Blue Helm

The world speaks. We respond.

Blue Helm

Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

Why Google is making cars that drive themselves

google_carGoogle is an internet giant, duh. They have dominated the online world for quite some time. So if Google is so deeply entrenched in the Net, why is it making televisions? An even more intriguing question is why in the world is Google making cars that drive themselves?!

There are a lot of reasons, but one sticks out to me. Google wants to be in front of you all day. Google wants to be there when you wake up and look at your phone. It wants to be there when you turn on your TV. It wants to be there when you’re commuting to work. It wants to be in your face as much as possible.

Google’s main competitors aren’t Yahoo, Microsoft or Apple. Google’s competitors are activities like driving, watching TV, going to the movies or anything else that takes you away from their products. So what does Google do? They come up with ways to insert themselves into the areas of your life they don’t yet have access to. Genius? Yes.

I love that Google has invested in making a car that drives automatically. Getting stuck in traffic no longer becomes a source of much rage, but becomes a time to catch up on work, to read, to talk to old friends, to plan a date, to think of a new business, to innovate, to relax, to catch up on sleep, to be free.

So keep it up Google. Keep innovating and trying to insert yourself into my life. If you make an awesome product that solves a problem in my life, then I’ll buy it.

So this post comes down to the real question: Is Google trying to take over the world?

Why Chrome thrives and Internet Explorer dies

dead-ie-jpWhy is Google Chrome growing like crazy and Internet Explorer slowly losing market share? Speed and the consumer are the answers.

You might think I’m just saying Chrome is faster when I mention speed. While that may be true, that’s not the kind of speed I mean. This is not about Chrome or Internet Explorer per se. It’s about Microsoft.

Microsoft is a great company. It’s full of genius people creating marvelous new technologies and products. But why is Internet Explorer losing market share? Why is Apple, a major competitor of Microsoft, growing so quickly? Why are people projecting that the Windows mobile operating system will be all but gone within the next 4 years? The main problem is Microsoft’s lack of company speed and disconnect from the consumer.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about: About nine years ago Microsoft started developing a revolutionary technology now known as Microsoft Surface. They were developing the first multi-touch multi-user computer! This was before cellphones where being used by the masses. At this point only cool people like Zack Morris and his Dad had them. This technology was unheard of, and is still really cool. Click here to check it out in this 2008 video demonstration.

That video is two years old! So what the heck happened? Why is Apple the golden child of phones, tablets, and MP3 players? Because Apple released their technology quickly and in a format where average customers could consume it. Microsoft had the technology, they had the money, they had plenty of smart people around, but they just didn’t have the foresight or the speed to be the first to come out with a product that could be used by the masses, a.k.a. the iPad.

This brings us to Internet Explorer and the recent reports of its continuing loss of market share. Internet Explorer has been around for a long time, and for a while was the only real browser you could realistically use, which resulted in a poor product. Now we have Firefox, Safari, and Chrome (my favorite) which have improved on an otherwise slow and annoying experience. Internet Explorer 9 may have improved its speed and a few other issues, but it’s too late. The brand is broken. People who have abandoned Internet Explorer, like myself, have left IE forever and will convince as many people as they can to get away from it. Why? Because Internet Explorer only improved when it had to, not because they cared about developing a quality product. If they were connected with the consumer they would have improved their product long before other browsers corrected the problems.

The point of this post isn’t to rail on Microsoft. The point is to drive home the importance of understanding the consumer and getting your products or services out as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. If you don’t provide what people can use when they need it, then you will lose sales to your competitors. It’s simple economics.

Why you can’t ignore LinkedIn

linkedin blogSince I co-founded Blue Helm almost eighteen months ago I’ve been preaching the importance of social networking for business professionals. In uncertain economic times like these, it’s imperative to take advantage of each effective networking tool available, even if you already have a job. Case in point:

Until a couple of months ago my father worked as Director of Compensation at a large hospital in Florida. When he discovered LinkedIn over a year ago, he recognized the potential it had to help him network with other business professionals, even though he already had a secure job. He created a LinkedIn profile and began connecting with dozens of people. He joined LinkedIn groups that brought others from his profession together. He took a few minutes each day to grow his online network, never allowing his profile to lie dormant. He made sure his resume on LinkedIn was current, professional and creative. He used language in his profile that detailed specific talents he possesses and professional victories he’s achieved, avoiding generic or clichéd terms. For example, under his “Specialties” category on LinkedIn, he wrote:

“Compensation structure and design, competitive pricing analyses, HCROI and HVCA human capital metric to strategy analysis, executive compensation and long-term incentive plan design, annual salary and bonus planning process, performance appraisal process, M&A workforce integration, compensation statistical analysis, benefit plan design, funding arrangements, contribution methodologies, cost containment strategies, 401(k), 403(b), and 457(b).”

