Category Archives: Consumer behavior

Storytelling for Children and Executives

The Wall Street Journal tells how the CEO of Procter and Gamble is more interested in the storyteller than in the powerpoint slides. Therefore presentations should have powerful stories.

Mr. Atkinson suggests organizing your story into three acts and starting by establishing context. You want to let your audience know who the main characters are, what the background of the story is, and what you’d like to accomplish by telling it, he says. You might open, for example, by describing a department that’s consistently failed to meet sales goals.

Move on to how your main character—you or the company—fights to resolve the conflicts that create tension in the story, Mr. Atkinson says. Success may require the main character to make additional capital investments or take on new training. Provide real-world examples and detail that can anchor the narrative, he advises.

The ending should inspire a call to action, since you are allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions about your story versus just telling them what to do. Don’t be afraid to use your own failures in support of your main points, says Mr. Smith.

Whatever you do, don’t preface your story with an apology or ask permission to tell it. Be confident that your story has enough relevance to be told and just launch into it, says Mr. Smith. Confidence and authority, he says, help to sell the idea to your audience.

The idea here is not new. Humans are more receptive to stories than to data. The powerful message that was omitted, however, was that while people are more receptive to anecdotes than boring powerpoint presentations, good decisions are made based on information. A story backed up by data combines the power of human psychology with the power of knowledge.


This Sign Has Sharp Edges

This sometimes happens in powerpoint, too….

The Art of the Presentation

My presentations are bad. Very bad.

And here’s why:

  1. I like to improvise.
  2. I don’t stick to a clear, simple story.
  3. I get bogged down by details. When I know too much about something, it’s hard to stay at the 30,000 foot overview
  4. I’m bad at telling jokes or anecdotes.

Any one of those four flaws could turn a great presentation into a dud. Sadly, all four together becomes the perfect storm of tedium.

What can be done to improve? Here are some tips I’ve picked up from working with one of the best professional speakers in the country:

    • Practice always. Every conversation – even with a friend or ordering a hamburger – is a presentation. Live the role.
    • Develop a repertoire of anecdotes that can be pulled out as appropriate.
    • Tailor the material to the audience – understand and focus on their interests


      • More often than not, visuals are distracting

      Note the supporting materials for Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs (courtesy of Presentation Zen). See if you can spot the difference.

      Steve Jobs Presentation

      Steve Jobs

      Bill Gates Presentation

      Bill Gates

      Which audience would you prefer to be in?

      Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) Hosting Market Opportunity Analysis


      The MMOG market is expected to double in the next five years. MMOGs differ from typical computer games because they are perpetual virtual worlds, meaning that users can continue to play forever building on previous play. New players are constantly starting to play these game and continue playing them, creating a snowballing user base.

      Traditional game developers are beginning to discover a new sources of revenue from MMOGs. The developers typically offer a free version or trial period to attract users, and then a subscription-based version (typically $10-$20/month) to keep the on going revenue stream. In the future, MMOGs are likely to generate additional revenue through advertising and non-traditional revenue sources such as virtual sale items.

      Overall, DFC Intelligence estimates the market will double by 2012, reaching $13B worldwide. Half the revenue will come from East Asia, 25% from North America, and the remainder from Europe and Japan.


      The 15 largest MMO Games are as follows:

      MMOG List

      Of these fifteen MMOGs, the fastest growing (based on 2006-2007 subscribers) are:

      • World of Warcraft
      • Second Life
      • Guild Wars
      • Dofus
      • Runescape

      Additionally, the following venture-backed MMOG developers are likely to launch in the next 1-2 years:

      • Real Time Worlds will be launching “APB” in 2008
      • Red 5 Studios is developing an as-yet unnamed MMOG
      • Areae is developing an as-yet unnamed MMOG


      Leading MMOG Hosting companies:

      • AT&T
      • Online Game Services (OGSi)
      • Hypernia
      • Valve Software

      Additional hosting companies used by MMOGs:

      • APIServers (
      • Go Daddy (
      • JHServers (
      • ServePath (

      Most game developers do not have the capabilities to host games themselves. Rather, they rely on outsourced MMOG hosting services. Even the largest MMOG developers such as Blizzard, Activision and Electronic Arts use third party MMOG hosting services.

      Whether an MMOG game developer is hosting a game in-house or outsourcing it to a hosting company, the following three issues are most important in selecting IT vendors:

      1. Price – minimize price of both hardware and bandwidth. A rough estimate for hosting prices for 100k subs requires 30 servers plus bandwidth and costs $50k/month. (Note this includes ammortized hardware costs, bandwidth, and managed services)
      2. System stability and scalability – ensure data isn’t lost or corrupted and system can scale to handle growing subscriber base.
      3. Bandwidth and latency – maximize uptime at all hours of the day, since most MMOGs are highly international and cross all time zones. Provide sufficient bandwidth for peak usage. Minimize latency by using NOCs collocated near major POPs and with localization in areas with large numbers of gamers.

      The largest IT vendors for the MMOG market are IBM, HP, and Dell.


      A vendor seeking to serve the emerging MMOG market should take the following approaches:

      1) Target both large MMOG developers that do their own hosting and also outsourced MMOG hosting companies. To avoid competing on price, focus on system stability, scalability, and management tools that can support the MMOG environment.

      2) Focus on the development stage. Historically, MMOGs could be hosted on any vendor’s hardware, but as developers seek to increase system stability they are increasingly becoming platform dependent. This means that if an MMOG developer uses a specific vendor’s hardware for development and testing, they are likely to request the same vendor’s hardware for hosting.

      In order to assess exactly how a company can enter this market, it is necessary to understand how the company is currently positioned. The Ansoff matrix provides a basic framework to understand what type of entry is needed – based upon a company’s product portfolio and market space.

      Ansoff Matrix

      A go-to-market strategy required for a Market Development play is quite different from those required for a Product Development play, and different still from Diversification.

      One of the immediate next steps to take will be to benchmark your company’s current status along key dimensions. Using a “Points of Differentiation” graph, it is possible to tailor the go-to-market strategy to take advantage of the company’s strengths.

      Points of Differentiation

      In the example above, a company may be strong in performance, reliability, average in scalability, reputation, service and price, and weak in value-added services. After analyzing other vendors using a similar framework, a company with these particular points of differentiation might choose to focus on midsized MMOGs with 100k-200k subscribers.

      MMOG Data

      DFC Intelligence – Online Game Market Forecast

      IGDA (International Game Developers Association) – Hardware and Hosting

      GigaOM Top 10 Most Popular MMOs

      MMORPG Developer’s Forum


      IDC – ASEAN Online Gaming 2007 – 2011 Forecast and Analysis

      IDC – China Gaming 2007-2011 Forecast and Analysis

      IDC – India Online Gaming 2007–2011 Forecast and Analysis

      Earth Cancer and Global Warming

      Weather is complicated. Many scientists (plus Al Gore) strongly believe that Global Warming is already wreaking havoc on weather patterns.

      The havoc, they say, may take many forms: warm winters, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, cold summers, cold winters, and the list goes on….

      Sadly, these scientists made a critical error. A marketing error. They called this havoc “Global Warming.” For the average Joe, a cold winter does not feel like global warming. A rainy summer doesn’t feel like global warming. A severe hurricane does not feel like global warming. As the theory became more intricate, the story got confusing – and the message got lost.

      If only the scientists had called it Earth Cancer, or Extreme Weather Mutation, the news every night would focus on the issue. “This is the third coldest April 17th since 1991,” a weatherman would report with grave concern. “This is the second rainiest April 18th since 1989,” might be the following day’s breaking news. From a statistical standpoint, anomalies can be found everywhere – yet they would all be attributed to Earth Cancer – since the name would seem consistent with any weather anomaly.

      One reason YouTube succeeded where others failed

      A recent WSJ article mentions that when YouTube tested “pre-roll” ads (i.e., ads that play before the video launches), more than 70% of viewers abandoned the site.

      Consider two startups entering the business of sharing videos:

      Startup A has a lot of financing, and has not chosen a “revenue model” yet – first it plans on building dominance in the market. Then it will figure out how to monetize the traffic.

      Startup B cannot afford to pass on revenue for very long, so it offers an ad-supported service. However, as in the above statistic, pre-roll ads deflect 70% of visitors – and many may switch to Startup A.

      If Startup A had a plan for making money, it would have caused them to shrink and fail like Startup B. However, a day will come when Startup A must also make money – and then it will discover that its market share is only the result of its ad-free environment – as soon as it advertises it will lose viewers, too.

      The difference between YouTube and most other “Startup A’s” -is that YouTube has a thousand brilliant minds at Google who spent ten months trying to find a solution. Most startups are not that fortunate.

      Blogging – Full vs Partial RSS Feeds

      As a professional blogger (and professional consultant) I like statistics. For my blog, I want stats on who reads what, so that I can better understand my audience and the articles that are most interesting.

      One way to do this is by “forcing a click” – not showing the entire article on either the home page or RSS feed, thereby requiring an interested reader to click the “More…” link.

