A Look At Crowdfunding Guidelines In India And Why It Needs To Be Revisited [Take One]

Technology startups are finding it a tad easier to get funded with the many sources of funding and the fact that VCs are more active than before. We are also witnessing that the valuations are improving too.

Crowdfunding

Apart from the usual non-traditional sources, friends & family, angels, angel networks, accelerators and seed funds, India is now witnessing the rise of crowd-funding platforms.

Raising of pooled managed investment funds has always been a regulated area. SEBI in June 2014, released a consultation paper (“Paper”) which seeks to regulate crowdfunding, which is not pool managed, but the investor directly invests into the startup.

Here’s a short critique:

The Paper defines (sort of) Crowdfunding as ‘solicitation of funds from multiple investors through a web-based platform or social networking site for a specific project, business venture or social cause.’ Perhaps, the traditional angel networks (which are not web-based) can breathe a bit easy? Well, it is yet to be seen.

There are other legislations, including Companies Act 2013, which details lengthy procedures for raising investments.

Who can set up a Crowdfunding Platform?

Class I Entities:

  • Recognized Stock Exchanges with nationwide terminal presence (RSEs)
  • SEBI registered Depositories

Class II Entities: Technology Business Incubators (TBIs)

  • Promoted by Central or State Government through bodies such as NSTEDB (National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board) under Department of Science & Technology
  • Functioning as a registered society or a non-profit company (section 8),
  • Having at least 5 years of experience,
  • Having a minimum net worth of Rs. 10 crores

Class III Entities:

  • Associations and Networks of PE or Angel Investors
  • With a track record of a minimum of 3 years
  • With a minimum member strength of 100 active members from the relevant industry
  • Which are registered as Section 8 companies under Companies Act 2013 with a paid up share capital of Rs. 2 Crores

We believe that the regulator should re-examine the intent to promote crowdfunding as not-for-profit activity.

Who can invest?

The Accredited Investors, who is:

  • Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs) as defined in SEBI (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) regulations, 2009.
  • Companies incorporated under the Companies Act, with a minimum net worth of Rs.20 crore.
  • High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs) with a minimum net worth of Rs. 2 Crores or more (excluding the value of the primary residence or any loan secured on such property), and
  • Eligible Retail Investors:
  1. who receive investment advice from an Investment Adviser, or portfolio manager or
  2. who have passed an Appropriateness Test (may be conducted by an institution accredited by NISM or the crowdfunding platforms)

and

  1. who have a minimum annual gross income of Rs. 10 Lacs, filed Income Tax return for at least last 3 financial years
  2. who certify that they will not invest more than Rs. 60,000 in an issue through crowdfunding platform,
  3. who certify that they will not invest more than 10% of their net worth through crowdfunding. (Net worth excludes the value of the primary residence or any loan secured on such property)

From a plain reading of the consultation paper, it appears that it is a self-certification method, with the burden of proof of accreditation imposed on the investor.

Who can be the investee company and how much can it raise?

  • A company intending to raise capital not exceeding Rs.10 crores in a period of 12 months,
  • Not promoted, sponsored or related to an industrial group which has a turnover in excess of Rs. 25 crores or has an established business,
  • Not listed on any exchange and not more than 48 months old,
  • A company which proposes to engage in non-financing ventures or real estate activities is not permitted.

There are obligations expected of the investee company.

  • In a given period of 12 months, the company shall not use multiple crowdfunding platforms to raise funds.
  • Company shall not directly or indirectly advertise their offering to public in general or solicit investments from the public.
  • Company shall compulsorily route all crowdfunding issues through a SEBI recognized Crowdfunding Platform.
  • Company shall not directly or indirectly incentivize or compensate any person to promote its offering.
  • Company shall provide provisions for oversubscription. This may include maximum oversubscription amount to be retained, which should not exceed 25% of the actual issue size; intended usage of the oversubscribed amount. The total amount retained. including the actual issue size and oversubscription, shall not exceed the limit of Rs. 10 Crores
  • The Company is also required to make certain disclosure through the “private placement offer letter” and on an ongoing basis documents such as audited financial statements, a detailed view of the current state of business, penalty, pending litigations etc.

