July 27th, 2009

I Pity the Fool Who Uses IE6

Any web designer or developer who faces the daunting task of making the sites they build function and look like their original design in any version of Internet Explorer feels the same loathing and distaste I feel for Microsoft. Their utter lack of support of web standards is a punch in the gut to every designer or developer who cares about delivering a rich and consistent experience to anyone visiting the sites they build. Sure Firefox has taken the lead, but the fact remains that over 40% of usage is some version of IE and the fact that nearly 15% of users out there still use IE6, well that makes me want to cry, scream, and chuck things (don’t worry…soft things: pillows, feathers, anything Nerf).

But throwing so much hate at Microsoft is like hating air. We need air, and we need Microsoft (at least for now) even if that air is polluted and smells a little bit like a 2-day old cheese sandwich someone left under your couch. I think it’s going to get better and here’s why: good old-fashioned competition.

The Invisible Hand of Adam Smith is reaching under the couch and grabbing the stinky cheese sandwich and at least thinking of throwing it out. The air feels a tiny bit cleaner….did someone spray some Febreeze….uh-huh, uh-huh….I think they did. Microsoft is being forced to adapt, to change, to come out into the open and actually give its customers good things. Microsoft will someday have to give its users what they want as opposed to the other way around.

What makes me think this? A couple weeks ago when Google announced its browser based operating system for netbooks I felt a small stitch of schadenfreude. defines “schadenfreude” as “satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.” Say the words “new operating system” and throw in the fact that it is Google saying it and I guarantee the suits at Microsoft begin to sweat (a little bit more). And to me this feels good, real good.

Sure, this operating system is intended for netbooks only, or small computers with little processing power or hard drive space, the fact remains that someday very soon even a small segment of the population will be using another operating system not built by Microsoft. This is a great thing. It means even more competition.

But what about Apple and OS X you might ask? Well, Apple makes an amazing operating system, and we know they support web standards. Their browser Safari, is based on the WebKit layout engine and so is Chrome, Google’s browser and the basis for their new operating system. However, the fact remains, OS X only holds about 5% of the operating system market worldwide. What Apple needs, and what we all need is more movement and more effort to releasing Microsoft’s steely grip on the operating system market, and the release of another new operating system, especially by a huge player like Google, is a small step in that direction.

Google’s complete domination of search forced Microsoft to go back to the drawing board, and they came back with Bing, which is gaining at least some favorable reviews. Perhaps even the likes of Google Docs or OpenOffice is forcing Microsoft to rethink how people will use software (as a web service) and how they pay for software (free, open source).

So, you might ask, why care? Just use a different operating system, use another browser, use anything other than what is offered by Microsoft. That sounds fine and dandy and I can do that in my personal life, but as a web professional, I just can’t. I have to care what any of my potential web site visitors use, and I know that a lot of them are using Microsoft products. Also as someone who loves the internet, who has based his career and thus life on it, I hope, need, wish and pray that there can be something better out there than what Microsoft is currently offering.

I can start telling people that if they continue using IE6 that someday soon their computers will melt, locust will infest their homes, and their friends will just stop liking them. I can tell people they would be happier if they bought a Mac. OR, Microsoft could simply begin to build better products and thanks to our good friend competition I think they will, and this is the really important part, if they don’t I think we all lose.

Software as we know it today is moving to the cloud. Cloud computing is here now and people are using it without even really thinking about it thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter just to name a couple of big and trendy sites and/or ideas/concepts. That said, and I will use a very technical term here, if the browser we use to connect to the cloud SUCKS, then the experience overall is going to suck too. If the big brains and the cool designers who will re-invent the web and essentially computing itself cannot deliver the same or similar experience to all users then that is going to limit the overall impact. Sure, the hipsters and the geeks will understand and revel in this new web, but what about your parents? (They’re just different kind of geeks.) What about the average, everyday person who thinks they have the latest and greatest technology — who boots up their new Vista-based machine, opens IE8 and all of a sudden it’s just giant cheese-sandwich under the sofa time? Stinky, cheesy air, sucky browser, bad experience and they might not even know any better. I want web standards, consistent user experience and a delicious, fresh cheese sandwich (oh and maybe some of those Sun Chips, yeah those are real good), I want the web to be able to grow unencumbered by products designed not to innovate but to protect turf and market share, which are forced on the unknowing (or the uncaring?).

So either Microsoft is going to do this on their own (won’t happen) or the market will force them to do it (happening now). So let’s all hope for Microsoft’s “misfortune”, and every time an innovator big or small takes a chunk out of Microsoft’s market position let’s all feel a little “satisfaction or pleasure.” We’re all going to better off….even Microsoft.



