Posts Tagged ‘consumer centric’

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.

13

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.

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.

01

06 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.

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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.

11

03 2010

Focus on People = Focus on Jobs to Solve

I recently listened to a webcast by Tony Ulwick, CEO, Strategyn about his company’s approach to Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI). The focus was innovation strategies to reach growth objectives by developing product solutions based on a clear understanding of the “jobs” people are looking to solve in their life.

Couldn’t agree more with the basic premise that Ulwick is promoting:  people are buying products to get jobs done; therefore, companies need to understand these “jobs” better in order to create successful solutions.  He defined a job as a task, goal, or objective a person is trying to accomplish or a problem they are trying to resolve.

“Customers migrate to products that get the job done best,” Ulwick explained.

This is music to my ears.  And Strategyn appears to have perfected the process of identifying and prioritizing consumer jobs and the desired outcomes that real people are seeking.  They use these insights to identify areas of opportunity and, ultimately, help their clients implement a growth strategy based on product innovation in those areas.

This simple insight (focusing on the jobs that real people are looking to solve) has as much application to marketing innovation as it does to products and services.  In the end, it is all about a company being relevant by providing genuine utility for someone.

The path I’ve been on for a few years now has followed a similar logic train as Ulwick…

People are not only buying products to get jobs done, they are consuming media and interacting with various influencers (people, places, and things) to get jobs done in their lives.  Within the context of marketing communications, let’s refer to these media and influencers more broadly as “channels”.  Like products they sell, these channels represent various opportunities, levers, or tactics that marketers can tap into in order to be relevant to real people.

In this way, the line between a product or service and a channel is becomingly increasingly hard to draw.  Consider the obvious examples of Nike Plus and apples iPhone.  Is access to tools and a community to help you track your running a product, service, or marketing channel?  Is an iPhone app a marketing channel or a product?  Both.

It follows, then, that understanding the jobs people are looking to solve in their lives can equally influence new products or new marketing channels you create.  And we can best understand these jobs by mapping the dynamics of the “system” in which these jobs operate–in this context a system is the interaction between people, influencers, products/services, and companies.

For example, think about the last time you went out to eat and you chose an Applebee’s or Olive Garden or Chili’s, some casual dining restaurant.  The system in this case includes you, the people you went out to eat with (we rarely go alone), the things that influenced your decision where to go, the food you ate, and the experience you had.  The jobs you were looking to solve range from the functional (hunger) to the emotional (social interaction), and could include any number of different things.

Ulwick’s approach, if you were one of those restaurants looking to improve your product, would be to understand what jobs you were looking to resolve through that visit.  And he’d likely probe multiple scenarios to get the full range of eating out jobs.  From that, you can see how it would be easy to define specific outcomes you (the one eating at the restaurant) are looking for when you go to a restaurant.  We could then measure how important each outcome is to you and find out how satisfied you are with the various options available to you to deliver that outcome.  This is awesome and makes total sense.

I would go a step further.  What if we were to study the jobs that you were looking to resolve at different steps of the process you went through in deciding where to go eat?  We’d likely learn that you had a set of restaurants you like, you quickly determined which met your key needs (the jobs referenced in the earlier graph), then you took your choice to the group of friends you were going out to eat with, and then you ended up going to the place that some other guy preferred.  Your experience at the restaurant would then help you decide where you’d go next time.

Mapping the entire decision cycle in this way gives us more jobs to define, and specific jobs we can assign not to the product but to the channels that help you arrive at your decision.  The simple act of thinking what restaurants you might be interested in at a particular time and place is the first job you’re looking to resolve.  In selecting the restaurant for the group you’re dealing with a slightly different job:  successful negotiation, and success can be defined in many ways.

Knowing this, we can determine which channels are most effective at shaping your short list versus facilitating negotiation. Perhaps the actual experience and/or word-of-mouth recommendations are the best at the short list, while coupons, limited-time offers, or promotional events are the most effective at helping you win in negotiation (get to go to the restaurant you like by giving people a reason to like it, too).

Armed with this information, a marketer can see where certain decision-making process gaps are and find new and better ways to solve real jobs that real people face.  These solutions, then, are as likely to be marketing channel innovation as they are new product innovation.

