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I covered two interesting marketing strategy conferences last week that couldn’t have been more different from each other. Each one hopes it can predict, or at least affect, the future. And, since I like you, I’ll share my notes with you. My comments will be in italics. It’s a long post, but I think you’ll find lots worth reading.
hippo.jpgThe first conference was The Promotion Marketing Association’s (PMA’s) Fast Forward 2011, held at Google headquarters (OMG, the food was amazing!) in the meat packing district. It was about the impact of social media on the business landscape. Happily, it wasn’t just another social media conference.
The second one, the same night, was UltraLight Startups monthly Entrepreneur’s Forum. This one, at Sun’s HQ near Grand Central, was about Bootstrapping vs Venture Financing. It featured about 10 presentations by founders of startups – including me, co-founder of – plus pizza and a panel of venture capitalists and angel investors.
The energy in that room was stunning! If you want to know what creative, interesting, incredibly smart people are up to, go to the January 7th meeting. The topic will be PR, branding and buzz.

Ultra Light Startups, founded by charming entrepreneur and economist Graham Lawlor, is a breath of fresh air compared to the scores of social media conferences – most of which are peopled by self-proclaimed social media gurus and posers.

PMA Conference Recap
Here’s a summary of interesting presentations from the PMA Conference, which included lunch at Google’s spectacular cafeteria. Beverage choices, for example, included vegan chocolate soy latte, and there was enough shrimp to feed three Scarsdale bar mitzvahs, plus roast beef, turkey, am amazing salad bar, a make-your-own-sandwich bar, plus vegetarian and vegan (and plain old sugar-laden) cakes and cookies. Not to mention the M&M machines in the halls, or the popcorn machines. But I digress. :>)
Seth Kaufman, Pepsi, on The Changing Media Landscape
Three out of four Americans use social technology. Pepsi products have evolved (and multiplied) but until recently, dialog with consumers hadn’t evolved, Kaufman said. Over the years, Pepsi has experimented with community, like its 2001 Pepsi Stuff community joined by a million teens. (Well, that’s what passed for community at that time, anyway – an ad promotion involving codes inside bottlecaps. But at least they tried.)
Today, Pepsi’s homepage is a dashboard for all of their social media efforts, from games to good works.

Brands don’t dictate anymore, Kaufman says. “Today, the deer have guns.”

Value, he says, is not price, “but what I get for what I pay…consumers want an enriching experience.” Sponsors gain cultural authority, he maintained, by curating content to filter out what consumers don’t want.”

Like so many mammoth companies, Pepsi is struggling to serve the empowered consumer, where brands need to be part of the culture. I’ve said it many times – big brands are waking, like Rip Van Winkle, from their long collective nap, to realize that the consumer is in charge and brands have to change. In fact, Kaufman noted that this change of strategy for Pepsi happened over the past 18 months!

Tim Ries, Google: Analytics and Search
Perhaps my favorite talk of the day, Ries talked about the significance of search and analytics. Search for information is a core human behavior, he said, and new tools of online search have penetrated 95% of US households. Every day, he noted, 25% of all Google searches have never been conducted before.

By 2011, Ries maintains, mobile searches will exceed the number of desktop searches made in 2007, thanks to Smart Phones.
Your Smartphone knows where it is (GPS) what it sees, how it moves, and what it hears, he says. Shop Savvy for android is the evolution of search. You use your camera phone to photograph the bar code of a product and your phone immediately lets you know where that product is available in your area and at what prices.
Android’s Search Plus lets you not only see all the available products, but lets you transact from within the search.
Ries made fun of sites that ask you to choose your country. The IP address identifies the country you’re from and much more, he says, so there’s no reason to waste consumers’ time filling out forms or picking countries.
He demonstrated ways search can build brands :
o you can leverage co-operative advertising as a way to buy multiple ads on the same landing page – which is prohibited by Google Ad Sense rules, For example, if Pampers are sold at Walmart and Target, each can have an ad and a coupon that will come up in search on the brand name.
o Google Squared automatically fetches, organizes and compares information from across the web about a given topic
Here’s a square I created for “grain-free dog food”
o Google insights lets you compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties. Brands can use it to see which of its advertising and marketing messages get the most positive response. “For example, an automobile manufacturer may be unsure of whether it should highlight fuel efficiency, safety, or engine performance to market a new car model.”
Instead of using facts and analytics, Ries says, too many decisions are made by HIPPO: “the highest paid person’s opinion”. Brands need to rely on data and analysis, not opinion, he insists.
After Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine. Using YouTube Insights, you can see detailed statistics about the videos you upload to the site. For example, you can see how often your videos are viewed in different geographic regions, as well as how popular they are relative to all videos in that market over a given period of time. You can also delve deeper into the lifecycle of your videos, like how long it takes for a video to become popular, and what happens to video views as popularity peaks.
The value for brands, according to the official YouTube Blog:

“How does this help you? Well, using these metrics, you can increase your videos’ view counts and improve your popularity on the site. For instance, you might learn that your videos are most popular on Wednesdays, that you have a huge following in Spain, or that new videos that play off previous content become more popular more quickly.
With this information, you can concentrate on creating compelling new content that appeals to your target audiences, and post these videos on days you know these viewers are on the site. (Maybe even post your next video in Spanish?) And for those of you who are also partners, the more popular a video is, the more advertising revenue it can generate.

