Start Up Blog

The first 10

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 2, 2011

When we build our next project we should only worry about the first 10.

The first 10 people we tell.

These first 10 people are people that we know, people that like us, trust us and value our opinion. If they don’t tell anyone, we need to start again. Re-build our project, or find another one. But if they tell another 5. And then that 5 tell another 3. Then we can be pretty sure that it is start start of work that matters. Work that people need.

At the start of our next launch we should really think hard about these three words: the first 10.

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Theatre at Transaction – Der Raum

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 29, 2011

Recently I ended up at a bar late at night. It’s a revered place called De Raum. It’s been well covered on the web so I’m not going to give a review of it here. What I will do instead is tell you the story of the ‘Teachers Reserve’. And how this business justifies an ultra price premium.

I asked the bar tender for something sweet, to help take the edge off after a heavy day – something night cap-ish. He said;

“I know just the thing. The Teachers Reserve. For those moments when you’ve done all you can, when the days been hard, and it’s time to reflect, quietly and possibly have a conversation in your own head. It’s not exactly social, but poignant.”

He then made up the drink and presented it in a manner which will make sense when you see the photo essay below. He furtively passed me the book, while he looked in the other direction – as if to say: ‘let this be our little secret’.

Classic theatre at transaction. I was delighted, and I didn’t mind paying the $25 for it.

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Super Bowl Advertising – Tor Myhren

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 14, 2011

I’ve been a big advocate for the web changing communications and advertising forever. I’ve been heard to say that TV is in irreversible decline in terms of broadcasting. I believe it’s future is one of narrow casting.  But before we close on the Super Bowl for another year, I wanted to share this interview with Tor Myhren, Grey NY explaining what the hype is really all about:

The Best $3 Million You Ever Spent

One commercial, 2.9 million bucks. Who buys this stuff? Crazy, outdated advertisers who haven’t been told that TV is dead? Or the smartest marketers on the planet, taking advantage of the biggest bargain in today’s scattered media environment? I say the latter. And here are three reasons why;

1. Pregame buzz – You’re not buying 30 seconds; you’re buying two weeks of pregame hype as well. And amid all this media madness, the advertisers get as much attention as the football players. The PR and buzz is unparalleled. Late night and morning show hosts, news anchors, magazine and newspaper writers, bloggers, and tweeters are all talking about who’s on the game and what to expect. Most importantly, this is all free media, consumed by people as editorial content rather than paid advertising. This is the kind of brand exposure that’s nearly impossible to buy. Last year the E*Trade baby was being talked about by Jon Stewart, ESPN, Good Morning America, The Colbert Show and The O’Reilly Factor—all before the Super Bowl even started.

2. Game time – 110 million viewers, all experiencing the exact same thing at the exact same time. The Super Bowl is America’s last campfire. It’s the only event left that we as a nation sit down and watch together. All those emotions you feel watching the game, and watching the ads, are being shared by 110 million other people at the same time. And shared experiences make for better stories. Period. More than one-third of all Americans watched the game last year, and more will watch this year. In this way, the Super Bowl is an anomaly in today’s fractured media landscape, which is why the actual 30 seconds you’re buying is worth its weight in gold. TV isn’t dead, but must-see TV is—with one exception: the Super Bowl.

3. Postgame echo – You’ve got a day or two of conventional media buzz to extend the life of the idea, but that dies pretty quickly after the USA Today poll and other news flurries. Postgame is where digital and viral take over, exponentially increasing the value of a Super Bowl ad with each additional view, comment, blog posting and Twitter comment. The firestorm a great Super Bowl ad can start is pretty awesome. Pop culture sites pick up the content, and news sites feature it. YouTube, Yahoo, AOL, Hulu and thousands of other popular sites all heave their Super Bowl ad contests that get not only massive viewership but also great two-way dialogue going on about the brand. And all of this doesn’t cost a dime. It’s part of the package—the nearly $3 million value package that we like to call a Super Bowl ad.

The Super Bowl is America’s last campfire. It’s when we all sit around and watch. And talk. And pass along our shared stories for days and weeks to come. It takes courage (and a boatload of coin) to play, but I, for one, believe the rewards outweigh the risks.

