Great New Tag Cloud Tool: Tagxedo

We’ve seen word clouds and tag clouds and just anything clouds show up more and more as a way to visualize text-based data. We’ve used them in reports and presentations to convey a number of different ideas because they’re very effective.

This morning I came across a tool, new to me, created by Hardy Leung called Tagxedo. From his LinkedIn profile it appears he launched this in January 2010. While I haven’t played with a lot yet, it appears to offer a lot of flexibility with changing fonts, themes, text orientation, colors, and even shapes in which you’d like to have your word cloud created.

Here’s a quick look at a cloud from this website,

Snapshot 2010-11-15 10-19-39

For kicks, I also quickly created a cloud of home of inspiring musings of Andy Hunter, long-time colleague and friend.

Snapshot 2010-11-15 10-21-57

In addition to the formating options, the tool lets you import text from multiple sources via a link or even as simple as cut and paste. And it is so simple – this took me about 30 seconds to create the two clouds here, and it was only that long because I played with a few color and theme options.


11 2010

Who Does It Better Than Apple?

Snapshot 2010-11-15 09-59-05

Seriously, is there anyone who does a better job at feeding their fan base?

What’s the big news? Who knows… can’t help but wonder, and not everyone could get away with this type of announcement and have it mean anything. But Apple is so good at living its brand persona without fail.

What could be coming tomorrow? I’ll for sure check now… not to mention share this with a few friends.


11 2010

Cool Healthcare Apps Put People At Center

Thanks to colleague Andy Hunter for this find from the O’Reilly radar.

Great examples of how companies are using open health data to spur better decisions for consumers. O’Reilly has a great article with a video posted explaining how people can use iTriage to get info and help for medical issues they or those they care about are facing. iTriage and several others were also recently covered in a Network World article back in August.

itriage-multiphones-thumb-486x290All are great examples of using technology to give people something very relevant and useful – ability to quickly determine symptoms, solutions, information, and connection to medical professionals for health/medical conditions. Technology helping to get to the right answers more quickly is a classic example of being consumer centric in the solutions you create.

Are apps like these products, marketing, PR, or what? The beauty of it is that they’re all of the above. They’re about genuinely adding value to people’s lives.


11 2010

Break-Up Season? Peak Is Now According to Facebook

David McCandless and Lee Bryon analyzed Facebook status updates for break-ups back in 2008. They found Spring Break and the Thanksgiving to Christmas time frame as the peak season for such activity.


Putting a little context around behavior can tell you a lot… does this point to a connection opp for companies in the greeting card, dating, or maybe OTC/Pharma categories? :)


11 2010

Invisible Man Artist: Putting People At Center

Yesterday my wife showed me a series of photos, but first she explained it was a test to see whether I could find what was hidden in the photo. Most were pics of nature and the intricate disguises used sometimes for protection and most times to catch prey.

But then she turned to this pic, and I honestly couldn’t tell what I was looking at in this photo at first glance. Wild, isn’t it?


The man looked like something from X-Files or Fringe, a hologram, invisible man, floating in front of real life. Clearly he is at the center of the picture, but my first thought was a doctored photo.


Not so. Chinese artist Liu Bolin, 37, has taking blending in to a whole new level. According to a story by the Foreign Mail Service from summer 2009, Bolin takes up to 10 hours after finding a setting to determine where and how he will blend in, then, with the help of an assistant, he paints himself to literally blend into the background, perfectly.


I couldn’t help but look two, three, four times or more, and I had to find this guy online. What a fascinating concept.


After you get past the cool or bizarre or wow factor of many of his photos, you can’t help but think of the commentary on daily life that this tells. How often do we want to just blend in and not stand out? How often do we want to stand out but we’re stuck in with the crowd? Do we really see what is around us? Are we part of the fabric of the world around us?

Very interesting. The talent required to pull this off is hard for me to imagine. It gets you thinking about many ways you could really put consumers in the center of your world… hmmm… fun!

A few more…




11 2010

How Many, How Often, How Long… is it really enough?

At ARF’s Audience Measurement 5.0 for some of the sessions.  Actually speaking here later this afternoon.  Had to post a quick thought on a recurring theme I think deserves further debate.

ESPN is doing a great job of emphasizing that how many, how often, and how long is all that is needed for audience measurement.  I totally agree… if you stop at the channel measurement job of counting up and showing reach, frequency, and engagement.  But, when it comes to understanding really how to connect with people through the channels and messages you deliver, it’s not enough.  I’d guess ESPN would probably agree.

