Posts Tagged ‘Steve Jobs’

Are Viral Loops the Building Blocks of the Future Marketplace?

Friday, November 15th, 2013
flickr user Gavin Llewellyn

flickr user Gavin Llewellyn

Andrew Chen defines a viral loop as simply “the steps a user goes through between entering the site and inviting the next set of users.” Former entrepreneur-in-residence at Mohr-Davidow Ventures, now freelance adviser of startups and expert on the vanguard of marketing, Chen dedicates the rest of his collection of essays, “The Viral Startup: A Guide to Designing Viral Loops,” to demonstrating how every product can be seen as a site with a viral loop built in. A viral loop is most definitely not “a mythical vortex that propels products with a magic bang into public consciousness and millions of YouTube hits,” which is what I thought it was before reading his book.

A viral loop is what brought us the viral video phenomenon “The Fox” this fall.

This is a common viral loop scenario: people react to a link they find online and share it on a social network like over and over again, and next thing you know American teens are in love with a South Korean rapper and something called “Gangnam Style.” A viral loop is a business model that emphasizes an exponentially growing feedback-and-recommendation chain of users.

Here is an example of a company that seemed to be doing just fine without a viral loop business model: Years ago I worked for a New York double-decker bus company that the tourism industry anticipated would be a refreshing, disruptive newcomer. As a family business with a history of ventures, however, they opted for the “tried and true” approach of beginning with a Minimum Viability Product—they figured out the minimum product necessary to qualify for the market, just to feel things out.

They bought old buses and fitted them with only a top deck – there was no interior for passengers who preferred to ride from inside. Because of the constant influx of tourists in New York, profits were high despite the fact that the business was in a preliminary stage, and customer dissatisfaction was frequent, especially concerning customer service. The company had not made social media a priority either. All the elements of a viral loop were missing, yet the company prospered. We’ll catch up with their journey a little later.

Chen explains that the key mistake marketing departments make is that they attempt to “bolt” a viral loop onto a product, not realizing that in order for a viral loop to work, it has to be built into the product itself. It is not about an ad going viral, it is about letting the consumer feel like they are playing a very real role in the culture of this Happy Meal, or cell phone, or song. The implication here is that only experiences go viral.

One of Chen’s essays in the book is about the role Steve Jobs played in the marketing of Apple products by making sure each of them was constructed as a viral loop from the start.

A way to build a viral loop into a product is to ensure that the consumer can share an experience; that experience would be balanced between marketing, functionality, and design at every point of the product’s evolution, as Apple did with the iPhone. Even the first iPhone had high functionality and sleek design, while encouraging users to share experiences through the device itself. In a department-driven company, there is competition between these aspects, and the focus on marketing very often wins out. Steve Jobs edited the output of each department and blend it all into a whole.

Awareness of products as facilitators for viral loops separates the waning business culture of yesterday from the adaptable, sustainable entrepreneurships of the future.

Let’s return to the tour-bus company. Because of low overhead, during the recession the company was able to actually take a significant amount of their competitors’ market share. As a result, they stagnated in the Minimum Viability Product model. Its purpose was no longer to explore the market, but to turn in profit quickly. They acquired their main competitor and applied the same model to them. However, small modern tour van startups that already have their own tour-guide apps, have a sustainable loop of followers, and who will soon be able to afford state-of-the-art double-deckers have been growing in the shadows of the skyscrapers.

The colossal tour bus company does have one very important asset, which if exploited can integrate a viral loop into their business model and help them blow any tech-centered, GPS-activated tour guide app-wielding startups out of the water. They have walking, talking viral loops in their live tour guides. A happy employee is a perfect balance of marketing, engineering and design.

Can the future be the Minimum Desirability Model—defined by Chen as “the simplest experience necessary to prove out a high-value, satisfying product experience for users, independent of business viability?”

The difference between minimum effort for maximum profit and simplicity is subtle, but it makes all the difference in who will survive the exponentially accelerating technological shifts of the modern marketplace. Perhaps a viral loop is one way of looking at true simplicity.

