Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Viral Series III: The GUI (Graphic User Interface)

When developing a viral app, bear in mind that the Graphic User Interface (or GUI) is as important as the app’s name or logo because ultimately it is an essential part of the user experience itself.

The principle behind a viral app is that the user can share it with his friends once he likes it. Likewise his friends will also be able to spread the app further to their own peers, hence the expression “viral”.

However a user will only "disseminate" an app if he enjoys it, in other words, if the user experience is pleasant. Here are a few tips to win the hearts and souls of your users:

1- The GUI must be friendly, easy-to-use and intuitive
2- Its graphic motif must appeal to the target audience
3- The Millennium generation demands a fresh, more edgy, web 2.0 look’n’feel
4- The GUI must include sharing, tell-a-friend and add-a-friend features

The image above shows Odigo, an IM developed in the 90s, when ICQ was a leader and much before Microsoft had its Windows Live Messenger.

Odigo's GUI was created based on the idea of a handheld such as a Palm or a Blackberry. It included radar where you could see who was online, interest-based filters and user ID cards with avatars besides other interesting features, including a rudimentary "tell-a-friend".

If you are unacquainted to the subject and would like to understand what GUIs are, click here for a thorough explanation. If you are developing or would like to enhance a viral app, as always I suggest hiring a Marketing/ Communications expert.

If you have comments, click on the link below to share your opinion. In order to contact me, please feel free to e-mail me at

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Viral Series II: The importance of branding in viral marketing

Here are some of the most popular viral services:

MySpace - FaceBook - YouTube - Bebo - LinkedIn

Notice that these brands all share branding communalities:

1- Small names (1, 2 syllables), easy to remember
2- You can use them as verbs (i.e, “Vivian YouTubed her birthday party”; “I am Linked-In to Jack”, etc.)
3-When you think of their names, you can picture their logos in your head
4- These brands fulfill the promises in their names:

--> MySpace is a space I can customize because it is “mine” and as the name says, it is "my space"
--> YouTube grants you the ability to “tube” what you want, to “televise” , to “broadcast” and also to create your own “channels”
--> FaceBook was originally created for college kids
--> LinkedIn connects you to your professional network

So when you create your own service or app, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, research previous success and failure stories and adapt the lessons you have learned to your branding promises.

I always suggest also hiring a communications expert. There are excellent agencies out there that are specialized only on branding.

Global branding
Be aware that what may work in one side of the planet, may not in the other. Orkut is an excellent example: it reached critical mass in Brazil but it does not appeal to users in other countries. Therefore, when creating an international brand, keep in mind to hire an international communications professional as well.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Viral Series I: The Ideal Target Audience

Let me first describe what is not considered a good target audience for a viral service such as a social network: Think of an online community for women, aged 18 to 55. Why is it not good? I will give you 3 reasons:

1- The more you define and limit your niche, the easier you will be able to address their needs and come up with a differentiated and relevant service. An example? LinkedIn: a social network for professionals. Another one? a social network for mobile executives. If you are trying to please all demographics at once, you will end up not pleasing any of them and having an obsolete service.

2- The principle of targeted ads is defeated in the example above. If you put yourself in the shoes of the advertisers, wouldn’t you rather have more information about your target audience instead of shooting aimlessly to all directions?

3- The Millennium Generation is the target audience that has been the early adopter of social networks such as MySpace, Facebook, etc. The mobile phone and the internet are an intrinsic part of their social life. But beware, the Millennium Generation is also the toughest audience to please and we will analyze this later, when we talk about technology, GUI and branding.

So what we see in the first place is that segmentation is key. In other words, you need to have a well defined target audience and your service must be honestly relevant for them.

Would you like to add anything to this list and share your opinion? Feel free to click on the comments link and voice your thoughts!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Viral Series

I have been working with viral based communities, online and mobile applications since the 90s and viral marketing is definitely one of the areas that I feel definitely very passionate for.

One of the most frequent questions that I get regards to reaching a critical mass when providing a service or application which is dependable on user adoption.

In plain words, how can you develop a website or a service (like YouTube or FaceBook), spread the word, and get a huge amount of users when offering a service?

It takes a seasoned marketing professional to do the job and I decided to share some ideas in this blog. Since it is a broad subject, I will write a series of posts on viral marketing.

Here are the items that I will be talking about in the next posts:

1- The ideal target audience and the millennium generation
2- The importance of branding in viral marketing
3- The interface (also called GUI and UI). GUI stands for Graphic user interface and UI for User Interface.
4- Personalization
5- Peer and interest groups
6- Must-have features
7- Number of clicks
8- Internet, cell phones and convergence
9- Virtual popularity
10- Unique user X Registered user

Please feel free to contact me and suggest other topics that you would like me to comment on.

