Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Steven Pinker on violence, language and Twitter.

10 Ways that Google+ Can Compete with Facebook

Google’s answer to the social networking media world has finally hit the web. Google+ was launched with a select number of invites being sent out, along with a steady stream of updated features. As might be expected, the evolution of Google+ has had its share of hiccups (ie the naming policy snafu), but it shows some real promise as a viable contender to Facebook. In fact, there are some areas where Google+ could really have an edge. Here are 10 ways that Google+ can compete with Facebook:
  1. Privacy – The aforementioned naming policy, even though it created a stir with some users that resulted in some Google backpedaling, may actually work in Google’s favor in the log term. The original policy seemed designed to created an open environment that would be less conducive to trolls, spammers and the like. Once Google irons out some wrinkles in the area of privacy, I envision it as one of its core strengths.
  2. Groups – This is a standout feature of Google+, in my book. It’s a far more user-friendly and intuitive tool for networking within your own selected networks. You decide how much overlap there is between friends, family, associates, etc.
  3. Toolbar – A feature, also called the Sandbar, that will be universal to all Google services (Gmail, blogs, etc.) and something I suspect would ultimately become an extension that you can incorporate into your browser, much like the Stumble Upon toolbar.
  4. Business Accounts – Provided the Google+ Circles feature works as advertised, it could make their network an attractive alternative to Facebook for business purposes. The ability to separate business from social contacts would give Google+ a considerable advantage, provided their original policy backlash hasn’t burned too many bridges with potential business members.
  5. Post Length – The ability to make longer posts on Google+ could make it the preferred choice for some users who wish to share blog entries, newsletter updates, etc.
  6. Versatility – Since Google has designed Plus to be an integral part of its services suite, via the now ubiquitous black toolbar, users have a full complement of networking features (email, chat, video, search engine) at their fingertips with which to communicate.
  7. Sparks – An added feature to complement the Stream, Google’s version of Facebook’s Newsfeed,  Sparks generates unique content for each user based on their interests. It’s essentially a personalized search engine.
  8. Instant Upload – As owners of the premier video sharing site on the internet, it shouldn’t surprise that Google has introduced a feature whereby a Plus user could instantly upload videos to YouTube (or pics to Picasa), then share them with their friends.
  9. Hangouts – This multi-user video chat feature figures to be a favorite among users who want the ability to chat real-time with their own circles of friends, all at once or one-on-one.
  10. Mobile App – The Google+  mobile app for Android makes it easy to share content from your mobile device to your social account, and share it with your circles. Once Google+ gets itself setup for business accounts, this can be an even bigger plus.

Monday, November 14, 2011

8 Important Silicon Valley Innovators Besides Steve Jobs

  1. Silicon Valley has served as a high-tech Mecca for the United States and the world. Over the past few decades, the best and brightest technological minds have converged on the area to collaborate and compete, rapidly evolving the electronics and computer industries. The result has been a new world in which communicating and obtaining information -- any information -- are made incredibly easy. The following men not named Steve Jobs made immense contributions to the Valley, enhancing our lives exponentially.

    Lee De Forest, Federal Telegraph Company

    The first major innovation that occurred in Silicon Valley came from De Forest, an inventor who's considered one of the fathers of the electronic age. While working for the Federal Telegraph Company in Palo Alto, he made his Audion tube, which he had invented just a few years earlier, function as an amplifier, enabling him to sell it to the telephone company to use for transcontinental phone calls. The ability to amplify a signal led to the creation of radio, television, and computers -- and the electronics industry as a whole. Little did he know that his little scenic area in California would explode into a hub of technological innovation.
  2. William Shockley, Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory

    Shockley settled in Mountain View California in 1956 after departing from Bell Labs, founding the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. Co. Inventor of the transistor -- for which we won the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics -- he was a major advocate of using silicon to construct the devices as opposed to germanium. His attempts to use silicon and thus improve the device failed, and several of his engineers, discontent with his merciless management style, left to form Fairchild Semiconductor.
  3. Robert Noyce, Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel

    One of those engineers who departed was Noyce, who eventually became known as "The Mayor of Silicon Valley." While leading Fairchild, he invented the integrated chip made of silicon, the next major contribution to the semiconductor industry. Soon after, he joined Gordon Moore and formed Intel, where Ted Hoff invented the microprocessor. Unlike Shockley, Noyce valued a work environment that was friendly and relaxed, hoping that it would encourage better productivity. Other Silicon Valley companies have adopted the same style and experienced equally as positive results.
  4. Gordon Moore, Intel

    Another unhappy worker at Shockley Semiconductor, Moore channeled his energy into building something new alongside Noyce. He served as Executive Vice President of Intel until 1975, and a few years later, he became Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. By developing memory chips, the company leaped to the forefront of the industry, eventually mass producing microprocessor chips for PCs. Moore famously authored Moore's Law, which states that the number of components placed on a silicon chip doubles every two years.
  5. David Packard, Hewlett-Packard

    Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988, Packard has overseen numerous advancements in the industry. Forming Hewlett-Packard with William Hewlett in 1939, they made their mark on American culture immediately, selling an oscillator to Walt Disney Studios to use on the soundtrack of Fantasia. Located in Stanford Research Park beginning in the mid-1950s, HP took advantage of the nearby educational opportunities, allowing its employees to pursue graduate degrees at Stanford part-time. This enabled HP to become the world's leading manufacturer of computers, calculators, and printers.
  6. William Hewlett, Hewlett-Packard

    Hewlett met Packard while they were pursuing their undergraduate degrees at Stanford. The relationship they forged resulted in the creation of Hewlett-Packard, a name that was determined by coin flip. The company hit the ground running, as Hewlett developed the resistance-capacitance audio oscillator. He remained involved in management until 1987. Interestingly, during his leadership, he contributed to the development of perhaps the Valley's greatest mind, Steve Jobs. When Jobs was in eighth grade, Hewlett received a call from him asking for assistance with a project. Impressed, Hewlett offered him a summer job, which he accepted. That's where Jobs joined forces with Steve Wozniak.
  7. Steve Wozniak, Apple Computer

    Working out of a family garage, Wozniak and Jobs built a user-friendly computer worthy of competing with IBM. When Wozniak's employer, HP, showed no interest in adopting the computer, he and Jobs founded Apple Computer. The release of the Apple II computer revolutionized the PC market, providing users with a central processing unit, a floppy disk drive, color graphics, and a keyboard. He split from Apple in 1985 after a falling out with Jobs, but was nationally recognized for his achievement at the company, winning the National Medal of Technology by the President of the United States.
  8. Larry Ellison, Oracle

    As a young man, Ellison bounced around from job to job, eventually settling at Amdahl Corporation, where he contributed to the creation of the first IBM-compatible mainframe system. Soon after, he along with three of his colleagues departed to found Software Development Labs. Recognizing the potential of SQL, he won a contract to develop a relational database management system. On the side, they developed a system for commercial use, naming it RDBMS Oracle. Once IBM adopted it, Oracle began its ascension, going public in 1986. Ellison has overseen the peaks and valleys experienced by the company, and has been rewarded handsomely, as he's recognized as the third-richest man in America.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A New Way to Gain Customer Insights

How conjoint analysis, a tried-and-true market research tool, can be used to support organic growth.

When Dow Jones decided to revamp the Wall Street Journal in the mid-2000s, the newspaper had just endured five years of flat circulation and advertising revenue, and the whole industry was ailing. Although the Journal didn’t want to alienate its core readership, it wanted to attract new readers — in particular a younger demographic that advertisers would value. Dow Jones knew it had to make changes to its then 125-year-old newspaper. But the company’s bigger purpose was to understand the needs of an emerging segment of business news consumers that the Journal was not successfully reaching.
To help develop its strategy, Dow Jones employed a variant of conjoint analysis, a technique that has been widely used in market research for 30 years. In a traditional conjoint analysis, survey respondents are asked which products or product attributes they value as a trade-off between two or more options, repeated in enough combinations to yield a reliable ranking of each attribute’s importance. Dow Jones used this type of analysis in a new way, to identify prospective readers and reveal their preferences. After its redesign to attract this new customer segment, the Journal (now part of the News Corporation) saw a 35 percent improvement in its efforts to add new subscribers through direct marketing, reversed a three-year slump in ad sales, and experienced an annual revenue improvement of US$25 million from new programs and pricing initiatives.
In fact, for companies in industries as varied as luxury goods and retail banking, conjoint analysis is emerging as a strategic tool, providing actionable intelligence businesses can use to go beyond product optimization to support organic growth. The methodology needed to use conjoint analysis in this new way is very similar to the methodology that traditional practitioners of this type of analysis have used, but has a key variation: The marketing team uses the results to organize customer groups (and prospects) with similar preferences, providing a more detailed view of the categories they fall into, the needs they have, and the likelihood that they might become bigger (or smaller) sources of revenue.
In other words, conjoint analysis has become a new source of insight into customer segments. Of course, it would be hard to find a company that hasn’t done some kind of customer segmentation, and using conjoint analysis is certainly not the only way to achieve it. Companies usually have a sense of who their real and prospective customers are, and have an idea of what each segment considers important. But by segmenting customers with the help of conjoint analysis, companies can develop a more layered form of intelligence, with implications for which segments to prioritize, which value propositions to offer them, and how to market to them.

