The Google Doodle – My Personal Collection

About a billion of us come to the “white box” everyday across the globe, me included. One of the small pleasures is when you navigate to and see the Google Doodle. Like most things there’s history behind the idea. Read about that history here. When I see one, I snag it and toss it into my iPhoto collection. I took a look the other day and saw the count was up to 237. Yes I know you can easily search Google and see them all, including the ones they post outside the U.S., but where’s the sport in that? The archivist in my can’t help but post my collection.


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Think Finance with Google: Tortoise and Hare Mash-up

It’s been more than two years now since Lehman Brothers collapsed, signaling the public start of the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. Two years in a downward spiral, followed by a bit of leveling off and now a narrow beacon of light piercing the blackness. Despite all those headwinds and pressure, most financial services firms have navigated through these treacherous waters and are now trying to grow in this new reality. Growth was far from our minds two years ago. It was all about battening down the hatches and retrenching. Oddly enough while all this turmoil was wreaking havoc, technology was blossoming, sprouting new connected devices and blurring the lines between web, media, entertainment, shopping and conversation. This amazing time of convergence might just turn out to be the protagonist in this economic story.

Google’s New York headquarters are located in the meatpacking district in a concrete bunker of a building on Ninth Avenue. I love the idea of that structure. I used to visit there in the late 1990’s when Barnes and Noble set-up their E-Commerce shop away from the more traditional bookstore confines across town. It’s a cavernous space with massive elevators large enough to lift delivery trucks. When you finally get past security, you feel you are in a place that could survive anything. A kind of a fallout shelter if you will. It was comforting. This was my first Google Finance event and I didn’t know what to expect. But it was Google, so I set my expectation high. At the end of the day they were exceeded. The agenda was extremely well structured for both content and emotion and, as it turns out worthy of an Aesop fable.

  • Google’s Principles for Innovation
  • Macroeconomic Landscape
  • Consumer Response to the Economic Crisis
  • Innovations from Google
  • Client Case Studies
  • Media Platform Convergence
  • Google TV and Android Demos

Dennis Woodside, VP for Google led off and immediately stepped on the gas. Things are moving faster than ever and the Internet is rapidly becoming the de facto communication channel. He laid out the evolution of the Internet as follows; read (early websites), buy (emergence of online commerce) and talk (social and mobile). He strongly echoed what others have been saying about mobile overtaking desktop, and soon. To illustrate the point of how quickly information is making its way to the net Mr.Woodside pointed out that there are 800 exabytes of information on the web today. Up until a couple of years ago, if you added up all of human information, radio and TV shows, books, music, newspapers, etc., it would only equal 40 exabytes. By 2020 Google predicts there will be 53 zettabytes of data online (1,000 exabytes = 1 zettabyte). In other words. Kind of a lot of stuff. He was all about speed and racing to get there first. Hare.

Up next were two impressive and informative speakers. Matthew Slaughter of the Tuck School of Business and John Gerzema, Chief Insights Officer at Young and Rubicam. Mr. Slaughter was from the school of cold, hard facts and it was a bit painful. He said his inclination was that of the optimistic Tigger, but prepared us for more of an Eeyore perspective. Of course all of us in that room knew the facts. We’d been following them for two years from inside our own firms. Hearing them in this setting, among our competitive peers and coming from an “outsider,” made me gasp and say to myself, “Did all that really happen?” Essentially he told us that it could take until 2020 to recover the 8.5 million private-sector jobs we had just lost. He did remind us that it’s in times of crisis that we produce our best innovation.

Found in a store window in downtown Detroit (John Gerzema)


Mr. Gerzema, co-author of Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution is Changing the Way we Buy, Sell and Live also had lots of stats and charts. But he channeled his message through people who were already innovating and making a difference locally. Not corporate masters of the universe, but simple, everyday people. It was inspiring stuff, witnessed first hand while on an across the country road trip. He spoke about consumers who have been hit hard by the crisis and have less value than in the past, but because of technology acceleration they have more power. Consumers are moving from mindless to mindful consumption. Trust is the key driver now, “Trust is the new black,” perhaps the quote of the day. It’s moving beyond traditional marketing for firms and toward actions and gestures brands must take and make to prove to consumers we care about them. He laid out five concepts defining this shift.

