Mobile App Helps You Find the Vinyl

The Vinyl District mobile iPhone appI recently came across a mobile app called The Vinyl District, which is designed to help music lovers (specifically, those of us who are into vinyl) locate record stores, keep up with the latest music trends from their blog, and connect with others with similar interests.

I had a chance to give the app a quick test drive, and it seems to be a nice tool if you’re in a new city and find yourself wanting to go record shopping.  I’m not sure how much I’d want to use the app in my own town (San Diego), but I did discover a couple of stores I had not previously heard about.

The “All Stores” section automatically lists record stores near you (assuming you allow the app to use your location).  It also includes an option to display those stores on Google Maps.  When you tap the location, you are taken to a new screen which will allow you to get directions, view the business on Yelp, see recent nearby Tweets (most of which will have nothing to do with the record store), or check-in (similar to a Foursquare check-in).

Cow Records - Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA

The TVD Blog (link for the online version) looks nice in a mobile format and is updated several times each day from what I can tell.  News like Jack White’s latest release and a personal account from a recent Ryan Adams concert in DC (along with news for tons of other indie artists I haven’t heard of) fill the blog with a good mix of content.

In terms of social integration, the app has a nice social foundation – but it kind of feels like a ghost town.  No comments on the blog that I could find and not a ton of activity in the “Social” section.  Maybe there just aren’t that many people out there talking about record stores.   I get it.

Still, overall I like the idea of this app and how they’ve integrated more robust services like Yelp and Twitter.

What are your favorite music related apps?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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My Blog: A Year in Review

Last week marked my 1-year anniversary of starting my own personal blog.  Since I’ve actually stuck with it and kept somewhat of a regular schedule, I now have a lot to look back on.  Thanks to all of you who have read, commented, and linked to my blog this year.

My Family at Grand Canyon - Sometime in the 80s

When I started my new blog, I set out with only a couple of specific goals:

  1. Write about subjects that interest me, such as marketing, technology, social media, travel, music
  2. Write at least one post per month.

As for the first goal, this one was easy.  I find a lot of interesting things on the web and I like to stay current on the newest social media trends.  I didn’t write much about music (besides recapping the concerts I’ve attended), but maybe I’ll do more with that in the next 12 months.

With 34 posts under my belt, goal number two was easily met.

So what were my favorite posts?

Ty Webb Has Real Klout

My personal favorite (mainly because it includes a strong reference to the movie Caddyshack) was my short blog on Klout, the new service that measures online “influence.”

My most visited post was written about what we can learn from the Chilean miner rescue from a leadership standpoint.

I also enjoyed writing (and re-reading this week) all my posts about my family and travel.  Honorable mention goes to my posts on marketing and related events I’ve attended.

So where will the next year take me?  Who knows.  I just hope you’re able to come along for the ride.

Lunch with 3 San Diego Agency Creative Directors

You may already know that I’m currently serving as VP of Membership for the San Diego Chapter of the American Marketing Association.  You may also know that I regularly attend the local AMA events: lunches, happy hours, board meetings.  What you may not realize is how much value I’ve gotten from these events and the relationships I continue to build.

Today was certainly no exception.  I attended a panel discussion with roughly 50 other San Diego marketers and we heard some great insight from three creative directors at local marketing/advertising/branding agencies.

First, the panel:

Screen shot from BASIC Agency's Website

I took a few notes on what I found most interesting from the discussion, so here goes.

Global Approach
The moderator asked a question along the lines of, “how do you manage branding and marketing campaigns in today’s global market?”  The panel’s response highlighted the importance of having solid market research for different segments, cultures, and regions.  What works in one culture may not resonate with another.  Matt pointed out that they work on finding a common story to tell for a particular brand and then localize that message when needed.

Marketing Trends
The panel was asked to provide their perspective on recent trends in marketing, related to their life in an agency.  Daiga explained that she’s currently seeing clients ask for a 3-5 year road map for campaigns, showing that businesses are increasingly tying digital marketing results to their overall business strategy.  Michael pointed out that clients these days are enamored with buzzwords and what’s hot.  He continues to remind them that the newest tools (namely, social media platforms) aren’t the cure to all problems, but instead can be integrated into an existing marketing mix for better results.

