Techsmith’s Jing Screen-Capture Platform Saves Developers From Killing Middle-Management

Software development is a hapless job that requires patience and is often the butt of plenty Dilbert jokes. The primary source of most developers frustrations is explaing all of the ‘techie’ jargon to all of the non-technical minded ‘suits’. TechSmith is a company based in Michigan that offers various screen-capture programs that offer several different utilities, such as image capturing, video editing, and web hosting. All with the goal of making developers and anyone who relies on presenting technical work lives easier.

One of their products, Jing, offers the same screen-capture options as other Techsmith products but where it shines is its shara-bility. Users can click-and-drag over images, sections or regions of their screen, then record audio instructions of what they are doing while also using text boxes and arrows. Collaboration of projects is much easier with Jing because the program includes buttons to instantly save and share to Screencast.com, TechSmith’s web hosting service, a separate FTP site, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr. After sharing, Jing automatically creates a URL that is copied to the Jing clipboard and can be share in e-mails, and instant messages.

Jing even offers a spoof portable applications Jing-2-Go

The program would be best suited for software developers who need to explain detailed instructions quickly and painlessly. Jing is FREE to download for both Windows and Mac.

On an eco-friendly note, Jing could potentially reduce fuel consumption, saving co-workers and collaborators the commute driving from office to office to sit through meetings. Al Gore allegedly uses Jing.

Go Green Without Breaking the Bank

The 2010 Honda Insight will be a catalyst that has the potential to make owning a hybrid an affordable option for Main Street, with price tags below $20,000. The past two years at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is exemplary of  the green trend, all of the auto companies presented new models on a green platform, only Honda has been able to make it affordable, for now at least.

There are three elements consistent in hybrid engine design that contributes to better fuel economy.

1) Having both an electric engine and gasoline engine that shuts down during peak power usage.

2)A battery capable of storing large amounts of energy

3) The ability to recapture energy during braking

These are the staples for hybrid design that the automobile industry is working towards as a whole to make the most efficient and affordable. But what about those potential hybrid consumers on a budget? More importantly, what about those consumers that are about to get pink slipped? What options do they have to drive a fuel efficient vehicle while not falling into debt?

There are a variety of options to change transportation behavior: buy a hybrid, carpool, ride a bike, ride a bus, teleconference, all of which require a change in behavior. Aftermarket computer chips are an option that does not require any change whatsoever. A variety of companies offer performance grade computer chips that are installed on the electronic control unit(ECU) of an engine and will optimize an engine’s performance to create higher horsepower and torque and can be utilized for higher fuel efficieny, up to 5 mpg. Once installed, the programmer’s smart system immediately recognizes vital information of the vehicle’s engine, powertrain and transmission, and can be adjusted without having a deep understanding of computer programming. Hypertech offers a Max Energy E-con Programmer, specifically designed to imporve fuel economy, it retails at $329.99 and is available on 22 different car models.

The question is: why are you only able to find these on automobile supply websites, trade publications, and AutoZone? Why aren’t these things at Meijers’, Sears and Target? Buying a performance chip is less expensive with a little les R-O-MPG in the long-term. So when are after-marker computer chips going to break out of the gearhead market and into the green market?

The decline in auto sales over the past few years creates even more opportunity for such a product to thrive in the market. Aftermarket companies such as Hypertech could reach those consumers who want to go green but can’t afford a $26,000 or even a $20,000 hybrid. Sure, ponying up for the Hybrid is the most eco-friendly and will give you more eco-bragging ammo, but let’s face it, people are strapped for cash and not in the new car market, sales volumes over the past few years have shown that. Spending $3,000-$4,000 more for a hybrid, that gets 10-12 more mpg, whereas an E-con Programmer is 1/10 the price increase opposed to buying a hybrid and saves 1/2 as much in fuel economy. Cheaper short-term, comprable long-term.

However, there are some barriers to entry dependant on the success of aftermarket chips. Installing a computer chip is in violation of most car’s warranties that disqualifies an eligibility for engine repair. This is a contractual agreement with the auto companies that aftermarket companies will struggle to overcome, given that the auto companies have tenfold the bargaining power.

So, maybe that is why aftermarket chips are not part of the mass market, there could be other reasons. They could just be slouches for marketers. Regardless, there is an opportunity for a company to introduce a product into the market that is aligned with current trends and nothing is being done about it. Tsk Tsk.

Eco-Trends: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Spotting cultural trends has been a foundation for designing business strategies for ages. Before web 2.0, the dot-com bubble, there was the invent of cable television, all of which drastically changed the media landscape. Aside from technological changes, economic recessions are nothing new either, individually creating new trends and opportunities. In stressful times, people are still able to maintain a sense of humor. How many economists does it take to fix a light bulb? None. It will fix itself in the long-run. Adjusting the same joke to current trends, how many, marketers does it take to switch their light bulbs to an HFL, energy-efficient bulb? Despite the current recession, there are sub-trends of the environmental movement that are the forces responsible for strategies to be changed, questions to be asked, and subsequent jokes to be changed.