It all sounds like a pretty valid viewpoint to me – so long as the product and brand is already established, and it’s not a 30 second gamble on the company like it was in the late 90’s for many web startups.

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Kulula Air – Eyeball worthy

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 10, 2010

I was recently email some pics of Kulula Airlines livery. I’d describe it as eyeball worthy. Because it’s worth looking at, it’s worth talking about. There is no shortage of in cabin jokes from cabin crew while talking to passengers, but few have the courage to paint their personality on the fuselage like Kalula have. In an era of media proliferation, the trick any startup needs to master is the ability to be talked about. Nice work Kulula.

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Can boring brands create word of mouth?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 8, 2010

This is the sixth of my crowd sourced blog entry ideas as suggested by Ben Rowe. Ben wanted to get my thoughts on the following: 

“Can boring brands and products create word of mouth?” Discuss.

In a word, no. But given the task is to discuss, I’d say the fact that matters here is the word emotion. Does a brand generate an emotional response from the audience. Does it generate passion and fervor?  Good or bad? If the response isn’t emotional. There will be no discussion.

The product or service may be very good, have a reasonable price and even be a market leader. Yes it may suffice or dominate it’s category, like cornflakes do as breakfast cereal, but I’m hardly about to email my brother with a link to the Kelloggs website.

We need to think about things that are emotional responses: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Elation, Fury, Disappointment, Love, Hate….

The heavy emotions every human is familiar with. A brand has to engender these type of emotional responses to get on the word of mouth agenda. Case in point is banks. They are seen to take advantage of their customers, and we have a strong distrust and hate for them. And even though the response is negative, it’s emotional and generates a great deal of discussion. That is, it’s not boring. It’s often the case that brands which have factional parties in the for and against camp (love / hate) generate the most word of mouth. Some recent examples of brands with this effect include:

Hummer

Krispy Kreme

Mac

Google

Will it blend

Cadbury Gorilla

All of these have been worth talking about. Our brand reputations as people wouldn’t be hindered if we mentioned these.

As far as start ups are concerned we should thinking less about trying to generate a viral campaign, and more about the emotional impact our offer has on our audience. Being new and innovative isn’t enough, it’s got to have an emotional impact on people. With boring brands we are simply indifferent, and so we just get on with our lives.

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Industrial Tourism

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 1, 2009

Industrial Tourism is big business. It’s a little know fact the Boeing factory in Seattle has over  180,000 visitors a year.  At $15 a ticket that is approx $2.7 million in high margin revenue.

boeing 787 dreamliner

Local Australia firm fosters brewing has a popular brewery tour at their Melbourne plant (you get a free beer at the end of it) as does Media conglomerate NBC in the Rockerfella Centre in New York. None of this is free, and they are all fully booked pretty much every day.  The thing that is almost as powerful as the cash such Industrial Tourism generates, is the relationship it builds with the brand.

It is pretty cool to be taken into the ‘secret back room’, even though we can all be pretty sure that Boeing or any large conglomerate are not about to give away any secrets on said tours. But this is where startups and SME’s can do it even better. We can let our early adopters into our Factory, Alpha testing, Retail back room, Warehouse, New Product Development session. We can let them expose our secret goodness to the market for us. Especially if we do something awesome like make great software, use recycled materials or anything creative.

So the question for startups is this: How can we let our early adopters and brand evangalists into our secret world to spread our world?

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Digital Footprints – the power of

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 25, 2009

Recently I took a photo in New York of something I thought to be particularly interesting. I uploaded it to twitpic and posted it on my twitter page. The net result was approx 100 views of the image. Here it is below:

picture-201

Fast forward 2 months and the image is ‘re-tweeted’ back to me from someone else after it has made the rounds and it now has more than 38,000 views. Holy Wow. (You can click the image to see the current view count)

How did it get 38,000+ views after only 100 people cared when I first posted it? Well the answer is simple, it’s digital, which means its footprint stays forever – the digital footprint. And when someone more influential on the web than me share’s it, it spreads in a compound fashion. Sure it got shared, call it viral, call it what you please. But the thing of true power here is the digital footprint. It wasn’t an instant in market reaction. The spreading happened 2 months after the launch. Not the day it went to air, like a TV advertisement.

