Thursday, 31 July 2008

Cuil Brand Autopsy

It's not only the catastrophic mismatch between hype and performance that PR and marketing bloggers are raking over but the Cuil brand itself. Here's one very good analysis that summarises all of the problems rather nicely but makes the good point that others (namely Google) commit equally awful crimes against sound branding logic

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Wishing Cuil Well But...

Like many others, I tried out the much hyped pretender to Google's throne yesterday. It worked reasonably well for me but it looks like there's been an almost instant backlash to Cuil's claims of search superiority because of technical issues. Unfortunately these reports highlight problems with the inherent design of Cuil as much as being the result of so many people trying out the new service on its first day.

Cuil looks like becoming an object lesson in how PR should be used to manage expectations when a new product or service is launched. In this case it appears that the opportunity to control the hype wasn't applied as rigorously as it should have been. There is always a risk that the raw enthusiasm for new technology can overbalance sound judgements about a product launch. This is especially true of a search engine service for which the basic expectations are that it is BETTER than Google; and that it works. The core of the problem can lie in how PR and marketing interact and sometimes don't properly communicate.

So why did they go for a full blown, all singing and dancing launch? The beleagered Cuil spokesperson makes a good point that launching the service with a beta tag wouldn't have stopped the criticism either.

The solution? It's a hard call. There's been many touted challengers to Google and none has really shone. But we think the media wants to see a serious alternative to Google. Don't forget Google came out of the blue too (anyone remember how Alta Vista turned ever one's heads once upon a time not many years ago?). So there is a deep well of support and goodwill.

So Cuil can turn it around? The answer is maybe but they need to respond fast which to their credit they're doing. Going forward inject a little more realism into the PR machine. Maintain open relations with the media. Invite bloggers for briefings and updates. Demonstrate a sense of humour and quietly start to get it right.

But are there second chances in Web 2.0/Pr 2.0 launches? Well that'll be the most interesting outcome of the whole debacle. So let's see where Cuil's reputation sits in six months time. Hero or Zero? Dud or Dude?

Friday, 25 July 2008


Yahoo is closing down its online music service. Good article on Ars Technica on how this decision also sounds the death knell of music digital rights management as the Yahoo service is the last((?) service with DRM.

Wish you were here...

Last week I left GBC in the capable (if jealous) hands of my colleagues, and travelled to Turkey for a quick dose of sunshine. Holidays are the perfect chance to get away from it all, and for me that usually means technology too.

The end of our five hour flight was signalled by mobile phone start-up jingles all around me. While for some, the whole point of going away is to be unreachable, for others it seems that news from home is just too good to miss.

But on day 4, calamity struck, as my digital camera took its last ever photo, and my trusty mobile phone stepped into the breach to capture those pina colada moments. For the first time I even taunted friends from afar using my phone's postcard function, (at least they beat you back to England).

True, there was more texting on the beach than ever before, but it’s not replacing the stalls brimming with tacky souvenirs and traditional postcards. After all, you can’t get Turkish Delight by satellite signal, and you can’t put a digital postcard on your mantelpiece. Old habits die hard.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Snail Mail'll Get You!

New anti-piracy initiative between UK ISPs and the music industry is supposed to have real claws. But somehow the threat of getting a good old fashioned letter in the post to re-educate you doesn't seem to be that threatening. What's more ISPs are falling over backwards to say what they won't do to back up those letters with strong evidence of real wrong-doing e.g. no spying on what their customers get up to. So some deterrent?

Monday, 21 July 2008

Green PR Keeps Its Shine in the Gloom

Gathering economic gloom is said to be making consumers and businesses forget their enthusiasm for green issues. Green products and initiatives are labelled as too expensive and out of step with talk of recession. So why have we launched a green communications practice when prospects aren't looking as rosy (or vibrant green) as they did?

The reasons are simple

1. Clients want more not less advice on green communication issues. There's evidence that the first flush of green marketing back fired. So clients want consultants who can help build up credible cases for sustainability. And the issues of making our economies and societies prepared for climate change aren't going away regardless of the state of the economy

2. Sustainability suits a time of austerity. For example, green computing is about saving money on electricity and IT spending on hardware and software while continuing to use information technology to make organisations more competitive and responsive

3. We are launching our practice based on the back of several years worth of quiet but solid experience in working on green issues from a B2C, a B2B and political perspective. The market is looking for more sophisticated responses to how environmental issues are exploited, making our multidisciplinary approach so much more appropriate than other offerings.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Introducing the It Phone

They don’t make it easy for you to get your hands on an iPhone 3G, do they? First there were the Friday queues, now the phone has pretty much sold out in the UK. And that’s only the black version, which, judging from last week’s crowds in front of the O2 and Carphone Warehouse stores, appeals exclusively to alpha males. Which makes us wonder, what kind of phone would get us women queuing? Handset manufacturers, the race for the It Phone is on. And here are some tips for getting it right.

Thursday, 10 July 2008


News today that the original ERNIE computer, which generated random numbers for UK Government Premium Bonds, is on display at London's Science Museum. Made me think how much this was a bold PR move by the post-war UK Government. How to get citizens to give the Government money at a time of austerity? Well let's win their trust by getting a computer not a civil servant to randomly choose the winning number. An added bonus was associating government policy with what was then considered white-hot high tech - another antidote for the post-war murk n gloom