Kudos to Strategyn for the work they’re doing in this area.  I think the big opportunity that is even more real in the digital world today is to apply this thinking to both marketing and product innovation.

Ulwick referenced a quote by Christensen in his book Innovative Solution:  ”The job, not the customer, is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer who hopes to develop products that customers will buy.”

I would make a slight modification… the job is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer who hopes to be relevant and add utility in people’s lives through the products and experiences they create.

A little long… but, hopefully, you get the point.

20

01 2010

Apple Store – Another Sweet Retail Experience

There are some places that just get it.  Sure, they have their problems, but, generally speaking, you come to almost always expect the best when you get there.  When it comes to Apple, for me they deliver.

imagesThis morning, after an all too exciting meeting with our accountants, I had to drop out to the Apple store at the Barton Creek Mall here in Austin.  I needed to pick up some software and I was in a hurry.

I walked straight into the store, found the display version for the software, and then a nice young lady approached me and asked me if I needed help.  I showed her what I was there to buy, she went in the back and brought me the copies, and then the magic happened!

Ok, so it was the first time for me!

She pulled out her iPhone (maybe iTouch) and proceeded to complete my purchase with a bar code scanner and card reader right there

easypay-091103-4

on her phone.  Within about 10 seconds I was signing my name with my finger and the receipt was emailed.  I got back to the office,filed the receipt in its appropriate place.  Apparently, they shifted to this procedure this Fall.

Obviously, I was impressed enough by the experience to now take the time I had expected I would spend in line (that place was packed and I figured I was stuck for a while just to make one quick purchase) instead sharing the love about the Apple experience.

Awesome demonstration of putting the customer first and creating relevance and utility in the experience.  Yeah, I realize they’d done it before with the PC-based handhelds, but this was way better, faster, and certainly had the cool factor.

Thanks, Apple!

Now, back to using that software to get some work done… the really weird part, I was purchasing MS Office (PC) software for the Mac (see my previous post and you’ll understand why).

07

01 2010

Physician Heal Thyself… On Being Consumer-Centric

How often have you found yourself doing exactly what you counsel others not to do?  I’m a parent of four kids, so I have to admit I’ve experienced that awakening once or twice at home.  But yesterday I found myself, and our team, facing the issue at work in a way that was ironic given our trumpeting the consumer-centricity horn.

Since we launched PURSUIT one year ago, we’ve put a lot of effort into the look and feel we wanted to maintain, project, and deliver as a brand.  We decided it was critical to convey a simple, modern, and elegant, but not aloof, feeling in everything from our logo to our letterhead.

Early on we made the switch to Mac over PC so we could use the presentation prowess of Keynote, Pages, and the like to be able to incorporate a higher order design into our work.  And we figured we’d deal with compatibility issues by always giving our clients nicely packaged PDF versions of our work.  No problem.  Well, not always a true statement.

Most times this has worked well.  And we’ve received the feedback about the look of what we do aligning with the value it provides many times.  But with one of our biggest clients we’ve continued to run into difficulty when we prepare our “deck” in Keynote and then convert to PowerPoint because this client wants to be able to view and manipulate files in the collaboration process.

It came to a head again yesterday when we had spent weeks getting what we thought was one of the best project deliverables yet.  The team even worked around the clock in the final hours the days before to make sure we posted the working draft for the client ahead of the scheduled time.  That’s when the “fun” began anew.

First, the PowerPoint conversion we did had problems when they uploaded it from Basecamp because of different versions of PowerPoint on either end.  Immediately, past frustrations on the part of our client emerged again, distracting right away from the content and thinking central to our deliverable (product).  Quickly, we fixed the version issue and re-posted only to hear they were still having issues with certain slides not appearing correctly even though on our machines it was clean.

Finally, we discovered we were using a specific font, part of our initial look and feel effort we worked on to set ourselves apart, that was not on their machines.  So, a few slides in the deck were still totally messed up on our client’s side when they opened it up on their end.

