Less than a year ago we launched our first Christmas theme and kicked off a year long cycle of building a theme for many of the major holidays. It was something purely fun and it went over big. The latest can be found at www.brandthunder.com/christmas.
So in the list of family, friends and coworkers, one of the things I’m thankful for is the little idea that went big. We had a steady pace of new products and users outside our core business. An added benefit to promising the holiday themes was the built-in deadline. Despite the non-client nature of these browser themes, dates needed to be hit to coincide with spikes in searches and consumer interest.
If there’s a bigger lesson here, it’s probably to keep the side projects alive and give at least some of them the runway they need to get a true market test. It’s certainly been helpful to us.
A start up consumes all your time. You read that a lot. Attachment and bonding takes a lot of time. You read that a lot if you’re in the adoption community. These two conflicting needs were on a collision course when I considered joining Brand Thunder.
The compromise was that I would care for my daughter in the mornings and start my workday in the afternoon after my wife finished hers. It was important to my wife and I that we be the primary caregivers to our adopted daughter. The fact that Brand Thunder offered me the flexibility to do this demonstrated a high degree of trust that the founder had in the people he was bringing into the company. That trust is returned with commitment and effort.
My experience isn’t unique in the company. The flexibility extended to me was there by design and reflects Patrick’s desire to create a culture that meets the needs of the business and its clients, and serves the personal needs of its team.
The company is headquartered in Dublin, OH, but the first two people to join the team were located in Victoria, British Columbia and Austin, Texas. Finding the best people requires removing geography from the equation. When our system architect decided to relocate to the Baja Peninsula for 6+ months, it was a non-issue. The quality of work was known, his ability to execute on a timely basis proven. While the company has an office, there are no set office hours and much work still occurs remotely.
To offer this level of flexibility probably isn’t the easiest thing to do. The technology that enables it is not as good as being face-to-face at the same time in the same place. With minor changes to work habits and expectations, however, it’s completely workable. As Willie Nelson said, “it’s not wrong, it’s just different.”
It helps to have clearly defined goals, roles and process. When you know what needs to be done, it’s pretty easy to go and do it – regardless of where and when. In the end, hopefully there’s a greater good achieved. For my family, and me, that’s certainly the case.
An article over on Adweek this week discussed engagement and its misuse in advertising circles. Since Brand Thunder’s Booms! have engagement as a core value proposition, I immediately found myself on the opposing view side. To be fair, some of the points made have merit – but it’s not necessarily a problem with engagement.
Our custom browser experiences prove valuable because they are engaging. The browser is the most used application on the computer. You wrap that in branding, images, content and functionality and you’ve got a pretty compelling product. You put that in the hands of your loyal audience and you’ve got a powerful engagement tool that’s going to strengthen that connection with the end user.
I don’t see engagement as the problem. For advertisers, though, I can see the problem being where the engagement label is applied. If your user is engaged with a web site, the ads only chance is to interrupt that experience which probably isn’t going to get the response you want (though there are billions of dancing mortgage ads that will argue this point with me).
When engagement is within the site, if you’re not a natural part of the site, your value declines. AOL Instant Messenger never really cracked the ad mystery because the high volume of ads and a user’s intense focus on the application. Engagement with the product is through the roof, but with the ads is horrendous. Brand marketers found their integration points however with avatars and skins and you saw users respond.
To claim engagement isn’t valuable to the advertiser or is overhyped, to me, misses the mark. An advertisers interaction with its end user is incredibly valuable, and that’s engagement. Just don’t expect it when their attention is firmly somewhere else.
Close to a year ago Brand Thunder launched its first holiday experience for the browser. For a business focused on the personalization of the Internet browser, it would have been an unfortunate oversight.
Christmas kicked off what’s been a full year of capturing the major holidays in our Booms! and they’ve been exceptionally popular. If you’ve not seen the Thanksgiving Boom!, check out our Gallery and click the Holiday link. It’s festive and fun, and it’ll be a nice placeholder until you download our upcoming Christmas Boom!.
From a business growth standpoint, Christmas provided a whole new avenue to explore outside of our focus on branded browsers. Great brands have solid followings and a lot of affinity marketing products are built on those relationships. But if you’re that business in the middle providing a service to the brand and to their end user, it makes sense for you to look at other outlets for your creativity and potential markets that are under served.
Our holiday efforts got our custom browser experiences into a lot of new hands. It’s been an effective and simple method to expand our product and help our business. So, in a few weeks, I know one additional thing I’ll be thankful for.