If the platform should not receive any compensation for helping the company raise investments, then sustaining the platform will be a challenge.

The retail investors should be provided all opportunities to understand the inherent risks involved in investing in start-ups, illiquid nature of the securities and a possibility of losing the entire investment. At the same time, it is also important that there are no systemic risks. But, it is equally important the regulations proposed should enable platforms to operate and the start-ups getting invested.

Shot not yet ready! Take 2…

Source: http://www.nextbigwhat.com/crowdfunding-india-guidelines-297/

Why Outsourcing a Blog Might Be Smart

This headline, sent to me by a colleague, appeared in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal: “Should You Outsource Your Company Blog?” Like most questions addressed in communications, marketing and other similar fields, the answer is — Maybe. It depends.


1. If the company doesn’t have a communications or a marketing department, maybe you should.
2. If the company doesn’t have an executive spokesperson with the time, maybe you should.
3. If the company’s Legal and/or HR departments need to approve outgoing comments, maybe you should, but only if those departments get out of the way. Otherwise, don’t do a blog.
Or maybe not. And here are the arguments, as I understand them, against outsourcing the company blog. The point of blogging is:
1. Having an authentic voice.
2. Giving customers a personal connection to the company.
3. Ghostwriters do neither.
Well, pardon me, but who do you think writes executive speeches, letters from the CEO, and all those personal words to shareholders one finds in the Annual Report, and web site content, and most of the pithy executive quotes found in newspapers? Guys and gals such as me. I also write and manage several company blogs, who are my clients. As the period on the sentence, none of those things are done without interviewing executives and employees, studying the company and its customers, and, finally, getting approval from the company spokesperson for everything I write.
Would it be better if someone from the company wrote the blog? Maybe, maybe not. When work is outsourced, the consultants often have more influence over the executives and more freedom from message management. And if we’re fired, we haven’t lost our jobs, just a job. We don’t have the pressure of saying what we think the company wants to hear, at least many of us don’t. More important, key inhouse staff are focusing on their other jobs and responsibilities, while gaining the outsider points of view and expertise, which are then translated into blog posts.
So, there you have it. One consultant’s take on outsourcing blogging. Not right. Not wrong. It just depends.

Can Blogging Work as a Marketing Tool?

Yes, it can. My two most recent clients hired me because of what they read on my blog and at my Web site. That is significant because for marketing to be accepted and effective, it must result in sales. I know some disagree, and that’s one of the great things about this medium. It is interactive, immediate, and informal… key ingredients to good communications.


When I first started blogging nearly a year ago (my first anniversary is June 13), one of my goals was to use my site the same as I use all my outlets for writing–as a way to brand myself and my business. But to be successful, my branding efforts must lead to work. Newspaper and magazine articles, as well as TV and radio guest appearances and my books have always done that. I saw no reason why blogging shouldn’t be able to build my brand image, market my business philosophy and values, offer lot of free content for my readers, and lead to work. It has.
The point I want to make is that blogging does not need to be sold only as a way to have a conversation with your readers, customers and clients. While that is a good thing in and of itself, I don’t believe it is the right argument to make when we offer blogging (or any of the social media tools) to our business clients.
The primary purpose of a business is sales. And every marketing tool should support that purpose. I now have proof that blogging does, when done correctly and when our posts serve our reader’s wants and needs, the basic foundation of all marketing and branding efforts.
Here is my challenge to you: If you believe that blogging is an effective marketing tool, pretend that we are potential customers and clients and give us your best pitch. If you don’t believe that this medium can be an effective marketing tool, tell us why.

