Ten things that will thrive BECAUSE of the recession


I read a recent an article in ComputerWorld entitled “Ten things that won’t survive the recession” by well respected reporter Mike Elgan (http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9124260&intsrc=hm_list.)  The article was depressing largely because it was so well written and his casualty list was well considered. It was not a pretty picture.  


So in a defiant act of faith, let me offer my counter list … “Ten things that will thrive because of the recession”. (At least I’ll feel better trying to come up with such a list.)


1)     Direct marketing … but reinvented.

To me, the internet is one big direct marketing engine where prospects “self select” via their searches. When thought of this way, many of the principles that drive great DM will also drive great internet marketing.  Dust off those old “Direct Marketing 101” books – they’ll get the job done in this digital age.


2)     Good ol’ fashioned marketing common sense.

I hear many pitches from agencies and online properties that make no sense whatsoever on any normal metric. These are often made by companies trying to sell me on the “branding value” of an online buy.


Get real. Branding value in the online world is about effective as a one of those banners that flies behind planes. Limited.


Advertising in the online world is based on good old fashioned reach and frequency and has to roll up into a business metric. If the buy does not make financial sense – just walk away. Online marketing is not the place to make branding campaigns. If you don’t know why, see #1.


3)     Social marketing campaigns.

If you think great social or viral marketing campaigns just happen – think again.


Good viral marketing engages a well coordinated set of tools to create the effect you are looking for. It is not haphazard and it is not “luck”. It is a planned promotion that you can manage once you know the elements. Best of all, many of the elements are free if you know what to look for.


Here are some of the top components:

·        A viral video BUT …

Do not expect much to happen – no matter how interesting you think it is – unless you overtly build in the “kicker element”. Meaning, it must have an element that satisfies some specific emotional need to directly compel someone to send it along (think direct marketing call to action). It’s not about spending a lot of money either – it’s about getting to a concept that is built around its “virability”.


For example, a recent no cost success in viral videos was a web cam of six new born puppies hanging out in their basket. It was viral because it was so sweet to look at and people wanted to share it. It taps into our deeply ingrained satisfaction in looking at babies – or cute animal babies J. Here’s another example of a very successful video where the recipient looks like they were running for president.http://www.columbusalive.com/live/content/features/stories/2008/10/09/ca_l_net.html 


Do viral video – just do it right otherwise you will be disappointed. 


·        Customer feedback platform for a site. This is one of the most effective ways to leverage the power of social networking. You can even do this for free with a UserTrust, a feedback platform from Comodo, a leading Certification Authority.


·        Community chat.- you can get this for free too from Paltalk chat software. Just download the software and you can start a room for free where people can chat with each other.


·        Video streaming – You want to demonstrate your new product? Use a video streaming platform – also from Paltalk using their premium rooms.


·        Start a blog — You can share ideas and get honest feedback from your visitors. But beware, never say anything in a blog you wouldn’t want showing up on Page 1 of your local newspaper. ‘Nuf said.


4)     Comprehensible data run businesses.

I read a disturbing factoid that asserted most companies (80%) have lots of information and not a lot of comprehension. More simply, too much data of the wrong kind without the intelligence to allow someone to get what they need.


This issue has plagued CIO’s for at least a decade and the holy grail of delivering usable, configurable data is close. Why? Because the industry is moving away from rigid taxonomy driven databases where everyone “categorizes” everything the same way to a more fluid metadata structure which provides a new opportunity to get to the Promised Land.


5)     Explosion of Internet community groups and micro-businesses

The chat room of yesterday will reinvent itself as a vital part of the ecommerce sector. Rooms with video streaming capability can be secured so that they can handle transactions. This sector is the digital pushcart equivalent of the real world pushcart business of today, a low barrier to entry to eCommerce.


6)     Configurable, web based rich media communication services.

That pile of techno babble simply means that people will be to use video, audio and text in any combination interacting with as many people as they want when they communicate online. They will be able to choose whether they want a small media rich chat or a large multi person video streaming conference – just with a click of the button.


7)     Online authentication services.

We must become practical about how we bridge the trust gap that now exists between our ability to authenticate in the real world versus the online world. As we conduct more and more of our business online – this is not a nice to do – but must do. There are innovative companies like Comodo creating these type of centralized and distributed authentication services using new techniques in smarter surfing and authentication as an integrated business process.


8  ) Practical eCommerce driven ways for everybody to “go green”.

Today, if you want to contribute to help our planet’s environment, it’s difficult because there are so many disconcerted programs and projects and charities. On top of that, local community efforts seem well intended but often lacking in practical application.


In the next few years, consumers will get tired of waiting for government to act and will demand better ways to link environmental efficiency with an economical benefit. Companies that let people easily manage their eco-evolution will thrive. These companies will be a single resource that helps people contribute to reduce their own carbon footprint and will also offer guidance on ways to reduce costs using eco-friendly methods.


9)     Nanotechnology

This has been on my radar for about 4 years now and I still think it is one of those “step change” technologies. As resources become scarcer or more accurate sourcing for resources becomes more challenging, technologies that can scale up in terms of productivity while scale down in terms of resource consumption is a no brainer winner. Nanotechnology is one of those few technologies that meets both criteria.


10)  Digital and identity protection services.

We are living in the Wild West of digital landscapes in some ways because it’s often hard to know who to trust online and it’s even harder to deal with a problem once it emerges.


In response, a new set of coordinated services will emerge that covers a wide range of needs from secure backup services (there are great free ones today though like Comodo Backup), to identity protection and restoration services to PC management and protection against the relentless technological warfare being waged against ordinary PC civilians.


So there you have it – my predictions for winners that could only be possible in current conditions.


