Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation Now Available on Amazon


First, we appreciate everyone’s patience while we got this volume out.
And now, from Holly Buchanan‘s Foreword to the book…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and ExpectationAfter inhaling Reading Virtual Minds Volume I I was like an antsy 3-year old waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II. It did not disappoint.
I love the way Joseph Carrabis thinks. He has a unique ability to share broad rich theory with actionable specifics. Unlike many technical writers, he has a unique voice that is both approachable and humorous. It makes for an enjoyable read.
But what’s the main reason why you should read Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experiences and Expectations? Because where most companies and designers fail is on the expectation front.

Humans are designed as expectation engines.

This is, perhaps, the most important sentence in this book. One of the main points Joseph makes in this volume is this – Understand your audiences’ whys and you’ll design near perfect whats.
Design failures come from getting the whys wrong. That can lead to failures on the experience side, but also on the expectation side. And that can be the bigger problem.

Expectation is a top-down process. Higher-level information informs lower-level processing. Experience is a bottom-up process. Sensory information goes into higher-level processing for evaluation. Humans are designed as expectation engines. Topdown connections out number bottom-up connections by about 10:1.

Why is this so important?

In language, more than anywhere else, we see or hear what we expect to hear, not necessarily what is said or written. Across all cultures and languages, neurophysiologists and psychologists estimate that what we experience is as much as 85% what we expect to experience, not necessarily what is real or ‘environmentally available’.

And

When people expect A and get B they go through a few moments of fugue. External reality is not synching up with internal reality and the mind and brain will, if allowed, burn themselves out making the two mesh.

Get your consumer/visitor/user experience AND expectation right, get their why right, and you’ll be exponentially more successful.

Here are just a few of the goodies you’ll find in this book:

  • Privacy vs. value exchange and when to ask for what information. Joseph has some actionable specifics on this that will surprise you.
  • Why we design for false attractors rather than the real problem.
  • The importance of understanding convincer strategies. Convincer strategies are the internal processes people go through in order to convince themselves they should or should not do something.
  • Companies spend a lot of time trying to convince consumers to trust them. But what may be even more important is understanding how to let consumers you know you trust them. This book has ideas on how to show your customers/users/visitors, “I believe in you”.
  • How often our own experience influence our designs. Unless you’re able to throw all your experience out, and let the user’s experience in, get out of the usability and design business.
  • How to allow your visitors easy Anonymous-Expressive Identity and make them yours forever.
  • Regarding new material, design, interface, the importance of making sure your suggestions provide a clear path to the past (thus being risk averse while providing marketable innovation).

As always, Reading Virtual Minds provides specific actionable ideas. But it will also make you think and approach your work in a new way. And I think that’s the best reason to treat yourself to this book and the inner workings of NextStage and Joseph Carrabis.


(and we never argue with Holly Buchanan…)


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The Complete “Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class” Arc

Note: this was a thirty part post arc in which J answered student questions. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and he’s the boss, we do what he says. Most times.

UMass Lowell and Strategic Management

I was very honored today to be asked to sit in on UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management classes. These classes are taught by Dr. Martin Moser, a gentleman I’ve mentioned before in my blogs. The classes are working on some very interesting ideas; marketing UMass Lowell as a product to a very targeted audience — high school juniors. As Dr. Moser is going to be passing this post onto his students, I’m hoping they’ll feel free to post their comments and thoughts (and hopefully pointers to their marketing materials, if they’re allowed) here so others can get an idea of what these students are doing.

I could tell you I was blown away by the competence, expertise and skill of these students and I still wouldn’t be doing them justice. They are constructing videos of their lives at UMass Lowell, highly informative, definitely intimate (meaning one-on-one), and very personable. These videos are going on different social networking sites as a means of promoting the school. This is the brainchild of Dr. Moser and is being encouraged by Associate Vice Chancellor Joyce Gibson and Dean Tom Taylor. My purpose for attending the class was to provide some feedback on their marketing efforts and to do some field research on how that generation is thinking.

I’m not going to go into how bright, how professional, this and that. Take it for granted. What truly impressed me was that these students were so willing to learn. When I offered a response to a video they asked for explanations and follow up thoughts. Their questions were both reasonable and insightful. They were thinking! They impressed me. One student recognized the differences involved in gender-based marketing and asked how to deal with them. Other students were aware that certain things would work well for their target but not for older audiences — that’s right, they understood age-based demographics.

Okay and yes. If students are learning how to produce marketing material they should be aware of these concepts. There is, however, a broad difference between learning something, being aware of it, and putting it into practice and understanding how what they’re doing works in a business environment.

My hat’s off to the students, Dr. Moser and UMass Lowell for supporting this learning.

I also promised the students that I’d provide links for them on the various things we were talking about. Those follow at the bottom of this post.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class

A few days back I wrote UMass Lowell and Strategic Management and what a pleasure it was to meet with the students and learn what they were doing (creating online videos to market UMass Lowell to prospective students).

Imagine my pleasure when one of the students emailed me her thanks!

The student, Robyn, wrote:

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come to our Strategic Management class. It was great to hear an outsider’s point of view on our project. You gave us many great insights like the idea placing two people in one shot to show a sense of belongingness. Also researching into the local concert arenas to find up coming events, this is much more compelling. My group, The Usual Suspects, has already been working on a way to put them into our video. Once again thank you and I hope to have the chance to learn from you again!

Let me write again that I was very impressed by all the student videos. They handled my critiques well. As I told them, “I’m talking to you as I would a client who asked us to come in and help them.” The students took my critiques far better than some clients do and (I’m sure) far better than I would have under similar circumstances.

These students are people to watch. Companies should be talking with them now because they won’t stay on the job market long with the skills they displayed in that class.

Other readers of this blog and my IMediaConnection column have written to let me know that my work is must reading or research for their ecommerce, design and media strategies classes. I’m flattered!

Please feel free to contact NextStage (we’re on LinkedIn, Twitter and Skype) if you’d like one of us to visit your class. We learn as much from these experiences as the students involved.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jessica

I’ve received several emails from UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management class students since my visit, which I documented in some previous posts. I’m going to be sharing the students’ emails and encouraging them to post on my blog in order to get some attention for what they’re doing.

First up, this from Jessica…

Thank you for taking the time to meet with my Strategic Management class. Your knowledge and insight provided me with a great learning experience that will help my team and I kaizen our videos. I learned that intimacy is the key to social structure, two people in a video creates interaction (which then produces intimacy) and interest is captured by telling people what’s going to happen, not what already happened. I hope I will have another chance to learn from you in the future.

The pleasure was mine, Jessica, and I hope we have an opportunity to learn from each other again, as well.

Remember that the “two people” rule applied to the video we were discussing. I think I mentioned to another class that a single narrator can also imply intimacy by how they talk to the camera, and also if there’s an offscreen “someone” the narrator is talking to. This offscreen someone can respond to the narrator with small words (“yeah”, “uh-huh”, “right”) and be the viewer’s surrogate. This gives the viewer cues as to how they should be responding to the material, as well.

Again, thanks to the class and more to follow.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Chad

This is another student email from UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management class. I’m going to be sharing the students’ emails and encouraging them to post on my blog in order to get some attention for what they’re doing.

This time, from Chad…

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to take part in our Strategic Management workshop.  All your suggestions and ideas were really helpful, and I really feel that our group has a better understanding of what we are aiming to accomplish with this project. I hope you enjoyed yourself and I hope I am lucky enough to learn from you again soon. Thanks for everything.

As written before, the pleasure was mine. I do hope that readers of this blog who are potential employers of these students are taking notice. These students are learning a multitude of marketing and production skills which will serve them well as Web 2.0 marketing and advertising comes forward.