Happiness and consumption

When we first hear the headline “Happiness and Consumption”, the first thing we think of is the discussion whether consumption leads to happiness or not. There are several approaches to this question and we will deepen our analysis in some of the most representative ones. In any case, the issue about “Happiness and Consumption” could be understood the other way round: does happiness lead to consumption? This approach, although not evident, might be plausible, as well.

Seek of happiness is a relative recent concept; what is happiness? The first approach to this question might be satisfying Maslow’s pyramid of needs (of course, each individual is in a different level in each period of his/ her life). Coming to our point, mankind has always tried to achieve the levels and in the order explained by Maslow, but nowadays we need much more complex achievements to be content with the degree we perform in each level of the pyramid. Performing well in every level has become a more difficult duty, and this is the point where consumption steps in. We try to satisfy our needs with material things, which is linked to the materialistic culture of Western society, which is also spreading to the industrializing countries. There are several detractors of this view and we are going to analyze them as well.

MICROECONOMIC VIEW

We start with the most classical economic view of “happiness”:The microeconomic view of utility and goods is a consequence of the Western view of happiness.

Economics explains consumer behaviour and its seek of happiness in terms of utility, which is thought to be a positive function of the level of consumption of goods and services. In other words, the more an individual consumes, the happier he/she is.

When economists expose this theory, they portray a consumer that chooses between consumption of two goods, between consumption and leisure, and between consumption at different time periods. The consumer tries to maximize his/her utility depending on his/her prior needs. As it may become clear at this point, the needs are covered by material things. In fact, several authors define the entire subject of economics to examine how limited resources are allocated in alternative ways to satisfy human wants. According to them, the goal of economic activity is to achieve efficiency, which is usually to maximize the production of goods and services.

Consequently, consumption is seen as the driving force of the economy, providing people with the incentive to expend their time and energy to obtain more and better things.

OTHER ECONOMIC VIEWS

Referring to other economic views, as a brief introduction, we could compare the levels of happiness between different periods of history in which income levels vary considerably. For instance, income in the United States has risen a lot since the end of the Second World War and yet, the proportion of US population that assures to be happy remains more or less the same. More generally, time series data in individual countries that have experienced significant increases in income and consumption do not lead to significant increases in their level of happiness over time (the same applies to individuals, not only whole countries). Analyzing levels of self-reported happiness among different countries in the same period of time, we also get the same results: those that evidence higher levels of per capita income and consumption do not report to have a higher level of happiness beyond a certain level of income. Some authors show empirical proof for this, such as Deiner and Shigehiro, Frey and Stutzer, Andrew Oswald and Easterlin (who created the “Easterlin paradox”).

There are some possible explanations for this; first, human beings look over their shoulder all the time to compare what they own with what others own. They are on a “hedonic treadmill”; once basic needs are satisfied, humans care rather about relative than about absolute levels of income.

To expose the second explanation we draw back to the microeconomic view; utility grows when income does so, but each additional increase of utility is smaller than the previous one. In other words, marginal utility is decreasing. After a certain level of income, utility does not increase anymore (actually, according to the microeconomic theory, it may even decrease). Some studies suggest that in the short term people are happier – even if temporarily – but then their happiness level diminishes again.

Friedman and Savage propose that there are indeed some income increases that lead to increasing marginal utility; according to microeconomic theory, people are enemies of risk and therefore no one should have any incentives to take part in a lottery game. As lottery proves to be very popular in a lot of countries, Friedman and Savage conclude that marginal utility is increasing with respect to very high income growths that can change one’s life.

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In any case, this is a very special case and we focus on the idea that happiness cannot be measured through income.

There are some authors in favour of the existence of a strong link between happiness and consumption, such as Frijters, Haisken-DeNew and Shields (2004), who analyzed the changes in happiness of East Germans after the transition from communism. However, their findings seem not to take into account other socioeconomic changes that took place due to the transition.