Now that I think about it – I’d love to have the longest “who will succeed in this recession list” on the planet. Send me who you think will succeed and have your friends send me their bets on future winners too, I’ll add them all.  


Maybe by sheer force of positive thinking we can help in ways that the economists could never guess. (This reminds me of the scene in Peter Pan when he asks the audience to clap for Tinker Bell to save her…)


Send me your digital clap. It’s worth a try.


Judy Shapiro



12/26 UPDATE:

Here are 3 additions to our 2009 Companies that will thrive because of the recession list. Keep ‘em coming…

  • Printers, books and printing … a resurgence of old fashioned direct mail – submitted by Ben
  • Trains transportation – submitted by Harvey and Lisa
  • Gardening and farming – submitted by Kay

 Spread the word and we’ll keep adding to the list. Judy Shapiro





Update: December 30, 2008


These winners were just in  

  • Cloud computing for ASP type application (thanks Ira)
  • Multi-player real time gaming
  • Wireless marketing (OK – I have heard this before – maybe this year if smart phones reach a critical mass)
  • Which leads us to Smart Phones

Keep ’em coming 🙂

HAPPY 2009!

Judy Shapiro






“Trust relates to a function”


I stumbled upon this recent quote from Melih Abdulhayoglu in the Comodo Forum. The context for this quote was that in software security, applications may be trusted to do certain things but not other things. Said simpler, Melih introduced in my mind the concept of limited trust – all trust is related to the function at hand.


He meant it in a technical sense of course, but that idea just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Taken to its logical (albeit cosmic) conclusion, his simple technical idea started a storm in my mind that suggested that there can be no situation where one person completely and wholly trusts another, all the time. 


This idea put a knife in my highly precious set of beliefs that include you can trust completely or, that love triumphs over all and I was determined to protect this idealistic concept.


At I first tried to answer the question by looking at my own experience. Was there anyone, when I really analyzed it rationally, that I totally trusted? On everything? I thought long and hard and the answer was a depressing no. There was no one I trusted all the time for everything.


Then I thought – damn he was right. I was feeling worse. It was going to be a long night. But the more I tried to rationalize this concept, the further the knife was driven into the heart of my now, on life support idea, that we can trust people in our lives completely.


I needed to be inspired and so I turned inward. I started to think about the people I love in my life and I realized how closely tied love and trust really are. Once I made that connection, the answer became clear.


Trust can be bestowed wholly and unquestioningly … but there is a trick. Just like love, we can trust completely but we must really understand the people we give our trust to because then we know what not to count on them for. If trust is “done right”, trust can be maintained because there is no situation where they are being “set up to fail”. And there’s a sweeter side too if we trust this way. The power of trusted-ness, means that it can withstand the occassional dings of disappointments that inevitably occur.


In the end, if someone we trust disappoints us too much – we should look to ourselves first. The answer is not that they failed (if our trust was well placed), but that we failed to observe well enough. It’s not that we can’t trust universally, it is that we did not do it right.    


It’s a meaningful difference that frames the concept for me better. After all, trust so fundamental to how we live a rich life – I couldn’t let that sad “you can’t trust anyone” thought roam freely in my mind.   


I’m glad that’s settled.


Judy Shapiro

2008 Holiday Retail Predictions – Where have all the shopping bags gone?


I became sensitive to retail sales trends early in my career when I worked with JCPenney on their advertising. I learned shopping mall dynamics and became attuned to the subtle factors that drive success or failure in a retail environment.


I got very good at knowing which retailers were going to do well by tracking the shopping bags consumers were carrying. Living in NYC provided a perfect microcosm of the retail landscape and the NYC Subway system provided the perfect controlled laboratory to conduct my research. Within a single train car was a cross section of America’s consumer life – from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low.


Year after year, in December I would get a sense of which retail segments were doing well and even which specific retailers. I got very good at it. I knew when Target was on the ascend and when Crate Barrel was the rocking place.


So as a matter of habit as I travel the NYC subway system this year like all the other 30+ years living in Manhattan,  I take special note of the bags. But this year, the sad truth is there are so few bags!


Normally at this time of year, the subway would be filled with people carrying bags and boxes filled with wrapping paper rolls, new boom boxes, TV and the like. Riders would politely step over mountains of bags. You often couldn’t even see people in seats because they were often obscured by the mounds of bags.


But not this year. The bags are so few and far between that I worry because this is probably a truer reflection of everyone’s sentiment versus all the polls or pundits can muster. So with a deep sigh of trepidation… here are my retail predictions for who will have a good December.


First, who we predict will not do well…(this is a no surprise list … but just in case):

  • Electronics – Sorry Best Buy
  • Ego driven leather goods, e.g. Prada
  • Ego driven retail stores, e.g. Barney’s, Sharper Image
  • Eco driven retailers – those organic $32 t-shirts are history for now
  • Industrial strength “toys” like Hulk Hogan action heroes or Barbie’s Dream Home  

So now for the “who should do well at least in comparison to most other retailers” list. It is a short list L

  • High end food gifts or food related services, e.g. Trader’s Joe or Fresh Direct
  • Designer oriented, low priced outlets, e.g. Target, high end outlet malls
  • Utilitarian “design” household stores, e.g. Williams Sonoma
  • Books and stationary
  • Crafts or homemade clothing
  • Pampering services as long as they are not decadent. For example a gift certificate for a massage – nice. But a $2,000 Botox gift – not.
  • Quality toys and kid’s stuff will do well.   


I am sure this is not an all exhaustive list – but I do hope that this year’s shopping bag prediction poll is wrong. Maybe everyone is having everything delivered to their homes and that’s why I see no bags.


I can only hope. Happy holidays to all!  


Judy Shapiro  



%d bloggers like this: