Despite the fact that Facebook has 900 million users, almost half of people think it’s a passing fad.
Folding: it’s detestable and boring, as any Gap employee can tell you. But it’s also a totally fun thing you can do in a video game! And today it’s particularly exciting because players of the online game Foldit have redesigned a protein, and their work is published in the science journal Nature Biotechnology.
It seems nobler than shooting people in the face, somehow. Granted, Foldit attracts a unique kind of gamer who enjoys obsessing over biological protein folding patterns. Proteins get their function from the way they are folded into coils like in the image above. When the amino acids in a protein interact, they create that coiled, three-dimensional structure. Scientists can manipulate the structure to make the protein more efficient. In Foldit, designs that create the most efficient proteins garner the highest scores.
University of Washington in Seattle scientists Zoran Popovic, director of the Center for Game Science, and biochemist David Baker developed Foldit (which is different from Folding@home, Stanford software that lets people donate their idle computer processing power to create a protein-folding supercomputer). By playing it, at-home gamers have redesigned a protein for the first time, and they did it better and faster than scientists who have trained their entire careers to build better proteins. Justin Siegel, a biophysicist in Baker’s group told Scientific American:
I worked for two years to make these enzymes better and I couldn’t do it. Foldit players were able to make a large jump in structural space and I still don’t fully understand how they did it.
Here’s how it works: Researchers send a series of puzzles to Foldit’s 240,000 registered users. The scientists sift through the results for the best designs and take those into the lab for real-life testing. They combed through 180,000 designs to get to the version of the protein published today. The paper details an enzyme that thanks to the crowdsourced redesign is 18-fold more active than the original version.
Now for the anticlimactic part: this particular enzyme doesn’t really have any practical uses. But the researchers say it’s a proof of concept, and future Foldit designs will be more useful. In fact, Baker has fed players a protein that blocks the flu virus that led to the 1918 pandemic—and their puzzle solving for this one could lead to an actual drug.
Just when it looked like things were starting to look up for cash-strapped American Apparel, profits are reportedly getting shaved.
The hipster clothing chain racked up impressive sales gains during the holidays, but profits were squeezed hard as it took steep discounts, including those from a barrage of Groupon offers nationwide, sources told The Post.
American Apparel rang up millions of dollars in the fourth quarter selling cardigans, corduroys and sexy leggings through the daily deals site — a heap of bargains amounting to a “small but material” percentage of the company’s $157 million in total sales during the period, said one source briefed on the company’s finances.
The controversial clothing company has been struggling to turnaround its operations.
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Excerpt: Only a few months after announcing that it sold 10,000 all-electric Leaf cars in international markets, Nissan stated at the Tokyo Motor Show today that the company has sold over 20,000 Leafs since the car went on sale in December of 2010. The company also added that it expects to sell more than 10,000 Leafs in the U.S. by the end of 2011.
SOURCE: http://adage.com/article/news/francois-fights-fiat-fiasco/230033/ This contrasts with Fiat, which went to great expense to make branding commercials with JLo which stirred more “huh’s?” from audiences than sales. One former auto-marketing exec Peter DeLorenzo called “quite possibly the worst automotive spot of the last decade, hands down.” No official sales numbers were mentioned, probably because it was too embarrassingly low to mention.
Who are they advertising here… the car or JLo? SOURCE: http://blog.web.blogads.com/2011/11/22/j-los-shameless-strange-and-sad-fiat-fiasco/ Widely denounced, shameless and strange product placement and promo during JLo’s performance at the American Music Awards.
Watch the whole bizarre performance here (The Fiat stuff starts around 1:15):
List of 2009 Superbowl spots on AdAge.com
Lift in search is a great indicator of interest. Modern consumers may be inspired by TV ads, but they usually go online to do more research for themselves, to inform their own purchase decision. The following examples show the lift in search after Superbowl commercials or for launch of products like Subway Footlongs. The use of unique, made-up words makes it easier to detect lift in search (see related post: made up words are great for tracking buzz and search volume ). There is now a correlation between offline paid advertising and online behaviors of modern consumers that can be tracked and ultimately related to sales.
What is harder to do is track lift in search from smaller TV media buys or from terms which are generic — e.g. American Express OPEN, Proctor & Gamble’s TAG (men’s deoorant), etc. And furthermore, people may or may not remember the brand name itself and may type in a more general search query — e.g. “talking baby” instead of” e-Trade” or “dancing lizards” instead of “SoBe LifeWater.” And most people usually forget to type in special URLs specified in the ads. So the opportunity is to 1) use made-up words which can be used to detect lift in search and 2) search-optimize around other more generic terms that people may search for if they remembered the ad, but did not remember the brand name itself.
key learnings include:
1. only the superbowl TV ads generates enough awareness to drive lift in search volume detectable above the noise or normal levels
2. made up words are useful in correlating paid advertising and subsequent online actions (e.g. search) because most users forget or are too lazy to type special URLs
3. is is always better to have real analytics from the site to see when paid campaigns hit; site analytics will also reveal more information about users including demographic information, what they are looking for, and even whether they “convert” to a sale or a desired action — like print off a coupon, etc.
Notice the January spikes for several of the examples below — these are their Superbowl ads in action. But also notice how sharp the spikes are — most of them go back to prior levels within 1 – 3 days (see related post: the ephemerality of the Superbowl halo )
Source: Google Insights for Search
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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