Sorry, We Are Not In Right Now


Thanks for checking out our blog, we really appreciate it.

However, our blog has moved to

Sorry that you have to visit another site to find us, but it is worth it...we have all of our 'classic' posts and comments on the new blog, plus a ton of new thoughts and ideas.

Why are we moving? Basically, Blogger failed us and never responded to our emails and requests. A clear example of poor customer service...too bad, we liked Blogger.

Come over and see us on the new blog.

Troy and Mo

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Random Thoughts: (Video, in this case) Nokia Re-draws the Map

Ah Wieden + Kennedy, do you ever stop producing cool spots? Check out the new Nokia ad, highlighting the oh-so un-tech, old school method of drawing maps. Drawing is what we did before Wii, kids. (Reading via RSS? Check out the video on the Travel 2.0 blog.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Word of the Week - Cuil

Pronounced "cool", Cuil is a new search engine built by Anna Patterson, a search engine wiz who used to work at Google. While there was a lot of hype and excitement about the launch of the site, those seeking an alternative search engine might have to temper their enthusiasm a bit.

While there are some interesting new features in Cuil, it has had a tremendously difficult time in maintaining relevancy and the meaningfulness of search results (no for an "Oregon" search for example!). Moreover, following the wake of their PR push last week, their servers have been overwhelmed and users have experienced significant downtime. As our friend Paul Wille notes in his blog, Cuil has four notable features:

  1. Relevancy Approach- Unlike depending on the quantity and quality of links, it "drills down" into the pages they link to and analyze the content for relevancy

  2. “Article”-based search results - Rather than the usual list of text-only links, photos and paragraph snippets of content are returned as part of the search results (Similar to

  3. Dynamic Faceted Searching - Faceted searching is the concept of narrowing search results based on multiple “facets” or aspects of your search results; for example when you search for "Oregon", you can narrow your results based on categories such as "regions of Oregon", "real estate" etc. etc.

  4. Privacy - Cuil promises not to store search history of search engines

Read the full review on Cuil

Friday, August 1, 2008

Take Control of Your Website

There are many reasons why corporate and artist sites should not carry advertising. But the most obvious one is that outside ads change the conversation. In one of the few places that a marketer can completely control their message; they're sharing the stage with outsiders who have a different agenda. >>Full Story

Thoughts// This interesting experiment (or cruel prank depending on your point of view) reported in the Silicon Alley Insider, is a prime example of why you shouldn't allow outside Google text ads within your site. For a period of time this week, Columbia Records website ran a targeted prank ad featured above that read: "Major Labels are Obsolete...RIP or learn and thrive". The ad was delivered to more than 6,000 site visitors and generated a click rate of 0.6% (4 clicks). Small impact but nevertheless an important lesson to all of us on the dangers of contextual advertising and networks!

~ Happy Friday! (PS: I am still wondering how we have so many Michigan folks here!)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Griping Online? Comcast Hears and Talks Back

Brandon Dilbeck, 20, a student at the University of Washington, was complaining recently on his blog, Brandon Notices, about Comcast’s practice of posting ads in its on-screen programming guide. Shortly afterward, he received an e-mail message from Comcast, thanking him for the feedback and adding that it was working on a new interactive guide that might “illuminate the issues that you are currently experiencing.” Mr. Dilbeck found it all a bit creepy. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Every blog your write, we're watching you'. Perhaps the Police should re-release this song for the blogging era.

This interesting article in the NY Times focuses on the challenges and opportunities facing brands as they reach out to consumers over social media with a special spotlight on Frank Eliason, Comcast's "digital care manager". Eliason monitors public comments on blogs, message boards and social networks for mentions of Comcast and its services and is empowered to solve customers' problems. In the case of Comcast, while the overwhelming response appears to be positive, some consumers have found the practice "creepy" and have labeled it yet another ‘Big Brother’ tactic. (Ok, the Times quoted one!)

So should you not engage in social media? Hardly. We believe in respectful, meaningful and empathetic conversations with consumers.

As we've stated many times in this blog, engaging in a two-way conversation with your customers can be a vital prong in your digital marketing strategy. Consumers are blogging and raving (or ranting) about your products and your destination online with or without you. Not listening or engaging in dialogue is a critical opportunity missed not only to build deeper relationships but also for brand cache. Technology has now afforded us an unprecedented "direct connection" to consumers and according to Brian Solis, a new media PR agent quoted in the article, "if you don't respond, someone else will, most likely in the form of competition seizing the opportunity to convert your dispirited customers into new prospects."

So what can Comcast tell us about lessons learned? According to Eliason:

"We learn a great deal from our customers through this channel and we learn better ways to present information, and what the pinch points are in the relationship."

"...customers that had complaints but never reached out to us to correct them. It is so much better to see them have the service we intend.

