All posts by TheBlackFin

Chief Marketing Officer, Agency at Epsilon & Principal at Blackfin360, LLC.

Top Daug

We arrived in Orlando on Monday to meet with our client teams at Disney and EA’s Tiburon division. The Tiburon group owns the EA Sports titles that we have all come to know and love. NCAA, Madden, Tiger, Nascar… It all happens here. Being in Orlando reminds me of the first time I was here back in 1996. For those of you that don’t know, I am an alumni of the University of Oklahoma. I bleed crimson and cream and I have an insane amount of loyalty to my university and it showed.

While I was a student at OU, I was the mascot for the University of Oklahoma men’s basketball team, Top Daug. I did this from the spring of 1994 to the start of the 1998 season. Yes you are probably wondering why OU would have a dog for a mascot? Don’t you have a big wagon or something? Yes, but the wagon did not play nicely with the wooden floors of Lloyd Noble Arena. Back in the mid 80’s the coach was Billy Tubbs and he proclaimed that OU would be the Top Dog of the then Big 8 conference and thus Top Daug was born. Unfortunately Top Daug was recently retired in order to make way for Boomer and Sooner, they were to become the mascots for the university athletics across the board and Top Daug is no more.

It was a very fun and rewarding job. You have the ability to walk up to virtually anyone and for some reason they are very comfortable with you. Little kids would either love you or run away in sheer terror. The best part of the job was having some impact on the game by getting the crowd into the game. There was a lot of dancing, skits and half court shots, which I did make my share… there is video somewhere. There were costumes and stunts and one instance of being lowered down from the top of the arena to the floor below while losing my shorts when taking off the harness. Luckily I was in full fur.

We did not have the best postseason record while I was the mascot, but I did get to travel to the Big 8 then Big XII tournaments in Kemper Arena in Kansas City and to whatever location we would land at in the NCAA tournament. We went to Memphis to play the Manhatten Jaspers. Yes those mighty Jaspers slayed the Sooners that day and we were out in the first round of the tournament. We played Stanford and let’s just say I had fun with the Stanford tree. You may get the idea…. Dog + tree =…. But in 1996 we were matched up with the Temple Owls and the game site was in Orlando. It was great! We received passes to Disney World and spent time just wandering around the park like big kids. Of course we did lose to Temple the next day but I did hit my half-court shot during half time. Orlando was a great city to visit and now that we work with the Parks & Resorts team at Disney and also my kids have been to Disney World, but it will always remind me of my time with the Sooners.

Announcing Social Networking

Starting August 29th Telligent will host a monthly breakfast at our office in Dallas as an interest group for Social Networking and Communities.

What is it?

It’s not going to be technical. Visual Studio won’t get opened. What it will be is a fun conversation with like-minded people about topics related to social networking and communities all centered around how these concepts and technologies can be applied successfully for organizations.

Where is it?

We’ll have the first meeting at our office in Dallas, TX, but we’re going to video-cast (not live) too. If it takes off we may even do a small road-show.

Who is it for?

It’s for anyone that is interested in these topics. It’s going to be more about “how do I make this stuff work for me” and less about “how does the technology work”. For example, our first topic is going to be Blogging in your Business. We’ll talk about how tools such as blogs promote transparency and really open some news ways for you to talk to customers or employees.

What is the format?

8:00 – 8:30 – Light breakfast (coffee, bagels, etc.)

8:30 – 9:30 – Blogging in your business, Rob Howard

9:30 – 10:00 – Open discussion

Microsoft + Electronic Arts = In-game Advertising?

Coming to you live from Oklahoma City. Wi-Fi in a hospital room, who would have thought it was possible? No I am not in the hospital just blogging from one. So Microsoft and Electronic Arts have partnered together to sign the largest in-game advertising deal to date. Initially the campaign will be rolled out to the Sports titles like Madden, Nascar, Tiger Woods and Skate.

The reason this is possible now is how connected most gamers are. Think about some of the current titles in your library. You can get up to the minute ESPN feeds and updates now when the game fires up in NBA Live 07 and other EA titles. These feeds are a precursor of what’s to come. In reviewing research for this post it turns out that there are 4.4 million connected gaming console households. With 46 million game consoles in homes and another 148 million people with access to gaming consoles these numbers will continue to increase. So needless to say it is very appealing to advertisers to want to reach this segment of the population as this is a key demographic for positioning products and services.

All of the major consoles now have an online presence with Xbox leading the way online and the Wii attracting scores of new gamers. The industry is definitely in for additional growth online. So this all leads to the million dollar question… er the $600 million dollar question (market projection in 3 years)… Do you want ads in your games? It is nice to see the Dodge ads on the billboards in Crackdown and it does add to the realism in games, but how would you respond to something that interupts game play?

