Archive for January 2011


The American Girl Place and Content Marketing Perfected

January 26th, 2011 — 12:56pm

While in Chicago this weekend I brought my seven-month-old daughter to the American Girl place. I’m pretty against the kind of commercialism that American Girl dolls encourages, so I figured it’d be good to take her there now while she won’t remember it.

I didn’t know a whole lot about the American Girl phenomenon, and I won’t pretend to be an expert after having visited one store. But I will say that I am amazed at how well that brand has perfected content marketing.

If you know anything about American Girl dolls, then you know I’m not saying anything new. You’ll just have to forgive me. As a new dad, this whole franchise was foreign to me.

For those who don’t know, American Girl dolls are, at first glance, simply grossly overpriced toys. But take a second look and suddenly you get it.

It’s not the doll.

It’s the story.

Each American Girl doll comes with a story. Kitt is from New York and wants to be a writer when she grows up. So-and-so grew up during the Great Depression and is working as an actress to help pay the bills. Etc. Etc.

American Girl’s primary value isn’t in the doll. It’s in the story. But because they’ve invested so much in the stories, they’re able to spin off a hundred different products from it.

And once you’ve visited the American Girl Place in Chicago, it all clicks. Books. Videos. Movies. A magazine. You name it.

They probably have an iPhone app.

(UPDATE: They don’t. But they do have an online university where girls can go to play games and different activities online.)

Comment » | Brands, Marketing

Facebook, Spokeo and the End of (Online) Privacy

January 19th, 2011 — 12:00pm

So I received a chain email that’s been going around warning people about Spokeo, a website that aggregates public information on people. (If you search for yourself, you’ll probably find your name, address, maybe even your home value and a few relatives. Spokeo isn’t new, and there are others out there, so I’m unsure what prompted the alarmist chain email in the first place.)

But the email did prompt a discussion amongst me and some family members regarding how much information is available about people online. Basically, Spokeo left quite a few of my family members spooked.

Of course, all of the information that Spokeo finds about you is already public. Your phone number and address were in the phone book. Your home sale price is on record at your county clerk office. You get the idea. Spokeo just pulls it all together and puts it at the fingertips of anyone with an Internet connection.

The problem with blaming Facebook…

Inevitably, the conversation turned to Facebook, the 800-pound gorilla in the room of online privacy. As the conversation evolved, I found myself defending Facebook for two reasons: first, people join Facebook and divulge personal information freely, and, second, the trend I’m seeing toward sharing more information isn’t unique to Facebook and, therefore, I’d rather be on Facebook framing my own personal narrative rather than allowing other people to share information about me without my knowledge.

Then again, I live and breathe digital media for my day job, and long ceded any semblance of online privacy by joining every social network I could and starting a personal blog. So it was interesting to hear the perspective from people who can say, with all honesty, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

To use the Spokeo example again, that website specifically, as well as others, haven’t done anything illegal, unethical or in any way suspect by providing the information they aggregate. Rather, the Internet in general has completely redefined the concept of “public information.”

And the $64 million question is…

So are we comfortable with that? Is our society better off for it? Is that a price that we collectively pay to enjoy the numerous benefits such openness provides (easier access to information in education, better accountability in government, the ability to do my Christmas shopping a month in advance on Amazon in my pajamas)?

I don’t have the answers, but it did inspire me to check my Facebook privacy settings again.

Comment » | Facebook, Social Media, Technology

January NAMA Luncheon – The Future of Mobile Apps

January 8th, 2011 — 3:36pm

I attended the January NAMA luncheon this past week and got the chance to hear Tim Moses, CEO of Sitemason, a web development and CMS-provider here in town, give a talk on the future of mobile app development.

He set up the talk by giving the status of the mobile app landscape: Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android pretty much dominant the market while Blackberry users only check email. In other words, if you’re a marketer, you’re going to want to focus your efforts on those two markets.

But one of the most interesting things I think he did was to pull a quote from Matt Cutt’s blog, supposedly penned in 2008, but published January 3rd, 2011:

“More people will realize the inevitable truth that Bill Gates saw years ago and that Apple has chased since the introduction of the ROKR: of all the devices in your pocket, the only one you’re not willing to give up is your phone. Therefore, all personal gadgets will eventually be subsumed by your phone. Camera? Already part of your phone. Pen and notebook? Quite close. Video camera? Almost there, give it a couple more years. Car keys, wallet? It will come. In five years, your phone will have fingerprint authentication and be able to start your car or pay for groceries with contactless/RFID chips. It’s all coming. In 10 years you’ll use your phone to authenticate yourself at the doctor, authenticate prescriptions, and store your personal health history, not to mention all your desktop preferences, bookmarks, browser add-ons, and keys to which music you have permission to stream or download from the cloud.” I call this TRUE. Most people now agree that your phone is a personal computer in your pocket. Back in 2008, not everyone realized this.

I think that was (if true) a great prediction. Moses also followed that up with a stat that the most frequently used camera to upload photos to Flickr is the iPhone.

It’s amazing how we take all of this granted now. “People use an internet-enabled device that is with them at all times more often than their $1,000 (with lenses) Canon Rebel? Duh!”

Moses also shared a great anecdote of how his 7-year-old son asked to use his phone the other day because he lost something under the couch. It’s perhaps unsurprising that phones have become our cameras, our computers, our internet connections and, yes, our flashlights.

The two trends I keep hearing more and more about, as far as smart phones go, are the implications for e-commerce and augmented reality (AR). I hear less about accessing and managing personal medical records, but those implications are interesting as well.

Comment » | Communication, Digital, Mobile, Nashville, New Media

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