21 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

September 27, 2013

The Google Encryption Dilemma

If you've been only moderately interested in looking at your search reports in Omniture, Google Analytics, or whatever tracking software you're using for your website, you've probably noticed an alarming growth in the number of referring search keywords that are (not provided) for you to see. If you're in this space heavily, you're probably well aware of it, and you may be  a bit miffed at Google for taking away these insights from you.

I've also come to enjoy the sorts of insights made available by this data, but take some comfort knowing that the sky is not falling. Your jobs just got a little more interesting.

Why did Google do it? Folks are saying it is a response to being dinged in the public arena for cooperating with NSA's prism program to track what people are doing online. 

If you understand how we actually get our data in Google Analytics, you know this explanation is curious. Excepting third-party CRM applications, we can't actually see who is searching. In Google Analytics, we can only see what they are doing in the aggregate, once they get to our site. Why can't Google send the aggregate data as they have been, so we can see which keywords are having the greatest success, so that we can optimize our site for the better-performing keywords?

Happily for us, there is a solution, which unfortunately means more specialization and attention than before, with fewer actionable insights. But it isn't nothing.

Note for beginners: Always have a Google Analytics profile with no filters applied. If you don't know what this means, I recommend picking up the excellent Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics 2.0. I may address this at a later date, but he's your man, if you want to learn how to do this stuff.

Essentially, you have to "trick" Google Analytics to tell you what landing pages people are arriving at, when you're examining keywords from Organic Search. This doesn't tell you the keyword, but you see where they're going. Here's an excellent tutorial by Kiss Metrics that explains how this is done.

Also, install Google Webmaster Tools. From there, you can see which keywords are bringing people to your site. Even the "encrypted" ones (See? Was that so hard, Google?). What you can't see is what they did when they arrived at your site.

Examine your paid search performance to use as a proxy for organic search. In this case, Google isn't really telling you what people did, they're telling you what you're paying them for.

Continue your keyword research using whatever you've been using to try to identify opportunities for content development and writing. 

Rinse and repeat.

So what's coming? I have no idea. It's crossed my mind, however, that either Google is leveraging this unnecessary move in the name of a specious allegience to "privacy" to sell more stuff -- either more AdWords, its DoubleClick advertising platform, or access to Google Analytics premium -- meaning free access to Google Analytics basic gravy train would be on the way out (Hopefully a lower-cost option than GA Premium or Omniture, or else smaller companies just wouldn't be able to afford it).

Until that happens, the sky is not falling. And if it does, it will be time for smaller companies to look at other solutions. It's always good to be prepared.

January 22, 2013

Our Fickle Grief

What does how we mourn tell us about what we value?

According to an article I read this morning, published Jan 18, this season, 29 children in the United States have died from influenza. That is 9 more than were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary Massacre. Yet there were no flags flying at half-staff. There were no media hoards covering the heads-of-state making tearful speeches about this tragic loss of life. To the parents who lost their children, one tragedy is no worse than the other. The end result is a lost innocent life. 

It got me thinking about how and why we react the way we do to tragic events.

In 2009, a single gunman murdered 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, and wounded 29 more. Again, flags were flown at half-staff. Leaders gave moving speeches about the way they lived useful lives. Halfway around the world, there have been nearly 1,800 casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq between then and now. There were no special national days of rememberance for these who gave their lives willingly.

What makes one life more worthy of being remembered? Or 20 lives more worthy to be remembered than 29? Or 13 more than 1,800?

Why do we express outrage at mass shootings like Sandy Hook or Fort Hood, while we conveniently disengage when it comes to the everyday loss caused by acts no less evil, against victims no less innocent, and for deaths no less tragic?

Could it be that our speeches, our chest-thumping, our grandstanding is more about ourselves than the victims? About building for ourselves a better brand by capitalizing on concentrated tragedies rather than the everyday?