The 12 Trends is optimistic in spite of the economic crisis. The authors look past the recession by explaining the importance of not ignoring these eco-trends. Although the article may have been written before the Obama administration released the details of the recovery plan, which appropriated a large chunk to funding environmental projects. The trends do not relate to the macro-level government regulations but rather the grass-roots, societal changes that the future holds. For example, car sharing services, where 8 to 10 people where share ownership to a car and pay a usage fee, is a trend that is gaining traction overseas in metropolises like Paris, challenging the fundamental ideals of American individualism, especially towards car ownership.

The ego-centric mindset of greed inspired consumerism is on the decline according the ECO-STATUS trend. Consumers who are able to collaborate online will align themselves with companies and others who give as much as they take. ECO-STATUS is a behavioral change where being environmentally conscious is ammunition for bragging rights with peers. Conversations starting, “So, how many ponies are under your hood?” are changing to “What’s the MPG?” Because of this, marketers are striving to brand themselves as ECO-ICONIC. Pretentious Prius-driving Yuppies from San Francisco who like the smell of their own farts were early adopters of this trend.

Green products and services are changing the agency culture as well. A British media agency specializes on being easy on the environment by building sand sculptures, burning logos into logs and cutting designs into surf for brands like Adidas and Volkwagen. A TBWA shop creates direct mail pieces that go beyond green by using vegatable-based inks, purifying all waste water and only using paper that comes from a sustainably managed forest.

Getting caught with your green pants down is something all companies need to avoid. ECO-NAKED is the trend of industry watchdogs shaming companies for greenwashing, marketing themselves as ‘green’ while not practicing those promises. Such practices has the potential to kill a brand. It is up to brand managers to carefully analyze the green operations in comparison with their marketing. Web 2.0 has afforded industry watchdogs the resources to voice their displeasure with greenwashers. Reputation managements is crucial within the blogosphere for companies to remain connected with their supporters and more importantly, their cynics. Ultimately, an eco-marketing strategy must coincide with a brand’s story, niche and voice. Watchdogs smell insincerity from a mile away.

Micro-Vlogging Site ’12seconds’ Piggy-backs on Twitter

There’s nothing worse than watching vlogs(video blogs) of people who a) are uninteresting b) creepy c) are not making a fool of themselves d) especially d)talk too long. The whole time you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “why am I watching this?” Or, “watching this could make me sterile”. So what does that mean? We need a new social networking website, as if we didn’t have enough. 12seconds is a micro-blogging site that takes a crack at making vlogging short and sweet, 12 seconds sweet. Currently in alpha testing, it remains to be seen whether 12seconds will pry lonely teenagers across the globe from YouTube, it adds a video dimension to the micro-blogosphere(that’s the first time I ever say blogosphere, and hopefully the last). Users can post from either a webcam or their mobile phone and integrate their videos into a blog, website, Twitter feed, amongst others.

My first post was a video from a concert I went to last summer(Brendan from Umphrey’s McGee and Al from .moe if you’re interested) and took about 5 minutes to upload from the time I hit ‘send’. Potential 12second users could be rudimentally grouped into two categories: those who use it to share with friends, family and colleagues and those who use the site as their soap box because their therapist told them to get out and express themselves. Let’s hope the latter just sticks to YouTube.


Multimedia message on 12seconds.tv
Multimedia message on 12seconds.tv

12seconds can be fully integrated into a TweetDeck and the layout of the site is modeled after Twitter. In a blog post from the creators, they seemed like very big Twitter advocates and explained how they were not attempting to compete with them, but more so piggy-back off them. I also doubt that 12seconds could sway a substantial audience away from YouTube, because its applications are so narrow.

Because the site is currently in alpha testing, round one of two in quality assurance, the developers have set up a voting page for upcoming applications, settings, etc. One of the topics being voted on was privacy settings and whether videos would be featured on the homepage without notifying the user. I think keeping this trust is crucial to the viability of 12seconds, nobody wants to be the next Star Wars kid. I was disappointed when I was able to sign out and search for my username, mine came up, making me think how by some chance my post could wind up on their homepage. My next thought was to check out some of the posts on the homepage, just to see who was embarrassing themselves and unfortunately didn’t come up with anything great. My next thought was a Scrubs-ish daydream of a bunch of derelicts crowded around a laptop busting chops from seeing me ball my eyes out.

The big question is whether 12seconds will make some traction and become a social media powerhouse. I think it will have a hard time stepping out from Twitter’s shadow, everyone seems to be all over it at the moment. Is 12seconds a really cool addition to the mess we call social networking? Yes. Do I think I’ll be posting vlogs as much as check my Facebook? No. Will we be talking about 12seconds 5 years from now? Maybe.

Building Your Own Brand: Story, Niche, Voice

When professionals give advice to students of the ad industry, they like to say you need to “build your own brand.” More often than not, they leave it at that while leaving students, myself included, bewhildered with grasping to draw a comparison between what they’ve learned about branding in class and their own personal development.

Should I take out a 30-second network spot? Well, it’d have to be late night because that’s all I can afford.