Again, thanks to the class and more to follow.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Julianne

This post is from Julianne, a student in UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management class. I’m sharing the students’ emails and encouraging them to post on my blog in order to get some attention for what they’re doing.

My name is Julianne and I am a senior at UMass Lowell, majoring in management and marketing. I am in Dr. Moser’s 2:30 Strategic Management class and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to visit with us.

I thought your anecdotes provided very critical information for improving our videos – just because they are well edited doesn’t mean they are going to get the job done. My group has already started thinking of new video ideas and we’re going to leave the editing for when we absolutely need it.

If you have the time, I would love for you to visit the class again. We will be creating videos for the rest of the semester – I’m sure there will be points along the way where your feedback would be very important.

Thank you again for visiting our class. I was a true pelasure and a wonderful learning experience.

My pleasure, Julianne.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jonroy

This post is from Jonroy, one of the UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students. I’m sharing the students’ emails and encouraging them to post on my blog in order to get some attention for what they’re doing.

I appreciate you taking the time to educate our class on Thursday.  It is always good to get feedback from a third party. It reaffirms the trust we have in Professor Moser.  Your input has helped me to improve our project, and help my group move in the right direction.  I look forward to your next visit.

My pleasure, Jonroy.

Some of the students have sent me links to their projects which I’ll be sharing in future posts. Stay tuned.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – James

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to take part in our Strategic Management workshop.  All your suggestions and ideas were really helpful, and I really feel that our group has a better understanding of what we are aiming to accomplish with this project. I hope you enjoyed yourself and I hope I am lucky enough to learn from you again soon. Thanks for everything.

As written before, the pleasure was mine. I do hope that readers of this blog who are potential employers of these students are taking notice. These students are learning a multitude of marketing and production skills which will serve them well as Web 2.0 marketing and advertising comes forward.

Again, thanks to the class and more to follow.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Vishesh

I’m continuing with the emails from UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students in the hopes of bringing them and their work some attention. Readers interested in their work or getting in touch with the students should either email me directly or post a comment here. I’ll be sure to pass things along in either case.

Vishesh writes:

I would like to thank you for taking out time from your busy schedule and attending our Strategic Management class on Thursday. I could gather from your conversation towards our class, that you are an astute observer. I guess that’s one of the qualities you have to posses when you are in a competitive field like marketing&research.
“I would also captivated by the concept of straight line (between the consumers and the producers) which was mentioned by you, how to advertise your product to the right consumer in the shortest possible way (without deviation).

“Your comments on our presentation were very encouraging and that will help us kaizen our product for our final consumers. For example, you mentioned that we should have shown students eating in a restaurant and not just engaging in a conversation, I think that makes the video more compelling and adds to the creditability of the video.

“The same concept has been emphasized by Prof. Moser several times in class.

I had a chance to review some of your links like Improve Website Performance and Online Sales Increase [[these papers are available to NextStage Members]] and I found those to be interesting and spend some more time on those links as that that could be a benchmark for our final product (Space 2). I would like to thank you again and hope to see you see you again in one of our classes.

No problem, Vishesh. Happy to help.

Vishesh’s comment about the “straight line between consumers and producers has to do with making sure the consumer (a website visitor, for example) has the straightest, cleanest possible path between finding the product they want and purchasing the product. In other words, once you’ve identified a prospect as being in the buying cycle, remove all distractions from helping them achieve their goal of purchasing the product.

A direct application of this is knowing your target audience well enough to ensure correct product placement. Doing so insures the correct audience being both branded by the product and impacted enough to act upon the information presented.

The comment about eating has to do with visually showing a credible event. I.E., if you have people in a restaurant, somebody has to be eating, food has to be being served, waitstaff have to be moving around, people have to be at the counter ordering, … something has to be going on in either fore- or back-ground so that the sense of the place is transmitted to the audience. Showing people simply talking with no other activity doesn’t have as much impact. The moral is, whenever you show people at some specific place, something has to be going on indicative of that place so that the viewer has context within which to understand the conversation or events going on.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Astrid, Demonstrating Reasons to be Interested

This post is an email from Astrid, a UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management student.

Astrid writes:

I would just like to thank you for attending my Strategic Management class last Thursday at 2:30pm. Your insights and advice on our video clips was very helpful and now I have a better understanding to as how to kaizen our clips for the project.

For example, I now understand that we cannot simply mention the name of a place and expect High school students to know what we mean. We need to strip the name and be more specific as to simply say that UML has baseball to offer rather than say LeLacheur park. This is one of many of your insights that I will use to Kaizen our project. Once again, thank you, and I hope to have the opportunity to receive your expertise again.

Very good, Astrid.

What this deals with is cultural consciousness. Any institution or brand will have its own culture and much about that institution or brand is known to everyone in that culture, hence “cultural consciousness.”

Convincing people to participate in that institution or brand involves giving them a reason — something they understand from their present cultural vantage point — and demonstrating that its available to them from the new cultural vantage point.

People (as a rule) are resistant to change. Doing something like this — showing familiarity and known — goes a long way to helping people through “change” situations. This is true if they’re experiencing change in their friends, family, work, environment, whatever.

Nicely done, Astrid. Good work.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jaimes, Put Action Onscreen to Demonstrate Community and Belonging

This post is from Jaimes, one of UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students.

Jaimes writes:

Thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to come in to our Strategic Management class last Thursday. Your critique of our video (to make sure there are people in the background) really helped us. We certainly are much better off having learned from your insights. I hope to possibly see you again.

My pleasure, Jaimes.

One of the purposes of the videos these students are creating is to show potential students that a community — a “belonging” — exists at UMass Lowell. An easy way to show this is to have people doing something in the background of their videos. This background action shouldn’t be distracting, only demonstrative. For example, have people walking in groups, laughing, smiling, or talking intently yet in a friendly way. “Belonging” and a sense of community stem from people believing they’re providing worth to the community.

Nicely done, Jaimes.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Saroeung, 3 Seconds Applies to Video, too

Saroeung, one of the UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students, already posted a comment to [[sorry, the comment’s lost]] Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jonroy. I responded there that I’d be getting to her email soon and here it is.

Your visit to our Strategic class on Thursday has taught us a lot about the important elements of an effective video. In order for our video to capture the students’ mind we have to weigh the time and tone of the speaker very carefully in which for the first couple of seconds the students will be connected with the message we’re trying to say, thus drawing a straight line with the audience.

Furthermore, your article on “You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds” advised us on the importance of how far we would go in order to know our consumer, which of course psychology comes in handy.

Thank you for attending our class and we hope to see you again in the near future.

No problem, Saroeung.

Saroeung is correct. The first moments of interaction, whether in video, brochures, websites, whatever the marketing material is, is crucial. This is something I’ll be covering in more detail in my Quantifying and Optimizing the Human Side of Online Marketing [[[[these presentations are available to NextStage Members]] presentation at the San Francisco Emetrics Summit in May ’07.

One of the ways to insure interaction between marketing material and target audience is, as Saroeung writes, to make sure the tone of the material — in this case, the video’s narrator — matches the tone normally used by the target audience and matching the pacing (“time”) of the material to match the normal cognitive, behavioral/effective and motivational matrix of the target audience.

Very good, Saroeung. I hope to see you folks again soon, too.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Chau, Don’t Stage a FoodFight Unless it Gets Your Message Across

Chau is one of the UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students. Chau wrote:

It was unfortunate that I couldn’t make it to the meeting on Thursday. I’m one of the people that was responsible for the filming and putting the videos together. I tried my best to make the videos convey what my group were thinking since I’m the IT department, sort of.

One of the things that my group mentioned to me was that in our video of FOOD, you said that someone needs to be eating. Looking back, I notice that no one was actually eating and the restaurant was just us. I will take it into consideration to add all those missing elements in our next video. We actually had all those clips, but didn’t use them thinking they weren’t important. Thank you for attending my Strategic Management class and I hope I get a second chance to meet you.