ESPN just shared fascinating data about the media consumption patterns of male sports enthusiasts in the US.  It is so comprehensive that you can see how incredibly useful it is in understanding when and where sports fans (men in this case) are using different channels for sports-related activities.  Clearly, with this information ESPN can attract advertisers by showing they know the elusive men 18-34 is watching online, mobile, TV at these times, etc.

Totally agree that’s a monetization metric that helps the negotiation of the value of ad space.  The addition of how long to how many and how often provides an engagement dimension that helps you see that the people you’re interested in are going to be hanging out a bit longer, so your chances of connecting are that much better.

This information helps you know the chance of being connected with someone strictly because they’re in the vicinity of your content.  However, what if we also understood the relevance of the medium (TV, online, mobile, social, print, etc. – in this case, all in the sports genre) in providing some utility in helping that same audience make decisions in their lives?  This added, people-centric dimension to measurement is about more than message and campaign planning, it can provide a future currency to monetize media properties and content–and do it in a way that benefits the marketer AND the consumer AND the content provider.

For example, if you know a channel has relevance and utility to buying cars or selecting college options for your kids or choosing a profession or stopping smoking or deciding where to eat or picking a movie, you now know how to create an experience for the consumer.  If you can assign a value to the “power” or “ability” of a channel to deliver an experience (what I’m calling relevance and utility) within a category, then you can charge more to the advertiser who wants to use your medium to reach a consumer.

Too often we think of relevance and utility as the job of the creative – getting a message that matters to someone and then delivering it where they are.  Similarly, we think of out-of-home or experiential marketing solutions as the ones responsible for creating experiences.  Today’s media landscape has changed enough to make it so that the distinction between creative/message/medium is very blurred.  Combined, they’re all creating experiences whether we measure it or not, and, as such, provide relevance and utility for the individual, on their terms.

Instead of focusing our spending and buying of ad space based on numbers of people and how long and how often they use the channel, let’s start looking at the relevance of that channel to be useful within the context of a decision-making process.  Then sell space based on that.  In my view, that benefits the consumer, puts people at the center, and ends up benefiting the media property and the marketer.

Auto Sentiment Analysis Failing? Context is King

UK company FreshMinds Research recently ran a test by pulling social media commentary about Starbucks using several popular analytic tools offering automated sentiment analysis of the text gathered.  They found flipping a coin to determine the sentiment of each individual comment would have been more accurate than what the tools reported.

FreshMinds analyzed over 19,000 online conversations with tools from Alterian, Biz360, Brandwatch, Nielsen, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos.  All content was centered on Starbucks.

The good news is aggregate level reporting of sentiment (average overall) was between 60% and 80% in agreement with a manual coding by trained staff.  Not bad.  The bad news?  Only about a third of individual comments were accurately coded.

Somehow, the randomization of automation errors resulted in an aggregate number of coding all conversations that wasn’t off by much.  But, if you wanted to dig deeper into individual conversations either for more insight or to engage in the conversation, the likelihood of finding the right positive or negative comments is not very high at all.

Their report is an excellent overview of these seven tools and how they perform across geographies and content sources.  And, as a side note, it’s a great marketing effort to get you and me to pull down their paper in exchange for contact information.

It’s not surprising to me that these tools are still so far off.  It’s a micro-representation of a macro-level challenge facing most research firms, agencies, and marketers today:  putting things into context from a people-centric approach.  We have so much data today that making it both accurate and actionable requires a more concerted effort to put everything into context, mirroring the reality of human decision-making and behavior as much as possible.

I’m sure some combination of neural networks, complexity science, and/or agent-based simulation tools eventually will yield “smarter” sentiment analysis tools to speed up the process of sifting through thousands of lines of text-based data.  Those pursuing that dream need not lose sight of the biggest mystery to solve:  understanding the meaning of words within a human context.

The FreshMinds report is definitely worth the read.  I’m curious what the makers of these tools would have to say about their report.

Thanks to Research (the magazine) for the heads up on the white paper release.

Choose-Your-Own Ad? How About Access to Relevant Ad Content?

I was a week behind, but my interest was piqued by a headline in last week’s Ad Age:  ”Vivaki predicts $100M market for choose-your-own-ad format.”