Last week, Rishad Tobaccowala, Cheif Innovation Officer for Publicis/Starcom shed some much needed light on personal brand building. After a very insighful presentation, he took a question regarding what he looks for in job candidates. His reply, “mongrels.” What? He went on to explain he’s looking for well-rounded, curious, persistent individuals with a sense of humor. He went on to explain the foundations of a personal brand- a story, a niche and a voice.

So let me tell you a story: My freshman year was wrapping up and I needed to find a summer job. I knew I didn’t want to go back to waiting tables and I wanted to do something adventurous, I wanted a cool job. That landed me on a job search site called coolworks.com, very fitting. I applied to a variety of jobs in national parks all over the country. Eventually, I had some options: Yellowstone, Lake Tahoe or Lake Powell. I took the job at Lake Powell with a very vague job description and a lot more ambiguities of the location, the work environment, and plenty of other variables. Day one at Lake Powell was so overwhelming, the natural beauty, the distance from home(I had never spent more than two weeks away from home and my contract was for over three months). After a few days, I still didn’t know what I was going to be doing. They said I’d be working at Adventure Cove, the resort’s beach area. OK, so I’m gonna be working on a beach, sounds like a cool job. While in the HR office, I saw a job posting for wakeboard instructors that seemed very enticing, except that I was an amateur wakeboarder at best. regardless, I volunteered for the job and got it.

The rest of my summer was filled with excitement, adventure and new experiences that I will cherish for a lifetime. My appreciation for the outdoors grew immensely and I made lifelong friends from all over the world. My wakeboarding skills developed because I was on the boat giving lessons and riding three days a week. A defining moment was when a group that I went camping with were stranded on a beach for over two days with little supplies. Luckily, we had a cell phone but in order to get reception we had to hike up a 500 plus foot plateau. Eventually we were rescued and I was able to get to work on time for my next shift. The experience is something I can laugh about now, but let me assure you of the anxiety I felt while stranded on that beach. I tell that story every chance I get and consider it a huge part of my branding story.

So what is my niche in three words? Adventure, there’s lessons to be learned with every rock waiting to be turned over.  Listening, whether it be music or CEO’s every source has something to be gained, be a sponge. Leadership, march to the beat of a different drummer, be your own voice.

My voice? The culmination of my life experiences has shaped my voice, which admittedly, I am still finding. But in three words: Passionate, Spontaneous, and Curiousity.

I thank Rishad for the insights he shared. Already his words have impacted how I work on my advertising capstone classes as well as how I construct my story, niche and voice. I hope to be in his shoes someday.

Super Bowl Advertisers Drop the Online Search Ball

It’s been almost a week since the dust has settled from advertising’s biggest day,  Super Bowl Sunday and industry guru’s have had the chance to crown the winners and shame the losers. But in the digital age how do you crown a winner? Are we still gauging a spots success on recall? What is to be said of web traffic or search results? Nielson IAG indexed the Budweiser Clydesdale Stick spot as both the most-liked and the most-recalled. According to comScore budweiser.com ranked second as the top gaining Super Bowl advertiser in web traffic, behind GoDaddy.

Dropping $3 million on a spot surely makes any marketing manager a little nervous. So why did so many advertisers in the Super Bowl not follow up their big media buy with some sort of search-marketing plan? Some advertisers didn’t even show up in the first page of a Google search. According to an article on Advertising Age’s website, only one in five advertisers had a specific call to action to their website. However, 65% of the advertisers bought search terms related to their commercials. Slogans that advertisers spent $100,000 per second to brand were still available on Google after Sunday. How are these guys not getting the message? I can imagine a good percentage of Super Bowl watchers that are sitting in their living rooms watching the game with a computer in their lap. The fact that research companies are doing the research says one thing, but that advertisers could completely ignore the importance of making the online-offline connection is just annoying for someone in my fourth year of being in MSU’s advertising program, one word could epitimize what I’ve been taught—digital(group project is a close second).

Some of my favorite spots of the Super Bowl were Pepsi’s ‘Forever Young’, any montage that includes Bob Dylan, Bruce Lee, John Belushi and surfing has my vote. The split screen images transcended generations to relate back to the way Pepsi has branded themselves for the past four or so decades-the drink of your generation. The spot had a fresh, hip vibe that Gen Yer’s could appreciate and Baby Boomers could reminisce about.

Watch Pepsi’s – Forever Young

Another spot I really liked was Hulu, not because of the creative or because I am a particular fan of Alec Baldwin(truthfully, before 30 Rock I despised him) but because the site is getting some mainstream attention. I was in a room of 12 people and only 2 knew what Hulu was, including myself.  In case you didn’t know before the Super Bowl, Hulu is a premium content streaming video that launched in March 2008 and is only currently offered in the United States. Although, it would not be in direct competition with YouTube, Hulu’s main reason for existence is in response to the demand for professional content to be regulated after copyright claims were brought against YouTube in recent years. Time will tell whether Hulu will be making the push for time slots on mainstream television, but their somewhat creepy spot last Sunday definitely raised some eyebrows.

Watch Hulu Super Bowl commercial