"...companies should be where their customers are. Social media is just another channel, similar to the phone, chat or email."

"It makes it much more personal and it provides the opportunity to provide clarification when necessary....we do not do this from a PR perspective...My team concentrates on the customer experience."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Brands on Flickr

You don’t see nearly as many brands on Flickr as you do on YouTube or Facebook. But they do exist, and after a few conversations recently about what the opportunities for brands were on Flickr I thought I’d have a look. Having trawled through pages of Google and Flickr searches, I’ve grouped the results into three categories:

- Brand communities and extensions
- Branded resources
- Branded contests

And at the end of the review of what’s out there already, I’ve distilled a few learnings, a few things to watch out for, and a conclusion around the opportunities for brands on Flickr. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A great post from Geoff Northcott of AKQA London on how brands are using Flickr to connect, communicate and join communities. Unlike MySpace, YouTube and Facebook, which seem to be littered with brands, Geoff highlights why the few brands that are utilizing Flickr to begin a social conversation are benefiting from the lack of competitive social marketing.

The post provides case studies and examples from a variety of companies using Flickr as well as tips on how to begin you social presence on the photo-sharing site. And, if you listened to us last week, you should have your Flickr social URL in hand.

While Flickr might not the right fit for certain brands or industries, fields such as travel could benefit from the already built-in passion of travelers taking photos. A stretch, I know. Beyond building a community and increasing you social reputation among Flickr users (like AOT is doing with our Arizona Passages campaign), gaining a fan-base on Flickr can help greatly with UGC photo contests, sourcing new (and cheap, if not free!) images (just be sure to ask!) and adding content to your site via the Flickr API.

In fact, I even know of a few organizations who are currently using Flickr to house their entire photo library or catalog. Not a huge company mind you, but at $25 a year for unlimited file storage, it might be worth a look.

Even if you don't want to share those photos socially just yet.

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Finals

The finals of the Great Travel Site Showdown...Michigan v. Virginia are underway.

Let the voting begin.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Musings from the Internet Strategy Forum

About a week ago, I spent a pretty inspiring day at the 5th annual Internet Strategy Forum in downtown Portland. Drawing over 200 fellow digital strategists from around the country, the forum is a “professional association and peer networking group” designed to spread best practices about general digital strategy, social media strategy, personalized marketing, e-commerce, email marketing and customer metrics.

The meeting kicked off with a rousing keynote speech by Charlene Li from Forester—co-author of Groundswell—that covered the topics and themes from the book and lays out a very clear “road map” to build a social media strategy for your business. If you haven’t read the book, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a well written and absorbing book about how technology is transforming how we connect with one another and with brands. Littered with plenty of real world examples and case studies, this is good reinforcement for the "pros" and a great social media 101 for the “newbies.” Charlene urged marketers to deal with social media using a four-step process, POST:

  • People: first access how your customers use social media

  • Objective: Figure out what you want to accomplish with social media

  • Strategy: Plan for how this engagement will foster your relationship with customers

  • Technology: Pick your method of engagement LAST

Charlene also explained the Social Technographics Ladder, which explained the levels at which consumers engage with social media. The “steps” on the ladder are: Inactives (44%), Spectators (48%), Joiners (25%), Collectors (12%), Critics (25%) and Creators (18%). Not surprisingly, 15-26 year olds are the most fervent “creators” – i.e they write blogs, upload videos, rate places etc. If you’re curious how your customers stack up on the ladder, use this profile builder tool on the Groundswell website. While you can’t get granular by adding specific geographic targets or psychographic information, it gives you an insightful window into how consumers of all ages are engaging with social media.

Finally, she spoke at length (this is also available in the book) about how to use the groundswell to meet several business objectives. They are:

  1. Listening (research - what does the buzz stand for, how do people perceive you, who are the influencers among your audience etc.)

  2. Talking (marketing - engaging with your audience via blogs, social networks etc.)

  3. Energizing (sales - getting your customers to be evangelists by giving them tools such as ratings/reviews and by participating in pre-existing communities)

  4. Supporting (use it as a customer support mechanism; e.g. Dell forums)

  5. Embracing: Helping your customers to work with each other to come up with ideas to improve your products or services

Other highlights of the day long conference included:

  • David Placier of Spoke in broad terms about how an integrated CRM (customer relationship marketing) tool has become a fundamental tenet in Disney's efforts.

    Key takeaway: According to David, key characteristics in the best use of CRM are: differentiated treatment of individuals and cross-platform compatability; i.e. if you tell ESPN you only want to see text messages scores of PAC-10 teams, this preference should be reflected next time you view a personalized ESPN website.

  • Mike Moran, former IBM online marketer: Gave an interesting speech comparing online marketing with the more traditional direct response measurement (DRM); he urged us to follow the highly iterative DRM process of "measure," "experiment", "test" and "monitor".