      However, blog readers frequently find “More” links very annoying. A recent example is the Freakonomics blog, which changed from “full feeds” to “partial feeds” when it moved onto the New York Times website. Angry comments are coming in hourly. Another popular blog “Techdirt” believes that full feeds not only make readers happy, but lead to increased readership.

      Perhaps this is a variation of the Schrodinger’s cat phenomenon: tracking readers affects readership.

      Continue reading

      Book review: “The Laws of Simplicity” by John Maeda

      Simplicity is a good thing, says John Maede, a professor at the MIT Media Lab.

      “The Laws of Simplicity” presents ten rules and three axioms on how to achieve simplicity:

      1. REDUCE everything when possible; use the process of SHE (Shrink, Hide, Embody)

      • Shrink – have more functionality in smaller form-factors
      • Hide – subsume secondary functionality in larger categories (e.g., navigation menus )
      • Embody – imbue item with a feeling of value and quality despite simplicity (e.g., a Bang & Olufsen remote control is very simple but also very heavy)

      2. ORGANIZE things into categories makes more thins appear to be fewer – this coincides with the “Hide” above

      3. TIME – saving time makes things simpler. Why? because there’s less happening

      4. LEARN – the more you know about something, the simpler it appears.

      5. DIFFERENCES – Contrast makes things look simpler

      6. CONTEXT – focus isn’t always a good thing; carefully consider what might appear peripheral to see how it can create CONTRAST

      7. EMOTION – sometimes emotion dictates adding more (versus REDUCE). Ornamental components can be a good thing.

      8. TRUST – Trust leads to simplicity

      9. FAILURE – some things will defy all attempts at simplification


      Some of the “Laws” aren’t laws that lead to simplicity; some laws are contradictory; others are redundant. Here’s how I would reformulate them:

      1. ORGANIZE AND SUBORDINATE – structured information is easier to digest than unstructured data; secondary functionality should be hidden behind larger categories

      2. REMOVE unnecessary or nonessential elements. Once you’ve done that, wait a day and then REMOVE some more

      3. SHRINK AND CLARIFY remaining elements until they are intuitive; summarize; take out distracting details

      4. LIMIT DEPTH – remove elements that are too “deep” into hierarchies/categories, since no one will ever find them and they will just add confusion

      Rock, Paper, Scissors: Strategy or Luck?

      Rock Paper ScissorsRock Paper Scissors is a simple game that, theoretically, should depend entirely on chance. (As a three-element group, each option wins against one option but loses against the other.)

      However, the game is growing ever more popular, in large part because people believe there is strategy in winning.

      There are two main approaches to increasing the odds:

      (1) Cheating, such as by delaying one’s throw for a split second – just long enough to see what the opponent has thrown

      (2) Anticipating the opponent’s decision, based on their personality, past history, as well as a psychological interpretation of the meaning of each choice – and how it corresponds to the psychographic state of the opponent. For example, Rock is considered an aggressive option; paper may be either considered “weak” or “intellectual,” depending upon the RPS expert you consult. Additionally, some people may have “tells” that give away what they are planning to do.

      For further reading, see the the Rock Paper Scissors Society, motto: “Serving the needs of decision makers since 1918.”

      Purchase the official Rock Paper Scissors strategy book here:

      How to sell a blender…

      “…For just 3 easy payments of $33.33”

      I was flipping through the TV stations late at night, when I ran across an infomercial for a blender. For someBlender - As Seen on TV reason I found it slightly unusual – maybe it was the high-energy actors at 3:00 in the morning. But I starting thinking about what it takes to sell an ordinary household object at extremely high prices.

      Here’s what they did…

      First, have a slight twist to make it seem out-of-the-ordinary. This was no ordinary blender, you see, this was a personal blender – that was just the right size for 1-2 servings. Could a normal blender do the same thing – sure. But they didn’t make a comparison – they only emphasized the key feature.

      Second, have excitement about the product. There were two high-energy people doing the demo, and two “audience members” on the other side of the counter overjoyed to see how the device would change their lives.

      Third, sell the goal, not the means; in other words, emphasize the problem that is solved, not the product that solves it. In this case, they demonstrated how easy it was to make chocolate mousse, fruit shakes, etc. The focus was on the food you could make – and the device was the way to make it. What had initially caught my attention was that the infomercial looked more like a cooking show than an infomercial!

      Finally, ignore product defects. The target audience won’t read reviews and will purchase based on what they see in the demo. Once they have purchased, have the user compensate for any deficiencies in the product with a complicated set of instructions – it’s not the fault of the product, it’s the fault of the user.