As a design study the Courier was a tremendous success back in 2010, but as a PR exercise it was something far more sinister.
I heard when I was visiting Microsoft HQ in Redmond that Microsoft had made the Courier concept public to demonstrate what could be built on the Windows platform and had provided the build specs to at least one OEM, however the Courier quickly turned from an innovative design exercise into an unfortunate metaphor for their inability to compete with Apple.
It made no real sense to me at the time that Microsoft was actually going to build the Courier, however with the announcement of their Surface Tablet, I clearly don’t know shit.
Regardless that Microsoft obsesses about competing with Apple (And Google for that matter) the fact is Microsoft doesn’t compete head to head with Apple, their OEM partners do, such as DELL, Sony and HP. Those same OEMs are are on the Android bandwaggon as a fashonable and low cost alternative to Windows. Faced with flagging consumer relevance and an uncomfortable 3-way with Google, Microsoft clearly had two options, try to woo the channel and win them back from Google, or go head to head, Google style!
Google led the way in Partner-shafting when they formed the Open Handset Alliance to build Andriod powered phones whilst building its own Nexus device to compete with it! But then, Google always seem to struggle with the notion of boundaries. Microsoft, on the other hand, seemed to take a Partner-first approach.
Microsoft is in a sticky spot for sure. I mentioned before that Microsoft could hold its breath for a long time, meaning that it could afford to make short term sacrifices for the long term good, but those old lungs are not what they used to be, which, combined with an astonishing run for Apple, has clearly led to new thinking in Redmond. I can’t see how this is winning.
The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science released a study showing the relationship between Facebook fan pages brand engagement – concluding that Brands should lower their expectations of Fan Page performance.
Facebook Fan Pages include Facebook’s own PTAT (People Talking About This) metric, and that metric was the basis for the study. PTAT as stated is somewhat misleading though given the act of Liking a Brand is included in PTAT.
Once the researchers had removed the impact of the initial Like, they found that only 0.5% of Fans actually engaged with the brand via Facebook on a weekly basis*
In isolation, this seems like an extraordinarily low number, and should cause the majority of Brands investing time and money growing their fan base to rethink. In fact, only 10% of the brands sampled reached 1% engagement, and this was consistent across all categories and included a number of “Passion Brands”.
The engagement value of 0.5% weekly engagement should be used as the baseline when evaluating the return of investment in building a Facebook Fan page, chances are the size of a Brand’s Facebook Fan Page does more for the ego of the Brand stewards than it does for the bottom line!
*Data reproduced from Admap with permission.
While pondering the implications of the Contextual Ads in Gmail I put myself in the position of an unsuspecting small business owner, and was amazed to learn just how focused Google was on introducing my customers to my competitors!
The Google ad platform does an incredible job of identifying an email’s context and finding the highest paying, or most clickable ad to match that context. In a setting like Gmail that means digitally reading the email from the Subject Line to the Body of the email to the Sender’s Signature, using that collected data to identify the email’s context and then finding the most suitable set of advertisers to display when the Gmail-using recipient is reading the email.
Here’s an example, check out the ads on the right (Also note that clicking on “More about…” will open a page with multiple Landscaping ads):
Gmail’s advertising engine is devastatingly effective here having served ads that are not only relevant to the subject of the email, but also to the geography of the recipient, making the ads a very potent way for those advertisers to “poach” the sender’s customers. But where does that leave poor Grassy Bass Landscaping? By sending a quote to a potential customer I have inadvertently surfaced a number of competitors, hardly seems fair! One way to minimise the impact of Google’s poaching prowess is to avoid building context through the subject line or body of the email, right now it doesn’t look like attachments are read so use the attachment to describe the work instead. That’s not ideal, but it may just avoid Gmail surfacing your most aggressive competitors right next to your mail.
Any small business that thinks Gmail is just another harmless, free webmail product should think again, it’s your competitors’ dream ticket to finding your customers after you have done all the hard work, adopt it as your own email provider at your peril.
UPDATE : In the Virtual Revolution, broadcast in the UK on the 15th February, the presenter raises these same concerns about Google’s approach to Privacy and Advertising Everywhere, some interesting perspectives here – Gmail is discussed at 1:44sec. [Note that this link will be broken if this video has not been authorised by the publisher]