The Yahoo (and Aol) Question: Can Digi Brands Live on?


Image representing Yahoo! as depicted in Crunc...

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As Marissa Mayer contemplated her jump from Number 20 at Google to the latest occupant of Yahoo’s uncertain throne, the core question on my mind (and if she’s as smart as we are told, it will be on hers) is whether what I have been calling Digi Brands, these companies whose tech and biz models are build almost wholly around chips, can survive into middle age.

Aol is the parallel case. Aol, which I still cannot believe did not opt to rebrand as HuffPo when it got Arianna’d.

My point is partly about the fast progress through the traditional company aging experience, accelerated both by the pace of digital change and the single-product nature of most of these concerns. It’s also partly about the aging of a brand, qua brand. Aol is just old. Yahoo (OK, gulp, Yahoo!) is both old and confusing (what exactly is it, again?).

I’m unconvinced. But if Arianna and Marissa can’t do it, perhaps no-one can. The coming months will be fascinating as MM gets to lead Yahoo where she wants.

Google’s Marissa Mayer Tapped as Yahoo’s Chief –

The Crisis of Trust in Companies and Beyond


The constant drip of admissions from J.P. Morgan Chase as the cost of the “London whale” rises and both dishonesty and folly is revealed comes in tandem with the latest round from Penn State. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s report unsparingly flays the leadership of that tarnished institution for a fundamental lack of concern for boys whose lives were being destroyed as individuals from janitors to the president were too interested in themselves to bother.

And in both cases, the people who knew and chose to look the other way now find that once you sow the wind, it’s the whirlwind that comes back.

Branding is not simply a game for consultants; it connects at a deep level the integrity and values of an organization with how it is viewed by the public and its customers and how it connects in turn with their values. One of the profound impacts of social media has been to begin to lay bare these and other connections in ways that go far beyond the occasional probes and revelations of press and whistle-blowers as transparency comes to be routinized rather than an exceptional experience.

At bottom therefore the issue is not about “brand” as a manipulable commodity to be burnished but integrity as a deep set of values that drive an organization by lining up its proclaimed sense of itself with how it really is and who its people are.

The issue for Penn State as for J.P.Morgan is whether what has been lost will be able to be recovered. What we already know is that this will not come soon or easy. We know how it is with the reputation of an individual. While corporations (for-profit and non) are persons only in a technical sense, their reputations are every bit as central to how the wider world sees them – and will be prepared to do business with them.

And (to pick up our much-blogged theme of social and the C-Suite) social media has only just begun to begin to open every one of our organizations and their commitments and their practices to Freeh-report style merciless scrutiny.

The Real Loss For JPMorgan Chase: Their Integrity.

Mobile spend up 11x Over Next 5 Years – or will it be a lot more? – my take


The smart people at Forrester reckon that there’s a big increase in European mobile spending in the next 5 years, from 1.7bn Euros to 19.2bn. That will be 6.8% of total online sales (very similar to US).

One does hate to disagree. But my gut is that in 5 years the rate of shift to mobile for all purposes will be devastating. We shall stop seeing “mobile” as the oddity, with mobile “phones” blending with tablets, and tablets of various kinds taking over from the desktop/laptop as the default device for consumer and much enterprise use.

So the numbers are interesting. But I suspect in 5 years the totals will be several times as high. And rising.



Europeans to Increase Mobile Spending 11x Over Next 5 Years [STUDY].

Reuters’ Deputy Social Media Editor Matthew Keys Steps Away From Twitter | Adweek


Puzzling interview here with a Twitter freak (OK, I’m up there in the mid-40K tweets also) who is leaving our Twitter community for good. Worth a read though it raises as many questions as it answers.

I’ve known others bow out (or take an extended sabbatical). Plainly the kind of semi-addictive personalities who are attracted to social media (and, um, successful effort in general) can go overboard. But the answer does seem to lie in rate-limiting of some kind and, um, a little self-discipline.

I’m just not convinced that leadership, in thought or organization, is going to be an option without engagement in the Twitter knowledge community and its successors. Which is in no way to suggest that everything digital and social is good. (Review of Andrew Keen’s terrific book Digital Vertigo coming up soon.)

Why Twitter Matters: The Reciprocal Knowledge Engine


Reuters’ Deputy Social Media Editor Matthew Keys Steps Away From Twitter | Adweek.

Why Doesn’t Social Understand Social?


Don’t you think it’s odd? Not simply that Google and Facebook and other big digital brands seem to be at least as clutzy in their handling of user relationships as corporate survivals from the 19th century. But that it doesn’t seem to worry them.

I’m looking for two things. First is a no-brainer. Second, OK, for extra credit.

1. Excellence in stakeholder relations, exploring leading-edge models employing social to bring corporate values into alignment with emerging markets/users, and all that follows. That is, social companies, um, using social to engage.

2. Excellence in innovative approaches to formal governance approaches (which as I have argued elsewhere could extend to financing) that model social.

Who are the contenders? Anyone leading the way out there with good/innovative practice?

