27 posts categorized "Marketing"

December 05, 2012

Tweet Wars – A Twitter Concept for Engaging Sports Fans, Brands, and Social Causes

  TwitterBirdSportsBallsSepia550

There are legendary fan rivalries in the world of sports and on the field – UCLA vs. USC (college), Dodgers vs. Giants (baseball), Leeds vs. Manchester United or Argentina vs. Brazil (soccer), Ford vs. Holden (auto racing), India vs. Pakistan (cricket).  But today, with networks like Twitter, fan rivalries can create competition online that can rival the intensity and passion of that on the field or on the court.  So why not harness that energy to create better content for all, in a way where social causes can benefit, that provides brands with new genuine ways to engage with fans in both the real-time digital and physical worlds?

So what is the content competition that we can create online around the fans and “nations” that already gather? How do we value “Twitter actions” and track the score in cyberspace while the game is on the field?  What’s the opportunity to link fan action and the online “win” with social cause support in alignment with athletic competition beyond what we see today?

Background 

Fans and athletes already create and share content on Twitter during games – from simple team support and virtual cheers to trash talking; from tweets that stand alone to those with media attached such as photos and video from the event and behind-the-scenes, or deeper online article links shared form those at home. 

The 2012 London Olympics saw the creation of an aggregation page from Twitter – a one-stop shop for tweets and media from athletes, mainstream media, and fans. Many media sites have found great (and often unexpected levels of) success via deep fan engagement, commenting and content creation (Bleacher Report).

Notable consumer and media brands (ESPN, Nike, Gatorade, P&G) have a long creative history with sport leagues and major events, as well as more recently with innovative social causes (Pepsi).

Twitter has continually proven its value in the world of live TV – from entertainment to sports – as a voting and media creation/engagement mechanism.  Nielsen has taken note of this value in strategy and acquisitions to rethink ratings. Twitter is also experimenting in the world of direct customer (fan) surveys.

Tweet Wars: The Idea and Its Elements

The Idea: Engage fans of competing teams in real-time during the game in valuable content creation that has distribution in both digital and physical worlds, provides a new relevant brand platform for sponsorship, and results in the distribution of dollars to social causes or scholarships in a way that has meaning and value to fans.

 

TweetWarInfographicFramed2

The concept of “Tweet Wars” in sports is about building on the trends that we already see (from above), and evolving and integrating those experiences by:

  • coalescing fans and rivalries in online competition around the creation of high-value content during games;
  • setting the stage for a “winner” in the digital world that may be different from the winner on the field, by creating a “Tweet War Counter” that  tracks a running tally of tweet volume (adjusted by new tweet value rules) between the two teams and their fans;
  • offering new brand-sponsored opportunities on Twitter for “Tweet Wars" and the “Counter” that integrate with, but go beyond today’s offerings of promoted tweets, trends and accounts
  • attaching the award of dollars at the end of the game, in a “Tweet War” winner-take-all mode, to a social cause (or in the case of college sports – alternatively to a scholarship fund) selected by the team, the school, the conference, or the league – with which fans will have an  affinity. (Those dollars to come from a part of the brand sponsorship/ad sale package with Twitter).

 

The Elements

(1) Content Creation: For Tweet Wars to have value to brands and fans, both the level and volume of Twitter content have to grow beyond current levels, with a focus on unique content that brings additional information, insider perspectives and enjoyment to the game. Hashtags would exist for each team to enable automating the identification, filtering, curation and counting of Twitter delivered content for each team (eg #Go49ers vs. #GoRams, or #GoStanford vs. #GoUCLA).

(2) Content Value and Scoring: Not all tweets would be equal in Tweet Wars.  More points would be assigned to tweets with higher value content, and perhaps even the source (decisions here vs egalitarian nature of Twitter and people wanting to “hear” from celebs and athletes). No points would be awarded to spammy tweets or tweets with nothing but the #hashtag. Minimizing the opportunity to jerry–rig the system would be critical.

Tweets might have different point values depending on the content they carry, such as:

  • With photo from the event or relevant archive shot
  • With link to historic background information or profile
  • With link to a card with data visualization
  • With live insider information from the sidelines
  • From an athlete or verified account or account with a sizable number of followers
  • For tweets that are favorited and retweeted

(3) Content Output and Distribution: Twitter content spurred by Tweet Wars would find distribution in both digital and physical spaces. Digital distribution might evolve from the work at the 2012 Olympics with both human editorially curated and data-driven (MassRelevance applied here) rollup of content on Twitter via a single page that would show side-by-side competing team content, as well as the Tweet War Counter. Scoreboards and Jumbotrons at games provide the screen for periodic display of the “Tweet War Counter Tally” and encourage game attendees to get more involved in the digital outcome. 

