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Marissa Mayer & Yahoo. What's missing

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I've read more than a dozen stories about Marissa Mayer's move to Yahoo. Many of them miss the fundamental point. Let me get this straight first though - I think Marissa Mayer is an awesome choice for Yahoo and she has a lot to offer the company. It is also great to see another woman take the reigns of a large technology player. It's about time.

But most of the stories in the press discount what Yahoo needs most and why Marissa Mayer is such a smart choice. There's no use in Yahoo thinking of itself as a media company or a technology company if it doesn't understand user experience deeply. That's why Steve Jobs was special. That's why Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook is too. That's also why two decades ago David Filo, Jerry Yang and Marc Andreessen stood out at Yahoo and Netscape. The Yahoo CEO needs to understand how real people want to engage with digital products. But more than that the person has to have a specific vision for how people will engage with them in the future. No focus group will answer that for the CEO. It is the most critical skill/intuition that any leader who works in technology must have. The Yahoo CEO needs to use that to guide every decision. And it is different from having product chops.

Not enough senior executives have that brain muscle. Many of them (no offense meant), grew up being forced to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at excel spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations in MBA programs or early job assignments that stifled creativity. Not enough spent those years creating wireframes in Visio, pushing pixels in Photoshop or sketching in notepads on their weekends. Not enough were liberal arts major or sociology graduate students. This may not matter for brick and mortar organizations that change slowly and have much deeper barriers to entry and where business processes and efficiences drive the business. But it isn't in the case with digital. A Yahoo CEO cannot be rooted in media, technology or even content. Yahoo desperately needs a user experience visionary. It has all the assets in the world and if there's anything that Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest has taught us, its that this is not about the technology either. 

Steve Jobs described the need perfectly when talking about Bill Gates in a story on how Microsoft lost its mojo. Here's the quote from the Vanity Fair story that captures his view -

Bill likes to portray himself as a man of the product, but he's really not. He's a businessperson. Winning business was more important than making great products. Microsoft never had the humanities and liberal arts in its DNA."

Yahoo needs to recover. A lot of us still remember the day the directory was launched and want Yahoo to succeed desperately. The board  of Yahoo did its job in choosing someone who has a history of making great products and focusing on the user experience. Now its time for Marissa to do hers.

Sosolimited via The Creators Project

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An inspiring perspective and worth watching. This isn't about digital marketing or about social media but how Sosolimited thinks about bits and bytes is how brands need to think too.

The X-Factor, YouTube & a New TV Mindset

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xfactorusa1.jpgThis is an exciting year for us at PepsiCo Beverages. Along with The Pepsi Refresh Project, we're the launch partner for The X-Factor. We're going to support this massive entertainment platform by pushing the boundaries of digital engagement and connecting fans to meaningful Pepsi X-Factor digital experiences. Along with our partners, today we made what might seem to be a small but is actually an important step in that direction - we jointly announced that for the first time ever, consumers will be able audition for a Reality TV show via YouTube

For some of us in the Internet space this might not seem special. But no reality show has done this before and certainly not on such a scale. No show truly gave every American the opportunity to audition for their show. Americans weren't given equal chances to fulfill their dreams. The show producers could only visit so many cities in a given time period to conduct auditions. It was all about the logistics and the cost. Both barriers have been broken down with the X-Factor YouTube initiative. Arguably, few television shows even beyond the realm of Reality TV have leveraged the Internet has meaningfully as The X-Factor will.

In the coming months and years, the television industrial complex is going to rethink its business structure to incorporate "Internet thinking" into its core. Some networks may have missed an opportunity with the TV up-fronts which treated digital as nothing more than a step-child both from a content and an advertising standpoint. I'm hoping that the TV world won't make that mistake twice. Our YouTube announcement with The X-Factor is one small example of how much the world has changed and what kind of possibilities open up by tapping into "Internet thinking" to enhance, democratize and even redefine traditional, television entertainment and everything surrounding it from script creation to consumer participation and real-time feedback. It also shows the new roles that brands can play in this world.

The Future of Marketing. Reducing the Paw Print

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This is the future of marketing in my opinion. All other things being equal (limited differentiation between the actual products) I'm going to buy shoes from Puma because they've just reduced their "Paw" print in a brilliant and useful fashion. Will you buy Puma now?

Is this the future of our cities? I hope not

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I truly believe that we have social media and the emergence of social brands to thank for saving us from this scary future where every image in our towns and cities is a logo.

 What do you think? Do you think this is a bad thing and do you feel that social media is saving us from it? 

Special thanks to Jose Martinez for pointing me to this video clip.

Don't be embarrassed about being a Dummy!

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dummiesman.gifA few friends have told me that they're enjoying my book but feel a little embarrassed to be carrying around a book from the Dummies series. In fact, ValleyPR's nice book review also alluded to that fact. Well, I've got two thoughts - don't be afraid to be a Dummy and keep in mind this is Un-Dummy Dummy book!

The Dummies series is the number one selling book series in the world primarily because these books lets you learn a subject in a quick, easily digestible and engaging format really quickly. It is not necessarily about learning the absolute basics only. People like the books because they bring you up to speed on a topic quickly and give you the confidence that you've learnt everything you need to know. 

Secondly, with this book in particular, it is probably one of the more Un-Dummy Dummy books as someone pointed out to me. What he meant was that it puts a lot of emphasis on explaining advanced, fresh and exciting social media marketing concepts in easy to understand language. In other words, its taking some very new concepts (especially around influencer types and how they matter at each point in the funnel) and makes them accessible and available. Remember,this is not a book about social media or how to use Twitter but one about the evolution of marketing with social influence across all of digital.

Looking ahead to 2010, Key Trends

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I was interviewed by Mary Ellen Slater of SmartBrief last week on key social trends for 2010. I'm a member of the SmartBrief Social Media Advisory Board and was excited to do this interview. Below is an excerpt of those trends. Find the full interview over at SmartBrief

Social media is evolving quickly. What are the three trends on the horizon that business leaders absolutely must keep up with?

Social brands. The most successful brands in 2010 are going to be the ones that evolve into social brands. This means that brands that have social voices -- real people participating and talking on their behalf to customers in an engaging, conversational manner. The company must be willing to let its employees and its brand advocates become the face of the brand. Consumers demand that, and brands like Best Buy that are evolving into social brands (think Twelp Force) will be the ones that win. Every brand is going to need to become a social brand at some point.

Real-time brands. Companies that become dynamic and responsive in real time to their customers and their needs will be the ones that succeed. This doesn't just mean real time customer service but real time market research, real time product development, and real time customization and personalization of products and campaigns alike. This also means that the products will need to have a digital pulse in them.

Identifying, nurturing and managing relationships. Customers increasingly are also influencers (expert, positional or referent), and companies will need to know who those people are and how much influence they actually have. A lot more effort is going to go into this. Along those lines, understanding how customers come together as communities and make collective decisions will be important, too.

Read the remainder of the interview at SmartBrief on Social Media and don't miss their year end report.

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