Looking for Luxury Shoppers

In recent years, a manufacturer of luxury gifts had become dissatisfied with the pace of growth in one of its largest geographic markets. Was the company targeting the wrong customers? Using the wrong materials? Supporting a brand with an undifferentiated value proposition? Advertising ineffectively? The company thought that if it could answer these questions, it would gain some of the insights needed to transform its organic growth strategy.
Using traditional conjoint analysis techniques, the manufacturer surveyed 2,000 luxury gift–buying consumers to find out the extent to which they were price- and brand-conscious; valued materials such as fine leather, fabrics, and metals; and wanted their gifts to elicit oohs and aahs from friends and family. The manufacturer then combined the data from the conjoint analysis with the results from other survey questions to define five customer segments and decided it had headroom — an opportunity to pick up significant market share — in several of those segments, including a group it called “classic shoppers.”
Thanks to the conjoint analysis survey, the manufacturer knew that in the “classic shopper” segment, customers ascribed great importance to prestige, cared a lot about high-quality materials, and preferred designs that made bold statements. The least important attribute to this customer segment was price — these customers didn’t mind paying a premium to get what they wanted.
The company might have already had an intuitive sense of these findings. However, the intelligence from the conjoint analysis was definitive. The results of the analysis have played a role in changing the company’s product line, changing what happens within the company’s distribution channels, and changing how and where the company spends its marketing dollars.

Protecting Profits at a Bank

In another recent example, a European bank was picking up signals that regulators were going to force it to become more transparent about the costs of loan protection, a product the bank made available to consumers who held unsecured loans. The bank didn’t make money selling unsecured loans, but it made a considerable profit selling insurance that guaranteed payment if a borrower lost his or her job or otherwise suffered an interruption of income. What would happen to the business model if regulators insisted on changes? Would there be a way to keep making money in the business of unsecured loans and loan protection?
The bank used a conjoint analysis survey of 1,600 people who had unsecured loans to estimate price elasticity for the loans themselves and for loan protection insurance. This was a way of anticipating the options it would have in the event that the regulatory environment changed, and banks were forced to raise (or lower) prices on either loan or loan-protection products.
The conjoint analysis answered the price elasticity question in the aggregate. After the bank clustered the panelists into five segments, it was also able to answer this question in a more granular way. For instance, customers in a segment the bank called “bargain hunters” were very sensitive to pricing — this group would not pay more to take out a loan or to insure it. By contrast, customers in a segment the bank designated as “personal bankers” (those who liked the high-touch approach, were willing to hear advice, and were open to special offers) were not particularly price sensitive. There would be ways, even in the event of a regulatory change, of selling this segment higher-priced unsecured loans and loan protection and profiting from it.
Indeed, one of the intriguing things about this bank’s use of conjoint analysis was the broad utility of the results. Although the analysis started off as a way to test price elasticity and prepare for external changes, the information the conjoint analysis generated — not only about how customers would respond in the event of a price increase, but also about more basic findings such as how people make borrowing decisions and how they think about financial providers — allowed the bank to identify tailored product strategies that would appeal to all its customer segments. The company decided its existing product would work for some of those segments, but that it should probably develop a no-frills product for the “bargain hunters” among its customers and a premium product for its “personal bankers.”

Segmenting for Growth

In an era of cautious consumer spending, many companies are looking for new ways to identify growth opportunities through improved customer insight. Conjoint analysis is at the forefront of this effort. The analytic rigor it brings is helping creative companies move forward with promising initiatives that they may have thought sounded good but couldn’t agree to implement without the data to back them up. Other companies find that it is generating avenues for organic growth they might not have come up with on their own.
In this way, conjoint analysis, which has historically informed relatively narrow product decisions (enhance this feature, remove that one) is turning out to have bigger strategic implications. It is a powerful tool that can fundamentally change companies’ perceptions about where opportunity lies and how to pursue it. 


  • David Meer is a senior executive advisor with Booz & Company based in New York. He specializes in customer insight and demand analytics, with a particular focus on helping companies use statistical approaches to identify organic growth opportunities.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

AdAsia 2011

An update on what is happening in the marketing and advertising world.

50 Online Tools That Will Help You Boost Productivity and Earn More Money

One of the great things about the web is the number of useful tools that can aid you in keeping track of all that you have to do and manage.
More importantly, many of these tools can be used to save time, increase productivity, and earn more money.
Perhaps the only downfall is the sheer number of tools that are available. It can be overwhelming.
Thankfully, I’ve done most of the work for you.
Below you’ll find a list of the absolute best online tools. That said, I’d still like to give a fair warning about this massive list of tools: look through them, pick a few that work for you, and ditch the rest.
You don’t need to use all of them. And you certainly don’t want to end up wasting time by using too many time–saving tools.
So without further adieu, here’s the list…

Table Of Contents

You can jump to any section by clicking the links below or just scroll down to view all of the online tools.
  1. Project Management Tools
  2. Productivity Tools
  3. Writing Tools
  4. Time Management Tools
  5. Business Tools
  6. Social Media Tools
  7. Browser Extensions and Addons