MEASUREMENT OF HAPPINESS

What if we cannot measure happiness through GDP anymore? The solution proposed by many economists is the introduction of GHL (gross happiness level). Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Buthan’s King in 1972, invented the term Gross National Happiness (GNH) to substitute GDP in order to measure quality of life and social progress in a more holistic way, introducing aspects that GDP did not contain. This approach is based on the Buddhist mentality, which states that beneficial development of human society takes place when development is not only material but also spiritual. Buddhism relies on four pillars and GHL divides these four pillars in eight categories: time-balance, social and community vitality, cultural vitality, education, living standards, good governance and ecological vitality. Bhutan proves to be a “happy country” but this is highly affected by their concept of happiness they have: Buddhist economics proposes alternative principles such as minimizing suffering, simplifying desires, nonviolence, genuine care, and generosity. Buddhists do not expect to achieve great things to be happy, but they are content when minimizing suffering. In this sense, we could quote Fontenelle`s words: “expecting too high happiness is an obstacle to be happy”.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONSUMPTION AND PURCHASE

One thing is not completely clear in this definition: according to what has been discussed up to this point, the question is whether we should rely on income to seek happiness, but actually income is not exactly consumption. However, we dedicated this space to talk about income and not directly about consumption because the level of consumption is usually proportionate to income. One could go a bit further and add that consumption does not necessarily imply buying things. It only implies that goods and services, independently from where they come from, are a source of happiness but we could get them by other means, such as creating them by ourselves, but we will not explain this kind of consumption in greater depth as we prefer to concentrate on consumption of purchased things, which can be expanded on consumption of ideas, lifestyles, etc.

RELIGION AND CONSUMPTION

Coming directly to the point of consumption, we could continue the path that we started when talking about Buddhism; the view of religions towards consumption is usually against materialism and in favour of strictly buying what we need (by the way, what we need and what we do not is another interesting issue). From the religious point-of-view, religions are supposed to give meaning to life and, in this sense, the purpose of consumption should just be to provide safety, food, shelter, etc. but in recent times consumption is competing with religions; the “religion of consumption” is being created. According to “Young and Rubicam”, one of the most prestigious communication agencies in the world, brands are now a new religion; people rely on them seeking the meaning of life. The agency compares itself with the missionaries who spread religions all over the world. The general opinion of religions is that they, just like brands, are based on powerful ideas, but whereas religions do provide a meaning to life, products just create the false sensation that we are more valuable in the eyes of others. Materialism is a disease of low self-esteem. Saint Francis of Assisi or Gandhi did not own superfluous objects that distracted their attention from the others and from God.

And so we come to the question already suggested above: does consumption lead to happiness?

All successful brands convince consumers about the fact that they –the brands- are able to satisfy the consumer’s needs. If satisfying needs is creating happiness, brands make consumers happier. The problem comes when brands keep creating new wants in consumers so that these have the impression that they never fulfill their needs completely. First, consumers need to believe that consumption will satisfy their needs and secondly, their expectations about happiness must never be achieved because they have to keep growing or changing. And in this case consumption will not lead to happiness.

SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION

The ideal kind of consumption would be sustainable consumption: substantial reduction of consumption (to avoid depletion of resources and to leave room for those who do not have much money), eco-friendly consumption and tradition-friendly consumption when it is a suitable option (small farmers, homemade products…).

Focusing on the problem of waste of resources, there comes a point where using more resources actually reduces your quality of life (and quality of life is connected to happiness). This can be seen on this graph; in this view, we do not only compare “income” with happiness, but we also include the effort to get this income, but this is usually like that in real life.

F2.jpg

When you use a lot of resources and you spend a lot of money and effort on something, you eventually end up feeling overwhelmed; your mind and your life are crowded. The more you have and the more you do, the worse you feel. If you start using fewer resources, you find yourself with more free time, eating more healthily. There is a point in the middle called the point of habituation where you do not feel happier with more achievements. The goal is being exactly in the point where you are really conscious of what you use, you do not take things for granted and you understand that your actions have consequences for other people and the planet. It is the point between asceticism and waste, between self-denial and self-indulgence and it is similar to the view that religions have about consumption (only that religions do not refer directly to eco-friendly consumption).