The frustration was high at this point because we knew little attention could be given to the content of our work and we knew our client, who appreciates what we do for sure, was reaching a point of wanting to figuratively slap us upside the head.  I kept thinking aloud (with members of our team) that I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just let us use the PDF version and communicate that way… then none of the compatability issues would be there.  Then they’d see the really great work we’ve done.

At some point, I heard myself talking and realized the obvious.  When have I heard a company say, “if only my customers would accept our way of doing things then they’d appreciate our work and see how good the thing we’ve made for them really is?”  Or, how about… “why do we have to make something that our customer can use?  We’ve made something that we know works, don’t they get it?”

Ok, so the obvious lesson, or slap upside the head, was the cliche “physician heal thyself.”  Our use of the tools we’ve chosen for our work meets our needs, not our client’s.  When we are able to present and control the delivery of the results it is useful, impressive, and helpful to our client because it’s clean, clear, and concise.  But, when our client needs something they can use and work with when we are not there, what we produced has considerably less value.

Relevance and utility.  That’s what we preach all of the time to our clients.

You have to consider your customer’s point of view and determine how you add relevance and utility in their life, on their terms.  If you miss that perspective you’ll push out products/services that look great to you, things that cost money, but things for which the value of is considerably less to the people paying for them.

Moving ahead… clearly we need different versions for different purposes:  (1) those in which we control the full delivery and, therefore, can use our Mac software tools to make them shine and tell a powerful story, and (2) those in which our clients need to be able to use the material on their own, so we’ll need to deliver the same quality on different software platforms.

The less obvious lesson in this experience is that companies who find themselves creating things that don’t add utility and relevance from the customer point of view are not always self-absorbed egotists.  Many likely find themselves in the exact situation we were yesterday… having created something they expect is grand, only to realize they’ve failed to truly listen to their customer.

The point:  it’s not easy to be consumer-centric, even when it seems obvious as does this example of our struggle.

06

01 2010

AT&T Coverage Fight Totally Ignores Customers

I used to think it was crazy every time I heard AT&T claims of the best 3G coverage and speed across the country.  Why?  Because it’s just not true for me and the places I live, work, and travel to in my life.

imagesNow I can’t wait for the chance to switch to another provider once the iPhone exclusivity is up. AT&T’s use of Luke Wilson in the current round of their coverage fight TV ads have solidified that for me.

This public battle between AT&T and Verizon over coverage maps is hilarious.  It’s like two guys flexing their muscles and arguing back and forth looking only at each other, all the time the girl they were after has left.  Guys, the girls have left the room.images

AT&T will likely claim it doesn’t matter because we have the iPhone so the people want us.  True.  But, it’s not you we want, it’s the iPhone.  And you can bet the second I can get it service somewhere else I’ll check it out.

AT&T… instead of spending millions to make a crazy argument that you can’t even defend (and one that anyone who uses an iPhone would know you’re feeding us BS), how about finding ways to be more relevant and ways to add more utility to the lives of your customers?  This could mean spending that money on new products and services, innovations to wow and impress people because of how they improve daily living in an authentic way.

Or, hey, what about spending those millions to build out the network so the user experience is actually improved?

In that way, people like me would feel like maybe you don’t totally ignore us as your customers.  For right now… well, I’m pretty certain you ignore me and others like me.  You’re too busy arguing network maps with Verizon.

And I can’t help but wonder… do you really think I care about that map coverage argument?  If so, let me suggest that what I care about is what the actual experience is, how relevant your services are to me, and what you do to help me live me life the way I want to.

Focus on helping in these areas.  Then I’ll want you and not just the iPhone.

Jury Duty: A Tale of Two States

Life’s opportunities have kept me moving such that I’ve been posting life and not writing about it!

A recent life “moment” for me was jury duty in Texas’ 299th District Court in front of the Honorable Charlie Baird.  The day was quite a bit different from the selection process for a jury I served on in a 2005 murder trial in Sacramento, CA.

imagesSo, of course, it got me thinking about the customer-centricity of civil service on a jury (I’m weird that way). Can it be done in a way that meets the needs of the state while respecting the needs of the citizens?  Texas has a very different approach than California. But both have citizen-centric elements to their process.

