Business Society Technology

How to really beat Facebook or Twitter either as a competitor or as a legislator

The whole privacy debate around Facebook is a joke. I mean literally, Zuckenberg must be laughing privately about it. While it avoids the real issue, he rests assured that legislators have no idea what Facebook is really about: lulling you into a false sense of security so that you will unwittingly give away private information in the wrong context. If that sounds too devious to you then you probably don’t use Facebook a lot. Or you use it and don’t think. Which is exactly what it wants you to be like. was a great idea and it offers an intelligent, possibly automated solution to this privacy problem. I used it at work to build teams’ awareness of the different characters, strengths and weaknesses and team dynamics. It is a shame it hasn’t developed at all but this is probably because the people that made it have been hired by Google. Which is the only company that understands what this article is about. Personal DNA built a psychographic profile of you based on multiple questions. It is accurate and, better still, you can invite someone to take the test and see what he or she think you are like. This is also very accurate and offers valuable insights. And it is a million times more useful than trying to clump your friends into categories like Facebook pretends to suggest we should do.

When you post a status update, you can select that “Everyone” sees it. Or “Friends” or some category of friends. Only the first two make any sense. If you select “everyone” or you have forgotten status update in “everyone mode” Google and various tools we social engineers use be able to easily see what you are up to in real time privately. If you select “friends only” Facebook has fooled you. Because what sort of homogenous bunch of friends is the correct forum for this message you are about to deliver? That picture of you in a swimsuit on the beach. You want your uncle to see it? Might your ex boyfriend take it the wrong way? And what about that ex co worker who now works at a company you are hoping to get a job but is a bit conservative? Think before you post it.

“No, don’t think.” Facebook’s interface is like the little cartoon devil that sits on your shoulder to make you forget all these complicating factors. Privacy is either on or off. “Don’t think” it echoes like a ghostly voice. “We want the world to be more open” says Mark as if privacy is like piracy. “Information wants to be free” and other mindless, out of context slogans are catchy.

Privacy, the ability to choose which contact see which information is in fact the basis of all human interaction, probably the reason our brains are as big as they are in our social state of being homo sapiens. And this is how I, a bunch of psychologists, sociologists, programmers and enough funding, can beat Facebook within two years.

All it takes is a few Facebook apps that we will sneak past them. One will monitor everything you post and make a double check for you by throwing random people in front of you as a pop up window. “Before you post that status are you sure Mary Johnson is someone you want to see this?” followed by a few possible reasons. Based on this information it will build the intelligence of PersonalDna over time. PersonalDna actually exists on Facebook as an app but it is way to much like hard work to spend half an hour filling it in.

We would have to invent smarter interface tweaks to keep you interested while getting useful psychographic information off you. I won’t give them all away here. But every time you do something on Facebook, every “like”, every comment, every YouTube video you post, we will be intentionally collecting data about you. Facebook can’t stop me doing this because if worse comes to worse, I can do this as a virtual friend. You will befriend my personal psychologist and I will send you my advice.

The whole thing will hinge on the presentation of the information to you and I will borrow know how from the astrology industry. We will tell you how likely you are to score with that boy or girl you are poking, before you actually poke. We will tell you who in your network to try and impress to get a job. Other applications will tell you which groups to join or leave to improve how your profile looks to specific friends. We will make it all fun, free and cheerful. And accurate.

If it is too accurate it will be scary. That is the whole point of Facebook’s deception in it’s current design. So we will make it accurate enough and fun enough at the initial level of contact. If you want to go to the next level you will have to read a lot and think a lot, so you probably won’t go there unless you are serious.

Of course this platform I will build is much, much better than either Facebook or Google at serving advertising content. Because I will not just know what your are interested in. I will know how you like content served. And which of your friends are likely to buy the product or service too. With much much greater degrees of accuracy.

The accuracy of a self respecting homo sapiens in 2010 and true human development.

Business Communication

Spam, spam, spam in my Domino’s pizza

Real Beauty in Domino’s pizza campaign in Greece is lost in execution

When I first started getting emails about a free Domino’s pizza some time ago I tried to ignore them. As they persisted and went well past the major spam level I retorted to complain about it in my blog. Added a twist of something more interesting as I usually do. Got it out of my system and forgot about it. Hey that’s what blogs are for!