(4) Sponsorship/Ad Sale Opportunity for Twitter to Brands: The Counter, side by side team/fan tweet page, as well as surveys and insider content in the tweet stream is a natural brand sponsorship/ad sale opportunity online – that can be packaged with the display in the physical world on the scoreboard of the intermittent Tweet Counter. Sale can be to a consumer brand, media brand, or even to league or conference.

(5) Social Causes: Tweet Wars, like the game on the field, is a winner take all proposition, with the social cause of the team/fans that wins in digital space having the biggest number on the Counter – as the recipient of a set sum of money that is a part of the brand sponsorship package. (Remember that the winner on the field and the winner in digital/Twitter may not be the same – Those results are completely separate. One is about athletes.  The other is about fans.)  This can be thought of as an evolution of or adjunct to some of the “fund your cause” voting campaigns we have seen from brands such as Pepsi (Refresh campaign) and Chase (Community Giving campaign) in recent years.

Time to Experiment?

So is it time for a Tweet Wars experiment in sports that links fan enthusiasm and content; tweet value assignment, curation and a scoreboard; brand sponsorship; and social causes?  Pick a single major event such as SuperBowl,  a series such as the NBA Playoffs, or even a whole season with MLB to see how it might work. 

“Sport is where an entire life can be compressed into a few hours, where the emotions of a lifetime can be felt on an acre or two of ground, where a person can suffer and die and rise again on six miles of trails through a New York City park. Sport is a theater where sinner can turn saint and a common man become an uncommon hero, where the past and the future can fuse with the present. Sport is singularly able to give us peak experiences where we feel completely one with the world and transcend all conflicts as we finally become our own potential.”  - George A. Sheehan

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May 15, 2011

If "All Politics Is Personal," Then for 2012 Will It Also Be Increasingly Social and Semantic?

  PoliticalMagazines2012

(Image top right: Flipboard.  Image bottom left: Zite.  Image bottom right : Push Pop Press "Our Choice."  Click on image above to see full size image.)

 

Politics and the Internet, as well as politics and the personal, are inextricably linked.  This may offer up some interesting new opportunities for "political magazines" (built around individuals’ social graph, expressed interests and inferred semantic behaviors) via "publishing platforms" like Flipboard, Zite, and even Push Pop Press - depending on their respective development and business plans.

In 2003, the Howard Dean campaign demonstrated that the Internet could be used effectively to raise campaign funds.  In the 2008 Obama for America Presidential Campaign, a relatively small team demonstrated that digital, social and mobile platforms had graduated from fundraiser status to gamechanger. (Twitter was in its infancy when the Obama campaign sent out its first tweet in April 2007.) And outside of American politics, many of the defining moments for Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook have been around political issues and movements.

What did not exist in these earlier campaigns was the iPad and technology platforms that could enable the construction of personalized political/issue “magazine” experiences built around individuals’ social graph, expressed interests and inferred semantic behaviors – with both deep archival and breaking content of all media types. With thoughtful experience design added to the equation, platforms from companies such as Flipboard, Zite and the underlying technology from PushPopPress could evolve and be used to create a new kind of living mobile political campaign magazine for the upcoming 2012 election.

 

"Like a lot of Web innovators, the Obama campaign did not invent anything completely new. Instead, by bolting together social-networking applications under the banner of a movement, they created an unforeseen force to raise money, organize locally, fight smear campaigns, and get out the vote…” – David Carr

 

A Look Back at the 2008 Obama “New Media” Campaign

The campaign generated a connection with “users” in ways that had never been achieved before, and was based around the facilitation of the dissemination and sharing of massive quantities of media (interlinked with actionable opportunities) across many platforms, with minimal effort (given small size of the team). A quick recap of some of the main elements: (for more details, see a great 2009 case study written by Kimberly Smith for Marketing Profs).