Maybe it gives us a greater sense of control over the narrative of the human experience... that if we can give meaning to the deaths, we think we can exert some sort of control the evil that lies in the human heart. 

I wish I had a clearer picture to paint. - Cam Beck

October 07, 2011

What is Ford?


I've been actively considering a new car purchase for about a month now. Back when I was only anticipating this time to come, I considered Ford a strong candidate for a new car. First of all, their cars have simply improved. As far as quality goes, they've come a long way since S&P downgraded its credit to "junk" status in 2006. The "Bold Moves" campaign, while not one of their more memorable, gave us a glimpse into their advertising and PR push they've been doing since then, up to their very wise hiring of former Crayonista Scott Monty in 2008 and their use of Dirty Jobs frontman, Mike Rowe, as their spokesperson.

They made me a believer.

Consequently, I've been looking for an excuse to buy a Ford since they turned down the auto bailout to make their own way, so when their recent campaign to spotlight the testimonies of Ford owners who were critical of those who took the bailout, it really resonated with me.

Though no one at Ford will confirm it, some reports say that the White House put pressure on Ford to remove the ads. That bothers me. It bothers me a lot. But Ford's response, and the information that's come to light since then bothers me, too.

The focus of the ads is a moral one. The people giving their testimony clearly favor Ford on moral grounds.

Ford didn't take the money. The other guys did.

Implied in this treatment is a moral case for making your own way and not asking the taxpayers to foot their bill. That may make some people uncomfortable, but it was exactly what I was thinking. And the ads were popular, so I wasn't the only one.

Now... I did remember that they were right in the mix of the Congressional hearings during the bailout talks about the auto industry being "too big to fail," but when they withdrew, I wanted to believe they had second thoughts because they knew they shouldn't be asking in the first place. The cost for such assistance was too high.

As it turns out, though, they made the decision for business reasons. They supported the bailout in principle, which is to say, morally. They just thought their chances for success were better if they didn't accept the bailout. They supported it for their rivals getting it.

So why would they run ads that celebrate their "principled stand" when it wasn't anything more than the same self-interest that their competitors were using in their case?

I still need to get a car... And I can no longer select Ford on principle. There is no principle to defind. Consequently, I'll buy a Ford only if they have the best car for what I'm willing to spend. 

December 30, 2010

Love Thy Customers: Advice for the Next Decade

"You know what the first rule of flying is? ... Love. You can learn all the math in the 'Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as a turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurtin' before she keels. Makes her a home." - Malcom Reynolds, Serenity (2005)

10 There's a scene in the sci-fi classic movie, Serenity, where, after a successful heist perpetrated against the evil Alliance, the crew's captain Mal takes the booty back to the job's sponsors, Fanty and Mingo, to give them their 25% commission and (hopefully) get another job. 

"Well our end is forty, precious," says Fanty. One gets the sense that there was soon going to be a major fight when the dueling parties were distracted by an even more entertaining brawl.

Can you imagine a world without trust?

You're at the checkout counter of the grocery store. You need some ingredients for apple crisp. The clerk, who has been eyeballing you for your entire visit, refuses to put the groceries in the bag until he's seen the money. You refuse to show the money until you're sure he'll let you out of the store with them.

But back up. Because before you get to the checkout, you have to inspect all of the fruit. You want to make sure they're not old, rotten mush. You also need to inspect the bags of sugar to make sure they aren't filled with sawdust. The grocer doesn't want you to open the bags, out of fear that you'll replace his sugar with sawdust. So you'd leave without buying, because you don't trust that beady-eyed grocer.

But back up. Because you can't leave your house anyway to go to the grocery store out of fear that you'll get mugged by the ruffians that patrol the neighborhood. You've never seen them, but you're sure they're there. Anyway, the grocer could never have opened a store in the first place, because no one would trust him with a loan. You get your groceries from a garden out back, which is decimated with insects, because you don't have anyone to sell you pesticides.