But the emails persisted. I have lost count but it is very close to fifty separate, identical emails from the same two senders with exactly the same email content. This is probably the worse spamming in Greek internet history. And to make it worse I actually signed up for their damn offer to try and make it stop. I ate it and once again hoped the emails would stop. After all, I signed up with the same email they were spamming.

But like Chinese water torture it dripped on.

So when Domino’s launched their “real beauty” campaign, I was ready for flame wars! I have infinite admiration for the way they are refreshing the entire concept of pizza marketing. Pizzas without any retouching of any sort. And this doesn’t mean they will just pay for better photographers. encourages you to upload your own pizza pictures. ( is much more interesting and “really real” by the way…) Chipotle is also trying this line of “intelligent” advertising by emphasizing the lack of typical images in their ads: We wanted to have farmers in our ads, but what sells are big burritos, not lessons in farming.”

Please, you wonderful and creative people at Domino’s pizza marketing, please check up on local execution. Not even a free pizza a day can save you in my mind now! My waistline can’t afford it and every time I see your logo I connect it with spam…

Business Communication

Guerilla brand marketing at the World Cup

The Greek army was a terrible bunch of  civil servants when I served.  The fact that I had experience from the British Territorials only made it worse.  From a well disciplined, goals oriented, clear management situation in South England to a bunch of fat, always smoking group of imbeciles in various camps around Greece.  I quickly made up my mind: if there is ever a war in Greece I will leave for the mountains and do guerrilla resistance.  In fact I even have a Band of Brothers, people with a similar view on it, and we have a secret rendez vous location on a Greek mountain in the event of war.

Checking out the buzz reports for the first three weeks of the World Cup, to my great pleasure it wasn’t Sony that topped the charts of risers. Sure, in the UK and Germany it was second and third fastest riser. Visa did well in UK and US (third biggest rise). And Emirates did well in Germany (second) and UK (fifth) which makes sense considering their relatively less known brand in these regions.

But the real winner was Nike. Topping UK and Germany charts with +6.8 and +3 points respectively and a very decent + 0.7 in the difficult US market. And they aren’t even an official sponsor!

It just goes to show that careful media planning and correct brand positioning can work wonders. The world cup worked for Nike because they had aligned themselves well. If you are about to spend a lot on major sports events you need to carefully think what you want to achieve.

Nike’s sales in the run up to the World Cup were up a whopping 39% whereas Adidas (official sponsor) came nowhere close in growth. Nike did the things like opening stores in Soweto that double as AIDS testing centers or installing massive TV screens in town. It is an 11Million football shoe and apparel world market and Nike has firmly set it’s sights on the developing market which is growing by 30% year on year. It will demand more than 250 new Nike stores around the planet and renewed efforts online which now accounts for just 5% of their sales. Though small relative to Nike’s overall sales, they are using the football category to penetrate and will sell Converse and their other brands on the back of their success.

Nike and Adidas battle it out at every World Cup.  In 2006 Adidas had again cornered the official side of things and Nike’s digital strategy fell flat.  A much vaunted collaboration with Google for was a total failure.  By luck a Puma sponsored team won and saved Nike’s sales.   (Though Adidas always has more teams wearing their shirts.)  This time around it was a campaign called “write the future” on facebook which worked though.  Great content, great execution.    And TV ads to support it.  So the World Cup related buzz went to Nike.  30 vs 14% according to Nielsen.  Nike is embracing full interactivity in all their activities, encouraging participation at every level.   It’s latest shoe comes with a unique code which unlocks training programs which you can even download with an app to your phone.

The buzz measurement wars will continue.  It is a pretty hazy metric still.   My mountain guerillas may be the only Greek army standing in the event of war and sometimes it just takes well designed orange football shoes to sell…

Business Communication

“The majority of people who stayed in this room are reusing towels at least once during their stay”

I don’t like Facebook ads. In fact I have played the game of clicking them away and giving Facebook my reasoning (Misleading! Insulting!) just to see if their targeting gets any better. (It doesn’t.) But I see why Facebook advertising can do so well.