Quotable moments
“Strategy will never be a commodity.”  — Daiga, when asked about her thoughts on the future of digital marketing

“We don’t always base decisions on research only.  Testing is important, but it doesn’t always reveal true sentiment – especially with new technology.” — Matt Faulk, when asked about the importance of market research

Once again, a completely insightful and enjoyable afternoon with the San Diego Chapter of the American Marketing Association.  Thanks to our esteemed panel and moderator for keeping the discussion lively and interesting.  If you’re interested in becoming a member, talk to me.  Or you can just show up at a future event and see what we’re all about.

What are your thoughts on the Creative Directors responses?

The New Rules for Content

My content is crap… sometimes.  That’s what I learned this morning at the Social Media Breakfast San Diego (#SMBSD).

Local radio and creative professional Chris Cantore teamed up with Ryan Berman, founder and chief creative officer of Fishtank Brand Advertising to give us a no-fluff primer on creating content for the web.  Here’s more of what I learned.

1.  “Find your brand.  And whatever you do, defend it.”  — Ryan Berman.  This is a good one for me to remember.  If it doesn’t support your personal or company brand, why add to the digital clutter by re-posting, re-tweeting, or otherwise giving it time?

2.

3.  Cantore related the new ‘rules’ of social media to his early days in the San Diego radio scene:  “It’s not about you, it’s about connecting with the fans.  Stay authentic and true to your own personal brand.”

4.  Berman highlighted an incredibly successful campaign that his company created for Puma Golf, where players and fans can actually ‘talk’ to the game of golf on the Puma website.  This out-of-the box thinking recently helped Berman and Fishtank win “American Marketer of the Year” (AMY) Award from the local chapter of the American Marketing Association.  Another great example of creating interactive content and a visual identity that speaks to the target consumer and bucks the traditional golf branding and advertising model.

Screen shot from Puma.com/golf

5.  A Flip cam with great content can be extremely effective for small businesses with little or no video budget.  Create content that resonates with your audience and gives your brand life.  [See my own epic Flip cam production]

6.  Look at other industries who are doing great work with content creation.  For great video integration, check out “digital storytellers” Emota Inc, today’s sponsor and brains behind some incredible visual content.  Other shouts went out to the Foo Fighters, Conan O’brien — and locally to Smashburger, NBC San Diego, and the Fox 5 morning show as good examples.

I enjoyed meeting a few new folks and having the chance to chat with Berman and Cantore, both of whom are completely down-to-earth guys with whom you’d certainly enjoy having a beer and fish taco.  I also enjoyed the fact that the focus was on the content – not the platforms/delivery.

Those were my take-aways – if you were there, what did I miss?

Is 2011 The Year of Mobile?

If you’re in marketing, you may have heard that this is the year of mobile… every year since 2006. While mobile phones have been around for quite some time, it seems we’re only now hitting critical mass with respect to smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. ComScore recently reported that 50% of all mobile phones purchased in the US are smartphones (the other 50% are called feature phones).  Add to that the growing number of tablets being sold, and we just might be in the middle of the year of mobile.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to hear a couple of mobile marketing experts speak recently – one at an American Marketing Association lunch event (these are always great, by the way), and the other at Interactive Day San Diego.

First, Mike Schlegel from a company called Millennial Media provided some interesting insight from his work in the mobile space in recent years.  Here are the biggest takeaways I got from his presentation:

  1. Browsing behavior varies greatly by platform.  Mobile phone users search, browse and interact differently than tablet users, for example.  This means there is no one-size-fits-all solution for mobile marketers.
  2. Mobile activity spikes happen on weekends, holidays, and during special events (think Super Bowl) – and during the primetime hours on weekdays.  Mike was careful to point out that marketers shouldn’t ignore the ‘other’ times during the week, but instead embrace those as an opportunity to target specific user behaviors (i.e. restaurants offering coupons during weekday lunch hours).
  3. Don’t forget about the feature phone users.  Sure, it’s trendy for marketers to pay attention to the latest Android or iPhone users, but Mike reminded us of the feature phone users who also have needs (some of whom can be reached by simple SMS campaigns)

I also had a chance to hear Dan Flanegan speak at Interactive Day San Diego on June 1.  Dan’s company, Brand Anywhere, is a leading San Diego-based mobile marketing company.  Dan gave some great examples of targeted mobile campaigns that have resonated very well with consumers.  Working with major brands, Dan has helped some big names in advertising create and leverage successful mobile campaigns to foster brand loyalty from consumers who could possibly become life-long repeat users of that brand’s products.