  • The New American Frontier – Optimism, Resiliency, Opportunity
  • Don’t Fence Me In – Retooling, Education, Betterment
  • The Badge of Awesomeness – Nimbleness, Adaptability, Thrift
  • Block Party Capitalism – Character, Authenticity, Locality
  • An Army of Davids – Community, Cooperation, Amplification

Firms must deeply understand consumer context and show them we will navigate for them. He rattled off more than a dozen examples that are worth checking out. Here are a few;,, and I’ve only just cracked his book, but it seems to hold many more nuggets, including this tidy summary of where he thinks things are going.


My personal notes from Mr. Gerzma's presentation, Consumer Change and Evolution


In short, the message is, quality is in and quantity is out. It’s all about slow now. Slow VC and trust based transaction models. Brands should not force consumers to lock in their purchase decision up front. Offer trial, sample experiences, then work with them until they get comfortable. This is challenging stuff for big brands, especially for those of us in the financial space, because it’s not logistically easy to trial our products. Tortoise.

Back to Aesop. Everything is accelerating, but slow is the way to go. We live a world that’s rapidly converging, think the film Inception. Immediate access to reliable information means consumers can re-purpose the time it used to take to research choices and redirect it to actually understanding what the product or service really does for them, and how it might be to work with the provider. They turn to social networks to help inform their decision. Firms need to invest quickly in the world of convergence so they can be more transparent and open about selling their goods and services. Perhaps even create a newbreed of products andservices expressly designed for trial. “No obligation, no one will call, no salesman will visit your home.” I realized long ago that you won’t learn precise recipes on how to succeed inside your own firm with these event concepts. After all, that’s why you get a paycheck. The best you can hope for are some strong case studies and clever networking.

After a savory lunch they took pity and allowed us to break from the world of stats and enter the world of Gopi Kallayil, a Google Product Marketing Manager for Search Advertising. He had just returned from 36 hours of traveling undertaken for the sole purpose of meeting with the Dali Lama. Show off. Mr. Kallayil was centered and calm and made keyword search sound like a search for the meaning of life. It’s not a type in field on Google’s home page, it’s the “white box” where a billion people across the world arrive at each day and tell it their deepest secrets and desires. Mr. Kallayil pointed out that people tell the white box things they don’t communicate to even the closet people in their lives. Probably true. We got a glimpse behind the curtain of how Google analyzes search terms and how that informs new products and services. He talked about the nnewly launched Instant Search as well as what they are doing around piping in social media conversations. But It was Gopi, so search transcends finding out where to find a latte. Someone noticed what results Google was returning when a user typed in suicide. They made sure that the crisis hotline 800 number showed up high in the results. The next month, calls to this hotline rose 10%.

The highlight of the day for me was Mike Steib, Director of Emerging Platforms at Google. He was engaging, entertaining and really knew his stuff. It was all about mobile, convergence and once again, speed; Hare. Mr. Steib urged us to design our web experiences for a TV screen as well as a mobile screen. He gave us his prediction for what percentage of the U.S. population will have a smart phone by the end of 2011, 100%. I really enjoyed how he took cutting edge ideas developed at MIT and brought them down to practical applications like getting a haircut. Even though his delivery was accessible and delightful, the real message was get going and do it now. It’s a new reality and we will need to figure out how to be a tortoise and a hare.


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Dennis Woodside, Matthew Slaughter, John Gerzema, Mike Steib (Steve A Furman)

The Google TV demo at the end of the day fell a little short for me. They did not have the devices connected to the Internet and so I couldn’t go to my web site,, to see how it would look on the big, beautiful Google TV screen. A bit of a miss. And one more thing. How about an afternoon break guys! Those aside, I’ll be back, that is if they invite me.

