Coca-cola bottles and Swedish pride

Posted March 30, 2007 by Ludvig A. Norin
Categories: bottle, branding, Coca-Cola

Cocacola

Jennifer McLean over at the Credibility Branding Blog has an interesting post that makes me yearn for the follow-up on logo creation. The facts are horribly wrong though, hurting my Swedish pride…

The Coca-Cola bottle was designed by Alexander Samuelson. Anybody telling you otherwize is wrong, and is likely spreading information in preparation of an invasion of Sweden.

:-)

Go read the article she writes about, Smash your brand, it’s great (although it is wrong on the facts about the Coca-Cola bottle).

I really look forward to the upcoming article by Dr Bill Haig.

Project update: Ultrascan (Holy sh*t it MOVES!)

Posted March 29, 2007 by Ludvig A. Norin
Categories: development, milestones, ultrascan

ultrascan.png

Andreea and I went to the doctor for our first ultrascan today. This is of course an important milestone, and we were eager to get a clear picture of the current status of the project. She is 12 weeks pregnant, so this is just the first of many Quality Assurance meetings to come… While I can’t give any specifics on particular features, such as sex, eye color and such, I’m happy to report that everything is developing according to specification! There are no visible bugs, and the feature-set is what is to be expected at this stage. This baby of ours is now 6,51cm tall, and very much alive and kicking. Actually, running is a better description. I do not believe we’ll encounter any performance problems in the future… :-)

We expect to deliver on schedule, around October 7th.

This is amazing!

How Microsoft and Waggener Edstrom create stories

Posted March 28, 2007 by Ludvig A. Norin
Categories: Channel9, marketing, microsoft, PR, Waggener Edstrom

PR

Update 3: This story is now on both techmeme and Slashdot.

This morning I came across a great article on the Wired blog network. Fred Vogelstein, a journalist for Wired, writes about how he got hold of a dossier on himself, produced by Microsoft and their PR firm, Waggener Edstrom. Chris Anderson, Wired Editor in Chief, has also posted his comments on the story as have Waggener Edstrom President Frank Shaw.

I have been in several interview sessions with both Swedish and American journalists, and have learned both from experience and smart PR people that this is the way it works. Not only for Microsoft but for anyone that strive to control the message, or simpy get his story out.

That’s right. It’s all about stories. It’s where it begins, and it’s where it ends if you’re successful.

The material produced by Microsoft’s PR machinery is impressive, but not jaw-droppingly exceptional. We did just as extensive research on the journalists involved when the most successful articles that I was part of were planned. If you want to tell a story, you’d better tailor it to the audience if you want it to become a story that they’ll want to tell others later on. A press-release is the opposite of this, more often than not resulting in no story at all, or worse – a story concieved by the journalist instead of yourself. Manipulation? Not really. It’s about being proud of what you do and wanting to tell the story.

Back to the “dossier” in question. You can read it here. It’s basically a preparation of an interview, a followup after it’s done and a discussion on how to proceed. The preparation is the “juicy” part, containing a thourogh background on Fred Vogelstein and Wired Magazine. What really catches my attention isn’t that, though, but rather the very nice follow-up on the interview at the beginning. This is just as essential as the preparation – analyzing what went well and what went worse and how to go forward, is just as important as meeting the journalist in the first place. This is where I learnt the most about myself and the press.

There is a common misconception that stories are created by newsagencies, papers and journalists. While true in many cases, reality is that most stories are merely told by them. Somebody else created the story, and that somebody certainly have their own agenda. Most of us know this, but we all tend to forget it whenever we read a juicy story in the news. One of the keys to good PR in news media is to learn how to create the story, and how to tell it to the journalists in an engaging way. Sometimes this involves “planting” it over the course of days, weeks or months before the actual interview. Sometimes it’s more spontaneous.

I can see how the release of this information may reflect badly on Microsoft, but in my opinion this “dossier” is a good example on how to do effective PR for news media. I’d say that it’s pretty similar to the preparation and follow-up meetings I’ve had with the PR folks before and after interviews, with the notable difference that it’s in written form. Reading technology press I often see stories that would’ve been orders of magnitude more interesting if the one with the agenda had done a better job, much like Microsoft did in this case. Just take a look at the end result of their efforts.

What surprise me the most in this “dossier” is that they’ve misspelled Lenn Pryor’s name, and that he is described as being “scared” of the Channel 9 initiative. That’s not really the impression I’ve got of Lenn, but then again I’ve never actually spoke to him directly, I’ve just been reading his blog since ages.

News is all about stories. Journalists loves them, as do readers. Most good journalists actively search for stories, and being able to let them find yours is not bad. It’s what makes successful news media PR.

On another note: Waggener Edstrom sounds vaugely Scandinavian. Makes me wonder about the history of the company…

Update: I noticed that Robert Scoble made a comment over at the Wired blog, stating that he’d never been briefed my PR department before doing Channel 9 or blog posts. Blogging is a completely different beast compared to what we are talking about here. Starting a conversation with customers is essential, and this just won’t happen through news and magazines. That said, news is news even if it is a blogger blogging them – crafting a story is as relevant as it’s ever been.

Update 2: This story has showed up on techmeme.

Building trust

Posted March 27, 2007 by Ludvig A. Norin
Categories: erp, lawsuits, microsoft business solutions, oracle, sap

Lawsuit

As most business solutions savy people know, Oracle sued SAP a week ago. The accusations are serious, and can result in serious consequences if found true.