Personally, I like the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) product placement approach in most films. It is about characters interacting with name brand products but not about the product itself. This to me has more impact and would make me more likely to remember the reference than stopping in the middle to see a pop-up or ticker during game play.

So whether you are a fan or not, In-game advertising is coming and in a big way. There are too many dollars and distractions these days to not take this medium seriously. What do you think? Are you for, opposed or just in-different to in-game advertising? In the end it will be your dollars that do the talking.

EA Skate Round 2

For most of this week I will be in Vancouver, British Columbia. Today I was on-site at Electronic Arts Blackbox location. This is the studio responsible for the upcoming Skate release. If you recall back in June I posted about my first experience with the alpha build of Skate. Today I played one of the latest builds and all I can say is WOW.

The realism of the game is incredible. The movements are based on physics vs. animation so it gives the skater a natural flow that is not common in most of the current titles. The “flickit” controls are clean and really allow the user to have complete control but also gives you almost an unlimited ability to pull and sequence tricks.

The most impressive aspect of the game though was the ability to capture and manipulate in-game video footage from within the game. The game will cache the last 20 or so seconds of your run. If you pull off a wicked combo you can simply go to the replay option and begin adjusting camera angles, speed of replay, and apply different effects to your clip. Then the clip will upload to the soon to be launched Skate video gallery that is powered by community server. You will be able to share your clips with friends or for all of the skate community to see. You can also view some of the top clips from within the game.

The beta should drop on August 21st via the Xbox Live Marketplace. Definitely give it a go. You will be able to save video from the demo and it will carry over to when the game releases in September.

$44 Billion Really?

I just flew in from Denver and boy are my arms tired… Seriously though, I enjoyed attending the 2007 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference last week. I was even quoted in the Denver Post about being a Microsoft partner. It is always interesting to get an inside look at Microsoft as I have been consulting with this organization for the past 8 years. It has been intriging to watch the transformation from a decentralized, maverick organization to one that is applying more traditional business controls such as a focus around procurement, to their ability to quickly adapt in an ever-changing marketplace.

What really impressed me is the partner ecosystem that Microsoft has been able to develop. With 10,000+ attendees at this conference representing 120 countries it is no wonder that 96% of it’s $44 billion in revenue 2006 came from Partners. With their ability to not only provide outstanding software products, Microsoft really focuses on establishing platforms that can be extended, defining industry standards and ensuring interoperability with their offerings. This makes it very easy for organizations to partner with them.

It was very evident that many start-up organizations can benefit from niche offerings around Microsoft products as they are very open to partnering with early adopters. The focus on partners is a key element to their continued success. As I stated before in Software + Services there will always be the customer segment that lives in the now and is focused on the best solution that meets their needs today vs. the trendy offering of tomorrow.

Here at Telligent we have deep roots with Microsoft from Rob Howards time with the ASP.NET team, to 2 Regional Directors, multiple MVP’s and a focus on Microsoft technologies in our products such as Community Server. We look forward to continuing to build out our own partner ecosystem. We focus on providing software platforms that can be extended vs. single applications as well. So why wouldn’t we follow in the footsteps of Microsoft. $44 billion can’t be wrong.

Software + Services

There has been a lot of hype around Software as a Service of late. A number of people in the know say this is the future of business. If we have learned anything over the past few years it is customers want a choice.

You will always have the innovators and early adopters setting the pace for technology adoption. But when you hit the early majority you will have to understand that the latest and greatest is not always what is needed or wanted. Therefore as a solution provider in order to gain a true competitive advantage you need to have a blended offering.

From a software perspective that means in order to maximize your potential you need to offer products that meet the needs of both sides of the spectrum. From an on-premise implementation that allows enterprise level players to have the ultimate control and integration that they desire to the mid-size organization that does not want the responsibility of maintaining the infrastructure associated with the offering.

We at Telligent are very aware of this and one of our biggest advantages is our ability to tailor our solutions to adhere to both scenarios. We are as hand’s on as our clients need us to be. We can provide a fully managed solution including customization of the Community Server platform, professional services and creative, or we can offer just licensing, software assurance and support. This has enabled us to be on the forefront of online collaborative solutions and work with some of the biggest names and brands across multiple verticals.

Is That a Kwik-E Mart???

7-11 just did something that is pretty innovative from a marketing standpoint. They have transformed a dozen stores into Kwik-E-Marts from The Simpsons in an effort to promote the upcoming Simpson’s movie. I really like this campaign as it is a great example of reverse product placement and by the buzz and lines at the store I went to today it seems to be working.

KrustyO’s, Squishees, Buzz cola and the ever famous pink Homer Simpson donuts are just a few of the products that you can now pick up and take home with you and as they state have “absolutely no nutritional value”. For those of you wondering, Duff beer did not make the product cut for this promotion.