First, Texas.  The process starts with a way cool online system for you to acknowledge receipt of the summons, selection of available dates, and assignment to a court and a specific starting date.  I was impressed and figured the experience at the court room would be as efficient, and as focused on making it easy for me to do my duty.  Well, not so much.

The day started in the courtroom lobby as we were all lined up and given specific numbers. The first 24 were asked to stand in line, but then we were asked to sit back down as we waited almost an hour for any stragglers.  One showed. Then we were back in line again and took our seats in the court room.

The selection process in Judge Baird’s court room was very Texas:  mostly polite, lots of talking, and very long. We listened to an hour of instructions from Judge Baird, then we listened to more than an hour of what was supposed to be questions from the prosecutor.  In reality, we were hearing part of her case in the child abuse trial about to start — and occasionally a few questions made it out.  Still, up to this point noone has been dismissed, we’re all there for the long haul.

Following a 90-minute lunch break, we reconvened to hear almost 90 minutes, or more, of the defense attorney rail into us about the corrupt political, legal, and law enforcement system in the US and how people like him are there to rescue the little guy.  His tirade, speeches, and general approach included even fewer questions than the prosecutor.  It was crazy.  Many of us were looking around wondering if we were going to be asked any questions to help select the jury.

We waited another 45 minutes outside while the judge listened to individual concerns about serving on the jury.  Then we returned.  Still, noone has been let go except for the doctor who early on said he knew a witness in the case and couldn’t be impartial.  The rest of us were stuck as the attorneys did their final selection.

imagesFinally, at 6PM the judge read the numbers of 13 jurors and it was over. The rest of us were free to leave.

Contrast this with the California murder trial jury selection process I was in from 2005. We gathered, same number of people, after we received our assignment in a large room on the first floor (nowhere near as easy up front as the Texas process).

The rest of the process was efficient, straight forward, and quick.  The judge told us the rules in about 15 minutes. He then asked people to stand with any major personal issues, and he let a few go.  He then probed directly on some tough questions and tossed a few out.  Then it was time for seating the jury.images

The judge put 15 people in the box, the first 15 numbers from the original random assignment.  The attorneys questioned those in the box they were interested in talking to, then one by one several were dismissed and a new person from our larger group was put into the box.  Once they ran out of strikes, it was over… and the jury was selected before lunch time.

Ideally, I’d love to see the Texas summons technique coupled with the California selection process in the court room to make it match the importance of what it represents and what it really is, but do it in a way that doesn’t subject people to a full day of legal arguments and posturing in a way that has nothing to do with selecting a jury.

Who’d a thought Texas could learn something from California?  Your thoughts…?

08

10 2009

Sport-Tweet Udpate: SEC Caves, NFL Going Crazy… Why?

Just as the SEC reversed course on its unrealistic ban of all social media by fans at SEC games, the NFL continues to take more steps toward restricting the use of Twitter and other tools to share content they want to “protect” for themselves.  Still sounds so much like the Napster scenario now being played out in the world of sports entertainment content rather than music.

As Adam Ostrow reported last month on Mashable, the SEC ultimately changed, or clarified, its policy to allow personal messages and posting.  But they are very clear about any video or footage intended to be used for commercial purposes as being outlaw.

“No Bearer may produce or disseminate in any form a “real-time” description or transmission of the Event (i) for commercial or business use, or (ii) in any manner that constitutes, or is intended to provide or is promoted or marketed as, a substitute for radio, television or video coverage of such Event. Personal messages and updates of scores or other brief descriptions of the competition throughout the Event are acceptable. If the SEC deems that a Bearer is producing a commercial or real-time description of the Event, the SEC reserves the right to pursue all available remedies against the Bearer.

Absent the prior written permission of the Southeastern Conference, game action videos of the Event may not be taken by Bearer. Photos of the Event may be taken by Bearer and distributed solely for personal use (and such photographs shall not be licensed, used, or sold commercially, or used for any commercial or business purpose).”

But the NFL took the opposite approach.  Some talk has been that in an effort to prevent Chad OchoCinco from flying in a fan to tweet during the game on his behalf, the NFL has officially banned social media starting 90 minutes before and during all NFL games.  According to Steve Raquel on the Bleacher Report, the restrictions put in place include:

  • Twittering during a game by either the player themselves or someone on their behalf.
  • Any social media activity within 90 minutes before and after the game.
  • Restriction applies to not only players, but coaches, team personnel, and officials.
  • Restrictions on play-by-play descriptions of NFL games (e.g. Twittering) to only authorized media.

