Entries in Shaun Amanda Herrmann (45)


Detailing Your Brand

Mystery Package
This morning as I drove in to work I found myself behind a “new car transporter.” One of those huge trucks with a couple of tiers of brand-spanking-new automobiles in tow. At first I couldn’t determine WHAT vehicles were on the truck – they were each enveloped in a white cocoon cover. Oh, I could spot single or double exhausts peeking out from what appeared to be custom-cut holes in each transport wrap. And there were even sheer plastic insets over the rear windshields of each vehicle. But other than that, even the side mirrors were dutifully swathed.

Ever more curious, now I just HAD to know what precious cargo was headed north through Virginia, on its merry way to new ownership. So I hit the gas, passed a package delivery truck and pulled alongside the mystery delivery. AHA. Ever so neatly branded on the side of each white wrapper was a prominent set of interlocking rings and the simple (but powerful) word AUDI.

It’s All in the Details
Branded, indeed. Some other manufacturers may prefer their vehicles “naked” in transit, so that we can all see the impressive blue truck or the sporty yellow coupe. But in this instance, a very different kind of advertising. A statement and surely a conscious marketing decision. These cars, so perfectly packaged and protected, even for basic transportation, screamed VALUABLE and EXCLUSIVE and DESIRABLE. And I gave them a round of mental applause on a decision that might seem insignificant, but is an example of living a brand. Of understanding what your product or service represents to the people who buy it or use it, and translating that understanding to every facet of your business. Right down to how you package it when it’s on a truck for delivery.

Brand Value
Perception is important. Just ask Millennials, who according to an Iconoculture insight are more likely to feel “my car or automobile is an expression of who I am” (51%) and “my car or automobile tells the world I am successful” (34%).

image used courtesy of IconocultureEvery contact you have with someone - how you answer the phone, how you reply to a question on Twitter, the content you post on Facebook, the images on your website, how you interact with your audience during a presentation, the physical package you sell your new retail gadget in, and yes – right down to how you transport your product – is an opportunity to live your brand.

(Me? I recently bought a new car myself. I’m a Gen Xer, and if you’re curious, 43% of us claim that our cars are expressions of who we are. I chose my car based more on what I use it for, but I suppose indirectly that, too, is an expression of who I am. I fondly retired my 13-year-old Honda after many trips to the beach, camping adventures, and daily commutes to the office - these last few years with a gleeful dog hanging out of the back window…And I traded her in for another one….I think Honda’s got my number.)

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann) 


Say Hello: Airtime Video Chat on Facebook

I tried Facebook's formal video chat (powered by Skype) when it first launched in June 2011, with mixed results. I haven’t really done much with it since my initial disappointment (it was glitchy and involved software download by all participants). But this month I tried Airtime – a new video chat from the Napster minds of Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning – that is integrated with Facebook.

In just a few seconds I was up and running (no It's really easy to connect for the first time.software to download, it runs in your browser). The first day I kicked it off with an impromptu “meeting” with a colleague in another city. And we connected pretty quickly, despite apparent issues with the system when it debuted June 5, 2012 (CNN reported here that “Glitch after glitch marred Airtime’s first public showing…”).


  • Go to Airtime.com
  • Log in with Facebook
  • Click “talk to someone” (to have Airtime connect you with someone, based on your preferences) or click on one of your Facebook friends to connect with them directly (you both have to have Facebook accounts, webcams and Adobe Flash 10.3 or higher. Airtime is not currently set up for mobile devices/tablets).


If you’d like to take a more “random” approach to who you chat with (hearken to “ChatRoulette” a little here), you can choose some options for Airtime to find someone to chat with.

Choose from three checkboxes for:

  • Nearby
  • Common Interests
  • Friends of Friends

That’s it – the system searches for someone to connect you with and suddenly there’s an animated face on the right side of your screen (you’re on the left so you can see yourself, gotta check that hair/look for stuff in your teeth, etc.).

Once you are connected with someone, your personal info like your name (and theirs) is listed as “anonymous” until (or if) you decide to accept this person and add them to your contacts/friends. People are added to your Airtime friend list (and you to theirs) when BOTH chatters accept the request. And this does NOT affect your actual friends list in Facebook, so you don’t have to worry that you’re adding someone to your video chat list in Airtime and suddenly they are one of your friends on Facebook.

Also (for people the system finds for you based on common interests) you’ll see a list in the middle of your screen (superimposed) of things the two of you have in common, be it TV shows, where you went to school, or the brand of soda you drink.