Remembering What Social Media Said About Steve Jobs

Friday, October 14th, 2011

We were all saddened about the passing of visionary Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, last week. (Apple, Inc. is a BurrellesLuce client.) His creative innovation will continue to affect us for generations to come. I once saw him “in real life” (IRL) at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA. Of course, it was in passing, but my husband still thinks it was the coolest celebrity sighting I have ever had. It may have been.

The social media buzz was unavoidable. A posting by Arik Hanson prompted an idea. BurrellesLuce currently posts transcripts of several industry Twitter chats, so why not see what the social media world is saying about Jobs?

Many of the posts were posted via Apple products, and the re-tweeting of this fact, probably helped to stall Twitter. There were several trending words and hashtags, but the most poignant was #iSad.

Some of my favorite posts were:

  • @Peter_Max: Remembering Steve Jobs 4 more than computers & iPhones. His concern for the environment & the idea to Think Different were his true gifts!
  • @libbykober: “Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple” #RIPSteveJobs
  • @wobiwan: Three apples changed human life; Adam’s apple, Newton’s apple and the Steve Job’s apple. #RIPSteveJobs #iSad
  • @ladygaga: From his own invention I open my browser to it’s homepage. Today it took my breath away. #ThankYouSteve. Going to eat Apples all day.
  • @claiirebearclaiirebear: My life has been changed and impacted by a man i’ve never met. Such dedication and brilliance. RIP. #ThankYouSteve
  • @rene: #ThankYouSteve for all the products you’ve made for Apple. I can’t live without my iPhone 4, iPad 2, & Other products. RIP Steve Jobs! #iSad
  • @Vegas__Paul: Steve Jobs: born out of wedlock, put up for adoption, dropped out of college, then changed the world. What’s your excuse #thankyousteve
  • @debhalasz: All I know is 10 years ago we still had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope, and Johnny Cash and now we have no Jobs, no Hope, and no Cash. #isad
  • The Next Web blog – Beautiful: Public #thankyousteve Tweets visualised into a giant Steve Jobs poster.
  • Apple World – Slideshow: Steve Jobs through the years.

You can view the entire #iSad and other Steve Jobs related transcripts here.

What are your favorite Steve Job tributes?

In PR and Media: October 6, 2011

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Remember the Life of Steve Jobs (AllThingsD)
A round-up of some obituaries from global media publications.

Emailers Not Notified If It Lands in Junk (MediaPost/Return Path)
19 percent of all emails sent from corporate accounts either go missing or end up as “junk.”

Network News Chiefs: ‘The audience ultimately will make the decision as to whether we are still relevant or capable or not’ (MediaBistro/TVnewser)
TV network executives recently got together to discuss the future of evening news and broadcast journalism.

Study: Tablets Make Their Owners Less Social, More Sedentary (Forbes)
gfK MRI survey reveals that since buying a tablet device, 19 percent of users are less likely to play sports and 9 percent are not as likely to socialize with friends and family.

In PR and the Media: August 30, 2011

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Condé Nast Launches New Social Tool (FishbowlNY)
“Condé Nast is getting more social with the launch of Social Sidekick, a web tool that will aggregate the most shared pieces from some of its many brands. The tool launches Wednesday, and will showcase popular articles from W,, Glamour, Self, Teen Vogue and Lucky.”

Here’s Why Fox News Claims Gawker’s Traffic Fell 75 Percent (
“Fox News and Gawker are going at it again. The Rupert Murdoch-owned cable channel says Gawker is irrelevant, so much so that its irrelevancy needs to be discussed both on Fox’s No. 1-rated air and on its website. The Nick Denton-owned gossip site says Fox’s logic-challenged attack is preemptive payback — pretaliation? — for a juicy story on a major Fox personality it’s getting set to publish.”

Steve Jobs’ Greatest Legacy: Persuading The World To Pay For Content (
“Jobs pried open many content companies’ thinking, because his focus was always on getting something great to the customer with as few obstacles as possible.”