Successful, sustained commerce depends on a lot of things. We talk a lot about them in the course of our work. Some of them have value, some of them are hogwash. ROI. CPM. Engagement. Usability engineering. Experience. Product, Price, Place, Promotion. Branding. Income statements, balance sheets, cash flow. Social Media. Customers service.

We go to school, conferences and seminars to understand or execute them better. We send wads of cash to Amazon and Barnes and Noble to gobble up Seth Godin's books. And there's nothing wrong with ANY of that. Why would I begrudge anyone from getting better at the technical aspects of their jobs?

But what if we need something more elemental than all of that?

What if our deepest problem isn't whether we know how to calculate return on investment and successfully predict the future. Specifically, what if our deepest problem is that we don't love our neighbors well? And if that is true, what can we do about it?

What's more, how do we encourage each other to love others better? It seems a little self-serving. For when we say to our neighbors, "Love your neighbor," we're including ourselves in that group. We're saying to them, "Love us better." But as a man in the business of talking to others in business, my advice to all those who wish to be successful is this:

Love your customers better.

Thinking over the last decade, we've seen the likes of Enron, WorldCom, Bernie Madoff, Lehman Brothers -- the entire banking and investment industry -- industries run by "the best and the brightest," who went to the "best" schools run multi-billion dollar businesses into the ground as they sought to enrich themselves. It isn't a question of whether they knew how to do math. It was that they loved themselves more than they loved their neighbors.

Why is love so important to commerce?

  • You don't rob someone you love.
  • You don't try to swindle someone you love.
  • You don't overcharge someone you love.
  • You keep your promises to someone you love.

The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 what love is and just how important it is. Let's look at what he says, particularly about knowledge or the ability to tell the future:

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

He continues.

"Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

When you look at the last decade through the lens of improving technologies and products that change the way we communicate, it superficially appears to be a much different environment than in decades past. Could you have imagined Facebook and Twitter a decade ago? Could you have predicted its adoption?

What's more, people who are so inclined have more sophisticated methods to take advantage of/steal from others -- through economics or politics -- and that fosters an abiding suspicion of business, whether the suspicion is well founded in any particular instance or not.

But sometimes you have to take a step back from the pounding you're taking and get back to the basics. None of the things we do in business and marketing makes a difference if we have not love. What's most important to you? What do you want to accomplish? You want to see economic recovery? Then love thy customers. When you do that purely, the circumstances that follow apart from that don't even matter.

- Cam Beck

November 12, 2010

A Brilliant Defense

This is, perhaps, one of the best defenses of private enterprise I've seen. Very happy that these videos, recorded in 1979, were not lost to antiquity. The only question now is if they will be lost to apathy.






Your honor... The defense rests. - Cam Beck

October 15, 2010

Thirsty for Help

AoC-BuyNow3 How often do you stop and consider how fortunate we are?

I don't mean to brag. But I take a shower every morning.

This practice has great benefits, not just for me, but for those around me.

I have to confess, though, that sometimes I stand in there a few extra minutes in the morning to wash the cobwebs out of my brain -- past the point that is necessary to get clean.

Take a moment to feel the weight of this: Unsafe water and poor sanitation cause 80% of all diseases.

There are two easy and rewarding ways to combat this problem:

  1. Increase prosperity
  2. Charitible giving

Now you can do both at the same time.

This year, Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton led the march to publish The Age of Conversation 3. It is full of the useful insights of over 100 authors (including yours truly) to help you do your part to increase prosperity.

However, neither we, the authors, nor Drew and Gavin, the coordinators and editors, make a dime off of it. All profits go straight to charity:water, which brings clean drinking water to developing nations.