So how can mobile advertising be useful to the consumer?  Imagine standing in a store about to make a purchase.  If you didn’t do your research (or if things have changed since you left home), how do you know if you’re getting the best price on what your about to buy? Using a mobile app like Shopkick, you can now find coupons, incentives, and even be rewarded for your loyalty at a particular store.  As you scan a particular bar code, marketers can serve up ads that make sense for you – whether that’s a coupon, a competitor’s store, or a pitch to buy the same item online for less.

In a rapidly-evolving mobile world, the possibilities are endless – both for marketers and for stores and brands to provide real value to consumers.  To me, mobile marketing seems to be a very crowded space right now, but I’m anticipating some breakout mobile apps to take the lead within the next year.  With the amount of growth in the segment, there’s still room for lots of players to do well – at least for now.

What do you think?  Is 2011 the year of mobile?

What is a QR Code?

What is a QR code?  I saw this question recently from a self-proclaimed “marketing consultant” I follow on Twitter.  Got me thinking that this might be a good post topic, since Quick Response (QR) codes aren’t quite mainstream… yet.

What is it?

First, the required Wikipedia definition:  A QR code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Scan the QR Code with your smart phone for a surprise... really, try it!

How do I use it?

Great, but what does this mean for your marketing plan?  Well, for starters – a lot.  I’m starting to see QR codes appear more often in airports, major retailers, and even places like the San Diego Zoo.  QR codes are popping up in advertisements, on store windows, and even large in-store displays.

QR codes can be used for almost anything:  directing consumers to your website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, Google Places page, a YouTube video, a coupon, a contest entry page, a photo, a lead capture form – the possibilities are endless.  Smart marketers are keeping things simple in the early days of QR codes, knowing that even though smart phones are taking over the US market, consumers are still learning about QR codes.

When you scan a QR code with your smart phone, you must use a special QR code reader app.  There are several of these available for the iPhone and Android.  I use QRReader, by TapMedia LTD.  Many consumers won’t automatically know this, so you may consider including something in the display about downloading an app.

Often times, I see directions on how to “use” the QR code accompanying the promotion, which helps educate the consumer on how to proceed.  Remember, keeping it simple is the key.  An example might be:

  1. Download a QR code reader app for your smart phone
  2. Scan the code
  3. Enter your email address for a chance to win a $1000 shopping spree!

A promotion like this would allow you to capture an email address for use in an email marketing campaign, plus add an interactive element of fun to your in-store displays.

Since you can put a QR code virtually anywhere, feel free to get creative.  I’ve seen QR codes on business cards, billboards, t-shirts, and even as temporary (or perhaps, permanent) tattoos.

What not to do

Here’s an example of a QR code I saw at a music venue recently that I thought could have been used a little more effectively.  I attempted to scan this code, but must have been too small because it wouldn’t register with my phone.  It’s buried in the bottom left corner on an already busy poster with no directions on how to use the code, or more importantly, why I should scan the code.  What’s in it for me?  Would have been nice to see some indication of what happens if I do scan the code.  Can I buy tickets there?  Is it the artist’s website?  Is it a discount or promo code?  Keep these points in mind if you plan on using QR codes for your own marketing.

Can you spot the QR code? Exactly my point.

Watch for more QR codes in 2011, as I think they will become more and more mainstream.  What are some good examples of QR codes you’ve seen?

Inside SCVNGR: My tour of one of the hottest mobile apps in higher ed

On a recent trip to Boston I had a unique opportunity to learn about one of the fastest growing mobile apps for the iPhone and Android:  SCVNGR.  In just under 9 months, SCVNGR has seen some pretty impressive growth, reaching 1,000,000 registered users in late February and partnering with too many companies and institutions to name.

