The Bizz by

Business & marketing advice, news and features, design inspiration, and the art of gifting.

WTF, Google? What Does the Search Engine’s Massive “Hummingbird” Update Mean for Me?


By Fausto Mendez

    Has Google felt a little bit different lately? On the surface, Google may look like the same, reliable search engine, but under the hood, the company just launched a major overhaul of its search algorithm. And it’s already affecting the way you search.

    Google is constantly updating its search algorithms to better serve the public; most updates barely tweak the search engine’s behavior. However, Google’s latest update - dubbed “Hummingbird” - is a major overhaul, and if you’ve used this week, you’ve already experienced features of the new change. We summarize the update below, the meatier details courtesy of TechCrunch

Presenting a New Focus on Questions & Answers

    Perhaps the most noticeable change is a new focus on questions and answers. Previously, Google Search focused on keywords, but now, Search takes a more intelligent approach to questions. Asking a question results in Google trying to answer it with the most relevant and reliable answers. 


    Furthermore, an update to Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is a database that attempts to store and relate (connect) all kinds of data from various sources, has made the search engine much more effective at comparing and “understanding” data. For example, you could ask Google to compare the nutritional characteristics of broccoli and asparagus, and it should bring up relevant comparison charts, diagrams, Google+ pages/posts and, of course, good-ol’-fashioned links.

    In my test of this feature, I didn’t get any fancy charts or diagrams next to my search results, which is what is supposed to happen (sometimes) if Google understood your question. Fortunately, the first link on the search results did feature a fancy chart. So it looks like the update made the search results more relevant and useful at the very least, but if you’re hoping for fancy charts by your search results, Knowledge Graph may need to grow and “learn” a little more about veggies.

Over 90% Of Searches Affected by the Update

    During Google’s presentation of the Hummingbird update, the company remained quiet on how it all works, but they did mention that about 90% of global searches would be affected by the change. That’s a big percentage for an algorithm update, and that number is absolutely frightening to search-engine marketers as they may have to make big changes to the way they operate, the clients they work with, and the employees they hire. I’m search-engine marketers will ponder it over one too many drinks this weekend.

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#MarketingMonday - iPhone 5S May Change Shopping Habits and Marketing Techniques


By Fausto Mendez

    Apple traditionally uses the Fall season to launch major new products, especially iPhones and iPods, and in precedent, it looks like the iPhone 5S may be set for a September or October release. More importantly, a built-in feature may forever change shopping habits and marketing techniques. 

    It’s that time of year again; everybody’s watching Apple with more intensity than a dog with eyes locked on the dinner table, but it’s not because we expect a major iPhone redesign. Actually, the iPhone 5S will probably look exactly like the iPhone 5, but there will be a different beast under the hood and a fingerprint reader on your home button, according to AppleInsider. More importantly, those changes could seriously alter the way businesses engage customers.

    That brand-spankin’ new fingerprint reader may forever change the way consumers interact with their iPhones, and StableyTimes describes a few possibilities. We break down Stabley’s most important points into our easy-to-read summaries below. 

+ Fingerprints may replace your passwords, including your lock-screen code. Passwords would become obsolete, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities and conveniences.

+ iPhones may replace wallets. We’ve heard it before, and we’ll hear it again. But that’s probably because the industry is trying to make it happen, and it has so far has been an unsuccessful venture because of security reasons. Fortunately, the fingerprint reader may prevent some security issues since no one can fake your fingerprint - at least not yet.  

+ An API can open up the sensor to third-party developers, who may develop unthinkable ways implementing the sensor with their apps. 

    Of course, the above changes describe what’s most likely to occur WITHIN the iPhone, but the big deal is how a fingerprint-sensor-equipped iPhone will change shopping habits and marketing tactics out in the real world. Imagine the scenarios we’ve fantasized below.

Scenario 1: Retail Shopping

    You walk by a store of one of your favorite brands: H&M Clothes. Your iPhone knows you love this brand because you recently installed the H&M catalog app, which is connected to a database of receipts that relates recent purchases credited to your email address (the same email address registered to the app). The store then pushes a special offer to your H&M app because you’ve been such a great customer during the first half of the year: “Congratulations! You now have $50 store credit to this H&M store. Expires in one week.”

    Because your fingerprint now enables you to use your iPhone as a wallet, you pay using your iPhone. What isn’t covered by the store credit is instantly covered by a credit or debit card registered to the iPhone.

    Advertisers can tailor special offers to best fit the targeted individual, so no one feels like they are getting left out. The bigger upside for advertisers is that it would be much easier to push consumers to impulse buy, which is important to retail stores and restaurants. 

Scenario 2: Easier No-Interest Financing Offers

    It’s pretty common for stores to push special offers with no-interest financing, which have a proven effect of boosting sales. A fingerprint-equipped iPhone could make it much easier to process applicants for such offers.

    Imagine a new app called “ID Packer”. It sends “ID Packs”, or “IDPs”, to other secure devices in order to speed up application processes. An IDP would be a small packet of information that contains all the required details for a financing offer. 