When and How if you’re Marketing with Twitter


If you missed this report a week or so ago, it’s worth a visit. A Salesforce unit looked at around 300 Twitter accounts managed for major brands. Important to note that, since while many of us use Twitter to promote our businesses, this effort seems to have looked at more overtly promotional tweeting (the kind I never see as I don’t follow brands!).

There are straightforward lessons about keeping under 100 characters, including links, making sure your links work (sigh); and interesting remarks on when best to tweet – at busy times, and especially at weekends (when it seems most major brands don’t bother much).

Grist to the mill of those of us who have been repeating that major companies aren’t serious about social, and the tips on timing and length are helpful even if they are not of universal application (so if you are selling sleeping pills . . .). And the approach some of us taking to mingling professional content with quips, snarks, and general-purpose observations (not to mention cat pics); and who tweet far more than is here recommended; is not really in view.

Back to a point I keep making. This really is early days – in digital in general, in social in particular, and in Twitter especially, which is the key social medium. I suspect I shall return to these points soon . . . .

WHY TWITTER MATTERS: Tomorrow’s Knowledge Network 

Sorry, Marketers, You’re Doing Twitter Wrong [REPORT].

The Law of Digital Instability


The collapse of RIM’s sales and postponement of its latest model, hard on the heels of what have seemed to be less than adroit management changes, underline a principle that seems obvious enough even though it is generally being ignored.

Digital-age companies, to the extent that their technologies are digitally powered, and to the extent that they essentially are built around one technology, are inherently unstable and liable to rapid collapse.

This  directly follows from the profoundly disruptive impact of Moore’s Law over relatively short periods of time.

But it is not widely noted. Which is why during IBM’s centennial year there was speculation about which great contemporary companies would be around in a century. Which is why the valuation of companies such as Facebook is so high – and that applies also to Google, for example, even though it has a much lower P/E ratio. Both Facebook and Google, despite their best best efforts (especially on Google’s part) are essentially one-tech digitally-driven companies – with, which is of course a separate point, one dominant business model and product.

It’s the Law of Digital Instability. The sooner we build it into our valuations, the better. And the sooner companies in its grip realize (as Google gives evidence of realizing) how risky is their position over time, the more likely they will find ways to broaden their product/tech/biz mode base.


RIM earnings: BlackBerry maker plans to slash 5,000 jobs, new devices delayed until 2013 | FP Tech Desk | Financial Post.

Why Blogs Matter; and the 3 Kinds of #Social


I’m grateful to Ana Cristina Pratas (@AnaCristinaPrts) for drawing my attention to this brief post and slide-deck from the London School of Economics on the significance of blogging (including micro, aka Twitter) on the “development and democratization” of knowledge. Patrick Dunleavy’s main interest is the impact of blogging and informal online publication on academic discourse. But it is of course a development of much wider significance.

Blogs and micro-blogs are social platforms for knowledge, with many functions (In suspect we have only begun to discover them) including – as I have argued elsewhere – supremely, reciprocal knowledge curation.

There are a least 3 principles at work here:

1. Social in relation to other people.

2. Social in relation to knowledge.

3. Social in relation to institutions.

And in the Twitter/blog nexus they all three intersect and interact.

Much to mull here in Dunleavy’s presentation, and to apply even more broadly than he does.

The Republic of Blogs: A new phase in the development and democratization of knowledge

82% of Moms of under-18s On Social Networks


The astonishingly high proportion of mothers who use social media (and of them a remarkable proportion actually blog) suggests many things.

There seems to be a resonance set up by kids’ engagement in social media that drives their parents further in. Blogger-moms are replacing soccer-moms as a dynamite demographic. We know the stats on what proportion of key purchasing decisions are made by women. Which all suggests that the laggardly manner in which major corporations are catching on to the impact of social media gets more serious by the day.

On the lag: earlier posts.


82% of US Moms Are On Social Networks | The Realtime Report.


#Rioplus20: Jeffrey Sachs on the potential of #social


Jeff Sachs is not know for his temerity, and in this Guardian piece on Rio+20 he is outspoken in his criticism of the role of business in dampening democracy and undercutting the possibility of agreement on real change. It’s a serious interview and worth careful reading. Not everyone will agree with all his analysis, of course, but he is always a voice to be heard. It’s been my privilege to meet Jeff and I hold him in high regard.

In passing, he makes a comment about the potential of social media especially worth noting. His concern is that, since the basic business model is tailored ads, the net effect will be to draw us yet further into a consumerist society, response to marketing ploys and enmeshed in the ills of contemporary capitalism. Yet: “social networking has the power to break the existing power structures.” It does. I believe it will, in business and government. The process has barely begun.


Rio+20: Jeffrey Sachs on how business destroyed democracy and virtuous life | Guardian Sustainable Business | Guardian Professional.

via #Rioplus20: Jeffrey Sachs on the potential of #social.

via #Rioplus20: Jeffrey Sachs on the potential of #social.