My gracious host, Jeffrey Kirchick, invited me to come by the SCVNGR offices after I tweeted that I’d be visiting Boston within the next few days.  I gladly accepted the invitation, not really knowing a lot about the company. Boy was I in for a surprise.

I arrived at the SCVNGR offices in Cambridge around 5pm on a Thursday and saw a bustling, energetic group of folks – most of whom weren’t even close to packing up and heading home for the day.  This place was just how I imagined an internet startup would be:  modern workspaces, young faces, white boards galore filled with numbered lists, and of course, an espresso machine.  I even got a peek inside what they call the War Room, though I wonder if any of them have seen Dr. Strangelove and really know what that reference means.


After a brief tour of the spaces, Jeff and I sat down to discuss the exciting things that SCVNGR is doing in higher education.  Partnering with universities and colleges, SCVNGR is able to help schools create an unforgettable mobile experience for new students, which, in turn helps forge a more positive initial impression for a lasting relationship between the student and the institution.

What I liked most about SCVNGR is that they are carefully positioning themselves, not as a foursquare competitor (as you might expect), but instead working to carve out their own niche in mobile gaming.  In a couple of my previous posts (here and here), I’ve been pretty up front about my disappointment with foursquare.  It was great to see SCVNGR taking a new approach, and I think they’re seeing the results of making their app less about the check-in and more about the shared experience.  They’re also aggressively seeking corporate and education partners to help them get to the next level.

All in all, I think SCVNGR is a company poised for more exponential growth in 2011.  Backed by Google Ventures, they secured an additional $15M in funding early this year and they’re getting lots of attention in the mobile app world.

Thanks again to Jeff for showing me around and introducing me to a great new mobile platform.  I’ll be watching in the coming months to see how things progress.

What are your thoughts on mobile gaming and the future of SCVNGR?

5 Must Have iPad Apps

I’ve been an iPad owner since November.  Some of you may remember the story of how I won an iPad & $200 to the Apple store from two separate drawings in the same day.  

While it hasn’t become a complete desktop/laptop replacement, it has been pretty useful.  Here are my top 5 iPad apps:

1.  Google.  Since I use many of the Google apps (Docs, Calendar, Reader), this one is a no-brainer.  One of the most-used apps for me.

2.  Dropbox.  In attempting to put all my important stuff in the ‘cloud’ I’ve discovered that Dropbox can be a quick and easy way for me to share PDFs and other documents that don’t require collaboration (e.g. directions to my office or a digital version of our brochure).  With a free 2GB of space, it’s pretty handy and syncs automatically on my laptop, iPhone, and iPad – so my docs are always up-to-date.

3.  Twitter.  On my laptop, I usually prefer Tweetdeck.  On the iPad, it’s a completely different story.  When the Twitter iPad app was first released, reviewers loved it.  I’ve grown to love the app, which allows me to ‘pull the thread’ on interesting tweets to visit websites, take a look at profiles, and see an entire conversation – all without losing my place on the original tweet.

4.  Netflix.  Ok, even though I recently expressed my discontent with Netflix and their streaming service, I still like the iPad app (I’m just frustrated with the seemingly few choices I have for good movies available for streaming – but that’s another post).  The app isn’t unlike the Netflix website: cleanly organized into categories.  Easy to use – and easy for me to quickly find “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That” for my son.  It’s the little things these days.

5.  Amplitube.  So this one may not be a “must have” iPad app, but I thought I’d throw it in anyway.  This app simulates a guitar amplifier, plain and simple.  Allows me to plug in and rock my Les Paul at 9pm, even when the little guy is sleeping.  The free version has some basic delay and distortion – which is fine for my rehearsal needs.  Maybe someday I’ll pay to add more features (e.g. different effects pedals, other amplifier models, etc).  It does come with a tuner, which is helpful all by itself.  Another cool standard (free) feature – the ability to record!

