Awareness is Everything: May 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Austin is where the digitally savvy things are

That’s from a Scarborough Research report, which found that Austin has the highest concentration of consumers that own certain high tech items (such as DVRs, satellite radio, VoIP), engage in certain internet behaviors (including blogging, downloading music, online gaming) and use leading-edge cell phone features (email, text messaging, etc.). Scarborough Research terms these consumers the digitally savvy, and nationally, 6% of the population is classified as digitally savvy. While Austin boasts 12% of its population as being digitally savvy. Yet another reason why Austin is the coolest place to live! (Ok, perhaps I’m slightly biased as I call Austin home…)

As both the report and this recent article in Ad Age point out, the digitally savvy are leading edge digital consumers. Historically, this demographic has provided marketers a glimpse into the future in terms of cell phone and third screen behaviors. These behaviors are what enable the lifestyle of the digitally savvy – they are entrepreneurs and business decision makers that tend to have a longer commute, plus they like to travel. Thus they seem to prefer to “pull” information at their convenience instead of having it “pushed” to them. For example, they are more likely than the general population to download TV and video programs online.

The digitally savvy make an ideal target for a variety of market research engagements since they are more likely to be heavy and diverse online spenders, entrepreneurial, business decision makers and hungry for information (among other things).

  1. Ethnography could be used to further define how and from where this demographic pulls their information and to discover how a relationship model of advertising might be incorporated into the digitally savvy’s daily habits.
  2. Usability tests, especially on e-commerce sites, could yield tweaks to your site that greatly improve conversion rates. The digitally savvy, through their own tendencies, will have explored many sites and thus have developed a sense of best-of-breed on which they base their expectations of where certain parts of a site to be.
  3. Ideation would also be a great way to harness the strengths of the digitally savvy. Their entrepreneurship and hunger for information point to creative thinking processes that are just waiting to be tapped.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts – how else can we tap the digitally savvy? And let us know if you want to take a trip to Austin to visit the digitally savvy in person.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Summer Reading List

Following Paul’s reading lead in his post titled Being A “Small Giant” I decided to see if I could get some feedback on my own summer reading list. Like Paul I am constantly trolling online publications and eNewsletters – AdAge, CNET, Austin Business Journal, the IAB SmartBrief, etc., etc. for the latest happenings and breaking news in the industry. Along the way I have come across several book reviews that I thought were worth adding to my list.

As the dog days of summer approach (or are already here in Austin, Texas - I think they said it was going to get up to the 90’s today!) I plan on watching less TV and reading more books. So far on the list I have:

· Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life) – By Cathie Black

Not sure why this made my list (I guess I should start trying to “get ahead” by taking better notes).

Here is a brief synopsis from the book:

Cathie Black is the wise, funny mentor that every woman dreams of having. She was a pioneer in advertising sales at a time when women didn’t sell; served as president and publisher of the fledgling USA Today; and, in her current position as the president of Hearst Magazines, persuaded Oprah to launch a magazine. In 2006 she was named one of Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Women in American Business” for the seventh consecutive year. Now, in the exuberant, down-to-earth voice that is her trademark, Cathie explains how she achieved “the 360° life”—a blend of professional accomplishment and personal contentment—and how any woman can seize opportunity in the workplace.

A fairly limited web search unearthed mixed reviews on both her book and her character. I won’t make any predications about her character having never met her, but book reviews generally stated that the book only offered limited advice. Publishers Weekly states “While the author’s life is an interesting one, readers looking for tips will do better with a more pointed book” (see entire Publishers Weekly review and others here).

It is always interesting to learn about others’ path in life and business and gauge your own resolutions if put in similar situations. I think I will keep this book on the list for now.

