Research Project could show, how to use Weblogs as a solid Infrastructure for Viral Marketing

Wired reports about an interesting research project at the Hewlett Packard Information Dynamics Lab: based on data from Intelliseek's BlogPulse researchers there are trying to figure out, how certain pieces of information (more specifically: URLs) are being spread through the blogosphere. They are especially interested in building a model which can explain why and how certain "ideas grow from isolated topics into full-blown epidemics that "infect" large populations." The project is still in a very early stage and the "Blog Epidemic Analyzer" on its website is only based on a very narrow period of three weeks in May 2003. But there are already some interesting results:
When they plotted the links and topics shared by various sites, they discovered that topics would often appear on a few relatively unknown blogs days before they appeared on more popular sites. "What we're finding is that the important people on the Web are not necessarily the people with the most explicit links (back to their sites), but the people who cause epidemics in blog networks," said researcher Eytan Adar. These infectious people can be hard to find because they do not always receive attribution for being the first to point to an interesting idea or news item.
To solve this problem HP researchers are working on a new algorithm called iRank:
Unlike Google's PageRank algorithm, which ranks websites based on overall popularity, the iRank algorithm ranks sites based on how good they are at injecting ideas into the mainstream. (...)"
Very interesting ! If they are successful, a new blog search engine using the iRank algorithm could for example make viral marketing campaigns, which are now usually random and chance-driven, much more predictable...
Read More

HAEFTLING - A new Fashion Label is born

Since 1898 inmates of the Berlin State Prison are making clothes and accessories for their own needs. But recently a marketing agency had the idea to market these products professionally to the outside world. They created a new brand - HAEFTLING (inmate) - and set up a website - www.haeftling.de. It all looked very sophisticated and well designed. Then the spin-machine was started and many German newspapers, like Der Spiegel or Stern, carried the story a few weeks ago (Article in English on DW World). The idea became an instant success and in less than a month the website was flooded with over 3600 orders from all over the world !! There was just one hitch: only 50 inmates were working for the HAEFTLING label and they couldn't keep up with all the orders coming in. So the e-commerce system had to be shut down for the time being and 30 additional inmates were hired. The interesting thing is that according to an article in the FTD, nearly every German penitentiary is selling products made by inmates. But Herr Ledesi, the agency behind all this, did something totally different: they didn't just start selling shirts from yet another prison tailor shop. Instead they came up with a very elaborate concept: the brand, the website, the story - everything feels very authentic and makes you want to buy this stuff. In fact, they did their homework so well that nobody seems to ask an obvious question: How good is the quality ? None of the articles mentioned above says anything about this ! Perhaps everybody assumes that the products are as perfect as the branding !? Which is of course a classical function of a brand - but this kind of trust-building usually takes a bit longer than just a few weeks !! There are still quite a few loose ends to tie up, tough: besides the quality issue, for example, it won't be possible to boost output in that one single prison after a certain level is reached. If they move the production outside, the products would loose a lot of their authenticity. But perhaps they can establish some kind of prison network, where many small groups are all working for the HAEFTLING label. This would create much needed jobs for a lot of inmates. Anyway, if they solve these problems, it is pretty easy to predict that very soon HAEFTLING will reach cult status at internet speed - perhaps even worldwide !! And it has the potential to become a real best practice for "How to build a great international brand in today's world - with nothing but extraordinary products, a decent website and a little bit PR to start the buzz..." ...but however this plays out, it is already an excellent example for how to create a Purple Cow !
Read More

Flying as the Upper Class...

If you have never heard of Ryan Air or EasyJet, because you don't have to, you might want to check out the new premium service from Virgin Atlantic. It is called, quite appropriately, the "Upper Class Suite". In a time when most of the world's airlines are pursuing more or less the same strategy to overcome the current crisis, Virgin is trying something different. The Upper Class Suite is not the usual "a little better food & a little more space for a lot more money" approach. Instead Virgin has reinvented premium air travel with great attention to detail: e.g. they completely changed the configuration of the cabin, so that all seats have direct access to an aisle – even the window seats. The design of the seat itself looks also pretty extraordinary. It's no longer just a seat but - well - a whole suite... Hey, and they even got an on board bar and a massage service... A really sleek concept !!
Read More

Want to be lucky? Well, just be it!

Prof. Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire has studied what makes some people lucky and others not. His surprising results: it's not luck that makes certain people lucky, but their way of thinking and acting. So luck can even be learnt ! At first this sounds absurd. But after reading an article about it on Fast Company, it starts to make sense ! This excerpt from the interview with Mr. Wiseman shows how this works:
Q: What are some of the ways that lucky people think differently from unlucky people? A: One way is to be open to new experiences. Unlucky people are stuck in routines. When they see something new, they want no part of it. Lucky people always want something new. They're prepared to take risks and relaxed enough to see the opportunities in the first place. Q: How did you uncover that in your lab? A: We did an experiment. We asked subjects to flip through a news-paper that had photographs in it. All they had to do was count the number of photographs. That's it. Luck wasn't on their minds, just some silly task. They'd go through, and after about three pages, there'd be a massive half-page advert saying, STOP COUNTING. THERE ARE 43 PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS NEWSPAPER. It was next to a photo, so we knew they were looking at that area. A few pages later, there was another massive advert -- I mean, we're talking big -- that said, STOP COUNTING. TELL THE EXPERIMENTER YOU'VE SEEN THIS AND WIN 150 POUNDS [about $235]. For the most part, the unlucky would just flip past these things. Lucky people would flip through and laugh and say, "There are 43 photos. That's what it says. Do you want me to bother counting?" We'd say, "Yeah, carry on." They'd flip some more and say, "Do I get my 150 pounds?" Most of the unlucky people didn't notice. (...)
The rest of the interview is also a funny and worth read ! Full of obvious stuff that perhaps really works. Mr. Wiseman also names four principles to create good fortune in your live...
1. Maximize Chance Opportunities
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing, and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, which include building and maintaining a strong network, adopting a relaxed attitude to life, and being open to new experiences. 2. Listen to Your Lucky Hunches Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. They also take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities -- for example, by meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts. 3. Expect Good Fortune Lucky people are certain that the future will be bright. Over time, that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it helps lucky people persist in the face of failure and positively shapes their interactions with other people. 4. Turn Bad Luck Into Good Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, they don't dwell on the ill fortune, and they take control of the situation.
Oh, and if you don't know how to apply these principles in your everyday life, you might want to consider joining the Luck School ! ;-)
Read More