And before I forget: If you wish to contact me for consulting purposes or speaking engagements, please feel free to write to

Also, if you wish you share your opinion with me and our readers, you can do so by clicking on the comments link and voicing your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Global Branding and Ries’ 22 Immutable Rules

I am often hired as a consultant to companies that need to create and implement global branding strategies to increase their presence as well as expand their market share. These are different challenges, but most of the times, they come together with a very similar set of questions. Most companies are looking for a cost effective formula to launch products and services and acquire a loyal user base that grows exponentially (virally).

Let’s face it: Branding is crucial. If you are looking for basic branding rules, I suggest reading
Al Ries’ 22 immutable Laws of Branding. When working with global branding, remember to prioritize your demographics and adapt the rules regionally, without losing the brand identity.

Here is one excellent example: In order to expand to Israel, McDonald's needed respect the local culture and as a result modify some of its key characteristics (such as menu items) without losing its brand consistency. Besides changing its menu to offer 100% kosher beef and non-dairy products (including no cheeseburgers), they decided to also close on Saturdays and religious holidays. In addition to that, their commitment to give back to the local communities is kept as they donate hundreds of thousands of NIS to charities which benefit children such as The Shnider Hospital for Children; Make a Wish Association; The Fighting Cancer Association, and etc.

If you wish to learn more about global branding, please click here to read a previous post.

To share your opinion with me and International Communications’ readers, please click on the comments link.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Fear Factor: Public Speaking

Marketing, PR and Communication professionals are often expected not only to create powerful and persuasive Marketing collateral such as sell sheets and PowerPoint presentations, but also to be articulate speakers.

Public speaking is a learned skill, just like playing the piano or the trumpet. It takes time and practice. There are several courses and even orators groups, such as Toastmasters Internationals where you can practice in a friendly, supportive and encouraging environment while receiving the guidance you need.

Here are 10 tips for Public Speaking from the Toastmasters International website:

1. Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more about it than you include in your speech. Use humor, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.

2. Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.

3. Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.

4. Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.

5. Relax. Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. ("One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.). Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.

6. Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.

7. Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.

8. Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.

9. Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.

10. Gain experience. Mainly, your speech should represent you — as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need in a safe and friendly environment

For additional information on Toastmasters International, click here to visit their website and look for a club close to your work or home.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Global Audiences II: Dove's Ads in Hong Kong

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is one of my favorite campaigns. By far one of the best I have seen in the last 5 years, for several reasons. It stands out for its honesty, the strong emotional appeal and the universal theme.

Actually the theme is so universal, that even the version made for the Hong Kong market remains basically the same. Here are the two ads and how they adapted the same message and format to the two different demographics:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

More than Words for a Global Audience

I am a big advocate for using as many visual aids as you can in order to convey your message as clearly as possible. You will also find out that humor will be one the best allies you will ever have in order to ensure that your message comes across easily, especially in advertisement. Take this Chinese Menthos ad for example (no need to speak Chinese in order to understand it) :

I also wanted to thank Kare for a previous comment on this blog and bringing up the TBS Very Funny Ads.

If you are interested in watching other Very Funny TBS ads, go to:

Comments? Suggestions? Other great ads? Do not hesitate sharing your ideas with us. Go ahead and click on the comment link.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

This Super Bowl Ad: Neither a Mean Nor an Average Joe

I was raised in beautiful Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and one of the most interesting TV shows I used to watch there while I was growing up was called Intervalo (“commercial break” in Portuguese). The show presented some of the best TV ads around the globe: the funny, the witty, the expensive… Well, today is Super Bowl and once again, it is time to watch the ads.

An interesting ad caught my attention last year because of the cross-pollination of several communication trends such as the user generated content used inside the typical ad structure.

Here is the Reader’s Digest version: PepsiCo’s Doritos issued an ad challenge to consumers in the run up to the Super Bowl as part of a carefully crafted marketing campaign. The result? Two million hits on the challenge microsite, three-quarters of a million unique users, 2 million video views and around a billion page impressions. The ad? Just $12.79 to produce. My opinion? Brilliant! Let's watch it again:

If you wish to opine, go ahead, click on the comments link! I am looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Global PR: Sell your story, not your products

In terms of Dollars, a good PR campaign may be much more effective than plain advertising or other marketing tactics. When information comes from a reliable source like the press, whatever you sell gains instant credibility.

But how do you get your word out? How do you get the press to comment on your product or service? Do you just pick up the phone and pitch these writers?

Well, that's when a good PR professional is needed. I have worked on both sides of the counter, in a PR agency and leading in-house PR, and I created campaigns for very diverse markets such as numerous European countries, South American regions, segmented demographics here in the US, etc.

There is no list with what is absolutely necessary for you to do in PR, it all depends on a matrix of elements. However, I would suggest avoiding certain things when pitching the press. Yes, your campaign must be innovative and creative, but beware of creating futile and irrelevant buzz. What will draw the attention of the press is neither a full and precise product description nor artificial hooks.

What you need is a good story around your product. Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Wouldn’t you be bored to death to copy and paste a product description from a press release into your column? And how would you feel if you had a chance of writing a really juicy story?

If you would like to comment on global PR campaigns, stories, ads, etc, please feel free to. I am eager to hear you opinion.