Project Management Tools

MindMeister allows your team to be more innovative by providing a shared collaboration and brainstorming environment using the proven mind mapping technique. Plan projects, manage meetings and sketch out business plans online with partners and colleagues, all in real time!
Freedcamp promises to be a free project management tool without restrictions on how many users or projects you can manage. Until now there haven’t been too many worthy competitors of 37signals’ Basecamp if you ask me, so it will be interested to see what Freedcamp will have to offer besides being free.
Campfire is like instant messaging, but designed exclusively for groups. Share text, files, and code in real time, and save transcripts so you don’t forget anything you covered. This is a product from 37signals, and while the fully featured version costs money, there is a free version available on the product page.
Backpack is an easy intranet for your business. Store, share, discuss, and archive everything that is essential for your team. Safe and secure. Backpack Pages are Backpack’s secret weapon. You can add any combination of notes, to–dos, files, photos, and dividers to a page. Pages just take seconds to create and can be used to organize, share, and discuss anything. This is a another product from 37signals, and while the fully featured version costs money, once again there is a free version on the product page.
Basecamp is the top choice for entrepreneurs, freelancers, small businesses, and groups inside big organizations. Basecamp tackles project management from an entirely different angle by focusing on communication and collaboration. Basecamp brings people together. This is also a product from 37signals, and while the fully featured version costs money, there is a free version on the product page.
6. Teamly
Teamly is a tool used by hundreds of businesses and thousands of individuals to improve their performance in the workplace. Teamly aims to help people move beyond their mile–long to–do list and focus instead on what is truly important.
Evernote lets you capture ideas, images, or audio clips from your PC or phone, and then sync them to the cloud for easy retrieval and organization. It even works with handwritten notes, turning your chicken scratch into searchable text. Use it if you want a better way of saving all the information you come across.

Productivity Tools

Most of these really need no introduction, as you are probably already familiar with them. From messaging and task apps such as Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar to collaboration apps such as Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Reader — Google Apps is the go–to place for those looking to be productive.
Going hand–in–hand with the Pomodoro Technique (check it out, it’s a killer technique for getting things done!), this is easily the best timer on the web for implementing said lifesaving productivity technique. Simple and great looking, with all of the necessary features, check out Focus Booster and find yourself being more productive in just 25 minutes!
TeuxDeux is a simple, “designy” to–do app. If you like making to–do lists, you will love TeuxDeux. The idea was to build a bare bones, but visually compelling and highly usable to–do app. Use the free browser–based TeuxDeux at work and home, and then take your to–dos on the road with the iPhone app.
11. Toggl
Toggl is a time tracking app which aims to help you track time with a single click, and to switch easily between different tasks and create reports so that you can get things done and turn that precious time into productive time.
RescueTime is a comprehensive web–based time management app. After an install, it gives you an amazing analysis of the time you spend on your computer everyday. It works in the background so it’s not reliant on you entering any data. You just need to install their app and it does the rest.
One of the better task managers out there, with benefits of being extremely simple and additional aspects that might aid you including it’s support for hierarchical lists and it’s cool keyboard shortcuts which let you edit tasks in a snap.

Writing Tools

You are probably already familiar with this one, but I find it surprising that so many people ask about the student discount for Microsoft Office when they could be using OpenOffice for free! OpenOffice is promoted as being available in many languages, working on all common computers, storing data in an international open standard format and being able to read and write files from other common office software packages, as well as being available for download and use completely free of charge for any purpose.
15. WriteRoom (Mac)
The original Mac app for creating a full–screen writing space. While you may think you are staying productive in a more standard word processor such as Microsoft Word, wait until you have tried a full–screen writing app like WriteRoom. No distractions, no buttons to click on, and a blank page on which to spill your ideas.
16. DarkRoom (PC)
Basically, DarkRoom is a clone of the original WriteRoom that is an OS X exclusive application. It was a child of necessity, as there were no viable alternatives in Windows to produce the same behavior. The goal of the project is to capture the essence of WriteRoom, while keeping it simple and just as free.
Not a fan of the Matrix looking DarkRoom or the pure white WriteRoom? Try Zen Writer, the full screen writing app which has a soft background, and can be accompanied by soothing music, typewriter noise, or no noise and distractions at all. Spell check, print from the screen, and save as multiple file types, this is one of the best free full–screen writing programs available, and I personally use it quite often to write great material without distractions.
Sick of typing the same thing over and over, especially in emails? Check out Text Expander, the awesome little tool that you can program to autofill and autocorrect to a variety of customizable templates, allowing you to send out emails that you send often in half the time, if not less.
While it positions itself as an app for writing screenplays, I’ve found it is also extremely useful for anyone writing extremely long documents, such as an ebook. It lets you manage the structure of your writing into useful segments and gives a general overview of where the piece is going and how it is laid out, a much better solution than having a ton of Word or OpenOffice documents.