My pleasure, Chau.

I wrote about implying action and community in a restaurant setting in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jaimes, Put Action Onscreen to Demonstrate Community and Belonging.

Regardless of what got into the video and what didn’t, you’re learning how to make things better and that’s what’s important. Even if people aren’t eating in a restaurant, something has to be happening with food to give viewers a sense of the place. I’m not suggesting you stage a foodfight, just letting you know that food needs to be in there somehow.

Talk to you later, Chau.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jeff Attract and Stick

Jeff is one of the UMass Lowell's Strategic Management students. Jeff wrote:

Thank you again for taking time to visit my Strategic Management class. Your critiques and ideas about our Downtown Lowell video were much appreciated. I really liked your idea of using a think, attract, and stick approach for marketing. Your visit will definitely improve the quality of our project.
In the future I hope to have the opportunity to work with you again.

I hope so, too, Jeff.

Jeff's reference to attract and stick comes from a discussion about how to make online videos and other marketing material attract the correct audience and then insure that the correct audience will stick to the material (not move on to a competitor's material or site).

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Michael, Paying Attention to Your Audience

One of the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Michael, wrote me a few paragraphs which I share here. I’m very impressed by his email and has nothing to do with what he actually wrote so much as the link he included at the end of his email.

Prospective employers, take note:

THANK YOU.
I greatly appreciate your willingness to share your time and expertise with us. It has not only illuminated my understanding of our project but also of my career and business in general.

I asked you during class about the makings of a credible script. Your insights of how movie actors are merely given direction and goals and then just “go with it” and that a two hour hollywood movie can be created from only 93 pages of script hit me right between the eyes.

THE IMPACT
Within an hour after our class, I came up with over 10 messages I realized my team’s video needed to obtain and over 30 interview questions to get us there, as well as some ‘non-acting’ artistic shots as well. My team will spilt up into three groups, each having a camera and take the campus by storm on Tuesday. Its amazing how much energy comes when you ‘get it.’ THANK YOU!
IN ADDITION
Thank you for the informational arbitrage opportunity you have allowed me through connecting me to your articles (note to readers: you can find the list of articles on UMass Lowell and Strategic Management). I enjoy the possibility of being one of the few ‘finance guys’ who is aware of your marketing research and what it will allow me to bring to my employers.

MORE THAN WORDS
I intend to express my appreciation by more than just saying thank you. I will seek to bring you business as I through referring colleges and future employers to your services and research. I hope to afford you more time for your research and less time for marketing, as you expressed in class.

What really impressed me was that Michael included a link to his homepage and resume.

Yes, I’m flattered by what Michael wrote, but I’m impressed that he included a link to his resume. Michael did something I encourage others to do when I give presentations on knowing your audience, pay attention to your audience if you want them to pay attention to you.

In this case, I mentioned that I find myself doing business development more and more and research less and less.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Matt, Michael, Daniel and Frank, Demonstrating Intimacy and Immediacy in Online Video

This post includes emails from four UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Matt, Michael, Daniel and Frank. We start with Matt:

I would like to thank you for taking interest in our Admissions project. Your views have helped my team kaizen our video to show more intimacy. Once again, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and I look forward to the possible opportunity to learn from you again.

Matt is going to make one of the classes’ videos available and I’ll include a link in a blog post shortly.
Now onto Michael, Daniel and Frank…

From Michael:

Thank you for taking the time to visit our Strategic Management class. I found your advice about the marketing aspect of our project to be very helpful. I look forward to learning from you again in the future.

From Daniel:

I want to thank you for taking the time to visit my Strategic Management class this past Thursday. Your advice about realism, intimacy, and especially gender specific marketing is invaluable. That information provided me with several ideas that will benefit not only our group, but the class as a whole. Thank you again and I look forward to learning from you in the near future.

And from Frank:

I wanted to thank you for attending our 2:30 Strategic Management class on March 22. Your professional insight into how our videos can be improved to better reach our target market was invaluable.
One key insight that I had overlooked was the importance of being intimate with the audience. I had originally thought that if you just had videos of a person being interviewed it would be boring to the audience. I had overlooked the fact that this can be used as a powerful way to lock in the viewer. It would be great if you could come back to view our finished product.

Demonstrating intimacy and it’s twin, immediacy, is a necessary part of convincing an audience that your product or service is a) what they need and b) important to them now. I’ve mentioned intimacy in previous posts in this thread.

I’ll be sharing methods for demonstrating intimacy and immediacy on my next visit to the class. Perhaps one of the students will video the session and we can post that here, too.

What do you say, students?

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Erik, Place Brands and Operational Branding

This post is based on an email from Erik, a UMass Lowell Strategic Management student. Erik wrote:

Thank you very much for taking time out of your day to to help us work on our myspace projects for admissions. Though your responses were not exactly what i was hoping for your insight on our dorm life video and its inability to create an intimate experience for the viewer will be very helpful in the final weeks of this project. Once these projects are ready for final submission it would be great, if you have the opportunity, to come back again and see our progress.

First, glad to be of help (I hope).

Second, what Erik is writing about is that his team produced a great video, but not a great video for their target audience. I suggested that his group keep the video they did produce on the back burner because (I’m sure) someday it’ll come in handy.

What this deals with is Place Brand and Operational Branding.

A Place Brand is traditionally “A place brand is tied to a geographic location. It uses classic marketing practices to establish a presence that reflects the values, language, ways of thinking and responding to information, etc., to create economic value. The ideal place brand reflects a geographic location’s cultural identity while separating itself from competitive products. This often goes beyond traditional branding concepts of logo and slogan.”

Whether Erik and the other students realize it or not, they’re doing place branding. The “place” their branding is the age-demographic of the UMass Lowell target audience.

Just so we’re clear on the concept, I’m not using “Place Brand” to mean branding UMass Lowell, I’m talking about the psychological place the age-specific demographic lives in. Recognizing conceptual spaces and psychological places are having meaning and (near) physical reality to a given audience is something NextStage often does for clients and I was happy to provide that insight to the UML students.

The other element (and here’s where Erik’s group was a little weak) was the operational branding elements of their video.

Operational branding is defined as “the process of consistently and accurately branding in the language and culture of the target audience while maintaining corporate strategy. Operational branding is the method of creating successful place brands.”

Operational branding often makes use of three elements:

  1. Know your audience (really well)
  2. Synchronize your place brand to what you know really well about your audience
  3. Engage alternate channels to create value in the place brand

My concern with Erik’s group’s video was in the second item above.

Again, it was a good video, I just questioned whether it was the best video for operational branding purposes.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Laura, Show Real Life Really Happening

This post is from UMass Lowell Strategic Management student Laura.
Laura wrote:

>Our group is grateful for your visit to our Strategic Management class. We took your pointers about editing the material in our video, and it was interesting to see your point of view about the tour of the rec center and actually showing the actions as we are talking about them. Your insights will be carried throughout the rest of the semester. We hope to see you again soon.

Again, glad to be of help.
Laura’s group’s video had a narrator describing what goes on in the rec center. Behind the narrator, completely unrehearsed and totally natural, were people doing rec centerish things; playing games badly, laughing, making fun of each other…being completely natural.

The goal of these videos is to demonstrate the UMass Lowell experience as a positive experience and true real life is the best way to do it.

Nicely done, Laura.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Christopher, Anjali, TeamKaizen and using what you’re learning to learn more. Good work and nicely done!

This post is from UMass Lowell Strategic Management student Laura.

Christopher wrote:

I’d like to take a minute to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to come and sit in for our class to give us feedback on our project. With the advice you gave to our team with keeping our videos intimate, we were able to come up with some great videos this afternoon. Again, thank you for your help, and I look forward to learning more from you through your blog.