Ampiltube iPad app

While I’m sure I’ll find more useful apps in the coming months, these are a few that I’ve used the most in the early months of iPad ownership.

What are your favorite apps for the iPad?

Facebook in Argentina

I recently returned from a 2-week trip to Buenos Aires with the most interesting professor in the world and several students from the University of San Diego’s MS in Global Leadership program.  They were studying business strategy in the global environment and I had the chance to tag along.

As a digital marketer, I like to pay attention to how businesses are using technology in their marketing mix.  In Buenos Aires I wasn’t surprised to find that traditional billboard advertising was very prevalent.  I also wasn’t surprised to see that most (if not all) contained some sort of URL.  It was extremely rare, however, to see a Facebook URL or icon – or any other mention of social media – in traditional advertising.  I also don’t recall seeing a single QR code.  Not much of this came as a surprise, since the country is still considered to have a ‘developing’ economy.

What did surprise me was the extensive use of Facebook pages by the local government (of all people!).  In fact, “el Gobierno de la Ciudad” does a great job with Facebook pages.  In nearly all of the public spaces, plazas, monuments, and parks, I saw signs like this one that directed visitors to a Facebook page that included a map of the area, photos, and lots of information.

As a first time visitor to the Facebook page, I was directed to a “Welcome” tab, which had a prominent call to action – “like us!”

Since returning home, I’ve done some digging and found at least 55 different pages created by the city of Buenos Aires.  Many of these pages have quite a bit of activity from different visitors – well wishes, comments, and questions.  What’s great is that the community administrator does a nice job of responding and really being part of the conversation.  They’ve actually created 55 different online communities for these public spaces.  It’s interesting to note that these aren’t all huge parks and major attractions, but rather small neighborhood public spaces.  Additionally, many of the Facebook pages include links to SlideShare presentations, YouTube videos, and other rich content.

So the city government in Buenos Aires has Facebook pages dialed in.  Maybe private industry will follow.  What overseas ‘best practices’ in social media have you noticed?

Three Creative Uses of Location Based Services

Over the past several months, I’ve gotten more interested in location-based apps (sometimes called location-based services, or LBS) and the incredible potential this idea has for businesses.  In my previous blog posts on the subject (regarding Foursquare’s downtime and the announcement of Facebook Places), I’ve maintained that these mobile apps have brought no real value to my life thus far – not because of the services themselves, but because of the lack of creativity in creating meaningful, valuable marketing campaigns that engage customers.  Lately, I’ve seen more progress and I’m happy to share a couple of the good ones.

Facebook Places – Southwest Airlines and Make-A-Wish Foundation team up for charity

I like this one because I volunteer with Make-A-Wish as an airport greeter, meeting “wish kids” and their families coming to San Diego from out of town.  When you check in with Facebook Places at a Southwest Airlines airport, they’ll donate a $1 to MAW Foundation.  Better yet, they walk you through the process in case you haven’t done much checking in.  The result is an easy, effective and charitable way to use location-based apps.  Make-A-Wish Foundation raises money, SWA gets more check-ins and earns some social capital.  Pat on the back to everyone who worked on this campaign.

Me with Wish Kid Arieus

Foursquare and the History Channel

You’ve got to hand it to the History Channel on this one.  They’ve actually added factual, historical content as a ‘tip’ at what appears to be hundreds of location pages on Foursquare.  Sure they cover the typical monuments, parks, & museums you’d expect, but I found tons of businesses and other attractions on their list.  Because the folks at the History Channel have their facts straight and include a little more information in their tips, many more people are inclined to check the “I’ve done this!” box, keeping their tips at the top.  Check out an example with the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas.  The History Channel adds more than just, “go see the water show,” and in return gets much more action on their tips.  I’m curious to know if this has affected their viewer ratings on cable, increased web traffic, or raised any other performance metrics.  Anyone got any inside info?

Gowalla Giveaways

Gowalla has spent most of the month of December giving away stuff for people who check in – things like watches, backpacks, Southwest Airlines travel vouchers.  I haven’t signed up for Gowalla yet, but judging by some of these incentives, I might have to give it another look.

What examples have you seen of creative and valuable new uses of location based services like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places?