    Key takeaway: Measure three categories of metrics: impressions (did they see it), selections (did they click it) and conversions (did they act). The numbers aren't as important as trends; don't forget "mini" conversions (subscribing to RSS or downloading a white paper)

  • Geoff Ramsey of eMarketer enchanted the audience with a dizzying presentation chock full of charts and data. If you're an eMarketer subscriber, you've most likely seen the content of this presentation in your inbox or read about them in this blog.

    Key takeaway: "...transparency equals trust...give the user control, make it fun and give them tools to spread the word." He specifically cited, where conversions increased 49% while average order size increased 40% after user reviews and ratings were introduced.

  • Nancy Bhagat of Intel was probably one my favorite session of the day (besides Charlene). While she talked at length about how Intel has moved most of its branding efforts to the web--so much so that it's offering a 35% reimbursement for co-op partners--she spoke most passionately about about the discombobulated nature of measuring the impact of the conversations happening in social media, urging the industry to work together to come up with a more intuitive and accurate method. Hmmm...I wonder if she's been reading Troy and I wax poetically about engagement!

    Key takeaway: "Great brands are not the best storytellers...but...the ones with the best stories being told about them..."

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Michigan vs. Virginia

After a thrilling (well, as thrilling as you can get online) semi-finals showdown which saw over 4,400 votes and a last-minute comeback via a 'viral' campaign from Virginia, the finals are set.

Michigan (George's Army) Vs. Virginia (The Lovers)

Congrats to our 3rd place, Illinois, and 4th place, Oregon, finishers.

We will give everyone in Michigan and Virginia a break over the weekend and start up the finals next Tuesday. Which will officially and finally declare one of these two sites as the undisputed, greatest DMO travel site ever!

Too much hype? Nah, just right.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't Want To Write A Blog? Have Someone Else Do It For You

With the Olympic Games just a month off, some brands are looking to extend their sponsorships with social media programs. Lenovo has created 100 athletes' blogs in an attempt to align itself with some less mainstream sports, such as field hockey and modern pentathlon. It gave the athletes laptops and video cameras to chronicle their preparation for the games.

"We wanted to do something that shows our tech prowess, not something that uses the Web as billboard," said David Churbuck, vp of global Web marketing at Lenovo. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A great story from Adweek on computer maker Lenovo's digital strategy for the upcoming Olympic Games. Rather than start an 'official Lenovo Olympic blog', they reversed the thinking and have hundreds of athletes blogging for them. Give them the, video camera, hosting, etc...and let them provide the content.

The reason I love this story is the thinking behind it and how it could apply to travel.

If you are a DMO or destination, you will more than likely (if you are popular) already have consumers / bloggers in your area who are blogging about you, restaurants, attractions (roller coaster 'nuts' love to blog), etc, etc. Rather than compete with them, why not create a certification program, similar to what Lenovo has done with these athlete blogs, and issue an official 'DMO seal of approval' for each blog.

Here is a secret, bloggers love to be acknowledged! Give them an 'official blogger for DMO XYZ logo' (see the Lenovo version at the bottom-left of this page), a little praise and recognition and aggregate these blogs into one large DMO blog site.

Lenovo has asked the participating athletes to show a "Lenovo 2008 Olympics Blogger" badge on their sites. Most have done so, said Churbuck. It isn't asking for any mention of Lenovo products, he added.

"I don't want to be in the position of telling them what to write," he said. "It's their blog, they can do what they want."

Just like that you have updated content, in a blog without a major time and resource commitment from your organization.

Of course, keep in mind that these bloggers are representing your brand, so ensuring professional, relevant and proper content is critical. But, an interview process (I would actually have them come to your office for the interview), a basic agreement and some solid research on the person should result in finding the most qualified bloggers for your site.

Perhaps you can start that blog after all.

Random Thoughts: Why Didn't We Do That?

In case you missed it, earlier this week we talked about the new travel site TripKick, which helps identify the 'best' rooms in specific hotels.

After thinking about the service a little more, I wondered why hotels or chains do not already offer this service. Personally, if I stay at a hotel where I know I will be staying again, I commonly make a little note in my phone about which rooms to ask for during my next stay.

Who better to offer than kind of information than the hotel itself? They know the layout of the rooms, which ones are better than others...why not offer that info to guests? Beyond that, why not charge more for the rooms with a good view (commonly done), quieter, larger, etc. and less for rooms with a blocked view or small window, etc. If I don't care about being next to the elevator, charge me less!

More and more often these new travel start-ups (Dopplr, SeatGuru, TripLife) are coming into the market and offering elegant solutions to problems we all encounter.

So, as a large organization, hotel or not, how do motivate and encourage your team to begin thinking about solving these common / basic problems, rather than have someone else solve them for you?