Time Management Tools

20. Helium
Helium is a dead simple task management tool to implement Getting Things Done (GTD) and Inbox Zero. Helium connects to your email (IMAP and Exchange) and Evernote to transform information you’re already processing into actions. Delegate tasks to anyone whether they use Helium or not.
Most of us have a lot of accounts (somewhat ironic that this list could create a few more?) so it is fitting that a number of password manager applications have come about. I would argue that none are more simple and effective than LastPass at keeping track of your passwords in a safe and secure fashion, while keeping them easy for you to access when needed.
A very minimal site that allows you to create a list of things to do, in order, and click off when you accomplish them. Ever come home to multiple objectives? Now Do This helps you tackle them one at a time and allow yourself to confirm when you are done, helping you stay focused on single objectives and putting your best work into every task.
Text messages queued up with Oh Don’t Forget will be delivered at the date and time specified, unless you specify “now”, which will send the message instantly. Remind anyone about an event at a specific day and time queue up birthday reminders for the next several months have your to–do items sent to you throughout the day.
An always–on, always–available reminder system set for access from any online accessory. This is a great tool for personal productivity to supplement your team–based project management system. Definitely one of the more recognizable tools on this list, and now with it’s Gmail addon you can get even more use out of RTM!
Are you forgetful… or perhaps just super busy? BetterBuzzer helps you stay on top of important tasks by setting personalized reminder calls for yourself. They will keep calling you until you pick up. A message from their site: “We’re annoying like that. And you’ll love it!”
HiveDesk provides anyone with remote workers a platform that makes it easier manage the outsourcing process. Workers can check in remotely and HiveDesk will log their work sessions. Never worry about wasted time again!
DeskTime shows you who’s working and who’s not. It’s like Google Analytics for your employees. This can be especially useful for service business, as in reality your employees are your product, since they are the ones typically providing the service.

Business Tools

28. DropBox
It’s been making waves recently for it’s simplicity and ease of use. DropBox allows you to set up a folder that you can drag and drop files to, which will then be automatically stored on your Dropbox. The cool part? You can access your dropbox from anywhere, and files stored in your dropbox become available from any medium that you’ve connected to the program, including other laptops, computers, and mobile devices.
Shoeboxed simplifies vital business tasks like expense reporting, accounting, tax prep and contact management. How? By digitizing your paper documents, unlocking the data trapped on them, and organizing everything neatly in your secure online account.
30. Mint
For a complete and free set of financial tools, try Mint. This fantastic money manager automatically syncs with your bank accounts, tracks your spending, and gives you detailed graphical reports that show you where your money comes from, where it’s going, and how you can save more.
StreamerApp is a hosted, highly customizable, do–it–yourself activity stream and dashboard giving you a quick and fancy look at all the business data that matter to you.
32. iPaper
iPaper (from Scribd) hopes to eliminate the headache of different document formats on the Web. iPaper is a rich document format built for the web. Built with Adobe Flash, iPaper will display documents in the same way regardless of whether you’re using Windows, MacOS, or Linux. Your readers no longer have to download files or extra software to view your documents.
The one who remembers always has an edge. Whether you’re resolving a dispute or reaching out to clients, it pays to be prepared. Highrise keeps a log of notes so you can recall details from past conversations. Have the whole back story when you walk into a meeting. Highrise is like an always available cheat sheet. Once again, you can find free and paid versions on the product page.
ContactMe lets you consolidate all of your contacts and the business information that relates to each one into one convenient, online system. ContactMe keeps you on top of tasks, deadlines, details, correspondence, and appointments. Being organized has major benefits: you save time and effort and run a more professional and profitable business.
35. DocStoc
A free place to get legal documents and templates which can drastically help reduce your legal fees (and the time you spend creating the templates) and in some cases allow you to do some legal stuff yourself (although it is always advisable to consult an attorney for most things).

Social Media Tools

36. Bundlr
Bundlr lets you select the best content on the web into public theme pages. Cover real time breaking news, wrap up an event or research on your favorite topic. Using Bundlr, organizing the web is easy.
37. Timely
Timely helps you schedule tweets for maximum impact. What it does is analyze your past 199 tweets to figure out the best time slots. Timely then use this info to auto–schedule your tweets for prime timeslots, and it also learns as your followers grow!
38. Ping.fm
Want to update your Twitter status as well as Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites all at the same time from one place? Ping is great for this. Ping has the ability to update over 40 different social networks. This is a major time saver!
Despite the ugly design, SocialOomph allows for some great social network automation, but don’t fear, I’m talking about the good kind. Instant thank you DMs to followers, instant follow–backs, and lots of other scheduling features, SocialOomph can save you a lot of time on Twitter.
40. Tweriod
The first part in a one–two punch for Twitter updates that you just have to check out. Tweriod allows for you to get a free, detailed report of when your followers are online the most, and when they are interacting with other tweets the most. Using this information, you can tell which are the best time periods in which to tweet, and send them out perfectly using…
…the BufferApp, the second part in the Tweriod/Buffer combo. After you’ve gotten your free report of when your Twitter followers are online, use Buffer to set up time periods in which your tweets will post every day, making sure they align with when your Twitter followers are online the most. This will maximize each tweet’s impact!
FullyFollow.me lets you connect your social profiles into one, and be followed across all of them with a single click. No more sharing of tons of social media accounts, share one link and let people fully follow you!
The big dog of social media (and recently acquire by Twitter), TweetDeck is your personal browser for staying in touch with what’s happening now, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more. With TweetDeck anyone can update like a Pro. Customize your Twitter/Facebook experience with columns, groups, saved searches and automatic updates helping you to effortlessly stay updated with the people and topics you care about.

