Gaming the recession

If you think video games are recession proof, question your assumptions. Because there is no single “video game industry” with one platform, distribution model and customer set.

In a guest commentary on, I’ve outlined my thoughts. And I’ll stress test them when I moderate a panel of game industry execs at the Washington Technology Industry Association dinner Wednesday in Seattle.

It’s hard not to want to agree with people like Big Fish CEO Jeremy Lewis, who compared the appeal of his company’s casual games to Charlie Chaplin’s films during the Great Depression. Chaplin’s escapist entertainment was cheap; the medium, novel. The same is true of many games today.  And they’re far better than video games available during the last deep recession of 1981-82. Yet that recession ended with the 1983 collapse of the era’s video game industry. Not necessarily a great historic precedent.

So makers of confident pronouncements should be wary. Any recession proofing could be relative depending on how far the economic tide recedes — and which players are left stranded on the bottom.

How not to win awards

I have just wrapped up my reponsibilities as a first-round judge in one of the longest-running, most prestigious award competitions in technology and education. And what entered companies go through in their efforts to avoid winning amaze me.

In the interests of protecting the clueless (or perhaps in this economy, resourceless), I won’t name the companies. Or even the competition. But if you’d like to waste your award entry money, you do so can very efficiently by following these three easy steps: Continue reading How not to win awards

Blog canary in ed tech coal mine

It’s an odd reflection on the bubble the tech industry lives in — and simultaneously a sobering commentary on tech adoption in the education market — that there is still discussion of blogs being “new” in 2009.

But inside the education industry, even among the largest players, there are debates about whether or when to blog. Pros and cons were dutifully outlined for an article I wrote for the Software and Information Industry Association’s new book, The Expert’s Guide to the K-12 School Market, Second Edition. You can find an excerpt that succinctly outlines the pros and cons of companies blogging on the Selling to Schools site.

The full article in the book also includes a nine-step checklist to follow before starting a company or product blog. And, as you’ll note, the pros and cons and checklist apply to any business — not just those in the education market.

So why is this article curious? Continue reading Blog canary in ed tech coal mine

Catalano’s got a brand-new blog

So what is this thing called blog?

Unlike some other blogs with which I’ve been involved going back to nearly the turn of the century, I have no illusions about readership or longevity of this effort. This is, out of the gate, a limited edition.

I’ve learned a lot of practical lessons about marketing: how it must align with business goals, how to introduce and balance branding where marketing has only been about sales support before, and how to make sure the initial intent survives what can be endless rounds of internal review. Everything from doing good competitive analysis, to choosing a new name, to tightly integrating strategic and tactical plans.

And over the next few months I’ll share what I’ve learned here in a manner unusual for a consultant: free of charge. (I’ll also provide asides on what I’m doing peripherally professionally, and observations on the marketing of others. Plus, I’ll continue experimenting with WordPress, beyond the earlier test posts.)

If you happen to find this blog, I hope you find it interesting and, more importantly, useful.

Moderating WTIA game panel

Even though I’m something of a dinosaur (Allosaurus, I think, and not T-Rex) when it comes to the videogame industry — I mean, I know why the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System had a keyboard port on the bottom that was never used in the U.S. market — I’ve been asked to moderate the Washington Technology Industry Association’s February dinner meeting.

The topic? “In the Game: Washington State’s Video Game Industry.” It’ll be February 18 at the Herban Feast in Seattle, a new venue for the WTIA.

Some good panelists, too: Alex St. John, Tony Garcia, Harold Zeitz and Paul Thelen. And I get to play the trained seal. Er, moderator.

Check it out and/or register at the WTIA site. And don’t miss WTIA President and CEO Ken Myer as an avatar. It’s not as creepy as Tom Hanks in The Polar Express. Really.

TechFlash downturn commentary

Over at the new Seattle-area technology news site, TechFlash, I’ve penned my first tech industry commentary for publication in a bit more than four years. You’ll find it under the title of Web 1.0, Version 2.0.

It was a delight to be asked to contribute by site founders John Cook and Todd Bishop, both well-respected former Seattle Post-Intelligencer tech reporters who are now working with the Puget Sound Business Journal.

And yes, a certain line in the commentary is getting some additional attention.

Strategy’s role in a downturn

(The following first appeared in the Just Enough Strategy series of technology marketing essays in 2003. It seems eerily appropriate today.)

The panic doesn’t usually creep into their voices until we’re nearly done with the coffee.

“I know strategy is important,” the colleague will say to me as we wrap up. “But I can’t spend a lot of time or effort on marketing strategy. I need to do stuff that will generate sales today.”

I’ll nod sagely. And hope he doesn’t waste too much money on misdirected marketing tactics, confusing any motion with forward motion. Continue reading Strategy’s role in a downturn

Five marketer resolutions

(This essay originated in early 2004 on an earlier Frank Catalano blog. But, unfortunately, still is timely.)

As someone who loves words and language (and indeed is a writer when he’s not a marketer), I’m amazed at how some marketers abuse their biggest tool for communication. Now that 2003 is becoming a memory, there are words and phrases that should be banished from marketers’ and PR practitioners’ lexicons. Not just in technology marketing, but in all marketing.

Why? Because they’re overused, meaningless or lazy. Indeed, I suspect when most prospects or customers see these words and phrases, they reflexively treat them as one treats long names in a classic Russian novel: their brains glaze over and they skip to the next word or phrase.

Allow me to suggest five words or phrases for banishment: Continue reading Five marketer resolutions

BlackBerry nose

As a child, having your “nose buried in a book” was considered a sign of intelligence. Today, adult noses are more likely to be embedded in a BlackBerry. And that may signal the opposite. BlackBerry and Frank Catalano

There have been several examples lately as to when adherence to an always-connected ethic can have severe consequences. Not business, but physical. I call it BlackBerry Nose. The result is similar to that of when a dog succeeds in chasing a parked car.

You’ve witnessed it in hallways and on freeways. And so, lately, has the press: Continue reading BlackBerry nose

Can’t copy that floppy

In the headlong rush from current to new technologies, it’s amazing what we forget. Sometimes without even realizing it.

I’m in the midst of a year-long effort to declutter my home office of 18 years, which has led to unearthing some historic business cards. Last weekend, I also discovered that I apparently have not thrown out a single 3.5″ floppy disk that I have ever owned.

This was clear as I gazed at the literally hundreds of floppy disks, both Mac and IBM formatted. My first thought was I’d see what was on them, transfer important data to compact disc, use an audio/video bulk eraser to wipe the disks, then donate the floppies to a school or other organization that might use them. I had begun this time-consuming process when I noticed something. Continue reading Can’t copy that floppy

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