Here's are all the ways you can help:

The step-by-step is as follows:

  1. Buy the Book and ask others buy the book. If you work in an agency or another business that gives books as gifts, get your company to purchase multiple copies and give them out as year end gifts. This is the #1 call to action, because this is where we want to see the most impact. NOTE: Please buy 1 copy at a time because Amazon counts bulk orders once, and please use these affiliate links, which will help us in tracking sales. Remember, all the proceeds from the book sales and referrals will go to charity water:
  2. Twitter Commentary - Join the AOC authors as we give a Bum Rush play-by-play on Twitter. We also ask that everyone saying anything about the Bum Rush to use the code #aoc3 so that it can be picked up by What The Hashtag.
  3. Trackback or Comment on the post that Gavin will leave here today, so that everyone can follow the conversation and help promote exposure on social sites (Digg, StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, etc.)
  4. Digg the posts listed here and send emails and shouts to friends requesting Diggs.
  5. Stumble the posts listed and tell friends to do the same.
  6. Bookmark your posts on Del.icio.us
  7. Don’t forget Facebook – Make sure to become a Fan of AoC3 and to contribute to our wall
  8. Send an Old Fashioned email to your friends about the Bum Rush for AoC.

- Cam Beck


July 28, 2009

Little Wallet. Big World.

The prevailing social climate suggests that the word "Big," put in front of everything, is arguably bad. Let's take a look at some of the bogeymen that pervade our popular lexicon:

  • Big Business
  • Big Tobacco
  • Big Banking
  • Big Media
  • Big Government

Opponents of such things derogatorily use the term when they're trying to incite public opinion against others. Typically (but not always), those who rail against what they describe in the first three groups are the same folks who are in or advocate the third and fourth.

Of the five groups, I've always tended to be more ambivalent to the first three than I have been to the last two, simply because they have the fewest opportunities to compel me to do anything.

  • Wal-Mart may be a big business, but I am not forced to shop there.
  • Phillip Morris may have a huge tobacco empire, and tobacco may be harmful to my health, but I'm not forced to smoke or to be around people who do, if I found the practice obnoxious.
  • Bank of America may have one of the world's largest banks, but I have plenty of options at my disposal if I did not care to use their services.

Freedom to Act
In each of these cases, I have meaningful choices. Collectively we determine the success of these enterprises, but someone else's choices, if he were to make different decisions, do not compel me to behave in the same manner as he.

By contrast, big government can compel both business and individuals to do any number of things. All they require is the full force of the law, the power to compel others, and either the willful compliance or apathetic acquiescence of the body of the people to get away with it.

In U.S. society, the durable power to compel is established through the Constitution of the various governments, and the particular powers and laws established under them represent the generational interests of society. However, the powers and laws of each generation have increasingly been created and enforced without respect to the durable law of the people.

Foxes and Hens: Natural Enemies
"That's democracy," you say.

But two foxes and a hen sitting around a dinner table voting on what's for dinner is not a durable basis for justice. A well heeled hen may be able to buy off the foxes for a while, but eventually all foxes reveal their true nature.

The Responsibility to Make a Profit
One would think that big businesses would recoil at the prospect of sharing a dinner table with those who can crush and are likely to eat them, but we've seen instead that they are more inclined to lie in bed with the foxes than try to fight them off.

In the short run, it's far less expensive to cope with unjust regulations than it is to fight them. Both turning public opinion and litigation are costly matters, especially when one of your opponents controls the lion's share of the media and the other can coerce even the unwilling to pay for investigations (no matter how rigged) and lawyers.

But large businesses have another motivation: The more regulations government passes, the more expensive it is to comply. The more expensive it is to comply, the better insulated larger businesses are against smaller competitors.

In other words, big businesses just stay big, or get bigger -- until at last the regulations by which they are bound strangle them out of existence, and government either lets them fail or "rescues" them with taxpayer money, with big business CEOs' willing hands extended, claiming they are "too big to fail," frightening just enough people to assent to the handout.

Just as Ayn Rand Predicted.
In this way, big business becomes virtually indistinguishable from big government in that, instead of relying on liberty-based market forces to determine their success or failure, they are able to manipulate the money right out of taxpayer hands, without respect to each person's individual choices to buy or not buy the products they make.