Perception rules

July 9th, 2009


I love this photo of my son Harrison. When he was about 3 years old, already a huge fan of Spiderman, he got an opportunity to have his picture taken with the one and only. At least that was the case in his mind. I love the fact that he is all nervous with excitement cause he is actually that close to Spiderman, the crime fighting web slinger so widely publicized. The nervous excitement is obvious with his fists clinched and his contained smile. After all, In his mind, at that time, this was actually Spiderman and nothing would convince him otherwise. unbeknown to him this was actually a friend of ours dressed up as a promo to drive moms into my wife’s kids clothing store with their Spiderman crazed boys. The perception was the rule that day for my son who talk about this encounter for days. We were all kids once and this is not hard to believe. The idea of what is perceived is based in reality permeates all of use beyond our childhood days.

That is the key idea behind good brands. To control perception that their product or service is the best out there and that it promises more than their competitors. All to often you see this perception not live up to reality, when you believe the brand to be one way and it turns out to disappoint you. Target recently went through this when the in-store experience fell short of customer’s expectations. What consumers had perceived the store experience to be based on the fancy designer ads that touted designer wares was not what the customers thought was an equal promise. Some people were so disappointed that they had filed law suites because Target was not living up to their promises. When done right and the perception is controlled brands endure a long life and cross generation gaps as trusted staples in consumer’s daily lives. A good example of this is Nike and Starbucks. Perceptions are fickle and can have negative affects that are hard to reverse. Take the US auto manufacturers for example.

It is undeniable that the US automakers had created a romance between man and machine. From the early days, when mass production made cars that the masses could afford, to the incredibly styled coach builds that graced Hollywood during the golden age, up through the ’50s and ’60s when the American car companies were the envy of the world. But something happened that changed everything in the minds of the American public. A period of greed ran through the companies and it was whomever could build the cheapest cars the fastest without any concern for what the consumer wanted. The mentality of  “…the consumer will buy what ever we build cause we are the leaders in the industry…” was the mind set of the top brass. Mix that with the economic turmoil and the gas crunch of the late ’70s and you have created a great opportunity for new entries in the industry—the Japanese paradigm. The Japanese came in with unusual cars that were small and quirky. But they where cheap and fuel efficient. exactly what the consumers needed and eventually wanted. The Japanese automakers changed the perception of quality and efficiency. Ever since that time this stigma that American cars were of low quality had set into the minds of people and that perception continues today. It has taken a great deal of effort and expense for the US automakers to shake this perception but still has not overcome it. The fact is that today they create autos with equal if not better quality than foreign automakers that are perceived to have a higher quality product.


We all share in the perception of life and a lot of times it is not what we think it is. We live in an age where we receive a lot of information at our finger tips and sometimes it is easier to believe what you hear and see than taking the time to find the truth. But sometimes that is okay, like my son, believing there is someone he can look up to that creates a feeling of wonder and amazement. And, in his mind, maybe one day he can do the same thing for others.

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Scion’s Marketing Backfires

July 6th, 2009


A Scion Marketing team was in Denver over the weekend with an original marketing idea. As opposed to the traditional way of car shopping by visiting dealerships, Scion brought their fleet of cars to the streets of downtown Denver.  The Scion Street Team set up camps at various locations allowing people to test drive their cars around the block. In order to lure more pedestrians to drive their cars, they offered gift certificates to the various store fronts that allowed them to set up camp out front of their locations. These locations included: City, O’ City, Tokyo Joe’s and Wax Trax.

Although this may seem like a unique concept, many of the people taking part in this event had no interest what so ever in any of the Scion vehicles. People were asked to test drive one of their cars and then fill out a survey on their perception of the Scion’s xD, xB, and tC, in exchange for a free gift certificate. People hastily filled out the surveys, not taking them seriously, just to get their “free money”. In other words, the businesses that participated seemed to be reaping the benefits of Scion’s advertising attempt.

Many of the street team members were fairly in tune with the fact the people had no real interest in their cars. So they allowed people to skip the test drive, incompletely fill out the survey and get them on their merry way. Scion also hired professional drivers to accompany the few people that actually took advantage of the test drive, who seemed especially unenthusiastic “baby sitting” these drivers.

To me, Scion’s plan completely failed. I believe I would be hard pressed to find anyone who felt differently about the cars after having driven them. City, O’ City, Tokyo Joe’s and Wax Trax definitely experienced a surplus of business from the over-the-top marketing campaign. It seemed all parties that participated in this event benefited, except for Scion.

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Paul, take it up with Kodak

June 29th, 2009

Steve McCurry Photograph

Last week Kodak announced the end of the line for Kodachrome, a color positive film often associated with it’s vibrant and saturated colors. While my preference for film shooting lies in black and white (I’ll shoot an occasional roll of expired color negative film) it’s a shame to see these photographic hallmarks (Kodachrome, Polaroid) going the way of the Dodo. A major factor for Kodachrome’s discontinuation can be attributed to the complex process required to develop the film, however, one cannot help to correlate the loss of these analog mediums to the advent and exponential development of the “digital age”.