Browser Extensions and Addons

Note: I’m a Chrome user, so most of these listed will be from Chrome, but they often have FireFox counterparts.
You sit down at the computer, and you swear you’ll be productive. Next thing you know, it’s two hours later. You’ve checked your email, updated your Facebook status, browsed the trending topics on Twitter, read your RSS feeds, looked up your favorite band on Wikipedia, but what you haven’t done is work. StayFocusd is a productivity extension on Chrome that helps with that by limiting the amount of time you can spend on time–wasting websites.
Readability is a web and mobile app that zaps online clutter and saves web articlesin a comfortable reading view. No matter where you are or what device you use, your reading will be there. Readability offers a new way to†compensate writers and publishers without punishing readers. 70% of all membership fees go directly to the people who make the content.
46. Hyperwords (Firefox) | Hyperwords (Chrome)
A powerful web tool. In a single click you can do a large number of options including: search on Amazon, Google, Wikipedia (customizable); share via Email, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress; convert currencies and other units; and even translate dozens of languages.
47. ToDoist
Todoist is a leading online task manager that’s useful, fast and easy to use. I love the simplicity of the interface, I feel that important to having a to–do list that you will actually use every day. They manage millions of to–dos and they are ready to manage yours as well!
Never spend another second looking up a new word again. Especially useful for reading articles associated with academia, as now you can simply double click a single word in the article and instantly get a definition.
Smartsheet’s online project management tool takes an easy to use spreadsheet to the next level with features such as a Gantt chart, dependencies, sub–tasks, and attachments and discussions on any row.
50. Vyew
Beyond Web Conferencing: Vyew is a tool that allows you to meet and share information both in real time and continuously. Upload images, files, videos and more into Vyew, and Vyew will store the information in one Room that anyone can access and contribute to at anytime.
Most diagramming softwares require you to worry about things like choosing colors, drawing arrows, picking up the correct symbols, etc… All sort of things that get between your ideas and their representation. With Lovely Charts’s extremely simple and intuitive drag–and–drop drawing mechanism, you’re able to focus on what really matters. You won’t have to draw boxes or arrows, and you won’t have to worry about what symbol to use.
52. Ge.tt
Ge.tt is a real-time file sharing service. No need to wait for files to upload. They are ready to be shared as soon as you select them! It really is that easy. It’s file sharing in an instant. Ge.tt is based solely on browser technologies and works directly in your browser. No flash required. No applet needed. No installation before you’re ready to go.

Your Turn…

Which tools would you add to this list?
Leave a comment below.

This is a guest post by Gregory CiottiAre you a freelancer or entrepreneur using WordPress? Then you definitely need to check out Sparring Mind, and learn how to take your business and blogging endeavors on WordPress to the next level.

Read more: http://passivepanda.com/tools#ixzz1concEw9E

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Limit to Brand Extensions

Cultural associations can really help — or hurt.