The materialistic view thinks the following about those characteristics:

– Happier with more consumption

Happiness is commonly associated with a high material standard of living and many purchases are driven by the expectation that they will make life more satisfying, especially the purchase of durable consumption good and the spending of money on holidays.

Not happier with eco-friendly consumption

Consumers are optimistic and think that technology will solve the problem of resources depletion.

Not happier with tradition-friendly consumption

The fact that these products tend to become obsolete (sometimes due to planned obsolescence) is seen to convey that modern products are more attractive.

BRANDS AND HAPPINESS

So in the previous section we come to the conclusion that there is a point where we cannot be happier anymore through consumption. Let us imagine that we are not at this point yet. We start with a practical example:

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In this case, Apple is not just selling a mobile phone, which is used to communicate with others (practical use); Apple is selling identification with a brand that target consumers value a lot (Maslow’s self-esteem level), belonging to a group of latest technology-owners (belonging level), being unique because of having a very special device (self-actualization/ self-esteem)… In this sense, the IPhone is satisfying needs that the consumers wants to satisfy in order to be happier. This needs could be satisfied by means that would not require any money, but here Apple has managed to offer something which consumers have to pay for and which Apple profits from. Whether this is ethical or not is another issue (some people could think so, but this is not the issue in this essay).

The question is whether the brand satisfies the need completely or it keeps stimulating wants in the consumers so that they always desire new products. This is the case for example of planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so that it becomes obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period of time. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because the consumer is under pressure to purchase again. Products produced this way have not necessarily designed to fail technically; “fail” can simply become obsolete because they are not fashionable anymore. Examples of this can be:

– The creation of new IPhone models every year with new applications that Apple consumers do not want to miss.

– Fashion in clothes every new season (bell-bottoms are not used anymore and some years ago they were the last word in fashion)

– Printers designed to print a specific number of pages and high reparation costs if the consumer wants to repair it instead of buying a new one

– IPhone battery designed to last very little

– Printing cartridges that stop being produced or that have a slightly different shape from the cartridges used in new models of printers of the brand; the printer may work perfectly, but it has no suitable cartridges

COMMUNICATION OF BENEFITS

Coming back to the personality of the brand, to make consumers identify more with them, brands try to communicate their positioning and the benefits belonging to it in their communication campaigns. Advertisers rely on topics such as happiness, youth, success, status, luxury, fashion, beauty, etc. In advertising, social contradictions and class differences are hidden and workplace conflicts that may take place in the enterprise are not shown. Advertising campaigns suggest that solutions to human problems are to be found in individual consumption, presented as an ideal outlet for mass energies.

This again makes us wonder whether the target population is really happy buying these products because the can only be really happy if they buy something when it is them who decide to buy it. This does not necessarily mean that they are not manipulated; advertising can manipulate them and then it is them who decide that they want to buy what the advertisement shows. Manipulating, in any case, can be interpreted as creating wants from existing needs.

In this sense, brands often refer in their communication campaigns to the freedom of the consumer to buy whatever he wants… by buying the product of that brand. Although it is quite paradoxical, this also contributes to the happiness of the consumer. One example:

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CONSUMPTION OF IDEAS

Ideas can be consumed, as well. Brands, political parties, religions, friends, etc. surround us with ideas that forge our mentality. Actually, in the era of materialism, we are overloaded by physical products and by services and brands are not interested anymore in selling such products and services referring to their functional features; a car is not a vehicle to drive to work anymore. It is a life as a successful businessman. The ideas that products are services appeal to have already been explained in greater depth in previous sections. The interesting part here is how political mentalities or religious beliefs can be consumed as a way to obtain happiness. When you choose a certain political party or you decide whether to have religious beliefs or not, you are choosing in some way a specific lifestyle that implies a specific culture, a specific social circle, etc. and this again is a way to achieve what we consider a happy life.