Everything has a cost, and sometimes we have to admit to ourselves that we can't afford it. The world is just too big to pay for everything for everybody.

We can mask the costs through layers of bureaucracy, but we cannot eliminate them. When we allow individual freedom to choose winners and losers in commerce, we can identify success and failure by the market's reaction to the collective personal choices each person willingly expresses for himself through his pattern of consumption. 

Or we can take the position of the foxes sitting at the dinner table -- eager to take from others something that by right does not belong to us -- all the while claiming moral superiority behind a specious ruse of "democracy." 

You can call that a lot of things, but it isn't liberty. - Cam Beck   

May 04, 2009

Don't Panic. Just Lead.

Bethharte_thom1 At MPDailyFix, Beth Harte related a story about how a friend of hers, who is a senior-level marketer, was offered employment with junior-level pay. She goes on to explain some of the reasons this is happening and why she believes it will become more commonplace if marketers don't show their value. She's right. But if I can add my own perspective here, the problem Beth identifies can be understood economically and solved in the same terms.

Unemployment means there are too many people for too few jobs. In other words, there is a surplus of labor.

Surpluses tend to drive down prices.

The price of labor is measured in wages. Thus, when there is a labor surplus in any industry (like marketing), it tends to depress the wages of the people in that industry.

This is especially true when the hiring manager believes it doesn't matter from which part of the labor pool he chooses. One person is just as good as another -- or in Beth's words -- a commodity.

Being good -- being great -- these things don't matter unless we distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack. It is the perception of our expertise and effectiveness that will enable us to demand higher wages.

Actual expertise can help drive perceived expertise, but it does not guarantee it. Now, more than ever, a marketer must be both good and an excellent self-promoter.

Doing this effectively is about all the things Beth mentioned. Among them:

  • Be a leader.
  • Measure.
  • Document.
  • Foster and nurture relationships.
  • Continuously improve.

However, this effort shouldn't resemble a campaign -- which is temporary and smacks of insincerity. In order to assure others of our value, we must first strive to be valuable. We must both improve the product and promote the improvement.

Luckily, in our cases, the act of successfully promoting the improvement, in some ways, actually helps to improve the product -- especially when we're willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

Instead of curse the conditions that led to this difficulty, we must embrace it as an opportunity to revolutionize the way we practice marketing. And we can apply to our clients the wisdom we gained from the experience of practicing it on ourselves.

I'm afraid that this won't guarantee a happy ending for everyone -- even a lot of the good ones. However, being a jack of all trades (and more importantly, being the sort of person who can adapt to changing circumstances) all but promises that we'll find someplace to be of use. - Cam Beck

May 01, 2009

Who are you calling a sell-out?

Rocco-dispirito-new-show-casting-call Awhile back, I wrote about Anthony Bourdain's criticism of Rocco DiSpirito for what some of Bourdain's fans called "selling out." (Anthony Bourdain: Hypocrite ... or Genius?). I asked a Bourdain fan, who (about a year after I wrote the piece) came to criticize DiSpirito and praise Bourdain, exactly how "sell-out" is defined. His answer is revealing.

...but at one point he [DiSpirito] was a serious chef making good food ..then he made the decision of saying i want to become a "star" and ill do anything i can do get there. but i wont do it through my food, ill do it through a marketing machine...

This, he said, qualifies DiSpirito as a sell-out.

Specter I thought about this conversation again when Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania switched parties because, in his own words, he did not think he could win as a Republican.

I am unwilling to have my 29-year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.

He also added, "I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,"  but if that's the case I wonder why it took him so long to discover what the rest of the GOP has known for decades.

Like DiSpirito, Specter has been accused of being a sell-out. But also like DiSpirito, Specter simply made a calculated decision to do something that was in his own self-interests.

That alone doesn't make either of them a sell-out.

Even Specter's 2001 suggestion that representatives not be allowed to change parties between elections doesn't make him a sell-out. If you're tempted to call him one, it just means you have to better identify the principles that motivate him, not the principles that you think he should have.