Authors: Carlos J. Torelli (University of Minnesota) and Rohini Ahluwalia (University of Minnesota)
Publisher: Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 38, no. 5
Date Published: Forthcoming (February 2012)
Certain well-known brands represent more than just their products or services. They also evoke particular cultures and their associated traits. In some cases, marketers have devoted considerable resources to building their brands into cultural icons, which can help them dominate product categories in the global marketplace.
But this paper warns that because consumers associate well-known brands with particular countries and their symbolism, branching out into new categories can backfire when the new product doesn’t match the cultural values that are tied to the brand. Budweiser, for example, is recognized around the world as a quintessentially American brand. But what if Budweiser tried to branch out from beer and venture into, say, barbecue sauce or cappuccino makers?
The company would fare much better with barbecue sauce, argue the authors of this paper, because both the brand and its new product extension represent the same country and culture. “A brand’s cultural symbolism can be a liability or an asset, and to harness it profitably, a manager needs to understand the cultural symbolism of the potential extension categories under consideration,” the authors write.
And it’s an increasingly important issue, the authors say, because brand extensions can be an essential stream for growth in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, especially for iconic brands that might already be leaders in their own category. But research has shown that the rate of failure when a brand extends its products into a new category is as high as 84 percent, so factors that are likely to improve the chances of success could be highly consequential.
To identify those factors, the researchers first compared how consumers evaluated potential product extensions that were either a moderate or a low fit with the identity of a well-known brand — in this case, Sony. The researchers turned to 73 members of a consumer panel in the Minneapolis–St. Paul, Minn., area to rate six hypothetical product extensions.
For products that were moderate fits with Sony’s history as a manufacturer of electronics, the participants were asked to react to the idea of a Sony cappuccino maker (culturally incongruent because cappuccino is associated with Italy), a Sony electric car (culturally congruent because of Japan’s automotive industry), and a Sony toaster oven (culturally neutral). For extensions that had a low fit with Sony’s product history, the panel evaluated serving sets for cappuccino (culturally incongruent), sushi (culturally congruent), and general food (neutral).
In both the moderate- and low-fit categories, the culturally similar extensions were ranked more favorably and the culturally dissimilar products less favorably than their neutral counterparts. This supports the idea that perceptions of cultural connectedness transcend ideas about whether an extension “fits” with a company’s past products.
In addition, an analysis of written evaluations provided by the panelists showed a lack of deliberation about the proposed products’ cultural or national associations; this is consistent with prior research that has found people often fail to articulate or consciously assess the influence of such associations in forming opinions.
The next study tested these findings on different brands and product categories. The researchers picked two brands with distinct cultural associations (Giorgio Armani for Italian associations and Burberry for British). Both belong to the high-end fashion category and were ranked similarly by study participants for favorability, familiarity, and breadth of products.
For new products, a teakettle was chosen to evoke high levels of British symbolism and low levels of Italian culture, and a cappuccino maker was picked for the opposite effect. A toaster oven was chosen as the “neutral” product. The participants — this time, 81 members of a consumer panel in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area — were each asked to give their gut reaction to one of the products by using a nine-point scale. They then used a seven-point scale to rate how much they thought the products fit with the brand’s identity. Once again, the analysis showed that participants preferred products that were culturally connected to the brand.
The researchers wondered, however, whether the same would be true of brands that do not have strong cultural symbolism but are tied to a specific country. If so, this would suggest that consumers deliberate about the “expertise” of the brand’s country of origin — in other words, rather than forming subconscious cultural associations, consumers might be evaluating products on a methodical assessment of, say, Italian manufacturing.
To test this question, the researchers focused on alcoholic beverages produced in Mexico and the United States. First, two brands with strong cultural associations were chosen: Corona represented Mexico and Budweiser the United States. Another U.S. brand, Coors, was also included as a comparison. In pretests with 50 participants, Coors was rated similarly to the other two beers in terms of favorability, familiarity, and breadth of products. But although it was known to 90 percent of the participants as a U.S. product, Coors was rated as neutral in both U.S. and Mexican cultural symbolism. (A fourth beer, whose brand name was not provided, was also included as a control.)
Tequila was chosen as one targeted brand extension because of its high level of cultural symbolism with Mexico but not the United States. A second test product, brandy, was included because of its tenuous cultural connections (less than 17 percent of the participants spontaneously associated it with a particular culture). The researchers noted that the proposed tequila and brandy extensions represented equivalent fits for each beer maker — in other words, any beer company could be reasonably expected to branch out into those products. But, they added, Corona’s tequila would be the only extension that had strong cultural ties.
The participants — for this test, fittingly, 205 college students, from the University of Minnesota — were each asked to rate one of the extensions in terms of the ease with which they understood the new product’s concept. They also indicated, on a seven-point scale, their buying intentions, how competently they thought the brand could manufacture the product, their feelings toward products made in the United States and Mexico (products in general as well as alcoholic products specifically), and their prior attitudes toward either tequila or brandy.
Overall, participants thought more highly of the culturally congruent Corona tequila. Participants thought much less favorably of the Budweiser tequila than that of Coors (even though both are U.S. brands), because Budweiser was more strongly identified with the United States and tequila thus created more of a cultural contrast. These effects also extended to participants’ intentions to buy the product.
The findings ruled out the idea that a company’s country of origin, rather than its cultural symbolism, drove the panel’s reactions. Participants did not perceive a difference in the manufacturing expertise of the beer makers, and the students’ prior attitudes toward tequila and brandy didn’t matter. The participants also didn’t elaborate on their assessments, underscoring the influence of their automatic cultural associations.
The researchers say their findings have important implications for branding managers, pointing the way to extensions they might not otherwise have considered but also serving as a warning about the dangers of going too far. For example, although consumers thought better of Armani’s move into cappuccino makers than might be expected (after all, it’s a clothing company), they were less enamored of an Armani teakettle (because it not only is an unusual fit for the company but also is at odds with its national culture). And even when the product fit is right, alarm bells should go off when the cultural connection is wrong, as it was with Budweiser and tequila.
“Culturally symbolic brands may successfully extend into culturally congruent products regardless of fit,” the authors conclude, “and may backfire in culturally incongruent categories, despite their perceived fit.”
Bottom Line:
Consumers respond more favorably to new products from well-known brands when they match the consumers’ expectations about the brand’s culture. This matters even more than whether the move into a new category fits with the company’s history, traditional strengths, and other offerings.

Dialing for Dollars with Phone Apps

Branded mobile applications can spark interest in new product categories.