DOES HAPPINESS LEAD TO CONSUMPTION?

As we already explained in the beginning of this essay, the most obvious reaction to the title “Happiness and consumption” is to think whether consumption leads to happiness, but another approach would be to wonder whether consumption can be the result of happiness as well. When we are happier, we are in the mood to do more things that please us and one of them may be consuming, just like in the example of L’Oréal’s claim “because I’m worth it”. We have the energy to afford whims we wish and our bodies provoke the chemical reaction that makes us more creative, which eventually leads to consumption to express this creativity; for example, we may have much more ideas to combine different clothes.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

The final objective of consumption seems to be happiness, but there is a point in our level of consumption from which utility does not seem to grow anymore and Western countries have reached this point by far-actually, there are some cases where utility may decrease with an overwhelming level of consumption. Increases of happiness occur only in the short term and then consumers return to their “standard” maximum level of happiness. What companies now do continuously is creating wants from pre-existing needs in order to make consumers desire this short term happiness.

Anyway, what we call happiness varies among different mentalities and so we could take the example of religions. Most religions argue that consumption just leads to false illusions and, focusing on Buddhism, its concept of happiness makes in no way possible that consumption of products and services lead to it.

What is happiness? – 10 Definitions of Happiness

An interesting blog from: Donald Latumahina states –

Happiness is something everyone wants to have. You may be successful and have a lot of money, but without happiness it will be meaningless.
That’s why I’m excited with this month’s theme of Happiness. We will discuss this topic all month long and I’m sure we will learn a lot. But, before we move further, it’s a good idea to get deeper understanding of the word happiness itself. Understanding what happiness is will give us good ground upon which to build our discussions.
Let me start with an official definition. According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, here is the definition of happiness:

  • a state of well-being and contentment
  • a pleasurable or satisfying experience

This definition is a good starting point and we can dig deeper from it. The best way to do that is to consult some of the greatest minds in history. So I researched what these people say about happiness and found 10 essential definitions. Each of them has deep meaning. Take your time to absorb it.
Here they are:

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Mahatma Gandhi

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.
Ayn Rand

Happiness is something that you are and it comes from the way you think.
Wayne Dyer

Happiness is essentially a state of going somewhere, wholeheartedly, one-directionally, without regret or reservation.
William H. Sheldon

Happiness is not a reward – it is a consequence.
Robert Ingersoll

Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.
George Sheehan

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.
Aristotle

Happiness is not something you experience, it’s something you remember.
Oscar Levant

Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.
Margaret Lee Runbeck

Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.
Denis Waitley

All in all, I would say that happiness is a decision. Your happiness is your decision to make. All the quotes above require actions on our part and actions require decisions.
So what do you think?