Google’s free Website Optimizer lets you test and optimize content and design on your site. You can try out alternate headlines, images, content to find out which combinations lead to the highest conversion rate.
Search best practices:
1- Feel the need for speed – your pages need to load fast or your customers will be gone. Load time is part of the quality score for Google.
2- Be very judicious in use of flash. Flash is STILL invisible to spiders. You can use some, but never make a page all flash
3- Think like a consumer – think about what people want to find and learn, not just what you want to show and tell them.
4- Know what you know. Don’t ask people what country they’re from – use their IP address and other means to keep from annoying people with forms, screens and questions.
Panel – What the recent FTC Guidelines Mean for Advertising and Marketing
With Linda Goldstein Esq, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, Randall Rothenberg, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Donna Declemente of DDC Marketing.
Linda Goldstein:
Current FTC guidelines do NOT have force of law. There are no fines for violating them.
Violation will be viewed as violation of Section 5 of FTC Act which relates to consumer privacy
The new ruling applies only to sponsored advertising. Endorsement can’t make a claim that would be deceptive if it was made in advertising. You can’t say “This supplement cured my cancer,” for example. There also are more restrictive requirements for disclosure of connections between sponsor and blogger.
New guidelines say that product promotion by bloggers is now regulated in the same way advertising has long been regulated. (You must be a user of a product you promote, you can’t lie, etc.)
The FTC held NO public hearings, and got away with this, Goldstein says, because these are guidelines and not regulations.
Brands, she says, need to develop a social media policy with conduct provisions.

Randall Rothenberg called the new FTC guidelines “the most egregious violation of first amendment freedom in the history of the FTC”

Companies need to conduct training, audits, and compliance guidelines.
There must be close collaboration between marketing and legal, and you need to make sure PR and other agencies are well-versed on the guidelines.
“Same on the FTC!” Rothenberg says!
All in all, less hot air, more information than the run of the mill social media conference.
pizza.jpgAt Ultra Light Startups events, entrepreneurs help each other capitalize on the latest cost-effective and capital-efficient practices of interest to individuals starting lightweight tech ventures.
Topics covered include:
• Monetization – Advertising, affiliate/lead-gen, ecommerce, subscriptions, memberships, marketplaces, etc.
• Marketing – Online & offline, traditional & new/social media, mix, virality, measurement, etc.
• Technology – Platform selection, cost-effective development, vendor sourcing, open source vs. proprietary platforms, mobile, social, cloud computing, etc.
• User Engagement and Insights – Usability testing, user experience, metrics, analytics, etc
• Finance and Organizational Structures – Bootstrapping & venture funding, hiring/partnering, outsourcing, freelancing, distributed/virtual companies, etc.
pickleclub.jpgAt this meeting, presenters included:
o me, discussing Pawfun, which my partner, Caimin Jones, and I founded a year ago. Our business model has changed to free, to build traffic and attract advertising and sponsorships. As a result, our traffic doubles every two weeks.
o Neighborrow which will allow neighbors to borrow things from each other.
o CityRide, a bike-sharing service
o Girls Rock a game site for cool girls
o the first wiki-based software comparison site.
o Tickets and Music whose founder writes of the already profitable just launched site, “I got tired of the hassle of finding the best price on tickets so this site was born. I want people to be able to search Ticketmaster, CL, and the myriad of third-party providers out there. Also, sometimes when I’m looking for a ticket I want to buy or listen to the group’s music before and/or after I make my decision.”
o The Pickle Club – founded by Jennifer Takaki, who says “Please join us on our journey as we learn more about everything pickled including how this process relates to people, history, religion and culture. We also want to provide a resource for members to learn and interact with the pickle community on a local, national and global level. This is the place to discuss anything as it relates to pickling – including, vendors, recipes and ingredients. So let’s talk pickles!”
There are Pickle Videos, a blog, recipes, and events. And soon, a possible affiliation between Pawfun and the Pickle Club. We were there to network!
After we tore through an enormous amount of pizza, we heard a distinguished panel of angel investors and venture caplitalists discuss whether it is wiser to bootstrap your startup or seek outside investment (beyond friends and family)
Panelists included Art Change, Tipping Point Partners; Brian Cohen of NY Angels, an independent consortium of individual accredited angel investors focused on investing in early-stage companies in the New York City area; Mark Davis of DFJ Gotham Ventures, Dennis Mortensen of Yahoo/Index Tools, and moderator Owen Davis of NYC Seed. which funds early stage technology entrepreneurs in New York City.
Sign up for the next event here $10 if you’re pitching your startup, $20 if you’re a vendor.
You won’t meet a more upbeat, hopeful, creative, smart crowd anywhere else, that’s for sure. And that may explain why the group has swelled to over 200 from 30 or 40 a year ago.