Nm_keyes Alan Keyes, the former Reagan diplomat, political candidate, and occasional contributor to WorldNetDaily, deftly points out the hypocrisy of Michael Steel, the RNC chairman, to denigrate Specter's action as entirely self-serving. [pargraph breaks added for readability]

Steele has no problem sacrificing principle in order to keep politicians like Specter in the GOP ranks. He sees them as the key to victory and he has made it clear that, as far as he's concerned, winning is the only thing that matters.

Unfortunately for him, Specter's switch is entirely consistent with that principle.

Specter has rightly concluded that Republican primary voters will reject him in 2010, as they would have in 2004 had it not been for the help he received from Rick Santorum and others who put party loyalty above their commitment to the nation's fundamental moral principles.

By running as a Democrat, Specter feels that he stands a better chance of winning the general election. As far as principle goes, the only difference between Specter and Steele is that Specter will now reach for victory while being true to his leftist views.

Meantime, the Michael Steele Republicans, as they fume over his desertion, further demonstrate their willingness to seek victory by betraying the party's supposed conservatism.

Similarly, DiSpirito's decision to sell something besides the food he personally cooks doesn't make him a sell-out. It just means that he is interested in doing something other than what some people (like Bordain) want him to do.

That's his freedom. That's his right. And certainly in DiSpirito's case, it's entirely harmless.

To be sure, no one on this earth always live up to the principles they say they hold dear, 100% of the time with 100% consistency. One can make a mistake with respect to those principles -- or a series of mistakes -- and not be a sell-out.

But be warned: If you disappoint or mislead people who mistakingly ascribe certain principles to you, you will sacrifice your own credibility with those people, and you may not recover from it.

It's risky to be transparent and authentic, but hopefully the risk will just motivate us to be a better people who can act, more often than not, consistently with principles we've promised we have. - Cam Beck

P.S. For a great piece on branding and authenticity, I suggest this letter from Mike Rowe of The Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs.

April 29, 2009

FAA vs. NYC: A Federal Case Against Narcissism and the Abuse of Power

Air_Force_One_over_Mt._Rushmore Like a lot of people, I was outraged by the presidential airplane "photo op" that frightened a lot of New Yorkers. In spite of professed knowledge that the stunt could stoke the fears of residents and visitors, federal officials demanded secrecy and even threatened federal sanctions against the city if the secret got out.

Think about that for a second.

This wasn't a matter of national security. It was an attempt to get a cool looking photograph to put in publicity materials.

In other words, it was a "branding" exercise -- or at least what passes as branding in some circles.

Still, federal officials had the hubris to threaten peacekeepers and representatives with the full force and weight of the federal government for being so dastardly as to try to prevent the public from panicking.

(This, by the way, makes a strong case for diligently protecting individual liberty, for it is the peculiar nature of granting the power to incite and destroy that leads it to its intolerable abuse.)

The cost for this photo shoot, not including the time spent on damage control after the fact, was already $328,835, and according to an FAA memo, they knew it would cost that much. On a federal scale, $328,835 isn't a lot of money -- at least, when you're not concerned about whose money it really is.

But if they were committed to wasting taxpayer money (and I've never been alive to witness a time when the government wasn't so committed) they could have at least wasted less of it.

A decent painter -- or even a Photoshop expert -- could have simulated the event for much less.

Heck, with all the Obama sycophants out there, they probably could have found someone to donate their time to the cause of promoting him or the office he now holds.

It's true that the terrible memories of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are still alive in New York. Given the repercussions of forgetting history, we can all be glad of that.

I suggest we follow New York's example by learning a lesson from this:

No matter how brightly we think our star shines, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that our wants are more important than those we're supposed to serve. That is a foolish trap. Branding is a farce if we make it all about us. When we do that, it's not branding at all -- but narcissism. - Cam Beck