Several times in the last few months I’ve tossed around the question why can’t I simply have a channel on my satellite provider that has all the restaurant ads, another for the apparel ads, another for car ads, another for insurance, etc.  It could be they’re there and I don’t know.  But, either way, it would be so much more useful and, potentially, entertaining if I could go watch the ads because I wanted to, not because someone is making me before I can get to what I’m really interested in…

So, the Ad Age headline was interesting.  The article explains how Vivaki (viva-key), a Publicis unit, has teamed with Hulu, Yahoo, CBS, and others to deliver the online commercials in a way that allows consumers to pick the ads they would like to watch.

Cool.  My wish come true?

Well, sort of, but not really.  You sort of get a choice.

ClickZ writer David Ward has a good article describing how they arrived at using the Hulu-pioneered format for the “Ad Selector”, which is the platform they’re using.  What happens is you are given a choice of which of up to three ads you’d prefer watching before you can watch the Hulu, or Yahoo, or CBS video you originally clicked on and wanted to watch.

So, while they’re research in developing the tool references “the consumer belief it gives them more choice and is more respectful of their time,” it’s still just a small step in the direction of being about relevance to the viewer.  I totally agree with one comment left to Ward’s article that why give three ads to pick from that may be totally irrelevant to begin with?  Can’t we use technology these days to truly be relevant to the user and allow you to pick whatever category we are interested in at the time?

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the Vivaki effort.  But, it’s still so advertiser and publisher / content owner focused.

So, their research showed higher click-through rates than other formats in which you have no choice.  Well, no duh.  Imagine the click-through rate if you decided you wanted to watch the specific ad content in the first place, not just picked one of three served up to you.

Podcaster Daisy Whitney chimed in last fall with one of her New Media Minute pieces covering on-demand advertising effectiveness.  Her examples were in the fitness category and seemed to indicate how people who choose to watch Fitness TV programs are more likely to watch fitness-centered ads and buy fitness products promoted on the channel.  Can you say relevance?

On-demand advertising on TV is not new.  You can readily find news reports about its potential and specific platforms from companies like Rentrak back in 2005.  A quick search yields companies like Koeppel Interactive and others who offer on-demand advertising solutions.  But the focus remains on the distribution channel / content owner and the advertiser.  Obviously, that’s who gives us the stuff and they need to make money.

Case in point, in April , Thomas Morgan posted a piece primarily from the network executive POV as to where the most money can and should be made in shifting more advertising to internet TV.  While agree with a lot of his business arguments, I wish you’d find more focus on the consumer perspective.

You remember the choose-your-own-adventure books when you were a kid?  They were the best.  I couldn’t get enough of them.  Funny that I’ve never heard any of my kids come across them today, but they’ve got to still be around.

Today, with digital solutions, we can make choose your own adventure something beyond the imagination of a kid choosing one of four endings in a book.

Rather than toss out one of three ads to choose from and, by the way, force you to watch them before you can watch your video on Hulu, why not offer up something that is really about choose-your-own-ad?

Give me a way to click onto categories of products or services that I’m interested in, then serve up as many 30, 60, 90-second, or long format commercial content you’ve got on everything in that category.  On-demand advertising on some cable and satellite networks are almost there, but make it easier for me to find, use, and interact with on my terms, not simply holding me captive because you know I want something other than what you’re about to show me.

That’s choose-your-own-ad.  I can’t wait to see the likes of NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC, etc., offer up a solution within their network that lets me, as a consumer, access advertising content in this way on my terms.


06 2010

Online Tools Built By Researchers for Researchers

I came across a few online research platforms this morning that are new to me.  It sort of spread to a little hunting expedition, which led to a few more interesting discoveries.  Here’s a snapshot of my quick read on a few.

Picture 2

Revelation and QualVu were both launched in 2007.  They stand out to me, however, because they’re legit social media-style platforms, but built the way a researcher would think and want to use the information.

Revelation appears to be the next generation of blog, chat room and bulletin board type research tools.

QualVu is a very robust online video sharing platform.  Their VideoDiary product is a complete solution for easily facilitating face-to-face and/or personal video diary-stye feedback from real people in their real environments.

Picture 3I can’t wait to try them both out.  I’ve heard QualVu has been used by a lot of people.  I’ve still not found a Revelation user yet.  I’d love to get real user feedback.

