re looking for new goals? A lot of other people are thinking about this too, and there’s nothing wrong with borrowing their inspiration. Here are a few outstanding lists I've come across this week:

  1. What Resolutions Should Marketers Make For 2015? interviewed more than two dozen marketing professionals about the bad habits marketers should resolve to break in 2015. That's right, gang. Let's turn those bad habits into best practices!
  2. 25 Experts Share Their 2015 New Year's Resolutions! Inbound marketing automation service Spokal tapped the resolution banks of some 25 top marketers, bloggers and business owners to form this riveting list. I must admit some of these resolutions surprised me and inspired me to think bigger and bolder.
  3. Online Marketing Resolutions You Should Make In 2015 Business 2 Community crafted a short but sweet compilation of "the most important online marketing new year's resolutions your business needs to make happen in 2015". There's a definite sense of urgency underlying this list but it's short and worth five minutes of your life.
  4. Kevin Spacey's Top 3 Tips For Better Storytelling. Yes, that's Kevin Spacey. OK, this one isn't about resolutions, but the script writer in me resolved to include it. A summary of Spacey's talk at Content Marketing World last fall, Spacey draws some great parallels between movie stars, content marketers and journalists as storytellers, and with enough charm to impress a congress building of smooth criminals.

Resolutions aren't meant to be daunting. Resolutions are meant to empower. And remember, refining your resolutions is OK. It means you're still working toward a goal.

The year is young and marketing greatness is on the horizon. What are you going to do in 2015?

How has content marketing evolved?

Nick Louie wrote this on Jun 26 / 0 comments

Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.

Above all else, be helpful.

It's a fundamental shift in thinking, especially for marketers used to telling customers what they need. This "be helpful" approach resonates with tons of people because, instead of receiving subjective sales pitches, they receive helpful information to inform their own decision making.

Many of us know this as content marketing. Gartner refers to this as "the convergence and mutual reinforcement of four interdependent trends: social interaction, mobility, cloud and information" as a nexus of forces" that "is transforming the way people and businesses relate to technology".

But even before there was a name for it—not to mention countless articles, analyst reports, graphics, events and even an institute bearing this name—we knew it felt right. And by "felt right" I mean it felt authentic.

Is content marketing a recent phenomenon? According to Content Marketing World, the term started being used in 2001 while effective instances of content marketing have been happening for centuries. Whether you believe that or not, I'd argue that what's more important is recognizing the evolution of content marketing--where we’ve been and where we’re going with it.

Since BuzzBee's inception, we've certainly experienced this evolution. We've been helping clients establish knowledge leadership practices with social computing blogs, wikis and how-to sites since the early 2000s. More recently we've built on our experience crafting eBooks, whitepapers, infographics, video and interactive sites. We're always getting smarter on the latest things, too, whether that means hands-on experimenting with emerging tech (Can you say 3D printing and wearables?) or attending and even facilitating events to share our thoughtful goodness and help others do the same.

Content marketing isn't limited to certain form factors. You don't have to be the foremost expert on a subject to succeed at content marketing. The important thing is using your "be helpful" approach, whether that means sharing your own unique insights, promoting others' knowledge leadership, or fostering the right collaboration or the right following. As Copyblogger puts it, "Content marketing is an ecosystem, and we all have to play multiple roles to keep it in motion."

Last but not least, where in tarnation is content marketing going? Let's start with the past. As VMware and EMC so eloquently illustrate, we're now living and doing business in the third computing platform: cloud. As opposed to the previous computing platforms, IDC describes this third platform as one that is accessed from mobile devices, utilizes Big Data and is cloud based. With such rapid connectivity to information, marketers have to be relevant. Content marketing helps establish relevance—and trust.

Because as consumers, we're now more discerning than ever. As marketers, let's make sure we're just as discerning. We're not fooled by empty claims or buzz words and we're not fooling anyone with them either. Recognizing this means recognizing content marketing isn't going anywhere. It's authentic. It's help without the hype. It's informing people so they can fairly judge whether to do business with you. Content marketing is where we all need to play because it works—and we can each make it our own. Let's play smart. Let’s play hard.

Science Begets My Creativity

Nick Louie wrote this on May 21 / 0 comments

Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.