Available on Kodak’s website is this tasty gallery of images taken with Kodachrome film. The photograph featured at the top of this post was taken by Steve McCurry who has created world renowned photographs with the film.

In no way am I saying film is better then digital, but give me film over digital any day. That’s just me. I prefer the quality, the imperfections, the process, the patience required, the darkroom and the knowledge that I can hold and inspect my film in a physical space far away from a computer, I cannot do that with 1’s and 0’s.

Regardless, hopefully Paul still has his Nikon camera and can find some other film to shoot with for some time to come.

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MicroSoft’s Bing and it’s adCenter

June 12th, 2009 screengrab

A $100 million advertising effort on behalf of MicroSoft’s Bing has made a huge number of people in the U.S. aware of the new search engine.It’s still being experienced, used, assessed and positioned for it’s place in the “Internet Experience”.But how does the structure of adCenter, the “adWords” equivalent from this giant of computer innovation fare?

Initial results of the new software and information repository seem to be positive overall; good feature set but some things such as the control panel/desktop need to be refined.Check out the following article and, by all means, add your comments especially if you have first hand experience with using Bing and/or if you have run any PPC through adCenter.  Liquid inc wants to have all information available so that we may serve our customers with the best advice possible.

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Image vs. Experience

June 11th, 2009

My wife and I recently came back from our honeymoon. We went on a 6-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Freedom. What an awesome ship by the way – the food, staff and entertainment were great! The experience as a whole was amazing, but there were some things that stuck out in my mind probably because I work in advertising and marketing. They have to do with their brand image and how it doesn’t completely match up to the expected customer experience.

Carnival came out with their new ‘Fun Ship’ campaign a little bit ago consisting of such tactics as TV commercials and web ads. It positions themselves apart from the competition by focusing on how they provide fun all ages. One of their supporting taglines is ‘Fun for All / All for Fun’. I don’t know if they are too focused on the ‘fun’ aspect of their image and are forgetting about the smaller things but some of them seem to be slipping through the cracks. These small things can really affect how people will rate their overall experience. That can be bad for Carnival because they take their customer ratings pretty seriously. Anything less than an ‘exceeded expectation’ score is a failure in their minds.

Each evening you receive an itinerary called the ‘Carnival Capers’, along with a pretty sweet towel creature, outlining everything you will need to know for the next day of your trip (i.e. eating times, activities, on-board specials, etc). I kept finding mistakes with spelling, grammar, layout and some of the listed information. This may be a sign that they really need some on-board production artists and proofreaders. Those would be pretty sweet gigs, cruising the open seas and visiting some gorgeous places while working. Anyways, the majority of people might not have even noticed all of the mistakes like I did or they did and just didn’t care. In our line of work you usually always make an attempt to cover the ‘what ifs’ since people aren’t always 100% predictable.

You’d think that Carnival would want to continue the great customer experience by making sure everything from soup to nuts was presented to their customers in an acceptable manner. The mistakes really made the itineraries look cheap and like they were an afterthought. They are sort of your lifeline while aboard the ship if you want to take advantage of what is being offered. Another thing was the debarkation process, the how to de-board the ship if you will. The instructions they initially provided you during the briefing meeting the day before were a bit different from what was delivered to your stateroom later that evening. This caused confusion the morning you were to leave the ship. People really get antsy and frustrated on this morning. I just think that they need to have all of their plans more solidified especially since the company wants to exceed everyone’s expectations.

I’m pretty easy going so these issues really didn’t affect my experience but you could tell some of the issues really frustrated a lot of others.  I completely understand that vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing but there are always certain things that come up. These things can really end up being a deal breaker for those who want to cruise again, that customer loyalty won’t be there. Especially since Carnival always wants to exceed every customer’s expectation, it just doesn’t add up for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll definitely cruise with them again. I can’t get the melting chocolate cake desert out of my head. They have a good thing going and I just think they are missing out on a great opportunity to really come full circle with their overall customer experience.


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More goat giveaways

June 1st, 2009

Although Liquid inc. donated goats to needy families during the holiday season of 2008, it appears that the idea of goat donation is catching on globally. What better than to receive a free goat upon the purchase of a new car?



There are really no free lunches!

May 22nd, 2009

Free Chicken???

Did you hear about this thing that Oprah did with KFC?  In theory this idea was great (in a struggling economy and partnering with a national food franchise to give away a free lunch) but then it turn out to be just another typical marketing campaign.  Oprah was trying to continue in her “giving” ways but it kind of back-fired on her.  Now, it turned into a rebate program of which more than 80% (on avg. only 20% of rebates are redeemed) of Americans will be taken advantage of.  I tell you…in this day and age, we can’t buy a break.

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Image vs. Experience

Featured Post Image, Carnival Cruise Ship

“The experience as a whole was amazing, but there were some things that stuck out in my mind probably because I work in advertising and marketing. They have to do with their brand image and how it doesn’t completely match up to the expected customer experience.”

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