· The Education of an Accidental CEO: Lessons Learned from the Trailer Park to the Corner Office – By David Norak

Book summary:

David Novak—one of today’s most engaging, unconventional, and successful business leaders—lived in thirty-two trailer parks in twenty-three states by the time he reached the seventh grade. He sold encyclopedias door to door, worked as a hotel night clerk, and took a job as a $7,200-a-year advertising copywriter with the hopes of maybe one day becoming a creative director. Instead, he became head of the world’s largest restaurant company at the ripe old age of forty-seven.

While David never went to business school, he did learn from the greatest of teachers—experience—and plenty of other very smart people as well: Magic Johnson on the secret to teamwork, Warren Buffett on what he looks for in the companies he buys, John Wooden on ego, and Jack Welch on one thing he’d do over. Now he wants to share with you what he discovered about getting ahead and getting noticed; motivating people and turning businesses around; building winning teams and running a global company of nearly one million people; and always staying true to yourself.

I know why this one caught my eye - I can never get enough of the underdog story and am constantly amazed by those that overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Probably has the potential to be a bit hokey, but most reviewers seem to agree that it provides guidance, inspiration and strength to those seeking success in business. Read more reviews here and here.

· What Sticks: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds – By Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart

Book summary:

What Sticks is the one book that explains exactly how marketing and advertising works today! Based on new insights from analysis of over $1 billion worth of advertising.

Decades ago it was okay to believe, as retail magnate John Wanamaker did, that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” However, today the stakes are much higher. Marketing thought leaders Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart estimate that $112 billion in advertising spending in the U.S. alone is wasted, cutting deeply into company profits.

What Sticks uncovers bold new insights from the largest-ever global marketing research project among 30 Fortune 200 companies, including: Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, McDonalds, Unilever, Ford and others. This is a comprehensive and solutions-oriented book that outlines how any marketer, at any level, can guarantee their advertising succeeds.

This book appears to veer away from the anecdotal nature of the above selections and focuses on more practical applications. AND it is research driven, which mirrors Sentient’s approach of listening to the customer before embarking on a solution path.

Reviews can be found here.

If you have read any of these books or have others to add to my summer reading list I would love to hear from you.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Being a "Small Giant"

So, there have been some interesting posts here recently covering emerging media research methods panel quality control and the changing world of coffee and the Starbucks brand - great article HERE from However, I also promised a bit of soul searching and business talk here from my original post.

I have almost finished my first business book since I founded Sentient Services over four years ago. It is not that I don't read, I devour FastCompany and Inc. each month and spend way too much time learning random things on the web and through Google Gadgets. I am also almost done with a very exciting Hardy Boys (a true classic series that my kids are actually enjoying). The book that has managed to capture my severely limited attention span is "Small Giants - Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big". Written exquisitely by Bo Burlingham with first-hand accounts and an approachable tone, it is safe to say it has changed my "business" life. Here is a nice summary from the jacket:

How maverick companies have passed up the growth treadmill—and focused on greatness instead.

Small Giants

It’s a widely accepted axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, some entrepreneurs have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do . . . creating a great place to work . . . providing great customer service . . . making great contributions to their communities . . . and finding great ways to lead their lives.

Who wouldn't want this? Well apparently a lot of us fall far from this model - me being one - and don't see this as an option. Our business MUST grow or we will die. New projects = new employees = more overhead = need to sell more = more projects and so on. I was convinced for a long time that the more people I hired the less I would work, and I tried to convince my wife of this as well, alas she was smarter than I - as usual. But we sure did grow. We made the top 25 agencies in Austin for the past 2 years, made the Fast 50 for Central Texas and made the Best Places to Work as well.

But, none of this made us "great" it just made us busy, with more overhead and a bit stressed if I do say so myself. Reading the examples in this book is like watching all the mistakes I have made in business in slow motion - painful, true and hopefully a growing experience. The one take away I have so far is that the forces to grow are almost unstoppable without a conscious plan on how your business will maintain focus, passion and excellence in the face of business, economic and personal theories that all point to the need for growth and funding.

Okay, I am off to read more of the book now. Please let me know your thoughts and I will post more soon!
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