This will not help Oracle in their struggles to get a hold of the SME market. In fact, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft are already having big trouble getting the trust they need to get any large piece of this market. None of these players speak their customers language in the sales process. All of them have large-scale legal issues that are out in the open. And all of them are big, even huge companies.

So, since when did big become bad?

Truth is, big isn’t bad at all. But for a small business it will always feel better talking to a vendor with strong precense in the local market/vincinity than talking to a small sales subsidiary of a big faceless corporation. And when the big corporation is a fighter suing its competitors, compassion may rise but trust doesn’t. As for the biggies under fire like SAP and Microsoft (in the EU courts among others), trust aren’t exactly soaring.

Oracle is suing SAP over theft of intellectual property, specifically the theft of support documents. I understand that it’s important to protect the investments in such intellectual property, but seriously – keeping support materials in the open is good for customers. This goes for all software, including ERP and business solutions.

What customers will see is big companies fighting, over and over again. All at the same time as smaller vendors with strong local presence and strong software and service offerings talk to customers about how to improve their businesses.

Fear and abuse

Posted March 27, 2007 by Ludvig A. Norin
Categories: abuse, Kathy Sierra

Today Kathy Sierra of “Creating passionate users”, one of my favourite blogs, showed up in my feed with a post I wish never had to be written.

I don’t want to be part of a society where women are systematically oppressed in their homes, at work or online.

But I am.

Mens violence against women is a huge problem, and what we’re seeing here is part of that problem. Sexual objectification, defamation and threats are all ingredients in this story.

I do not want to be part of a culture–the Blogosphere–where this is considered acceptable. Where the price for being a blogger is kevlar-coated skin and daughters who are tough enough to not have their “widdy biddy sensibilities offended” when they see their own mother Photoshopped into nothing more than an objectified sexual orifice, possibly suffocated as part of some sexual fetish. (And of course all coming on the heels of more explicit threats)

(from Kathy Sierra)

I wish Kathy keeps blogging, that this won’t shut her up. I’m afraid she’ll quit though, and I don’t blame her.

Robert Scoble is taking a week off because of this. Though I understand his reasoning I don’t agree that going silent is the right way to change all this. Instead, I wish that the sick people that does these things hears it from all of us in the blogosphere that no man, no woman, nobody will be on their side in the end.

Desperation marketing

Posted March 22, 2007 by Ludvig A. Norin
Categories: erp, marketing, sage, talk to sage

Horrific

Dennis Howlett is ranting about Sage’s latest marketing trick. TalkToSage looks like an effort to start a conversation with customers but alas, it is nothing of that sort. Although you have to give Sage your contact details, the only thing you can expect in return is “invaluable free business guides” (and a call from a Sage sales rep, I imagine).

To top it all off, they approach this using a consumer-space marketing strategy. Sign up and you’re in a price draw of £500 worth of M&S coupons.

I’m not sure, but my guess is that M&S coupons have little or nothing to do with how to run a successful business or with business software. My guess is that what we’re talking about is Marks & Spencer department store coupons being offered as a carrot.

Repeat after me: Businesses are not afraid of paying for a good service. Using a consumer-space marketing strategy will not build credibility in the business market. Instead, it might ruin it.

Nobody will trust your ability to provide top-notch business guides just because you’re a business solutions vendor. Especially when it’s for free, and the only sales pitch is that you can win coupons for something totally unrelated to your business. That is not enough to gain credibility when it comes to giving sound business advice beyond the scope of the actual product. It doesn’t really help that the “advice” is being teared to pieces, either.

The TalkToSage initiative could have been so very different. Just have a look at what Microsoft Business Solutions is doing and you’ll understand what I mean. Here in Sweden we’ve got a chain of HiFi stores that are using the sales pitch “bad sound kills good music”. I always liked the frankness and honesty of that slogan, and to paraphrase: “bad marketing kills good business”.

Banking business is tough

Posted March 22, 2007 by Ludvig A. Norin
Categories: bank, bureaucracy, handelsbanken, sweden

Numbers

Today I went with Andreea to get her a Swedish identity card. She got her personal number (the Swedish sort-of equivalent of social security number) yesterday, which is opening doors to healthcare, education and all sorts of things. In Sweden you’re nothing and nobody without a personal number. Andreea is now officially something and somebody to the Swedish government. Yay!

However, getting an ID-card turns out to be more complicated than I first thought. To apply for the card you go to the nearest bank, fill out some forms and wait for a couple of weeks. At least, that’s what I thought. At the first bank we went to, Handelsbanken, the woman at the cashier gleefully asked me…

– Are you a customer of our bank?
– No…? I replied waringly
– We only take ID applications from our own customers. Go to your bank and apply for her ID there.
– …

I was amazed. Had she asked us if Andreea were perhaps interested in opening a savings or paycheck account in their bank, she’d said yes immideately. But instead, she turned a potential customer away for the simple reason that the person accompanying her already is a customer of another bank. They must feel very content just keeping the customers they already have, taking on new ones is way to much work I guess.

The second bank refused to accept my passport as personal identification, which was needed to for me to vouch for Andreeas application. I’m picking up my own identity card tomorrow (the old one expired a while ago), so no card for Andreea today.

There’s nothing like Swedish bureaucracy…


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