Over coffee one morning, a teammate tells me about a design talk he attended where the host proposed differences between the scientific process and the creative process. The scientific process is about collecting data and using the tools you have to arrive at a conclusion. The creative process, in contrast, is about knowing what conclusion or objective you want to arrive at, then collecting the right data and tools to get there.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to document my own writing process. Sure I tend to do certain things again and again between concept and final, but I wanted to consciously know which—and why. Identifying, honing and following your own creative process can eliminate a lot of ambiguity and intangibility from writing and storytelling in general. Here's my take on it.

Ask questions to frame your work. The "5 Ws/1 H" are tried and true and, for me, they go something like this.

  • Who is the audience?
  • What am I talking to them about and what media am I using to voice my thoughts?
  • Where do they come from and where do I want them to go?
  • When do I want them to act?
  • Why do they do what they do and why should they care about my offering? 
  • How have I talked about it before, how have others talked about it before, and how do I want to talk about it now so it's meaningful and relevant?

Outline the foundation. I answer the previous questions, writing my answers down. I take a step back and think, "How can I structure this information so someone will want to read all the way through?" Based on what I observed in a TED Talk by Simon Sinek, I'm a big proponent of starting with "why"—"why" I'm writing and "why" readers should care. This is the common denominator. This is the raison d'etre. This is the hook that can reel in the big one.

Start writing anything. Half the battle is putting the first few sentences on a page. Make it past this hurdle and now I have something to react to, add to, and improve on. I never hit a home run with the first swing of the pen. But I do make progress this way and have yet to strike out.

Be iterative and share your goodness. By the time I'm done with V1, part of me is thinking it's already great. Then wisdom prevails and tells me to take five, maybe more (but not too long). Once I re-engage, I can read through, add on and revise smarter. It's hard to slash witty phrases and big words because I want to sound smart, but revising comes more easily with a fresh perspective. And with that I feel compelled to share—with colleagues, friends, sometimes even strangers. Because when it comes to writing, gaining someone else's two cents will truly make your story richer.

There you have it: my creative process. It gives me focus from the start and holds me accountable to deliver the goods. It's science turned creativity, a unique kind of alchemy that makes me want to keep writing.

Now tell me: what's your creative process?

3 Reasons Why Marketing is Like Matchmaking

Nick Louie wrote this on Dec 23 / 1 comment

Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.

"But enough about me, tell me about yourself." 

Think back to a first date you've been on—you probably uttered this phrase or something like it, trying to learn about the person's background, their inspirations, what makes them tick...or maybe you said it to get the spotlight off you. Believe it or not, marketing warrants a similar approach.

It's difficult to ask someone about themself without being face to face. Yet when it comes to marketing, the most profound, affecting stories get to the heart of what your audience cares about, helping ensure that your offering tugs at their heart strings.

I like to think of marketing being akin to matchmaking, with new campaigns often like speed dating. When you're face to face, you have the opportunity to ask your date questions, giving you the insight to share what you have in common. In marketing you don't have the luxury of asking them face to face. Even with the most thorough market research and detailed analytics, you won’t know everything about your target audience.

But that's okay. You're an educated guesser. They're people. People are emotional. People have personality, and character. And so do you.

I’m not The Love Doctor but when it comes to tugging on your audiences' heart strings, I've picked up on some reasonable guidelines. Here are a few you can take to heart:

  1. Audiences want you to be real with them. Wear your heart on your sleeve to let your offering's story shine. Whether your offering is established or new, audiences come to the table with preconceived notions. For instance, Internet Explorer clicked the proverbial refresh button--and made an endearing case for amends with disaffected 20- and 30-something Internet users--in their Child of the 90's video. Your audience doesn't want to play games or waste time. Be a straight shooter and give them the real you.
  2. Audiences want excitement. On some level everyone likes adventure. Does your offering excite? Does your story challenge your audience to blaze a trail with you? One example that swept me off my feet and made my wrist want to be dazzled is Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch campaign. Because let's face it: when a technological fantasy that spans generations becomes reality, audiences' inner adventurer takes notice. Find what makes your offering exciting and different.
  3. Audiences want to laugh and be charmed. Granted, not everyone wants a relationship with a stand-up comedian, but a sense of humor does wonders to break the ice. AT&T has captivated a lot of people with the help of an SNL-cast-member-turned-mediator and some unabashed elementary schoolers in their "It's not complicated" campaign. To think of it another way, if your offering was a person, would people want to have a drink with it? The story your offering tells is its personality. Why not be charming?

Keep these guidelines in mind when you're telling your story. In a crowded market, what you're offering is only as good as how you're offering it. Don't forget to flaunt your character.