Now I don’t know what the heck any of that means, but the executives at a large railroad holding company in Florida did, and they were impressed. A recruiter, looking for an expert in Compensation, stumbled upon my father’s LinkedIn profile and introduced him to folks at this railroad company. They offered him a higher-paying job as their new Director of Compensation, which he just accepted. It was an unexpected blessing for our family.

All thanks to social networking. The moral of the story is that it’s silly not to take advantage of tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogging, especially to build your brand as an individual or business. But you can’t just use them, you must use them well. Create online profiles that are detailed, charismatic and that accurately portray your professional skills. Like a good resume, it should stand out and be accurate. Even if you currently have a job, you should be growing your social networks.

As our friend Whitney Young said, “It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”

What to do with Whiners and Trolls

There have always been Whiners. They whine about their jobs, politics, their lack of income, school, a product or service, and World of Warcraft (beware: this video has some swearing, but it’s hilarious). Before the internet, the only people who had to put up with Whiners were those who physically associated with them. Now Whiners can gripe all over the place. They can whine in online forums, on blog posts, on YouTube, or in the comments of a news article. They can even whine on your Facebook Page or on Twitter–there are just so many opportunities to complain!  Sometimes a Whiner gets to a point where he or she devolves into a Troll. A Troll is someone who comments or posts online solely to make people mad or to offend.

So what do you do? Some person or group has invaded your Facebook Page, your blog, or some other online community, and is causing a ruckus. Do you respond or just ignore them? It depends. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Delete comments if they are offensive or use bad language – It’s important that people feel comfortable coming to your online community. Generally speaking, if people come to your site and see offensive language or comments that degrade individuals or groups, they most likely won’t feel comfortable coming back. If someone posts something regarded as ugly or offensive (particularly if it’s racist, sexist or bigoted), it’s best to delete the comment. As tempting as it may be, do not delete someone’s comment just because he or she said something negative about you or your product. You’ll never have a strong community if you restrict differing opinions. Just make it clear that you delete offensive comments but encourage debate.
  2. Let it be – Sometimes you’ll get a Whiner or Troll who says something that is totally irrelevant, makes no sense, or is just plain dumb. In this case, ignore it. Keep an eye on the comment to see if other people begin voicing the same concern–then you may want to consider responding. In a lot of cases you won’t need to because most will just ignore stupid or irrelevant complaints.
  3. Let your fans defend you – Often the Whiner’s complaint isn’t something that you have to respond to because your fans will for you. If you’ve done a good job of creating an interactive culture in your online community, people will be used to contributing and discussing. If someone starts ranting, the community is usually equipped to take care of the situation. Your defenders can also say things that your company can’t without getting in trouble.
  4. Respond directly – Sometimes the whining is warranted. Your company messed up, your product is bad, or you just made a mistake. If someone complains or calls your company out on a mistake, respond appropriately. Sometimes your response can be a simple explanation, and sometimes you may have to change the way you do things. If you let a legitimate complaint slide it can come back to bite you. Just look at how Steve Jobs is getting all sorts of backlash on how he’s handled the new iPhone debacle.

Don’t let Whiners and Trolls get under your skin. Respond when you need to. Otherwise, just let the openness of the Internet take care of it.

What do you think? Have you had any experiences dealing with Whiners and Trolls?

Why Obama is in trouble for his response to the oil spill

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a huge disaster. I am sad for all of the damage to the environment. I’m sad for the massive economic repercussions this has and will have on the local and national economy . I’m sad that BP was not prepared to deal with something like this. It’s just a terrible situation.

While the actual oil spill has been terrible, the PR around the oil spill has been just as bad. I’m not going to talk about BP in this post; they have all sorts of problems I could talk about. Click here to read an interesting post about some things BP’s PR could have done better. Click here to see some parodies on BP’s response.

My focus today is on the Obama administration and their PR problems. People are upset, and rightfully so. They are mad at BP, they are mad at the damage to their beaches and businesses, they are mad at Obama, they are just mad. They don’t care who fixes the problem, they just want it fixed.

It’s been very interesting to watch Obama and his response. He is mad and wants to figure out whose “booty to kick” (he didn’t use the word booty, but you get the idea). He is very defensive of his administration and spends a lot of time explaining that he is very angry at what’s going on. I’m sure people are happy that Obama is mad, but the problem is that people aren’t seeing action.

So what should the government do? I believe they should better explain what they’re doing to stop this catastrophe. If they’re consulting with experts about how to clean oil spills, then tell us. If they are planning on sending resources to aid in the clean up, send out a press release. If Obama just gave an earful to the CEO of BP, then tweet about it. This is simple PR!

In this new age of communication, when people can find anything they want by typing it into their search engine, when people can vent their frustrations on blogs, Facebook and Twitter, good PR is a must. But it goes much further than having good PR. Your organization has to be willing to do and to change if necessary. If all you’re doing is talking, then people will call you out on it.

What do you think?