Ok, so the idea of a player Tweeting in the end zone or on the sideline is a distraction and I get it, I guess.  But isn’t this about entertainment.  Doesn’t Twitter suddenly make the fanatic follower of a team feel he knows exactly what Chad OchoCinco is thinking at that very moment.  Doesn’t that make same said fanatic follower even more fanatic about following that team?

I love Adam Ostrow’s quote reported by Jennifer Van Grove, also in Mashable, in her very well written summary of the issue:

“Sure, these days someone could theoretically live stream a game from their camera phone. But a shaky, low resolution video from the upper deck of Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly the same as watching FOX’s telecast on your big screen TV. Social media should be viewed as a fantastic compliment to sports that is good for both fans and the TV networks, but at the moment, it seems that’s anything but how it’s being perceived.

That’s the point.  Hello.  Just like the blackouts that force their content to not be shown in local markets if the stadium isn’t sold out… the NFL needs to think about the people who feed their empire.  Sure, so many of us love football to the point we watch even with this silliness… but how much more would we do if more efforts were made to connect with the fan.

I think a bigger issue is the concern the focus in on the player and not the team.  If Chad OchoCinco tweets on the field, it’s not helping the Bengals, perhaps, as much as it is Chad OchoCinco.  They can’t allow individual player brands to be established, shared, and extended.

But, teams can do the same thing, and in an even more powerful way because they have the content people want or need to be fanatics.

Consider what the NY Jets have done (all since losing Brett Favre, of course!).  In August they held a contest to give away tickets to games to followers of them on Twitter (@NY_Jets).  They now have 4,500+ followers on their official Twitter ID.  The contest was put on by the Jets, not by their fans… an important difference, and an indication of an organization trying to reach out.

But the Jets seem to get it.  Again this week they launched a promotion partnership with JetBlue with discount fares for games in Buffalo and Florida — all promoted, shared, and extended via social media connections as well.

The Jets efforts very well may be attributed to blogger, Twitterer, wine connoisseur and social-networking guru Gary Vaynerchuk.  Apparently, he has launched Vaynermedia and lists the NY Jets as one of his clients.

Compare this with the Dallas Cowboys.  I couldn’t find an “official” Twitter feed, but there are 20+ fan-created follower groups of “America’s Team”.  The most popular, @Cowboys, has 13,000+ followers.  Imagine what the team could do with an official feed offering content, access, and connections to fans.

Another argument against the use of Twitter at sports is sharing confidential information, like the recent ban by the US Open to restrict players using it.  Andy Roddick called it right in my view when he explained you’d have to be a moron to share “insider information” that would call into question the integrity of the game.

Ian Paul reported on other decisions by teams in the NFL regarding social media during training camps and in the preseason, apparently to protect their trade secrets (avoid the infamous video taping of signals fiasco):

The Dolphins allow the media to tweet as much as they like for the first 20 minutes or so of practice, but once team drills begin all electronic equipment including computers, cameras, and cell phones has to be turned off, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Dolphins fans, on the other hand, are forbidden to blog, tweet or even send SMS messages while watching their team practice. The Dolphins aren’t the only NFL team wary of new forms of communication either.

Teams like the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, and Detroit Lions all have similar restrictions, while the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers are running tweet-friendly training camps.

I suggest, rather than being so focused on protecting trade secrets or trying to ban players from branding themselves or try to keep fans from distributing content that they own, the NFL, and other sports entertainment brands, should look to how these tools can enhance the relationship with their most important assets: their customer base.

Bring some fan on Twitter who keeps up with what’s going on to the primo seat for free, in exchange for his or her building, promoting, and living the essence of that team. Conduct press conferences for exclusive content that only goes to your followers on Twitter first.  Incentivize your players to get a following, create venues for them to get together with these people who love what they do.

Have a relationship.  Don’t try to enforce or create an “arranged marriage”… those don’t work so well in our world today.

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09 2009