Next is Anjali:

Thank you for taking the time to visit my Strategic Management class. Your thoughts have really got my group thinking. We are now considering a whole new direction for our videos based on your comments. I hope you will have a chance to look at our final products, we would be honored to have you share your knowledge and insight with us again.

And from TeamKaizen, the first video the class is letting me share and this blog’s first video from these students!

Good work, all!

I’m impressed by two things in this video thank you note and neither has to do with it being directed towards me. First, these students took the time to put it out there and second, they made use of what they’re learning to learn more. UMass Lowell has invited me back to work with these students again and I’m looking forward to it.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Joseph, William, Tension and Purpose

This post is from some more UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Joseph and William.

First up, Joseph:

I greatly appreciate your attending our class last week, it was great to hear about the different marketing techniques we can use to get our videos out to our prospects. I will also be sure to focus on keeping 2 people in the frame when we our taping to have some contrast between the actors. Please consider returning to our class (either to see our finished product or to gain more insight into the younger generation!) at some point this semester, it is always a beneficial experience to have professional insight into our endeavors.

Joseph’s comment about keeping two people in the frame deals with adding some “energy”, what is sometimes called “dramatic tension”, simply by the interaction and dialogue of two people who are directing their focus to a third person (the viewer) who’s completely external to the frame of reference (the video). The two people in the frame can be simply talking and their differences in presentation style will often be non-consciously picked up by people viewing the video as adding something to the presentation.

Next up, William:

I would like to extend my appreciation for taking the time to speak at my Strategic Management class. Your discussion regarding the discrepancies between management perception and public perception were of particular interest to me. I plan to utilize the concepts you elaborated on in my immediate and long-term futures. I hope to have the opportunity to learn from you again.

William’s reference to public versus management perception came from a discussion about how marketing perceives a product versus management’s intention for a product. Marketing has the difficult task of taking something serving a strategic purpose (management’s intention for a product, even a short term product, is to create long-term brand affinity) and making that product very “now-worthy” in the consumer’s mind.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Michael, Ana and Taj, Cluster Production, Action and Intimacy

This post is from some more UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Michael, Ana and Taj.

First up, Michael:

Thanking you for taking the time sit in and discuss production/marketing issues with our Strategic Management class last Thursday. Your views and advice on “cluster production” were helpful for my team to determine which videos were effective and which videos fell short of the objective. I also found your real world examples of marketing to be educative, especially the bit about how marketing and managements perception of a product can differ and how that affects the final marketing pitch. I believe motion-picture media is an effective form of marketing, and your “John Q. Public” opinion was very valuable for our group’s video analysis. I hope our class has the opportunity to have an audience with you soon again in the future.

No problem, Michael. Glad to be of help. “Cluster production” is part of audience knowledgeable design and involves 1) a deep knowledge of the target audience followed by 2) a thematic, cross platform approach to marketing to that audience.

Next up, Ana:

I would like to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to attend our class meeting last Thursday. My team and I really appreciate the insight you gave us in kaizening our team project video. Your emphasis on the important role intimacy plays and the links you sent us have given us a better understanding on marketing strategically that I know will definitely benefit us in the future.
Hoping to have the opportunity to learn and get more feedback from you soon.

My pleasure, Ana. I’m looking forward to your next release.

And this from Taj:

Thank you for finding the the time to come and share your important insights with our Strategic Management class. Your comments about highlighting action concepts in Space two, changed the way my group is approaching the True Entertainment section. It would be great if you could check up on us later on in the semester, to see how well we have digested your views.

I’m looking forward to it!

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Kimberly, Christian, Kelly and Charles

This post is from some more UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Kimberly, Christian, Kelly and Charles.

First up, Kimberly:

Thank you for joining my Strategic Management class this past Thursday. Your thoughts and comments about our project have been very helpful. Your presence gave the class an even more real-world feel than normal and it pushes me to take the project more seriously. In past classes, my projects were designed to provide a new learning experience and receiving a good grade was the only drive to do well . However, this project will produce actual results that will benefit the university, so it was important for me to see the university taking it seriously as well.

Excellent realization, Kimberly. You should be proud of yourself.

Next up, Christian:

Thank you for taking time off from your schedule to visit my Strategic Management class. Your input throughout the class was extremely helpful and has already helped my group change the way we are filming our video. We found that the little details you pointed out are very important to the success of our video. Thank you again for taking the time to join us last week.

My pleasuere, Christian. Next comes Kelly:

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to visit my Strategic Management class at UMass Lowell on Thursday, March 29th. I appreciate that you are interested in helping us make our projects a success. It was a wonderful experience to hear your thoughts and insights.

“I was most interested to hear your thoughts on website construction. The target market for our project is high school juniors and seniors. They may not be interested in viewing a dull college website so we have to capture their interest in the first three seconds so that they stay on our page.

“Thank you again. I hope to have the opportunity to learn more from you again very soon. It was a pleasure.

Mine, too, Kelly. Excellent realizations about website design for your target audience. Very good! Now Charles:

Thank you for taking the time to visit my Strategic Management class. Your insights were very interesting, especially considering I am a marketing major and can learn from others experience. I’ve already come up with a few kaizens to our project. such things as intimacy, showing more then one person while taping, and trying to be as natural and unscripted as possible. They will definitely have a very positive impact our final deliverable. I hope to have the opportunity to learn from you again very soon.

You will, Charles. This week, in fact. See you Thursday.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Colleen’s Video

This post is from Colleen, a UMass Lowell Strategic Management student.

Colleen sent me a link to a video her group did. It’s a good piece of work on several counts. First, it gives a good sense of location and college atmosphere. The opening scenes can be made stronger by showing people walking around. This suggestion comes from knowing the target demographic likes the social aspects of college life (yes, I appreciate the irony of that statement given the past few days’ headlines).

The voiceover is good because it follows what’s happening “on screen” well. It can be made better by having the social aspects mentioned above also on screen and having the narrator’s voice commenting on that social aspect. The very act of doing so will tend to soften the voice and tone being presented.

Showing the action in the rec center is also good, again because the social aspect of college life is forefront. The killer scene is about 30 seconds in; someone’s being interviewed and someone walks behind them and, basically, acts like a college student. As they say in the Visa commercials, priceless.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – James and The Usual Suspect’s Video

This post is from James, a UMass Lowell Strategic Management student, and his “The Usual Suspects” team.

James sent me a link to the latest version of their video. Here’s his email to me. My response follows.

James writes:

This is James from Dr. Moser’s Strategic Management Class at 1 P.M.. I am looking forward to having you visit our class again tomorrow. I am not sure how much time we will have to show you our video so far, so here is the link. We have attempted to have at least two people in each scene, however due to the weather recently we have not been able to redo certain parts. There is still work that we need to do in perfecting the video, including adding the HTML links in the video, however we are currently working on eradicating the imperfections. See you tomorrow.

My response:

I’m sending this along to Dr. Gibson because we talked about just this aspect of promoting the school during our meeting today; a ‘video’ tour of what incoming students can expect. This comes very close. Those interviews are excellent and close to what I suggested to Dr. Gibson.

I also laughed my head off when the camera-person interrupted the narrator in the very first sequence with “This isn’t a dating video”!
EXCELLENT!
You folks are going to be teaching me things, I’m sure.
See you all tomorrow

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1

I had another opportunity to visit with UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. They continue to do good work. One of the discussion topics was separating the marketing and sales channels. Many organizations see these departments as the same. I admit that there’s some overlap and the boundary has always been fairly clear and clean to me.