Of course, this little discovery led to a chase down of a few other interesting tools worth checking out.  One I already bought a subscription to this morning after finding it.

First, CiviCom has it’s own set of 3-D virtual community solutions for marketing research.  I’m not totally certain on the nature of this company in terms of being built by researchers for researchers.  But the idea of helping to facilitate interactive collaboration in virtual environments is very cool.

Picture 5My favorite find of the day (or the one I really hope works as I’ve bought an initial month subscription to give it a shot) is GuapoVideo.  What I love about this is it is built for internal audiences to collectively annotate and analyze video gathered through research.  Brilliant idea — a tool to help make internal collaboration and co-creation even easier.  It’s like a video-editing suite built from a researcher point of view to upload, annotate, and then cut and past clips into your presentations or share via a web page they create for you.

I also wonder if GuapoVideo could also be used as a way to reach back to the person(s) you interviewed and have them respond to your interpretation of their comments in a more co-creative way.  An added-value step in a hybrid research or ethnographic project.

A funny, but practical one, too.  Ask500People is a totally different online feedback tool, but one brand managers, account planners, and strategists could use in a pinch to get some basic feedback on concepts, ideas, etc.  While I take issue with the way they represent margin of error for polls on their site (I wouldn’t call this scientific sampling for the market research purests by any stretch of the imagination), the concept of a quick question feedback tool is an example of easy, collaborative methods for getting others to think about the issues you’re consider.

Finally, in my brief field trip to discover interesting online research tools I came across this informative slideshare presentation by Carol Phillips of Brand Amplitude.

Share more you’ve come across that have been helpful.


05 2010

Reinventing Marketing: Six Issues Reported by Alan Mitchell

I love coming across someone writing about core issues in our field of marketing that you totally agree with, but seldom here discussed in the trenches with actual clients and campaigns.


For me, Alan Mitchell’s March 10th post for Marketing magazine on reinventing marketing is just that and much more.  You can learn a lot from considering the way Mitchell explains these six issues.

#1 – Personal information management.  People manage their own info today, so organizations need to understand how and why people want and use their info.  Different circumstances, jobs, and situations require different flow of info between people and companies.

#2 – Consumer-decision making.  It’s more critical than ever to understand how people make decisions.  When you do that, you put why we make the decisions we do in the proper context.

#3 – Brands as information services. One way Mitchell offers to reinvent branding.

#4 – Touchpoints. People choose the touchpoints that help them achieve their goals the most efficiently and effectively.  As Mitchell says so well, touchpoints are no longer a means to an end, they need to be selected based on the value they provide to the consumer.  He also notes that products, services, marketing… all touchpoints.

#5 – Marketing and market metrics. I’ve been saying this forever, but 99% of the industry still tracks things in this very one-sided way.  Advertisers measure how much they spend to reach a specific number of a group of people, and what business they pick up. The metrics capturing what happens in between, the consumer’s personal outcomes, are not included.  They have to be if you’re going to be able to address points 1 through 4 above.

#6 – Value propositions.  Mitchell’s summary is these 5 issues mean value needs to be defined from a people-centric perspective, not a company- or organization-centric point of view.

I not only whole-heartedly agree with Mitchell’s articulation of these issues, I think his explanations and examples make it easy to understand and, hopefully for brands, to apply.

In recent years working with brands who get this control shift, it has been my experience the best way to be prepared to address these “killer issues” (borrowing from Mitchell’s naming) is to more fully understand the way people make decisions.  When we’ve studied the stages of a decision-making process, the triggers that activate behavior or response, the outcomes sought, and the influences (or influencers or both) along the way, we’ve been able to help organizations understand where they can add the most value along that journey.

It boils down to being relevant and adding utility so people choose to interact with you.  Relevance.  Utility (or usefulness).  Interaction.

When you think that way, you add metrics to those you track for your marketing efforts.  What do you add?  The degree to which people, with whom you are trying to connect, reach the outcomes important to them along this journey.  When you understand the journey, you can see what people want to think, feel, or do in order to accomplish their goals.  More importantly, you know which outcomes make your products, services, or information relevant and useful.  Bingo.  Track these metrics in addition to how much you spend and how much you gain in business, then you’re tracking what matters in the system.  Then you can have authentic interaction with people — real relationships.

Alan – thanks for shedding more light and teaching me a thing or two with your packaging of these very real issues.  I’m sure Mitchell has a lot more worth reading at his website.


03 2010