What The Next Five Years Will Be About

The next five years will be about direct relationships. Several years ago a leading brand contacted us (Twist Image) about a new business opportunity in the digital space. The brand’s reality was this: as the years wane on, the amount of retailers that they sell to were diminishing. As the major big box outlets continue to grow and as consolidation rifles through the retail sector, the bigger brands only have a handful of outlets to sell their wares. With these retailers’ size and growth comes another reality: they begin to dictate everything from quantity and terms to acceptable margins. For some businesses, this is a dream come true because it secures significant sales, but for others (like this brand), their business was becoming a game of diminishing returns. It gets ugly fast when you run the numbers: eventually this brand will only have their product on the shelves of one or two retailers who are constantly dictating and changing the terms of sale… and the brand has no direct relationship with the consumer. How do you win? The brand’s idea was to create a new e-commerce brand online that housed only their own brand name products. This was the last chance. This was the hope and prayer to save the business: start a direct relationship with the consumer… today. Notwithstanding how the major retailers might feel about this project, it was a smart and wise play. For a brand to truly shape its own destiny, it must lead the relationship with the consumer as well. This must have been a huge factor in Apple’s decision to build out retail stores and not work exclusively with the major consumer electronic retailers. How are your direct relationships? Some brands do this well… most fail at it with spectacular fashion. Is it possible to be so judgmental? It is. One of the reasons I still enjoy the conversation and debate about the efficacy of Social Media marketing is that the majority of brands that struggle with ROI are comparing it to traditional push advertising instead of treating it as an opportunity to have real interactions between real people. A consumer that hits a "like" or "follow" button is opening up the opportunity to have a direct relationship with a brand. If all the brand does is blast back offers and specials, we’re not pushing towards direct relationships… we’re pushing towards broadcast advertising (in a new channel). The opportunity is now. I’m often reminded of an event I took part in called, The Art Of Marketing (sidebar: I’ll be speaking at an upcoming Art of Marketing event in Vancouver on June 9th, 2011 – it will also feature Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, Avinash Kaushik and William Taylor). Also speaking on the bill was Seth Godin (Poke The Box, Linchpin, Purple Cow). Seth doesn’t hold any punches and made it very clear to the 1500 marketing professionals in attendance that this unique moment in time is not only a revolution in marketing – one that we will probably never again see in our lifetime – but that it was ours to either capitalize on or squander. The next fives years are going to be about these direct relationships. The next five years are going to about how well a brand can actually change the relationship from one that looks at how many people are in their database to who these individuals are and how the brand can make the connections and loyalty stronger. The stars are aligned. We have the technology. We have the data. We have the new media channels and platforms. We have the opportunity to publish whatever we want – in text, images, audio and video – instantly (and for free) to the world. What we do with this moment will be telling. It will also set the pace for everything that flows out of our marketing departments for the next decade. That big brand I talked about earlier? They never pulled the trigger on their e-commerce project and wouldn’t you guess it: they’re busy scrambling for "likes" on Facebook and are selling their products through the handful of big box retailers left. No direct relationships. No future.

The Second Biggest Search Engine

The Search Engine wars continue to rage on.

We all know that Google dominates and that Bing (Microsoft‘s search engine), Yahoo! and Ask.com continue to hold their own. What many people fail to realize is that if you look at the overall amount of queries/searches done across all of the major websites, portals, etc…, that the second largest search engine is not Bing or Yahoo!… it’s actually YouTube.

We do like searching for answers and seeing a video response to our queries.

Does that seem hard to believe? YouTube (which is owned by Google) is the second largest search engine. Back when I was having my conversation with Julien Smith (co-author of Trust Agents along with Chris Brogan and a co-host on Media Hacks) about ways in which I could get the word out (even more) about this Six Pixels of Separation Blog and Podcast, Smith also recommended taking all of the audio interviews from the Podcast and releasing them on YouTube (along with some semblance of a visual slideshow by grabbing photos of the guests from places that allow it). It seemed like a lot of work, so when I kept on prodding him for why, he was the one who reminded me of the magnitude of traffic and searches that YouTube represents in the overall scope of the Internet and media (more on my conversation with Julien right here: Five Reasons Why This Blog Is A Failure).

It’s more than just the traffic that online video generates.

It’s also about the education. Recently, I was looking for a strong tutorial on the basics of , which is a twelve-part video series (each episode running about ten minutes). Amazing content, easy to watch and simple to follow along to.

YouTube is the new encyclopedia.

Not sure how to wash a dog? Change a diaper? Jailbreak an iPhone? Build a deck? Do a magic trick? Play the solo in Van Halen‘s ‘Running With The Devil’? Understand what Google TV will be? Whatever random question you have, someone, somewhere has created a video with the answer and the tutorial on how to do it.

It begs the question: how well are you (and the brands you represent) leveraging the power of online video to really connect to your consumers as a thought leader and a brand that cares?

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