  • Main campaign website: My.BarackObama.com was designed to be the comprehensive resource point with media, how-tos, transcripts, and opportunities for involvement.
  • Video: The campaign’s YouTube channel eventually held 1800 videos with over 18 million views. Ustream.tv served almost a million hours of live video streams during the campaign.
  • Photos: The Flickr account included official event photos as well as candid views.  (There was no Instagram,Path or other social photo sharing apps at that time.)
  • Social technologies: Numerous Facebook groups were created and updated daily not only for Barack and Michelle Obama, but also for every state and innumerable interest groups. Twitter was in its infancy when the campaign sent its first tweet in April 2007 (with under 300 followers for @BarckObama). LinkedIn was used to present questions and discussions to the (largely) business community.
  • Mobile: The campaign developed an iPhone app that included news, photos, videos, location specific engagement opportunity information (using GPS), and user’s contacts organized by state for campaign calling. The opt-in nature of the mobile strategy provided the campaign with a community with robust profiles on almost 3 million participants by the August 2008 VP announcement.

Possibilities for the Personal-Social Political Magazine 2011-2012

If 2007-2008 was about brute strength and enthusiasm fueling the cobbling together of the various digital initiatives, perhaps 2011-2012 will see the addition of the elegant auto-generated (and two-way) “personal and social political magazine” generated by new tools from companies such as Flipboard, Zite or even a more social-enabled version of PushPopPress (with various evolution of the tools required).

If “O Magazine” and my Twitter feed can be social magazines via Flipboard … If  Zite can learn about my interests and serve me up more undiscovered content … If Push Pop Press can create Al Gore’s “Our Choice” to merge the models  of the book with documentary film … Then why can’t a party, a politician or a cause have the same kind of possibility of creating an engaging, ever changing environment of media resources (from archival to breaking) and social conversations/sharings around their “brand?”

That new personalized political magazine could include integration of all the disparate elements we saw in the 2008 Obama campaign into one dynamic package (although one could still go to the individual platforms as well).  We might see in these "magazines":

  1. Curation of the political articles/videos your friends have found most useful and interesting
  2. Revelation of influential sources and expertise from sources you didn’t know about (avoiding the personal echo chamber)
  3. Revelation of related issues and discussion documents (to what you have already requested or that has been pushed via a programmed feed)
  4. Options to select information on opposing points of view on particular issues
  5. Historical issue and poll timelines and dynamic infographics and maps generated on the fly
  6. Deep archival issues video presented in relationship to relevant current writings
  7. Live streaming video integrated with info graphics, social curation, feedback, polls and calls to action
  8. Polls, real-world engagement opportunities, and messaging/texting supplied in realtime relating to your interests, reading/viewing path, and geolocation data (of you and friends)
  9. Realtime social sharing of media as well as personal highlighting of media
  10. New models of "opt-in" database building, as well as advertising and fundraising

Data and Insights

Think of the interesting breadcrumb trails of action data to be culled from the various browsings of such an integrated, dynamically built, and two-way “magazine”  - the reading of a tweet from a political curator that leads to a YouTube video that leads to a campaign donation and hosting of an event with 20 friends that generates instantly shared photos curated back into the Twitter feed and displayed in the magazine. Additionally, there would be an incredible learning opportunity for mapping people’s information sources, interests,sharing propensities, and their relationship to various stances on critical issues by discrete geograhic location (even via GPS).

Platforms Need to Evolve

In order for this kind of experience to occur, there would need to be evolution in the development of the technical and design capabilities (eg interactive graphics) of the various  social magazine (Flipboard) and personal semantic learning magazines (Zite), or alternatively the integration of these kinds of social and semantic capabilities into the rich-media book/documentary model of PushPopPress .  Some ideas:

  1. Combination of social curated, search generated, and semantic discovered content across a complex topic definition in a single "magazine" format (not in multiple panes in Flipboard or separate list categories in Zite).
  2. Opportunity to more powerfully discover, capture and retain content of interest from your quickly flowing “historical social stream” to get beyond the timeline model to the “personally important model” that is driven by both “discovery and unexpected delight.”
  3. Intuitive and powerful “bookmarking and clipping” functionality to collect and share entire pieces of media or only highlighted and annotated sections (think scrapbook).
  4. Dynamic integrations of various media types from multiple sources into a single screen experience – eg streaming live debate video with an interactive map and poll, curated related analysts' content that can bookmark, conversing/tweets with friends, fundraising around the issue being debated
  5. Balance between content and sources that are asked for, and new serendipitous information and sources that would be useful and revealing. This goes to the ideas in Steven Johnson’s book “Emergence” where he presents the idea that a newspaper tailored to the tastes of a person on a given day will lead to too much positive feedback in that direction, and people's choices/offerings would be permanently skewed for the rest of their lives.
  6. Addition of new interactive media types.
  7. Smarter deduping of shared media via social relationships so that the same video or url is not shared multiple times from multiple sources using multiped url shorteners.