The phrase in the title is famous as producing a 54% compliance rate in a hotel room. All other facets of the experiment were controlled and identical. Only the tagline differed. It had started with the common “Recycle and do it for environment” which was the control message, producing just 38% compliance from the hotel guests in those rooms. Other variants actually did worse, especially those with an emphasis on the hotel’s interest in the economy. Unless you have a cause which people care enough about, they don’t want to know about your running costs or administrative issues! “Cooperate and join us” got only 36% because of this.

What was missing was the sense of collective behaviour. “The majority of guests are reusing towels at least once during their stay” produced 46% guest compliance. Which is pretty impressive. But double check this article’s title. Spot the difference? “…who stayed in this room…”! Four words, 8% performance difference!

At first look, the sentence is too long and clumsy. It wouldn’t get past most ad execs. Not catchy enough. It would get stuck at the graphic design level. Too long. But it works. Because we don’t only want to know that many people do something. We want to feel we are similar. Though a pretty long shot, “the majority of people who stayed in this room” is the best connection you will get under the circumstances. And perhaps the intimacy of a hotel room adds some zest to the thought. You are after all about to take your clothes off and have a shower in the same shower with all the guest before you.

So if they reused their towel, what the hell, I will too!

Now look at the signs around you, all of them trying to get you to do or not do something. “No Parking”? What you really wonder as you stop to do some quick shopping is how likely you are to get a ticket. So how about a sign saying “95% cars parked here without a valid coupon, got fined after just 4 minutes”? And take a careful look at that next Facebook ad. “Your friends Bob, Sue and Peter liked this product” …shucks maybe I should stop clicking those ad boxes away!


Mussolini, the world cup and financial regulation in Greece

There is a long list of blatantly obvious match fixing scandals during the world cup.  Minor lists of mistakes like the ones compiled for the 2010 games in South Africa pale before them.  Mussolini extended a match’s running time until Italy won!  In fact, I would argue that football is a sport actually designed to encourage match fixing.  After all with such a large playing area, all it takes is a bribe to any one player, anywhere in the field to win.  With only 10 bad runs (ie run to the ball slow enough to let the opponent get there first) any player will be effectively giving the opponents an advantage similar to getting a red card.  The rest of the team will have to work harder, will have to cover the gaps created and sooner or later the opponents will score; especially if they know which player is bribed and have adjusted their strategy.

I try to learn from my mistakes.  My tenure at PublicWorld taught me a lot about the corporate world.   I welcomed the opportunity to see the other side of things. As an entrepreneur I always tried to figure out why as customers, large corporations very often ‘acted crazy’.  My contacts would vaguely mention a board meeting, the stock exchange or something similar and we would leave it at that.

But I didn’t spend all that time studying and travelling for nothing.  1200 mainly foreign contacts at LinkedIn are there to teach me stuff!  A lot of reading since and armed with my experience first hand, I kept tab on the company over the past year.   As a learning exercise.  It wasn’t just an ego thing or the curiosity to discover whether my conclusions were more accurate than the managers staying behind.   It became a proper learning exercise.  So when something major happens, like Fnac leaving a market, I decided to revisit in earnest.  Why on earth should Public (a retailer similar to Fnac in many ways) buy two of the three stores Fnac is leaving behind?

While the Obama administration battles to pass it’s second major bill after healthcare on financial regulation, it is obvious that there is long way to go yet.  Not only is the global playing field completely uneven, but there are still huge loopholes.  I received today a copy of the published accounts of PublicWorld.  At the bottom the chartered accountants boldly state:  “Without any further doubt in our opinion you should take special note of the fact that the company’s own assets are now negative and so call for application of article 48 of law 2190/1920.”  This is a clause which specifies that suppliers can demand immediate payment because the company is deemed uncreditworthy.  It is approximately the same as Maradona using his hand to score a goal.  The entire planet sees it, yet not the player, not FIFA or anybody else does anything about it.   The referee is the only one with an excuse as things happen quickly and he honestly might have missed the cunning move.

The media of course do nothing about it.  There seems little demand.  In football the fans want to believe the myth of fair play.   In financial markets, small players who are effectively gambling, want to believe that there is a sense of logic in what they are doing; that it is better than visiting the casino…