More on “interests” – there is a list under your name/video image on the screen. Those are your “interests,” and they initially pull in from Facebook – page and brands you like, TV shows you’ve listed, music, etc. You can edit these. But I should warn you that (at least right now) you only appear to be able to add interests from a preconfigured list (that appears to be populated by Facebook content such as brand pages, etc.). So you couldn’t, for example, just type and add the word “dogs” to your interest list. Instead, a list of preconfigured choices come up that have “dogs” in them, And just like when you add a friend to Airtime they are not automatically being added to your Facebook friends list, when you make changes to your interests in Airtime those changes will not be reflected in your Facebook profile. (Kind of a bummer for brand pages in Facebook, as I’m sure brands would love to capture any added Airtime interests as page “likes” in Facebook!.)

You can search for chat partners by a single Chatting with colleague Betsy Parkins, as we try out Airtime.“interest” on your list, too, – just click on one of the interests under your name and a popup window will prompt you to either remove that interest, or search by it.

ON the bottom right of your screen is a text crawl that shows the current popular “interests” on Airtime. You can also just click on one of those to search for fellow users (at this writing, topics like Mad Men and NBC Olympics are scrolling…now having some of these be sponsored by advertisers would be a great marketing opp, akin to Twitter’s sponsored trending topics).


  • You can leave video messages for friends who don’t answer
  • It’s easy, and there's no software to install on your device
  • It can be a little glitchy (I had to shut down Airtime and then go back in when it appeared to hang up and wouldn’t let me cancel a search, and for a couple of calls it did take several seconds to connect).
  • This is not geared for group video chat. Only two people can chat at a time (well, two web cams are connected at a time, how many people you cram into the frame of each is up to you)
  • You remain classified as “anonymous” when you chat with a stranger unless you both accept an invite to connect and add each other to your Airtime friend lists
  • You can search for people with common interests


I like the ease of chatting with people I know. And yes, it’s easy to chat with people I don’t know, too – BUT – at least from the first few chats I’ve tried based on common interest searches, it’s pretty hit or miss. In terms of true relevance, it’s not as simple as searching for someone who lists a specific TV show among their interests and expecting that person to be able to discuss the recent season finale. You may end up with someone who still has that show in their Facebook interests because they watched the first season. Or they “liked” the official page on Facebook to enter a promotion. It’s the same with any other “interest” – pro sports teams to charitable causes. Expect to find a lot of frogs before you discover those princely connections who really have something substantial in common with you (or something to contribute to whatever interest you’re tracking down). My first random chats connected me with geographical diversity to places including Singapore and Buenos Aires, and California and Massachusetts here in the U.S.

I'm sure Airtime will evolve over the next few months in terms of how it’s used (more conversations with friends or more conversations with strangers? Will it become Facebook’s staple for video chat with friends?), as well as utilization across various demographics (especially age).

For additional info, see these articles: New York Times, USA Today, CNN, Washington Post.

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)


How Smart is Your Phone?

I do so much on my phone these days that I often forget not everyone has a smartphone. But then I’m already well into my second one, and planning for the next. So I’ve had a few years for this type of phone to really become an intrinsic part of my everyday life.

I started digging a little on the difference between phones, only to quickly discover there is no industry standard definition of what a smartphone is. We used to simply say someone had a “dumb” phone or a smartphone. But rapid technological evolution has led to rather muddy categories, and there’s overlap between them. But here are what I consider the basic categories:

AKA "basic" cell phone - you can make calls on it: pizza, police. The usual stuff. That’s pretty much all early cell phones could do. But most have cameras now. And basic text/mms capability. (MMS, or multimedia messaging service, lets you also send graphics, video or sound files over your network – have to be able to share those photos somehow!).

We’re already into gray area here. Feature phones are more advanced than your basic dumb phone. You could argue that even having a camera makes a basic phone a feature phone, but “features” have quickly evolved to also include things like touchscreens, GPS navigation, media player capabilities and calendars/scheduling/reminders. Today’s feature phones would have been considered smartphones not too long ago.

Take all your regular goodies and add direct internet access and the integration of application programming interfaces (APIs) – translation: app’s! You’re walking around with nothing short of a mini-computer. Access your email, video chat (for phones with two cameras), and create and send documents and files. Shoot, edit and post video to YouTube. Do your holiday shopping or some online banking. Watch a movie. And with some phones, you can even share your internet access with others – my own HTC phone gives me a private mobile hotspot for up to five other devices.