I’ve always thought of marketing’s job as to get people to “look at the menu”. This might involve getting them in the door, inviting them to take a seat and describing what the restaurant’s about and what to expect, introducing your waitperson and things like that. That’s pretty much where I think marketing stops.

Likewise, I’ve always thought of sales as the talented waitperson who describes what’s on the menu and the specials the chef’s got in the kitchen, takes your order, makes sure that what you’re ordering is something you’re going to like, makes suggestions for rounding out the meal, makes sure it arrives just as you expected and follows up in case you need anything else.

Yes, there is some overlap and it’s still basically the pitch and the close. Anyway, with that in mind, the students decided to host their own site and provide all the content in order to take their project to the next step.

What follows is my email encouraging their decision. The rest of this arc will be the back and forth as they and I learn how to best promote UMass Lowell to potential students.

Okay, now your real-world work begins.

First, what’s the overall goal of this work?

Once you’ve established the overall goal of the work, how does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal? The YouTube site?

Which is your sales channel, which is your marketing channel?

Hint: Remember what I said
about the sales funnel? NextStage uses a much broader concept, The X Funnel (you can also read about sales funnels in Listening to and Seeing Searches). What part does each site play in your X Funnel?

I’d like to document your progress in my blog. BUT!!! that means the pressure is going to be on because people will be watching. If you’ve been on the NextStage Evolution site and read through our Principles, you know that I won’t knowingly put people in uncomfortable situations.

SO!!! I won’t document this effort unless you all want me to. Talk about this amongst yourselves and get back to me, preferably sooner rather than later.

Also, I’m going to start using some of the pictures you provided in your signature files on my blog and elsewhere. Let me know if you DON’T want me to use your pictures. I’ll use them unless I receive an email from you stating that I can’t.

And a last thing…I want you to know I listen to and learn from you, probably more than you might think. In the 2:30pm class (I think that was the one), we were talking about the game and one student and Dr. Moser provided some good reasons for not playing it as it was originally presented. Take a look at my signature file now and you’ll see that I’ve modified the advertising strategy.

See that? Old dogs can learn new tricks. Thanks to the class for teaching me something.

Joseph

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 2

This is part 2 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. I shared some questions I asked them in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1. Now we’ll start going over their answers.

1) what’s the overall goal of this work?
The goal of the piece our classes are contributing is “attraction”. Therefore, this class is working on the marketing part of the marketing and sales equation.

2) how does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal?
This website will be used a medium to influence the prospective students in a way they are aware of their needs: freedom and belongingness. The layout of the website will follow the sales funnel concept in which the less serious, credible videos will be placed on the top center of the page whereas the more serious videos will be at the lower right corner. (this suggestion came from using NextStage’s Ad Placement tool in the class and getting student feedback on the results) The main focus here is to grasp the visitors’ attention and have them stay on the website.

3)The YouTube site?
Our videos will be uploaded to YouTube and be accessible for all viewers. It’s a great tool we can use to put UML on the market for potential students.

Nicely done!

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 3

This is part 3 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. I shared some questions I asked them in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1. This is the second posting of answers.

3) The YouTube site?
youtube
is another advertising resource available to us, where we can
upload the videos we have worked on so far. You tube is more attractive
to people between the ages of 16-25 and our ” target market” market is in the initial stages of that age group.

4) Which is your sales channel?
Sales channel would just include trueuml.com
as this is the only site that we have control over i.e we can accept
quarries, answer questions and the content upload on this website would
be according to what we think is attractive to high school students.
With the help Mr. Carrabis
( and his website) i’m sure we will be able to capture the attention of these young minds.

5) which is your marketing channel?
Marketing channel would be be the place where we target the maximum amount of people that would have to be myspace, youtube and now a new addition trueuml.com.


Excellent answer to #5. Good work.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 4

This is part 4 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. I shared some questions I asked them in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1. This is the fourth posting of answers.

2) How does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal?
It is a place that our target audience can see unfiltered information about U Mass Lowell. I’ll accept that and it’s best to understand the concept of branding at this point. It’s true, the target audience can see unfiltered information about UML. This means they’ll be able to find information you aren’t sponsoring. How can you make sure your target audience knows they’re getting your branded information and not a competitor’s?

3) The YouTube site?
you Tube is going to allow us to link the raw footage that we have to our site. By doing this, our potential students can see first hand the atmosphere and sentiment about the school. Very good.

4) Which is your sales channel?

I believe our sales channels are our MySpace page and TrueUml.com website. With these two sites working hand in hand, it should be a very efficient way to attract students. Very good. I know you can control the content on TrueUML and that means you can do all your own branding there. How much control will you have of the MySpace look, feel, content, branding, etc? Hint: Think of which direction you want people to travel; MySpace to TrueUML or TrueUML to MySpace? Where do you want visitors to spend the bulk of their time?

5) which is your marketing channel?
Our marketing channels are the sites that are most often visited by out target audience. MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and such. Brilliant and very good.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 5

This is part 5 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. I shared some questions I asked them in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1. This is the fifth posting of answers and we start with a little dissent.

2) how does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal?
I personally don’t think the TrueUML site will have THAT much of an effect since it will have pretty much the same contents as our MySpace. I’m sure we are not going to do anything different. Maybe if we redirect TrueUML site to the MySpace page, then I think that’s okay. TrueUML.com is definitely easier to remember than www.myspace.com/trueuml. I agree that if the two sites have much the same content, one is superfluous. A question, then, is “Should the two sites have the same content?”

3)The YouTube site?
Now this I think is the best way to get exposure since they get so many hits a day. I’ve seen people as old as 60 doing a video blog and kids as young as 7 acting goofy on cam. Also, instead of doing a text blog on MySpace, we can do video blog. All you need is a webcam. There are so many different markets here that we can target. Easiest way for people to find our videos is to make our keywords/tags short and precise. We can copy the link or embed the html code onto forums websites. Again, I agree. YouTube will get much more traffic in general than TrueUML. I think the difference is in what kind of traffic each site will get. YouTube is the mall, TrueUML is a store in the mall. So this leads to another question, me thinks, “How can we get people walking through the mall to come into our store?”

Excellent points leading to more questions. Good work and nicely done.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 6 and How a Class learns

This is part 6 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students. Because I entered their strategizing late my questions caused some confusion. This can also happen in business situations where a consulting organization is brought in after a project is done and is one of the reasons NextStage always works to be involved at the start of a project.

That offered, it’s exciting when such a situation exists and the players are able to incorporate the new tools the consulting group brings. An example of that is in this post. One group of students asked a question and another student was able to answer it.

The question:

This is James from your 1PM Strategic Management class. There is a little confusion between our group members about the TrueUML site. What is the purpose of this site? Is this to serve as the Space 3? The URL the 1PM class chose for the myspace site is http://www.myspace.com/umasspace. If it is to serve as the space three, is this something that the admissions people will be working on to develop and they will be directed as what to include on the site? Also how did You Tube become one of Joseph’s questions? Correct me if i am wrong but i thought You Tube had nothing to do with our Space 2 except as a third party video hosting service provider. Thank you for your time.

This is an excellent question. Disregard the project specific jargon and notice that the question really is about clarifying the project objective; did the project goal and milestones change when the student wasn’t looking? James, the student, and his group are putting themselves in a truth to power situation. I hope they can continue to do so after graduation when they’re in a work environment.

The answer (also from a student):

I am a little confused myself now that you brought it up. But after reading other student’s email I have a picture that space 2 is myspace website and space 3 can be trueUML website. Our videos focus on the theme of space 2 and they are informal so these videos should be placed on myspace page. With limited time we can only focus on finishing up space 2.

About Mr. Carrabis mentioning youtube, I think he saw some of us using this website to present our videos so maybe he just wanted to make sure we understand what kind of marketing tool we’re dealing with and know how to distinguish the function each has in our overall project. Then again, he might see some potential strategy which might helps us with the project.