Tortorise and Hare images from free clip art server

Who, What, When, Where, Why


As someone who reads newspapers, printed on paper thank you, I’ve been intently following the downward spiral of this industry over the last several years. I acquired the habit of reading the paper from my father and there was a point in my lifetime when nearly every adult read the daily newspaper. It wasn’t a question of whether or not you subscribed, but instead we debated about getting the morning or evening delivery. Yes newspapers used to be printed and delivered twice a day. If you didn’t get it in the morning you couldn’t enjoy it with your coffee. But if you got it early in the day you would miss the latest breaking news. We couldn’t afford both so we took the morning delivery. There has always been a desire for fresh news.

This year many storied papers have either closed their doors or moved distribution entirely online. Falling readership is closely followed by evaporating advertising revenues, so the math problem is difficult to solve. Popular thinking says newspapers are old media and are being slowly killed by the online household penetration of PC’s and broadband connections. Consumers can get their news instantly for free online, so why pay to wait for old news? It’s also said that this death rattle has been hastened by the explosion of blogs and microblog services. But newspaper readership was declining well before the Internet became a mass media as we can see from the this graph depicting average daily newspaper audience readership from 1990 to 2008.

But there is something else at play here. From 2000 to 2003, right in heart of online growth, readership remained steady. It has tailed off significantly since then but it took a while. Why? Perhaps because old habits are hard to break, perhaps it’s just a lagging indicator of the dawning of the digital age. Maybe Gen X and Y prefer bite-sized and instantaneous updates vs. more thoughtful, in-depth coverage that takes longer to produce.

NPRNewspapers are handicapped in that you can’t really do anything else, except sip coffee, while you read them. If you commute by train, it’s fine, but you can’t read while driving. Once you are at the office we immediately log-in and assume our digital identity, probably eating at our desk over lunch while surfing… I mean working. No time for the paper there. That leaves home as the place where you read the paper where there can be even more things vying for your attention. Dinner, family, chores, even more work. I know in my home there is always a week’s worth of New York Times waiting to be read.

In contrast, National Public Radio has experienced steady growth in their audience. NPR reports that in 2008 they had 20.9 million listeners during their fall quarter, up from 14.1 million in 2000. Most of this growth came in their flagship assets, Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. NPR is in depth news and they tackle the tough stories. Not just sound bites or tabloid bait. Their quality is second to none, but I believe some of t his growth is due to their strong interactive efforts and the fact that when you drive you can listen to NPR. Is it the paper medium that is losing favor or is it the effort and cost that is killing it? Listening is easier and when done well, more entertaining than reading. So people still like to go deep with their news.

Current Situation.

PC penetration and high speed Internet access is  accelerating, newspaper readership is declining and NPR audiences growing. Online newspaper views are not tanking, but they are not soaring, and the experience is overrun by ads and annoying interruptions.

What is driving this fundamental change?

I believe it is the convergence of news, information, multimedia and portability that we have been experiencing over the last few years. On NPR broadcasts they often say, visit our web site to see… Not hear, but see. Online newspapers have interactive graphics and video to supplement their reporting. They even drive readers online for more information or to see a richer display of photos or charts. And of course it’s the ability to carry this around on your smartphone or see it from any web browser that is beginning to make online the spontaneous channel choice.

Older consumers are still holding on to their TV and newspapers for news (80%+ and 60%+ respectively). But the Internet is only at 40% as this slide from Forrester Research shows.


But clearly Web 2.0 is not for 65+ no matter how point and click it becomes. This is where Google comes in. They have been accused of hastening the death of the paper with their black box search algorithms and zeal to digitize all the books on the planet. But they have said that it’s not their fault that papers are failing, or that their online efforts are not catching on. Google contends that online papers are slow to load and difficult to scan on their native sites. To prove their point Google Labs has launched Fast Flip. Their stated objective in about Google Fast Flip is to combine print and web news in an online application that is easy to scan. They have also added community features like voting and the ability to follow topics and interests of friends.

It is a very interesting experiment but users can’t really customize the content. Google has a pre-set list of publishers and your content changes based on, guess what, web searches you perform when you a logged into Google. The idea of making traditional news as easy to browse as the simple magazine wrist flip. Or, fingering through CD’s in the virtually extinct music store is a good one. But this execution needs more refinement.