The Near Future

“Much of the creativity and spirit they (Obama 2008 digital team) brought with online tools to help galvanize grass-roots supporters in 2008, they will be trying to re-create this time with an ambitious online presence. This was evident when Mr. Obama began his re-election effort this month with an e-mail and text-message blast, posts on Twitter, a short video on YouTube and a new app that connects supporters and their Facebook friends to his campaign Web site with a question: Are you in?”NY Times Blog: The Caucus

And in the not too distant future (later this year?), might this not also include political iPad magazines that have content that is both professionally created (by candidate/party) as well as "personally" curated via social platforms, search generation and semantic learning?  Favicon

 

January 16, 2011

For the Movie Industry - Marketing is the Eye of the Storm

MovieMarketing_3Posters

 

While the debate storm swirls around the issues of technology and its impact on the how and when people can access “mainstream” entertainment, the true “eye of the storm” may be a product of technology and its impact on how the marketing of entertainment (and the associated distribution of dollars and time) needs to be significantly re adjusted if not completely rethought.

So why “the eye of the storm?” 

 

While the eye is perceived as the calmest part of the storm, it is often the most hazardous and deceptive.  In storms over water, conditions inside the eye can include towering waves generated by the storm walls.  Over land, people wander outside to inspect the damage once the eye passes, thinking the storm is over, and then are caught by surprise by massive winds in the oncoming eyewall. Such it is with technology (the storm), distribution (the storm and eye walls) and marketing (the eye) in the entertainment industry.

 

 

What Does It Mean to Market a Movie?

Historically, marketing a movie, whether it is a wide release from a major studio or a niche ultra indie, is not the same as marketing a similarly priced consumer product (an item priced at about $10). Movies exist in an environment filled with a nearly infinite variety of creative choices for an audience that needs to make a purchase decision (and an often one time purchase decision) without trial.  They don’t personally know if they like it until they have actually tried/viewed it, and there are no returns.  For the studio, the value of that initial ticket purchase decision is non-trivial, as it has historically set the tone for the all important downstream revenue opportunities.

So how does a marketer make a potential viewer feel that “they know” the movie and become invested in the experience, and provide signals that raise the chance of ticket purchase, without giving away the creative surprise that is at the core of movie viewing?

 

“… marketing by its nature is an attempt to influence the outcome.” – Jeff Ulin


This is why the race should be on for innovative thinking and well-crafted and monitored execution, and dare we say “some calculated risk taking” in rethinking the appropriate media vehicles and digital-physical linkages for different stages of the marketing conversation. 

 

Seven Stages of the Marketing Conversation

Marketing needs to be thought of as an ongoing engagement process, not a sales spike only (push style) strategy.  Media and platforms chosen for one stage should setup and feed the conversation and engagement in the next.  The following seven activities propose one way of organizing the structure and flow of the marketing conversation.

  1. Research: Identifying potential audience groups, influencers and platforms
  2. Seed: Creating and placing media, experiences, conversations and platforms for exchange
  3. Discovery: Optimizing the opportunity for discovery, curation and sharing of content and conversation of interest to the potential audience
  4. Purchase: Creating ways that make ticket purchase easy, immediate and sharable
  5. Experience: Watching the movie in theater or unique location
  6. Share: Encouraging the dialogue of personal experience with the movie, between individuals and groups with both strong and loose ties
  7. Ongoing engagement: Aligning the movie with opportunities for ongoing conversations and media beyond the initial spike push to meet opening weekend reach and sales goals. Depending on the film and originator, this linkage might be with the brand, characters or related cause

 

Timeline of Marketing Activities for Theatrical Release

Today, there is no magic formula when it comes to the theatrical release. It’s not about “one from column A, and 2 from column B.”  Innovative and creative thinking, married with well-coordinated (but flexible) execution is as important in marketing as it is in the conception and production of a movie.

The table in this post is not meant to be a complete representation of all the possible tactics, nor should every movie use all the tactics listed at a high level in this document. It is meant to help frame some thinking about media and conversations in a time based manner – before , during, and after theatrical release – and begin to introduce some more thought around the concept of “continuity of brand over time” vs. “spike/push tactics to reach initial release reach and frequency targets.”