Check out the links included below for even more interesting info:

 - Nielsen reports that as of February 2012, almost half of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones.

 - PewInternet estimates a similar figure (46%), and further shares “smartphone owners are now more prevalent within the overall population than owners of more basic mobile phones.”

 - From a handy blog I ran across (Communities Dominate Brands – blog of the book), here’s a tidbit to make you think: “we have now celebrated the first full year when smartphones have sold more than all types of personal computers (including tablet PCs like the iPad) combined.”

 - From Marketing Land: More than 27% of emails are opened on mobile devices (phones accounting for 20.6% of that number).

My phone has slowly edged out some of my other devices and resources over time. I made a list of things I use my phone for – a few include:

  • An alarm clock
  • A calendar and birthday-reminder
  • Internet access (on my phone and for my laptop)
  • Digital Camera and Hi Def Video capture
  • Email for multiple accounts
  • Twitter and Facebook for multiple accounts
  • Games (and I’ve made online friends - there’s seasoned fireman in Texas who regularly beats me with words like “za” in a Scrabble™-like game)
  • Endless shopping lists and memos (movies to see, bands to explore)
  • Weather forecast (no more “local on the 8’s” for me!)
  • Music player
  • GPS Navigation (and a compass, too!)
  • Calculator
  • Stock Ticker

And I can’t forget another one – I baked my first turkey this past Thanksgiving. Thought I had everything covered until I read I was supposed to “brine” the turkey. What the heck?!?! A quick search and I had a YouTube video up and playing that walked me through what to do. (and the turkey turned out GREAT, btw). Crisis averted.

I hope relying so much on smartphones doesn’t result in making US dumber over time.

 (Shaun Amanda Herrmann)


Health Care and Social Media: Going to the Dogs can be a Good Thing

Insights from the 2011 Mayo Clinic Health Care Social Media Summit

I had the good fortune to attend a presentation by Ed Bennett, director of web and communications technologies for the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), on how social media has changed health care communications. For those of you who don’t know Ed, many of us in health care enjoy keeping up with his social media stats. Things like how many hospitals/health care systems are active on major social networks. According to his October update there are 1,068 on Facebook, and 575 with YouTube channels. Check out more of Ed’s data.

In his session at the Mayo Summit, Ed covered everything from current social participation trends to examples of how his own organization uses social media. Here are just a few tidbits:

Of the top 10% of the “best” health care Facebook pages (think "audience engagement" etc.), about 67% have less than 1,000 fans. (so being effective and successfully engaging with your audience doesn’t necessarily have to do with how many fans you have)

Many hospitals STILL block access to social networks for staff/onsite (Ed asked his session group how many currently worked at such a hospital, and more than HALF raised their hands)

Clinical participation in social media is low. While docs may be using social networks on a personal basis, they aren’t participating on a professional level (for their own practices, for their organizations)

Ed shared a lot of useful and actionable information (view his slides), but one four-legged phenom stole the show and really brought home the message that every organization should be on the lookout for unexpected opportunities (and poised to take advantage of them in a timely manner): UMMC and their cancer foundation recently garnered major media/online coverage when a dog named Dozer decided to run in the 2011 Maryland Half Marathon in May – and event staff happened to catch him on video, crossing the finish line.

 Here’s Ed Bennett with more on Dozer:


Dozer ended up with a YouTube video, a race medal and his own Facebook page. And he raised about $25,000 for UMMC’s cancer foundation. He’s already committed to participating in next year’s run (read his story and check out his 2012 marathon page).

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)


Fall 2011 TV: Retro Vibes

Retro themes have been pretty pervasive the past couple of years. From clothing line colors reminiscent of the 60’s (think avocado green) to the rounded corners and chrome trim of vintage-feel appliances. This fall the trend is also clear in television shows planned for the major networks. (One could also argue that the continued success of shows like AMC’s awesome Mad Men have led the charge).