Title: The Effectiveness of Branded Mobile Phone Apps (Subscription or fee required.)
Authors: Steven Bellman (Murdoch University), Robert F. Potter (Indiana University), Shiree Treleaven-Hassard (Murdoch University), Jennifer A. Robinson (Murdoch University), and Duane Varan (Murdoch University)
Publisher: Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 25, no. 4
Date Published: November 2011
Some types of branded mobile applications (“apps”) are more successful than others at improving consumer perceptions — and some can even generate interest in brands whose products weren’t relevant to consumers before. That was the conclusion of this study on the impact of commercial apps, apparently the first of its kind.
Smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android have revolutionized mobile communication, in large part because apps have effectively turned the devices into handheld computers. In the case of the iPhone, owners can choose from more than 100,000 apps to perform a range of functions, from checking e-mail and consulting maps to banking and shopping online.
But apps represent more than just convenience for users — they are a significant new opportunity for marketers. When consumers choose to download branded apps, which prominently display a brand’s identity through its name, logo, or icon, they are welcoming apps as “useful” parts of their day-to-day life. The intimate nature of interacting with an app requires a new understanding of advertising communication, however, because, as the authors write, “the consumer talks to the brand, not the other way around.”
Previous research has looked at the impact of text messaging and Web advertising on consumers, but the rapid evolution of smartphones and their potential for advertisers has not been widely explored. This study shows how big that potential is. “Apps seem like an ideal medium for educating people about new categories [of products], or categories they have yet to try,” the authors write, “so it would be useful to experiment with ways of encouraging customers to use apps for this purpose.” Indeed, they say, “The implication is that smartphone application development could be a better use of funds currently deployed on mobile-ready Web sites and other forms of advertising and promotion.”
More than 200 people took part in the study in the United States and Australia; they ranged in age from 18 to 74, and men and women were equally represented. Twenty-eight percent owned an iPhone, 68 percent owned a different type of cell phone, and 4 percent had no mobile phone. All participants received the same amount of training on using apps, to eliminate any novelty effect, and the experiment was conducted on an iPod Touch.
Eight branded apps were tested. Because previous research has found that a product’s relevance to the consumer has a large impact on a brand’s appeal, half of the brands in the study were in product categories that have been identified as predominantly targeting men, and half were selected to appeal more to women. The four female-targeted brands were Gap, Kraft, LancĂ´me, and Target; the four male-targeted brands were Best Buy, BMW, Gillette, and Weber. The apps were generally unfamiliar to the participants.
The authors hypothesized that the application’s type — either primarily functional and utilitarian or aimed at enjoyment and entertainment — would help determine how participants used it and were affected by it. Four of the apps in the study were labeled “informational.” For example, the Target app allowed shoppers to see the week’s deals and clearance items and to access product reviews by scanning bar codes. The other four were labeled “experiential” — BMW’s app, for instance, took the form of a game in which users could configure a 3-D model of the Z4 Roadster and take it for a virtual test drive.
To establish whether participants’ attitudes toward brands changed after they used the apps, the researchers had participants complete an online survey about 10 days before the experiment. In addition to answering questions about whether they owned and used a smartphone, they indicated how often they used products in the categories represented by the eight brands. Finally, the researchers used an 11-point scale to measure the participants’ attitudes and purchase intentions toward two brands from each of the eight product categories: the test brand and a competitor’s brand.
During the experiment, participants were presented with the eight apps in random order. They were required to interact with each app, and could do so for however long they wished. Over the course of the session, the researchers tracked the participants’ heart rate. Previous research has shown that when people are focused externally (playing a board game, for instance), their heart rate slows down, whereas when they are engaged in something that requires greater introspection (trying to answer a question, say, or research an issue), the rate increases. The researchers wanted to see if this difference would extend to app usage.
After interacting with the last of the eight apps, the participants took a survey that again measured their degree of engagement with the eight product categories, along with their attitude and purchase intentions toward the brands.
The researchers found that in general, the phone apps made the participants think more favorably not only of the brands, but also of the overall product categories they represented. This latter finding was unexpected and potentially significant: Apps could be a way for advertisers to reach across traditional product or gender boundaries to appeal to new types of customers.
There was, however, only a small shift in participants’ intentions to actually buy a product from the app’s sponsor. And not all branded apps had the same effectiveness. Applications that employed an informational style were more successful at making people want to buy one of the brand’s products. Additionally, although there was no significant difference in the heart rates of women when they used the two types of apps, male participants had much faster heart rates when using informational apps, suggesting they were “focusing attention internally and thereby encouraging the generation of personal connections with the brand.”
The authors conclude that because many people view their smartphones as extensions of themselves, packed with personal data and customized interfaces, branded apps could be a highly effective form of advertising. Smartphones follow consumers wherever they go, and branded apps are all the more powerful because it is the consumer who decides whether to download and opt in. Unlike pushy messages, such as those delivered by television commercials or text messages, apps can subtly improve consumers’ attitudes in a format they want to see and use.
But the researchers caution that the study also implies that successful apps are hard to produce. “Designing an informational app that consumers find useful in their daily lives is a lot more difficult than building an experiential app by creating or adapting an interactive game,” they write. It requires a larger budget of time and money. But if the end result is something useful to consumers, apps could be “one of the most powerful forms of advertising yet developed.”
Bottom Line:
Using branded mobile phone applications increases consumers’ positive attitudes toward a brand. In addition, apps can boost people’s impressions of an entire product category, making them a potentially useful way of reaching new consumers. Informational apps, which help people solve problems or gather data, are the most likely to improve a brand’s bond with consumers because of the personal connection that is forged.