Insights from Nebo

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January 20, 2009

Change has come to www.whitehouse.gov

At 12:00 am EST, the new whitehouse.gov website went live. Overall, it's a HUGE improvement over the previous one. Visually pleasing, well organized, and with great use typography.

Check it out: http://www.whitehouse.gov/

Update ReadWriteWeb has a full rundown of the last 12 years of the whitehouse website.

January 20, 2009

Ron Popeil should get more credit

Over the weekend I happened upon an old Malcom Gladwell article about the inventor & pitchman, Ron Popeil (of "Set it & forget it" rotisserie fame).

A couple things struck me about him.

1.) His approach to marketing & product development is a lot like Steve Jobs

Now don't get me wrong -- Apple's products are way more advanced than the stuff Ron Popeil prototypes in his kitchen -- but, they both have a commitment to that initial vision of their product and have an obsession with perfection.

"Alan Backus says that after the first version of the Showtime (rotisserie) came out Ron began obsessing over the quality and evenness of the browning and became convinced that the rotation speed of the spit wasn't quite right. The original machine moved at four revolutions per minute. Ron set up a comparison test in his kitchen, cooking chicken after chicken at varying speeds until he determined that the optimal speed of rotation was actually six r.p.m. One can imagine a bright-eyed M.B.A. clutching a sheaf of focus-group reports and arguing that Ronco was really selling convenience and healthful living, and that it was foolish to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars retooling production in search of a more even golden brown. But Ron understood that the perfect brown is important for the same reason that the slanted glass door is important: because in every respect the design of the product must support the transparency and effectiveness of its performance during a demonstration--the better it looks onstage, the easier it is for the pitchman to go into the turn and ask for the money."

2.) They came up with a new approach to product development. The Popeil approach merged marketing & product development.

"They believed that it was a mistake to separate product development from marketing, as most of their contemporaries did, because to them the two were indistinguishable: the object that sold best was the one that sold itself. They were spirited, brilliant men."

3.) He was more persistent than he was talented.

"Roderick Dorman, Ron's patent attorney, says that when he went over to Coldwater Canyon he often saw five or six prototypes on the kitchen counter, lined up in a row. Ron would have a chicken in each of them, so that he could compare the consistency of the flesh and the browning of the skin, and wonder if, say, there was a way to rotate a shish kebab as it approached the heating element so that the inner side of the kebab would get as brown as the outer part. By the time Ron finished, the Showtime prompted no fewer than two dozen patent applications. It was equipped with the most powerful motor in its class. It had a drip tray coated with a nonstick ceramic, which was easily cleaned, and the oven would still work even after it had been dropped on a concrete or stone surface ten times in succession, from a distance of three feet. To Ron, there was no question that it made the best chicken he had ever had in his life."

January 15, 2009

Facebook removes burger king from it's friends list

The highly discussed and successful burger king "whopper sacrifice" application has been disabled by the team at facebook. The act of notifying your friends that they've been sacrificed for a whopper was a violation of the facebook privacy terms & conditions.

Will be interesting to see if BK reworks the app, or whether they decide to play the victim card, take their toys and go home.

January 13, 2009

What can your business learn from Cooks Illustrated?

Quite a lot according to 37signals. As a subscriber to cooksillustrated.com, I'm a little biased. But their continuing success is impressive. What's their secret?

They focus relentlessly on developing the best possible recipe and providing practical advice for the home cook. They take a scientific approach to food and test tons of recipes before anything ever hits the books. They taste test store brands of all types of foods and condiments; from orange juice to spaghetti sauce. In short, they've created a unique marketing position that's helped them grow with almost no advertising other than their public access television show.

They also do integration of multi channel content on their website better than almost any other magazine-based publication. Their TV show clips are re-purposed into short relevant segments related to the specific recipe your browsing on the site. Their explanatory illustrations from the publication work great on the web as well.

They've quietly created what's arguably the most informative cooking sit on the net. In the process they're charging almost $40 a year for access. And people are subscribing in big numbers (almost 1 million so far).

January 9, 2009

How to write a successful headline

We're working on a new site for neboweb (you'll see it in a couple months), and one of things we're really focusing on is strengthening our copy. It's an area that we've not paid enough attention to in the past. It's never easy writing good copy, but writing good headlines is especially hard.

However, I can give you one piece of advice guaranteed to make you successful. It's advice I wish my advertising copywriting teacher would have given me in school.

For every one headline you plan to use in a campaign write 100 unique headlines.

Not all of them will be good. They don't have to be, but out of that mass of creativity you'll find a few keepers.

This is a habit I picked up from a great book about advertising copywriting by Luke Sullivan called "Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads.".

It reads a little dated, but I highly recommend it to anyone looking to become a stronger copywriter.