    You would setup ID packer in advance, of course. It may load up all your basic info, such as name and address automatically, and you’d finish off by adding your social security number and monthly income. 

    The next time that you want to apply for a special offer, all you have to do is walk up to an application machine and open the app. Within the app, you would identify and target the application machine; then, you’d scan your thumbprint to confirm that it’s really you and you really want to do this. The app sends the details to the machine, and the machine instantly approves you or denies you.

Scenario 3: Online Shopping

    Perhaps the only inconvenient thing about online shopping is the amount of data that you have to input to complete a purchase. With a fingerprint-equipped iPhone, you may be able to instantly push your data, including payment details, to any online store, and all you’ll need is a simple fingerprint scan. 

    Imagine browsing your favorite online store. You add all your products to the shopping cart, as usual, and you finally visit the cart to checkout. But instead of hitting the “Checkout” button, you hit a “Scan & Buy” button that requests a fingerprint scan from your iPhone. You scan your print, and in a matter of seconds, you’ve completed your purchase.

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Businesses and Advertisers May Not Use Google Glass for Ads


By Fausto Mendez

    Google Glass is the smartphone of the future, a wearable computer that sits on your head like a pair of glasses. Though it seems rather futuristic, the technology that powers Glass is hardly any different than the same stuff that powers your smartphone. Needless to say, advertisers and businesses continue to line up and compete for a chance to start using and building software for Glass - mostly programs and experiences centered around ads other types of marketing content (as is the custom in smartphone app development). There’s just one problem: no one is allowed to serve ads on Glass!

    Google recently announced that a set of Glass headsets would arrive at the doorsteps of some lucky developers and a few enthusiastic fans, and with that announcement, the company released the API (and guidelines) for developing software for Glass. It turns out the API specifically states that Glass and the user’s data connection may not be used to serve advertisements. Section Two of the API reads:

No Ads. You may not serve or include any advertisements in your API Client. Data Usage. You may not use user data from your API Client for advertising purposes. You may not sell or transmit any user data received from your API Client(s) to a third-party ad network or service, data broker, or other advertising or marketing provider. For the avoidance of doubt, user data from the API Client(s) may not be used for Third-Party Ad Serving (‘3PAS’).”

    This development poses problems for businesses that have become accustomed to Google’s traditional business model: ads everywhere and anywhere, but whether or not Google will maintain this stance is unknown. It could very well be a temporary measure to ensure that only the most passionate developers jump on the bandwagon. On the other hand, Google may have a business model in mind that we’ve never seen before. 

    Google is no stranger to revolutionizing business models. After all, it is the company that shaped the modern Web and the way businesses to business on the it (with the help of the masses, of course). We look forward to seeing what Google has planned throughout the rest of this decade. It will certainly be an interesting ride.

    We’ll  watch the story as it develops, so stay tuned. In the meantime, join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis. Brought to you by

Businesses Are Losing the Right to Ask Customers for Zip Codes? Yes, But It Doesn’t Matter.


By Fausto Mendez

    It’s expected that businesses make some kind of effort to obtain the personal info - including phone and address - of their customers. That’s why I was surprised to hear that it’s becoming illegal for businesses to ask for customer zip codes in the US. It was even more surprising to me when I learned that this has been illegal in California since 2011.

    Now that I think about it, a business hasn’t asked me for my zip code since my college days. That’s because California considers zip codes to be a critical piece of identifying information, and with just your zip code, they can accurately guess your home address and phone number. Whether you like it or not, it seems that as California goes, so does the rest of the nation. Massachusetts is the next state that’s outlawed the collection of zip codes during customer transactions, and there’s no reason to assume this trend will reverse itself anytime soon. Fortunately for marketers (and unfortunately for consumers), this isn’t a big deal. Consumer information is more available than ever.

    The rise of online marketing and social-media marketing makes these laws irrelevant. Let’s put it this way: if a marketer gains access to your Facebook profile, they probably have a lot more on file than just your zip code, phone number and home address. And by connecting with you on Facebook, they have a much faster and more convenient way of communicating with you than annoying junk mail or telemarketers. 

    As a result, these laws are generally perceived as good for the public, but they won’t protect consumers’ info from prying eyes - at least not in this day and age. The new laws may force marketers to rely on the online world even more, and in the digital realm, it’s much easier to get the same info and a lot more. In the end, these laws only coerce businesses to rely on easier and more effective web-based methods. Though that’s great for the marketing industry, consumers are not receiving any effective protection by the passage of these laws

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(Source: Business Insider)

Marketing Case Study: Weight Watchers Leads the Weight-Loss Race


By Fausto Mendez

We love to break down complex marketing campaigns to uncover the core motives of human behavior that fuel corporate success. This week, we’re analyzing Weight Watchers and the company’s classic marketing techniques. 

    Weight Watchers continues to dominate the weight-loss game with over $1.2 billion revenue each year and 8 million website visitors per month, and it’s closest competitors are about a third of its size. This constant success stems from a solid product that delivers results, but behind every great product is an even greater marketing campaign. Below, we break down the principles that made and continue to make the company’s marketing campaigns so damn successful. .