First thing, students, always assume Mr. Carrabis is just as much in the dark as you are.

This student’s ability to take information — confusing information — and synthesize a working concept that will further their project and get them closer to their goal is to be both honored and commended. Also note that this student is beginning to incorporate a “marketing” concept into their project.

These students are learning and learning rapidly. They are integrating outside and possibly confusing information in order to perfect their project and give it more legs than it might have had otherwise.

Any businesses out there, you can find these students in Dr. Moser’s UMass Lowell Strategic Management classes.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 7

I’m still posting about my Q&A’s with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students. I’ll admit to my fascination watching these students learn.

This is from one student:

3)The YouTube site?
The youtube site offers the prospective students a chance to see what UML offers through firsthand accounts of the current students.

Very good.

4) Which is your sales channel, 5) which is your marketing channel?
I
believe that the marketing channel would be the myspace site because that is what we are using to entice students to click further onto the TrueUML site to seal the deal.

Again, very good. Think of the sales funnel (seems you are, anyway).

And from another student:

2) How does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal?
The TrueUML site will be a great asset that will allow us to impliment our ideas and to convey to high school juniors and seniors the sense of ‘freedom’ and ‘belonging’ that college students have. We will get our message out through picture slideshows and amateur videos.

3)The YouTube site?
The YouTube site is a great place for us to upload our videos and get them on the web. Not only will YouTube help us display our videos on our website, but it will also allow people not familiar with TrueUML.com to see our videos via YouTube’s website. It may be a smart idea to put a link to our TrueUML website in the description of our videos to give the website more exposure.

4) Which is your sales channel?
Our sales channel would be TrueUML, mainly because we are not limited as to what we can do with the website and we have complete control.

5.) Which is yourmarketing channel?

Our marketing channel would be Myspace and YouTube, since these two website are extremely popular with our target market. We can use these sites to divert people to the TrueUML website .

I’ve often thought the role of higher education is to provide both theory and real-world applications side by side. As I wrote above, these students are impressing me with how rapidly they’re taking what they learn in class and applying it to a real marketing problem.

Links for these posts:


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Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!


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The Complete “TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?” Arc

Note: More historical posts in prep for Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition. Here is the complete “TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?” arc for your enjoyment

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why “Whispering to Be Heard”?

I wrote in SNCR NewComm Forum Day 2 – TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse that I would share how that presentation went and explain how TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse are linked, and I don’t mean through LinkedIn.

Can you say “blog arc”?

The title of the presentation was “Whispering to Be Heard: The Art and Science of Buzz Marketing”. I had some wonderful comments about this presentation, lots of good thoughts and feedback, so I’m sharing it here in several posts.

We’re going to discuss

  • TS Eliot,
  • Ezekiel discovering that the limit of his knowledge isn’t the limit of what is knowable,
  • How to have fun with beehives and the people inside them
  • and Mighty Mouse

And of course, all of this will have that distinctive, irrepressible NextStage flair…

But first, “Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?”

If you really want to be heard then you need to whisper because if you talk softly then some very specific things happen:

  • the only ones paying attention will be those truly interested
  • and they will show their interest
  • and tell others of their interest.
  • Also, you also immediately create a sense of intimacy, urgency and community (very important in buzz marketing and social media in general).

You just need to be sure you reward their interest with good quality and experience.

Next, TS Eliot does Information Mechanics!

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – TS Eliot does Information Mechanics

TS Eliot wrote

Where is the Wisdom we have lost in Knowledge? Where is the Knowledge we have lost in Information?

In 1997 I wrote a paper, “Semantic Information Mechanics”.

How many of you ever heard of it? I’m guessing the reason few of you heard of it, let alone read it, was because it was filled with stuff like this.

(You could imagine the tweets that go around about that slide)

Lose that Wisdom-Knowledge-Information thing, did ya?

I wrote something a little more accessible, Yes, You Can Predict Viral Marketing, in 2006. It listed the basic elements you need to know before you start a viral or WOM campaign in order to insure success:

  • How many individuals does the campaign need to start with (seed)?
  • How fast will the campaign spread (propagation factor)?
  • How will the campaign spread (vectors)?
  • How large a group is required to sustain the propagation (viral burden)?
  • What is the campaign’s goal (maintenance factor)?
  • How large a group is required to sustain the campaign once the goal is achieved (threshold point)?
  • At what point is the campaign too successful (saturation point)?

We followed that up a year later with some other research that we published in 3 Rules for Creating Buzz:

  • Do you want a mobile or static audience to get a message out quickly? (You’ll need to read the article to understand why this is a trick question)
  • Start with a general message
  • Change the message every X hours or Y miles

I should probably let you know that we’re always doing research, we’re always updating our research. And because our technology is based on very long and in depth studies of how humans think and respond to what’s going on around them, and because it’s both an adaptive and learning intelligence, it will often see trends well in advance of what we can see.

People follow less and less online conversations as they grow older until about age 55

What it discovered this time was that people, especially people over the age of 28, are self-regulating the amount of information they interact with in a day. Two direct comments we recorded during this research included “I don’t have time to follow 20 blogs” and “I don’t have time to be on half a dozen social networks”.

What we learned was that blogs and related information sources people thought relevant, important to their lives declines with age. This is true with blogs, newsletters, places to shop.

What did increase?

We discovered that people 28yo+ will often put an information governor on their intake, often trusting as little as 2 information sources. They may give time to others but they’re only able to redact to 2-5.

Thus TS Eliot, in stating that we’ve lost wisdom via knowledge via information, was ahead of his time. I’m pretty sure semantic information mechanics — which this is — wasn’t known of, at least not a formal discipline, in his time.

Next up, Ezekiel hits his wall.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Ezekiel Hits His Wall

So we learn from TS Eliot that the limit of our Knowledge isn’t the limit of our Information. Yet people continue to seek out new information sources while simultaneously throttling down the number of information sources they’ll give their time and attention to.

Like the pilgrim who discovers there’s more information beyond what he knew existed, we begin to wonder (at least you begin to wonder these things if you work at NextStage) “What are we searching for?”

It turns out there’s a limit, a ceiling if you will, to the amount of information people are able to respond to at any given point in time. This is based on the brain’s design more than anything else.

You don’t throw out 10 million years of evolutionary adaptation because your species has been sitting in front of computers for the past ten years.

The answer to this has to do with an understanding of how language influences belief. Some call this the “Information” Age. Is that because there’s more information in our environment than there ever was before or because the method of information interaction has changed from sought to delivered?

We use to seek information because it meant our survival. We needed to know if there were predators out there, be they dangerous animals or thieves and the brain-mind still has that wiring. It isn’t about to give it up, it simply puts it to different use.

And like our ancestors who learned to pay attention to only certain movements in the grass and certain shadows in the darkness we’re learning to pay attention to only certain sources of information.

So what are the three primary things we are searching for in our information sources?

What Are We Searching For?

  • Truth – I don’t have to agree, I have to believe
  • Meaning – Explain it so I can understand it
  • Wisdom – I won’t have to work as hard to survive

We’re looking for the ceiling, the arrow, the direction, the truth. We know we may not like it, and we want to know it anyway.

There’s so much information out there we want to know that someone can be trusted, to be our friend and guide even when we don’t like what they share.

In short, we’re looking for our shamans, our priest-kings, our heroes and guides. Those of you who are familiar with my background, training and education may appreciate how amusing this was when we discovered it.

Then what?

The Moody Blues' On the Threshold of a Dream

Once someone has gotten me to the edge of information I need to have it explained to me. Like The Moody Blues‘ “In the Beginning”, “I’m more than that, I know that I am”, and as Frankl and Maslow wrote and as every cognitive scientist and psycholinguist is discovering, humans will search for meaning until they find it. They will apply meaning from their own experience if no other meaning is supplied to them.