The lesson for startups and marketers is simple. The real power of digital media is the footprint it leaves, the permanency, and the ability for people to catch up. This is something traditional media (newspapers, radio, billboards, Tv) just don’t have.

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Radvertising – James Boag

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 24, 2009

Here’s some more radvertising from local Tasmanian beer brand James Boag. Watch it, then I’ll tell you why it is radvertising:

Sure, it’s very entertaining, even funny. But as I’ve said many times before this isn’t why is ‘radvertising’, it’s because the creative idea is inextricably linked to the product…

  • Brand Heritage evident in the visuals and story
  • The core idea of ‘special water’ relates strongly to the brand and it’s Point of Difference
  • It’s conversation worthy, which means it’ll spread digitally, like it is right here on startup blog
  • And yes, it’s a joy to watch

The only negative, if there is one, is the potential for it to do a ‘category job’ for all beers Tasmanian, but that is inherent in their proposition and difficult to avoid.

The lessons for startups trying to create ‘radvertising’ is simple, make sure your ‘creative idea’ is linked the actual product.

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Zero Cost Advertising & Social Media

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 11, 2009

I’ve blogged before many times about how to generate brand awareness with limited or zero budget. The list of tools available is pretty long actually. No need to list them here – you know what they are. But to use them effectively takes two important ingredients:

Ingredient No 1: Frequency
If we think are are going to start a brand blog, a youtube channel, twitter account and all our communication problems will be solved over night, then we have really not understood what has happened with social media. If I was to summarize it it succinctly. I’d say – we’ve gone from a ‘produced’ world to an ‘organic’ world. The produced world took large capital investments. The organic world is free, but not everything grows, and those that do take time. It’s a lot like nature, free but time & frequency of events is the asset.

The more often we return to our crop and nurture it, the healthier the return we’ll get. Occasionally something will just click. We only have to do something ‘once’ and it will grow astoundingly with little input other than the raw ingredients. The market will take get hold of the communication and we’ll crack it – it’ll go viral. This is the anomaly – it happens so rarely, that we know about it every time. Best advice is to assume it wont happen to us.

Ingredient No 2: Patience
We don’t have to buy the communication asset. They’re here, we have been given them, but we have to work them. We need to allow time for our compound effort to accumulate. Be patient and trust that our continual effort and focus on frequency, will work in the long run.

Patience has something on its side that the old media world didn’t – digital foot prints. Our stuff stays on line forever. So when a passionate web surfer finds one of our things they like – they can do a back catalog on our stuff. This is when things can work, even months after launch date. A TV ad on the other hand has one shot at the eyeballs. If it’s missed by the target market, it’s all too late.

No doubt, we need to build great stuff for people to care, but in the new world of zero cost communications, Startups can can get it wrong and learn as we go.

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New York Series: Bloomingdales – You’re Welcome, really.

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 16, 2009

The historically significant department store Bloomingdales do some pretty cool stuff. This includes the ‘Visitor discount’ they provide:

bloomingdales-visitor-centre-1

bloomingdales-visitor-centre-2

Yep, if you’re from another country you automatically receive an 11% discount on everything you buy. Now, this isn’t one of those trick promotions, impossible to get, with 100 other conditions. You simply go to the visitor center pictured above and show them your passport, or overseas license and that is it.  And the discount is real, even if an item is on promotion or already discounted, you get the 11% on top of that. I was fortunate enough to get an incredible winter jacket which was already half price (end of winter discount, even though it was actually snowing outside) with an additional 11%. I was pretty happy. They also have a gift incentive if you spend over $200, and yep, I got my gift…

It get’s better, they also have personal shopping assistants, Multi-lingual assistants to take your around store and free hotel delivery for purchases greater that $250. You can read more about it here.

Sure, discounting isn’t always the path to profitability, but when you are taking one time customers, making them feel special, with ‘money to spend’,  under your wing, it’s pretty clear that they are ‘inventing revenue’.

What does your startup do to ‘invent revenue’?

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