Where is it gong?

The digital march can’t be stopped. It can’t even be slowed. Paper newspapers are fading away and will be gone soon. But journalism and good reporting will remain. This country was built on Free Press and many countries throughout the world still don’t have that benefit, even well into the 21st century. It is one of our hallmarks and will continue to be. The form may change but the function will not. Consumers need to exercise good judgement on what they listen to, click, read and most importantly believe. The medium has evolved, but the who, what, when, where and why of ethical and responsible journalism has not. Let’s keep that beacon shining bright. More from me about newspapers in a past post here.


  • Medimark Research and Intelligence, LLC., via Nielson Online
  • National Public Radio
  • Forrester Research

Google in the Classroom – What if…?

I have always loved the way Google transforms their logo to draw attention to key dates or milestones. You can see a previous post on this topic here. Underway now is Doodle 4 Google. School kids from kindergarten through high school have been invited to create their own Google logo around the theme what if?

From the thousands of entries they have narrowed it down to 40 and put it out for public vote. It was so much fun to see the entries and cast my ballots. Imagine what was going through those little and not so little minds. There were recurring themes. The environment, world peace, reaching out to those less fortunate. Very encouraging.

In keeping with Google’s playful tone, they created a fun way to display the judging bracket as a chalkboard.

Looking forward to seeing the winner displayed on the site May 22nd. There are videos on You Tube that youngsters have posted about creating their doodle. Here’s one I selected that was professionally made and taken from the Google channel.


Participation, Power and Social Influence Marketing

So much talk about social media. It can’t be ignored by firms who want to find more effective ways to market. Everywhere pundits are saying that advertising, as we know it, is dead. That social is the next thing. If we create an environment or community where customers can help each other and in the end your product, you will save money and get great ideas. Win, win. But how?

Senior executives of companies are understandably shy about going all in on this social thing. They see it as a potential loss of control. As a strategy that could easily backfire. Customers may say bad things about their products or company that just aren’t true. In some cases the customers may have an irrational grievance, or just didn’t understand something. Happens all the time. It’s happening right now in social networks everywhere. That’s the point. It happens and we don’t pay attention.

It’s dead simple. Firms that don’t participate will fall behind the ones that do.

I came across Ross Mayfield’s Weblog the other day. It’s really good. He posits a concept called the Power Law of Participation, and illustrates it nicely in this graphic.

Graphic Credit
: Ross Mayfield

The tail defines the low threshold activities and represents the network’s Collective Intelligence. The community identifies their likes and interests. Some of this is tracked by web analytics tools inside companies, or on broader site-spanning networks, while others manifest themselves in the communities at large in the form of links, videos, posts and subscriptions. Once an individual or ideally individuals (and lots of them) reaches collaboration, moderation, and leadership, they are in the high engagement category of Collaborative Intelligence. They process what the low engagement citizens are doing, sharing, and subscribing to, then take it up several levels. Potentially all the way to the point of producing content, even product ideas. This principle maps nicely to Forrester Research’s Ladder of Participation concept of Internet users.

We know that Google allows their engineers to spend 20% of their company time on pet projects to help foster innovation. Now that is a scary thing for mainstream company executives. And it has been said that Google is the best beta company ever, but they need to finish some things in order to grow up. There is certainly proof they have done both. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO has said.

Virtually everything new seems to come from the 20 percent of their time engineers here are expected to spend on side projects. They certainly don’t come out of the management team.

This gives us a different way to think about social networks. As an equivalent to the 20% Google grants it’s employees, except much better. Firms should start off by working the tail of Mr. Mayfield’s Law of Participation, by leveraging content they already have, or can aggregate without much effort. This will pull consumers to their site. Further up the curve it will be necessary to create influencer marketing programs that will push vs. pull. No one can say for sure where it will go, so trying to have a 5 year strategy doesn’t make any sense. Most companies don’t have the skills in house right now anyway.

By developing strategies and campaigns for each phase of this curve, companies can begin to shape and measure the practice of Social Influence Marketing.

It’s a convergence of publishing, product development and service in a social network of prospects and customers. More to come.