And what do we realize about lifting the veil from our own eyes?

That all our information and all our knowledge may not be meet for the challenges ahead. We seek the wisdom to apply the information, the wisdom to understand the meaning.

And this brings us right back to TS Eliot’s

Where is the Wisdom we have lost in Knowledge? Where is the Knowledge we have lost in Information?

Next up, Beehive the icebox, there’s a sheet of glass.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Beehive the Icebox, There’s a Sheet of Glass

How is social media “social” when the majority of people aren’t participating? Is it “ego media” if people only watch? Is it performance art?

Most people spend their lives seeking identity and they surround themselves with things that reinforce what they believe their identity to be. They do it via clubs, personal branding, any number of things. Their own sense of identity, of who and what they are, is influenced by and influences everything they do. This is the “If I am a thief then you must steal” syndrome so popular in 12-step communities.

Put differently, Sally Field’s character in Soapdish will always go to the Mall with Whoopi Goldberg’s character so that Whoopi can get the crowd to “notice” Sally Field.

People who were at my Boston SNCR Awards Gala presentation know this as Holmeses and Watsons.

We all want to know we’re part of the group, we just want to be sure everybody in the group knows who we are. No matter who we are and what our individual histories are, there is this amazing dualism in our neural coding that — much like flight or fight — keeps us moving between anonymity and recognition. The prey creature in us wants to be unseen and unknown while the predator in us wants to be recognized and identified. So while we’ll be a part of this:

What we really seek and strive for is to be part of something like this because being either predator or prey is hard work. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a large crowd and are anonymous or in a small society and well known. The only safety and solace is to be part of a community, a semi-small circle of friends (about 60-75 is tops) where the balance between anonymity and recognition can be easily managed and maintained.

Prediction #1

I think vendors in the blog awareness world might call this “You’re known by the comments you keep”.

What we’ve learned and what I’ll share is that buzz marketing, word of mouth marketing, viral marketing, whatever you want to call it, will evolve to a very sophisticated “smart mob” environment, a “Hive” mind mentality.

How many people have actually tracked their buzz efforts? How many have actually observed and monitored how rapidly and how far their buzz travels, through whom, how fast, who’re the best carriers, …?

These little charts that look like petri dish cultures gone mad? These are actual charts of the spread of a viral message, each little drop signifies a cluster of 100 people “infected” with a message and spreading it on. There’s a reason it’s called “viral”, you know.

One thing these little charts are showing that is obvious only when you know what to look at is the fact that the message literally spread in one direction only; the direction of “infection” parallels the travel paths of those infected.

The clustering of the “infection” is also dependent on where the most highly infected (ie, the ones most likely to pass your message on) spend the majority of their day. NextStage has someone very knowledgeable in virology on its team and all of this information was anticipated then proven in various trials. Why other groups doing viral marketing aren’t employing these types of people I don’t know.

Spreading Your Message

You want the message to spread and there are two basic ways to do it with hive mentalities. First, you can have everyone come to your site. The benefit is that you control the message. The detriment is that there will be limits on how many people participate, how long your message stays in public awareness and how far your message can travel.

This is where the pilgrim’s wall meets the beehive.

Trust, Meaning and Wisdom are lost if you fail to provide guidance beyond the wall, yet every member of a functioning beehive — or any functioning society for that matter — knows their role in that society. Trust, Meaning and Wisdom exist and the hive functions as a whole. It simply doesn’t let any bees out of the hive and eventually dies for any number of reasons.

Or you can simply put your message out there. This is the bee coming back to the hive and dancing their little tookas off because its discovered your message about an incredibly rich field of flowers. All the bees go, lots of pollenation, lots of honey, new hives form, some go on to greatness and some just go on to other great things.

Totally different dynamics, completely different parameters same amount of risk for completely different reasons. However, you’ll never lose trust, meaning or wisdom because you’re not in control of it to begin with and you can’t lose what you’ve never had. The bees are taking the risk with the flowers.

But the big payoff is that you’ll also learn from your audience. Your offering matures as does your audience to the point where you need each other. Very good. Symbiosis, you have to love it.

This symbiotic relationship is SmartMob behavior at its best. Our current thinking is that SmartMob methods will become the most effective marketing because it is an immediate, highly specific, highly targeted and quickly rewarded call to action.

This is extremely important because people are searching for help understanding all the information in their environment. And few things will get their attention better than a reward right now for something they did right now, something directed at them, something specific they can get done and something they can do without a lot of planning.

Next up, Mighty Mouse.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Mighty Mouse

The new goal of advertising and marketing will be helping consumers brand themselves.

Anybody want to hear about the big computer company that turned bloggers around one more time? (everybody was citing Dell in their presentations)

Herding cats is possible. There’s lots of case studies and the methodology is well documented and easily understandable.

Anybody guess how to do it?

What’s the best way to herd cats? Get a very well trained mouse.

Summary

  • People seek meaning in their lives and one of the ways they get that meaning is by self-branding, creating an identity for themselves based on what they have around them.
  • Lee Iacocca said “People want economy and they’ll pay any price to get it.” I offer “People want simplicity and they’ll pay any price to get it.”
  • You can start a conversation and you must be prepared for the consequences.
  • But always always always it’s easier to control a conversation you start than one you enter.

And finally,

Invest in Mice.

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Canoeing with Stephane (Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 2))

The iMedia Brand Summit has kept me a little busy, and I do keep my promises.

One of the folks I asked about Sentiment Analysis prior to writing Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) was Stephane Hamel. I asked Stephane for a site I could analyze without my knowing anything about their strategy, demographics and such. Stephane suggested canoe.ca since it’s a well known Canadian site that receives lots of traffic and has lots of diversified content.

Canoe French homepage

The Canoe.ca site has an English and a French version so we analyzed the homepages of both versions to demonstrate the differences in cultural cuing. This image is the Canoe French homepage. Below is the English homepage. The information I’m sharing comes out of our tools, specifically the one I described in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1).

Canoe English homepage

This image is the Canoe English homepage. I’ll share at this point that the tool I’m using reads whatever digital information you give it exactly like a human of the intended culture would read it, provide it material in French and it thinks in French, provide it material in Gaelic and it thinks in Gaelic (we get a lot of calls for that, you betcha. The first language our technology understood was Gaelic because if you can do Gaelic you can do anything. Now we’re teaching it Etruscan because you never know when you might want to sell sandals to a dead gladiator). What makes the tool different from the standard human is its ability to report on what will or would happen in the reader’s mind at the non-conscious and conscious levels. Most people don’t have that kind of training, our technology (Evolution Technology or “ET”) does.

Age Appeal

Both homepages are designed for (not necessarily intended for. We’re not talking about who the desired audience is, we’re talking about who this material is going to work best with) relatively tight demographics. The French homepage will appeal to about 71% of the 25-34yo native French speakers who see it, the English homepage will appeal to about 60% of the 35-44yo native English speakers who see it.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
When I originally presented this analysis to Stephane for comment I thought that a possible reason for the different age appeal targeting was that the canoe.ca site was a Quebec specific site, hence English might be a second language — meaning learned via education or life experience — for Canoe visitors (ET will interpret higher levels of education and life experience as “more mature” hence add a few years to its age appeal estimates).

Stephane explained that canoe.ca was created in Toronto then moved into Quebec, and that the English site is still done in Toronto and the French site in Quebec.

In any case, what’s most interesting is the relative spikyness of the Appeal charts. This material — regardless of the intended audience or its origins– is designed to best appeal to a limited age demographic.