Study Reveals Facebook Age Gap: Older Users Don’t ‘Like’ It, But Are More Likely To Click Through (MediaPost)
“Don’t expect Facebook users age 50+ to ‘Like’ a product or service in an ad, but do expect them to click through to the landing page or Web site, according to a new study.”

G.E. to Produce Short Films About Innovation (NYTimes/MediaCoder)
“General Electric just can’t stay away from the movies. Barely eight months after ceding control of NBC Universal and its Universal Studios to Comcast, G.E. is diving into the documentary world as the financial backer of 30 three-minute films by directors including Morgan Spurlock (“POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”), Joe Berlinger (“Crude”), Barbara Kopple (“Shut Up and Sing”) and Alex Gibney (“Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place”).”

Media Outlets Leverage Mobile Apps

Monday, November 29th, 2010

by Carol Holden*

Surpurised young woman holding a mobile and shopping bagsFor me, it’s official – the world has gone totally mobile. The other night a commercial, on a kids’ cable channel my daughter watches, featured a Grandmother giving her little grandson (he looked about six to me) a tablet-reader for Christmas. I’ve been forewarned and won’t be shocked if my eight year old asks for one.

No wonder the rush continues for traditional media to expand to mobile devices, with some innovative apps already rolled out and others on the way:

  • The Economist just launched an enhanced version of its publication for the iPad and iPhone. Readers can tweak the layout and graphs so they can receive all the robust content of the magazine, but in a format that makes sense for a small screen. “You’re trying to recreate your print magazine but redesign it to make the most of the medium,” said Oscar Grut, managing director of digital editions for The Economist.
  • Oprah’s O, The Oprah Magazine has just released its iPad app to much fanfare. As described in the Marketwire release, “’I love the written word, and I love the iPad — to me, it’s another way to experience the intimacy of this magazine and its part of the future of the business,’ said Oprah Winfrey. ‘It’s a new way to connect with our readers, who are on a path of becoming their best selves.’”
  • New Corps’ Rupert Murdoch and Apple’s Steve Jobs recently announced they would be teaming up to create a new iNewspaper. “The collaboration, which has been secretly under development in New York for several months, promises to be the world’s first ‘newspaper’ designed exclusively for new tablet-style computers such as Apple’s iPad, with a launch planned for early next year,” writes Edward Helmore in this Guardian UK article. “According to reports, there will be no ‘print edition’ or ‘web edition.’”

In fact, there are already enough publications with apps (over 700) available to audiences and readers on the iPad that strategic research company McPheters and Company was able to put together a ten best list. “McPheters ranked the print-to-iPad products based on design, functionality and use of rich content.” The list presents an interesting mix of both newspapers and magazines covering the gamut of lifestyle, culture, politics, news, sports, food, fashion, etc. The number one spot went to The New Yorker app, with apps for newspaper circulation heavy-weights USA Today and The Wall Street Journal making the list at number eight and ten respectively. Fashion entrant Net-A-Porter made the list at number five.

Mobile applications are becoming such an integral part of the media landscape that other industry organizations are taking notice. The American Society of Magazine Editors announced that among the changes to the National Magazine Awards 2011, they will include a new award for mobile editions.

In this age of PR 3.0, how are you using mobile apps to connect with your audiences? If you use a mobile device to read newspapers and magazines, what outlets would top your list of best media apps? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.


Bio: I’ve been in the media business all of my adult life, first in newspapers before going full circle and joining BurrellesLuce, where I now direct the Media Measurement department. I’ve always enjoyed meeting and especially listening to the needs of our customers and others in the public relations and communications fields; I welcome sharing ideas through the Fresh Ideas blog. One of my professional passions is providing the type of service to a client that makes them respond, “atta girl” – inspiring our entire team to keep striving to be the best. Although I have been lucky enough to travel through much of Asia and most major U.S. cities for business or pleasure, my free time is now spent with my daughter, visiting family/friends, and of course the Jersey shore. Twitter: @domeasurement LinkedIn: Carol Holden Facebook: BurrellesLuce