The ability of 7-11 to “laugh at itself” is very key in this promotion. “The idea of actually changing the stores into Kwik-E-Marts was over the top but a natural” stated one of the execs at 7-11‘s agency. “It shows they get the joke”. You would not think decorating a store to look like a cartoon would be that effective, but they are definitely reaching a new audience as I saw people in the store today that you normally would not see going to a 7-11 for a specific purpose.

It is funny that I get this excited around a campaign, but as an instructor of marketing and a marketing professional, it is great to see creative application of marketing strategy and the ability of a proven brand to embrace something that is “different” in order to garner additional attention. Plus it is just a lot of fun.

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Where Are We?

In our mini-van, yes I know I just lost major street-cred by referencing the fact that my wife and I do in-fact own a min-van, but it’s a fully loaded mini-van thank you very much!!! We have built-in navigation and DVD systems for the kids.

Now instead of actually paying attention to where I am going, I am mindlessly following the directions given to me by the authoritative female voice and glowing maps. As my brain wanders, thinking about parenting, profitability and ROI analysis, Xbox 360 gaming and what’s for dinner, I realize that if we suddenly lost power to the nav system I would have no idea how to find where I am going.

Thinking about this and the High-Tech industry in general and reading Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm I began to think about the importance of not only understanding where you are going but more importantly how are you going to get there.

We at Telligent are at a crossroads. We are almost upon the transition from the Innovators and Early Adopters to the pragmatic Early Majority in terms of product adoption. Marketers are good at identifying fads and even better at exploiting trends. We are currently in the middle of a major trend which is the collaborative boom of Web 2.0 solutions. And Telligent is definitely on the forefront of providing the needs to those Innovators and Early Adopters. With success implementing solutions and providing Community Server to organizations such as: Disney, MSNBC, Dell, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Intel, Mazda, Honda, Adidas, Lego, etc… We have laid the foundation to successfully cross over to the upcoming Early Majority.

But the Early Majority requires different messaging and they are less concerned with the technology and more concerned with ease of use, support and referrals from others in the Early Majority. This is one of the key areas where High-Tech companies fail. They see the growth in sales between Innovators and Early Adopters and they ramp up their teams and expect big revenue numbers to continue to spike, what they do not count on is the potential marketing pitfall that occurs between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority.

The Early Majority is a very important segment during the product adoption life-cycle. If you catch the wave between Early Adopters to the Early Majority this is where true success starts to materialize.

What we are seeing from organizations is that the Early Adopters were looking for an edge on the competition and now they have found a way to leverage collaborative solutions and engrain them into their marketing strategy. Now the Early Majority is taking note of the trend and patiently waiting to see what best practices arise.

The one thing to keep in mind in all of this is that it is not always the best product that gets selected by the Early Majority, it is normally the products that can market themselves in such a way and are continuous in their innovation that they speak directly to the needs of the Early Majority and are not as disruptive as the competition that they in turn cash in with market share. We at Telligent have the premier collaborative solution in Community Server. The next step is ensuring that we speak to the Early Majority and let them know exactly why it is the best. The rest will take care of itself.

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference

Scott Dockendorf, VP of Professional Services for Telligent and I will be attending the upcoming Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2007 in Denver, Colorado July 10-12.

I am looking forward to the keynote by Steve Ballmer and the various breakout sessions, exhibits and of course networking. If you are going to be attending the conference please let me know. It is always great to put a face with a name.

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Paintball Anyone?

Team Building. That is what it’s called when a company has a sponsored outing. In order to partake in team building on this day you had to drive to the middle of nowhere, don camouflage from days gone by (ex-military) and pick up high-powered weapons that shoot plastic balls filled with paint at high rates of speed. Then divide the company into two sides, line up on the ends of the playing fields and wait for all hell to break loose.

That is exactly what transpired on Friday with Telligent’s soon to be inaugural paintball adventure. Imagine if you will a group of mild mannered developers, program managers and sales team members. All friends during the day, collaborating on multiple project initiatives, driving towards company goals… but when the masks drop down and the last of the air cartridges are full, they turn into lethal paintballing machines.

The battles had an ebb and flow to them. One side would gain control and then the other would push forward. Towards the end of the day the term “surrender” had no meaning. Many casualties were met on this day as some team members bravely charged into bunkers where automatic weapons lay in wait. There will be posthumous medal ceremonies for those brave souls. There was the occasional friendly-fire incident and many shrieks of pain as the impact and subsequent explosion of paint could be heard by anyone within ear shot.  

When it was all said and done: 20 boxes of paint, 1 neck shot, hundreds of whelps and countless chigger bites later the goal of the day had been accomplished. There were many that wore weary smiles as they painfully made their way to their cars. The next day the IM titles read like a list of honor… 15 whelps here, 12 whelps there, paintball recovery day 1, etc…

Battle brings the best and worst out of people. I hope on this day each individual caught a glimpse of themselves and were happy with what they saw.

On this day there was much team building indeed.   

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Tom-Sniper