<Stephaneism>
Stephane noted:

Another thing… your classifications aren’t equal… why 15-19 (5 years), 35-44 (10 years), 55-59 (5 years)… Does each of the graph age ranges have the same “population size”?
The age groupings are based on neurology more than much else. The five year groups occur when the brain starts to change, the ten year groups are when the brain is relatively stable neurologically.
Usually, I think each segment should be the same range (number of years). If population is different sizes for different ranges it usually mean the number of classes should be reviewed. Am I wrong?

Excellent catch. The age breakdowns are based more on the most recent and most well documented neurology studies than anything else. As such, they can fluctuate from time to time. ET’s basis for understanding and decision making is neuroscientific, not marketing demographics per se. Originally we tailored the age breakdowns to match the US Census bureau’s breakdown and do our best to match those the best we can.

That offered, if you can define the age breakdowns of greatest interest to you (maybe 15-24, 25-39, 40-54, 55-74, … work best for you) we can tell ET and have the results appropriate to your needs.

</Stephaneism>

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Clarity/Understandability

Readers of Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) or Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds will remember that there are three “age” levels designers really need to be concerned with; Appeal, Clarity and Actionability. The brain-mind system doesn’t “think” in terms of a chronologic age, it “thinks” using one subsystem to determine “Is this going to be important?” (that’s Appeal), another subsystem to determine “Do I understand why this is important?” (that’s Clarity, Cognition, Understandability, call it what you will, god knows we have) and yet another subsystem to determine “Shall I do something about this?” (that’s Actionability).

The chart above shows that both English and French homepages will be best understood by a broad demographic, yes (the curve doesn’t spike), as well as a large population (its position on the chart).

<ET Tool Training Alert>
There is a possible problem when the Appeal and Clarity charts are taken together. The ideal is that Clarity peak at an age demographic just shy of the Appeal peak. This is necessary because humans, once you’ve got their attention, want to quickly determine if something is important or not. This desire to quickly understand something’s importance means less neural activity is required and ET reads that as a slight drop in neurologic age requirements.

However, the Clarity here is above the Appeal of both English and French audiences, meaning both audiences will need to work (as in “think about”) what’s on each page in order to understand its importance to them. If these pages truly are designed for the Appeal spikes, then they will not be easily understood by those age groups, hence Actionability (click through, conversion, whatever) will be lower than it could be.

On the other hand, if the target audience is 35-59yo, this Clarity is fine. Now the problem is that the age group will not find the homepages appealing enough to devote time or energy to them (except possibly some percentage of native English speakers), meaning “your conversions/clickthroughs/… would be higher with a judicious redesign”.
</ET Tool Training Alert>

Actionability (conversions, clickthroughs, …)

Both sites are designed to be actionable by 35-44yo. This is great for the French site (and assuming it is correctly designed for its intended audience) and not so good for the English site. Actionability needs to be a tad more than the Appeal because action requires effort and ET reports this as an increase in neurologic activity, hence a shift to a more mature age group.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
The good news for the French site is that the Actionability spike is pretty much as the same height as the Appeal spike and it’s in the correct demographic. This means every native French speaker who comes to the French homepage will act on it.

Unfortunately, the Clarity value is way off from where it should be. Native French speaking visitors may find the site appealing and be able to act upon it but they will not understand what it is they should do, hence numbers could be higher with some redesigns.

The English Actionability is acceptable and is also quite the spike. It almost matches the Appeal spike, but the page also suffers from the Clarity issue.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Gender

Both sites favor a male audience design wise and in roughly equal measure.

Rich Personae, {C,B/e,M} Matrix

Often this is where real cultural design differences make themselves known. The English site is designed for an A9 Rich Persona (I’ve written about Rich Persona on this blog and in iMediaConnection), the French site for a V16 Rich Persona.

The A9 Rich Persona has the following attributes when it encounters web based information:

  • These people focus on the negative, they make decisions based on what might go wrong
  • They are motivated to take action when things are phrased in the negative
  • They often need to confirm their beliefs with visual information
  • They’re motivated by avoiding trouble and are strongly influenced by the possibilities of difficulties down the road

The V16 attributes are:

  • These people need to have information presented to them in pictures, charts or graphs
  • They finalize their decisions by using internal dialog
  • They need information framed in a positive manner before they can accept it
  • They have no sense of time or process

So we immediately see that the French homepage is designed for happier people than the English page.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
The fact that the two sites target completely different personality types can be a plus or a minus based on how much of the Canoe visitor populations match these psychological profiles. What is most important is that what is essentially the same design will target very different psychologies based on the native language of the visitor.

Which personality profile is better? Couldn’t tell you without knowing more about the goals for the site.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

10 Must Messages

10%20must%20messages%200906081039-small.jpg

The basis for communication and relationship are what NextStage calls “The 10 Must Messages”, meaning unless your site is communicating this messages well your site won’t work at all.

<Aside>
Interestingly enough, during the iMedia Brand Summit Master’s Class I taught earlier this week I asked all the attendees what the basic function of a website was. There were lots of answers and none of them were the most important one; to establish a relationship between the visitor and the brand. Regardless of intent, a relationship is being established and the success of that relationship is going to be based on how well the site communicates these messages to the visitors.
</Aside>

What we see here is something I mentioned in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1), that Canadian based companies tend to shout “We’re a Leader”. The fact that the two lines have roughly the same shape is to be expected (my guess is the same design group handled both homepages or a single template was used for both). Again we see some cultural based differences in the strength of the messaging.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
Take each line separately and the values are fair, there’s not a lot of shouting. What is a problem for both sites is the “This Is Important” message’s relative weakness. It is so low compared to most other messages on either site that visitors will feel no sense of urgency, no impulse to act, and in any case nowhere near as strong as it could be. The ideal would be for the “This Is Important” message and the “This Is Important To You” message to be high with the latter just enough higher to have visitors non-consciously recognize the difference.

I tend to liken the difference between these two messages to hearing the newscaster tell you about some news story then call in their talking-head to explain specifically why this news story is important to the viewer. Another way of thinking about their difference is the recognition that something may be important but not relevant to the individual versus important and relevant.

In any case, you can’t convince people that something is both important and relevant unless you first convince them that it’s important, period.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Suggestions

That brings us to the last thing ET will report on, what to do to change the design for the target audience. I don’t know who the target is so any suggestions would be irrelevant, me thinks.

<Stephaneism>
After reading this analysis, Stephane commented:

I think what’s also interesting is ET gives you the data and the charts, but you still have to know that “Actionability needs to be a tad more than the Appeal because action requires effort”. The next stage of ET (no pun intended!) could involve bringing this “higher intelligence” (your intelligence!) to a rule engine that would gradually integrate this additional knowledge.
Let me take an example… web analytics tools today collect, analyze and provide the data, but they don’t provide any insight. Yet, some rules are readily applicable if we see high traffic from a specific campaign but a lower conversion rate than average: incoming traffic is less qualified, the campaign might need to be realigned. This intelligence could be integrated directly into the tool to raise “alarms” when things like this happen. The system would need to be trained and the architecture should allow to include new rules easily.

This is an excellent thought and yes, we’ve got it covered. People who’ve heard or seen my presentations know that one of ET’s differentiators is its ability to make suggestions. The tool that produces these reports — the one that doesn’t need a tag on a client’s site to generate actionable results — provides suggestions that incorporate “my intelligence” and additional knowledge (the system borrows heavily from knowledge management systems I worked on several years back) into its analysis. If I understand the rules system you’re describing, it’s already in there.

Anyway, we’re currently in the process of looking for alpha clients to help us integrate those rule engines into the product that does these analyses. [[(Already done and in NextStage OnSite, NextStage Experience Optimizer, NextStage Immediate Sentiment and NextStage Veritas Gauge)]]

</Stephaneism>

And there you go, Stephane. Hope it’s useful.


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