+ Sell the consequences. The average Weight Watchers customer isn’t interested in the product itself. Actually, the idea of self control is scary or boring, so why are people lining up for a membership? They want the consequences associated with that self control. They want the success, intimate relationships, fitness, appearance, money and whatever else results from losing weight, and they want to eat what they want while getting it. Weight Watchers sells the consequences, not the product.

+ Sell happiness. Weight Watches sells happiness, not a weight loss system. Similar to the previous point, the idea is to focus on the internal (emotional) results, not the actual product. 

+ Offer a test drive. Weight Watchers allows prospective customers to “join” the service for free. Furthermore, Weight Watches doesn’t force prospective customers to hand over a credit card number to do this. This style of free trials produces about a 30% conversion rate, which is not bad at all. 

+ Make it easy. The PointsPlus system makes it easy for customers to track calories without actually tracking calories. Sure, it’s based on basic nutritional science, but the target audience hates learning. PointsPlus is much easier in the short term. 

+ Exclusive products make it hard to leave the proprietary system. Weight Watchers sells (and sometimes gives away) PointsPlus calculators, snack foods, frozen meals, ice creams and other products that make it even easier to track calories. These products actually serve a brilliant marketing purpose because they: 1. boost brand awareness at key locations within supermarkets (where the target audience spends a lot time) and 2. make counting calories the traditional way even more tedious. 

+ Seek out new audiences. Your audience can get stale if you don’t actively court new targets. Weight Watchers recently started marketing to men, but they don’t expect men to show up at the meetings where 90% of the attendants are women. As a result, the company launched online tools and mobile apps that help men diet on their own - since men often prefer to diet alone. 

    As a marketing professional, it’s hard not to get jealous when a company’s marketing campaign is consistently successful, but that’s why we’re here to break it down. Happy hunting! And thanks to  Marketing Profs for the core data

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The World’s Most Successful Business Titans Share Some of the Best Advice They’ve Ever Received


    Advice comes from every direction - even when you don’t want it, but a few times in life, a special someone shares a few words of wisdom that will shape your life forever. This is, perhaps, most true for the world’s biggest business leaders, a group that has learned to recognize good advice better than almost anyone else.

     This morning, Forbes published an insightful piece that summarizes the best advice that’s shaped the lives of some of the world’s most successful individuals. Our favorite is Beth Comstock’s story.

    During a call with former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, the call abruptly ended. She called Welch’s assistant to let her know that the call had accidentally disconnected - only to find out that the disconnection was intentional. “He wants you to know that’s what it’s like to be in a meeting with you,” the assistant said. “You’re too abrupt.”

    Harsh, but practical. More importantly, it was absurdly useful, and it really helped her climb the corporate ladder at GE.

    Martha Stewart and Deepak Chopra share similar tales. Long story short, they cherished the concept that each person is a source of infinite possibilities - a simple nugget of wisdom delivered by their loving parents. In other words, they can do whatever they want in life.

    Craig Newmark, the founder of, describes his experience at an IBM office, where he learned to balance his know-it-all attitude with his above-average sense of humor. His tendency to correct people when they’re wrong - whether or not it mattered - really became a problem with his co-workers, but he was often funny too. By replacing his know-it-all attitude with jokes and stories, he brought back a sense of unity that departed his team a long time ago.

    There’s several more stories from a variety of leaders with a variety of backgrounds. The whole piece is worth a read if you have the time.

The Death of Retail? Analysis of the Office Depot / OfficeMax Merger


By Fausto Mendez

Retail is an ever-changing landscape, but it will never be the same after the mass adoption of the Web. The office supplies industry is learning this the hard way as retail giants struggle to stay afloat in a world that is learning to prefer digital goods and services instead of the traditional stuff.

    We stumbled upon an excellent analysis of the upcoming Office Max and Office Depot merger, which is supposed to save both companies from economic doom. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a steep uphill battle as technology reduces the need for office supplies and e-commerce stores undercut the brick-and-mortar option with better prices and to-your-door delivery. In other words, get ready to pay even less for your office supplies as a revolutionary war is about to consume this industry.

    It’s a good read that inspires some important questions. Who will emerge as the online leader? Will Amazon step in to take over? Will a new, forward-thinking company emerge? Is there any room innovation? Who will remain the brick-and-mortar option? How far will prices drop? Only time will tell, but we suspect that established online giants, like Amazon, and web-based promotional products suppliers, such as, will play a big role in Office Depot/Max’s woes.

    We’ll continue to watch the story as it develops, so stay tuned. In the meantime, join the conversation on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Google+, and stay ahead of the game with an occasional hearty laugh and non-stop marketing & business advice, news and analysis.

Brands Are Becoming Mainstream Content Creators

Brands are now joining television stations, film studios, magazines and publishers as mainstream content creators. Sometimes, it’s accidental, such as with the Marco Rubio / Poland Spring incident, but it’s happening nonetheless. In 2013, expect content marketing to soar to new heights.

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