So if you’ve been hankering for a blast from the past, you might just want to check out some of these:

Decade Retro

Pan Am – I’ve got this one on my calendar for true appointment TV. Sunday nights, ABC, 10 p.m. The director of the West Wing and executive producer of ER are set to paint a picture of the late 60’s when the people who piloted and staffed our commercial airlines were envied and idolized. And glamorous. (Full disclosure – I loved the West Wing. I tuned in to ER. And my mom was a pillbox-hat-wearing-dressed-for-perfection-stewardess in the late 60’s. I have photographic evidence to prove it. Heck, she met my father on one of her routes.) Pan Am also features Christina Ricci, jumping from the big to the small screen as Maggie, who wants to see the world. I have high hopes for this one. (And if I don’t watch this one WITH my mom, I’m pretty sure I’ll be calling or texting her in the breaks to ask things like “did you really wear that?” “did you ever have to do that?”)


The Playboy Club – OMG the bunnies are here. Set in early 60’s Chicago, this one looks rather promising, too. Following the personal and professional lives of club bunnies, and the power they wield, the Club is giving off a Mad Men kind of vibe. It will be interesting to see how this one will play out in its NBC Monday 10 p.m. position, up against ABC’s returning Castle and CBS’ Hawaii Five-0.

Hawaii Five-O – While not a newcomer, I’m including this one simply for the fact it’s a remake of the series that originally ran from 1968-1980. This updated version was picked up for a second season and will run in the Monday 10 p.m. timeslot on CBS against the aforementioned Playboy Club. Will Monday night prove deadly this time around for McGarrett and Danno? Will bunnies overthrow our tropical team?

Hart of Dixie – I know, I know – this one is not a retro show by any standard definition. And though I haven’t screened the pilot, I’ve caught multiple promos. And that’s where the retro reference comes in. Displaced northern doc migrates to the deep South and we catch glimpses of hoop-skirted frilly-umbrella-toting Southern Belles (obviously in some sort of reenactment/annual event) traipsing around in a group. The show doesn’t look like it has enough of a comedy focus to really satirize Southern stereotypes, which makes me wonder if the sugar-dripping-drawling accents I caught in the promos are going to fall on deaf ears. Airing at 9 p.m. on the CW, this isn’t on my “must see” list. But we all know first impressions can be deceiving, so I’ll be happy to admit I’m wrong. (Proven, of course, that I am.)

Charlie’s Angels – ABC is apparently hoping the 8 p.m. placement of this remake as a lead-in to Thursday night anchor, Grey’s Anatomy, will do the angels good. I’m a little torn on this one. Will it have just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek let’s-not-take-ourselves-TOO-seriously spice that attracted a cult following to the original? Will three lesser known faces help or hurt? Will the hotness factor be able to tear secret geek fans away from CBS’ returning The Big Bang Theory? If enough Grey’s fans tune in early to catch it, and the show gives us just the right balance of action and (here’s hoping) actual plot, well,...maybe. Otherwise it’s going to have to pull in enough male viewers (who aren’t as likely to stay tuned for Grey’s afterwards) to give it a Baywatch-like chance. 

Medieval Retro

Grimm – NBC’s hey-watcha-doing-not-much-stayin’-home-on-a-Friday-at-9-p.m. slot is dedicated to Grimm. Law enforcement officers investigate fantastic crimes and events inspired by the famous fairy tales. (I’m picturing a mash-up of Fringe and X-Files with a dash of Supernatural?). And oh, yeah, one of the guys apparently has an ancestral obligation to solve and right these wrongs. Early critical reviews I’ve seen give a bigger nod to fairy-tale-themed competitor ABC’s Sunday night effort – Once Upon a Time.

Once Upon a Time – The writers of Lost have whipped up…ok, wait. That’s pretty telling right there – the writers of Lost. Pair these writers with fairy tales and we’re sure to get something unexpected Sunday nights on ABC at 8 p.m. The set-up here is that the Evil Queen sends Snow White and a variety of other fairy tale fellows (like Rumpelstiltskin, and Jiminy Cricket) into the present-day world of Storybrooke, Maine. House’s Jennifer Morrison is our unsuspecting (do they ever suspect anything?) hero. I’m probably going to check this one out from sheer curiosity.

Downright Prehistoric Retro

Terra Nova – You just can’t get any more retro than dinosaurs (unless you consider something microscopic), and Fox is gambling on a group of humans who travel back in time to live among dinosaurs for survival to grab the attention of Monday night 8 p.m. viewers. Right now Terra Nova has to fight off Dancing with the Stars, How I Met Your Mother, Gossip Girl and The Sing-Off (a newbie premiering on NBC). This sci-fi entry into the lineup could be a surprising standout simply because it’s so different from the rest of the viewing menu. It’s that or face extinction. (couldn’t resist)

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)