 

Page 1 focuses on the more physical space tactics where the majors have traditionally focused and spent - with the dominance of traditional sources like TV advertising (sometimes 80% of total media spend), but with the need for more creative use of digital.  Indies may use very little of the traditional (and expensive) media platforms on Page 1, but have great opportunity to creatively use their limited dollars against digital tactics and social platforms such as those on Page 2.

 

Disney spent $34M in the initial marketing of  “Finding Nemo” with more than $20M just for TV spots - this against an estimated  $536.7M initial gross.  (Source: Ulin book)

“The power of the Web to target messages to specific demographics is a marketer’s dream, and the budgets for online advertising continue to grow.  However, the percentages spent online and the migration of marketing dollars has not been as great or fast as one may expect.” – Jeff Ulin 

 

Timeline of Marketing/Communications Activities for Theatrical Release

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Integrated Marketing Communications- Making the Digital and Physical Symbiotic

 

With the increasing pressure on traditional marketing tactics, there is a strong argument to be made for rethinking not only the timing of marketing activities, but also the need for:

  • strong thoughtful integration of physical/traditional media and digital/social platforms
  • increased digital spend with an understanding that those dollars are not just about ad spend with “risky non-standard platforms” (to the industry), but against new digital experiences
  • better understanding of how social platforms extend the “virtual” media budget for a film, but also require attention in dollars and resources beyond free “interns”
  • changed thinking that all activities on the Web, mobile or via apps are free for people to find randomly on their own  
  • an agreement that execution and luck do not “magically intersect” online  

The infographics that follow show snapshots of a theoretical movie campaign with both (1) a traditional media only approach and (2) a digital deeply integrated approach. Their focus is on the integration of elements and the time frame of elements is not identified (as was the purpose of the previous table). Much of the traditional marketing comes and goes, while the digital and social technology platforms can take on a more persistent continuity role before and after a particular release.

 


Traditional/Physical Marketing Only Approach

  PhysicalOnly_MovieMarketingInfographics(click for full size image)

 

The major elements are as follows, and can also be linked back to the previous table (page 1) in terms of general timing.  The major goal – to “push” awareness and traffic.

  • Advertising
  • Trailers
  • Press
  • Events
  • Posters
  • Merchandise
  • Cross Brand Promotions

 

Integrated Digital and Physical Marketing Approach
  MovieMarketingInfographics(click for full size image)

 

In addition to the major elements from the physical/traditional only campaign, other media/platforms/activities are integrated (and can also be seen in terms of general timing from the previous table page 2).

 

Additional elements to existing physical/traditional categories include:

  • Advertising – some digital push platforms
  • Press – seeding online and bloggers and digital EPKs
  • Events – virtual audience oriented
  • Trailers – the consideration of online only versions as well as digital distribution of theatrical trailers
  • Contests – digitally driven

New categories include:

  • Digital and social platforms
  • Online video
  • Apps

 

(1) Digital and Social Platforms

Creating brand specific digital platforms and leveraging those created by others that have garnered significiant (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) and targeted (e.g. "vertical" blog networks) audiences create powerful amplifying nodes for content creation and distribution; curating, commenting and sharing; awareness and traffic driving; and reach/value extension for the traditional media efforts.

“For too long, we've tried to understand ourselves in isolation, as we test people one at a time in the psychology lab or rely on their past preferences to predict behavior. But these conditions and algorithms are artificial. In the real world, we are deeply intertwined with each other, dependent on our social networks for all sorts of advice. If it weren't for the buzz of strangers, we wouldn't even know what movie to pick at the multiplex.” - Jonah Lehrer in The Wall Street Journal

 

(2) Online Video

Online video can range from the creation of YouTube channels, integration and posts into Facebook groups, promotion and discussion via Twitter, stealth placements, and even syndication across "vertical" blog networks. Material can inlcude that created for traditional broadcast campaigns (e.g. talent interviews), but is even more powerful when unique digital-only content is created on an on-going basis that lets the potential movie-going audience connect deeply and personally with the brand in advance (e.g. behind the scenes, remixes with popular pop culture talent, ongoing Q&A's, digital only trailers). This can be content with high curation, aggregation and sharing potential.

“… the virtual community can scale and expand beyond what would typically occur in the physical world .. because the Internet has no geographical boundaries… It becomes a global, real-time conversation and online video is in many cases the catalyst that brings all these people together.” - Peter Levinsohn, President of New Media and Digital Distribution for Fox Filmed Entertainment

 

(3) Apps - Third Party and Original

Experimentation with apps has recently included the development of orignal apps and leveraging third party apps to directluy drive ticket sales:

"You now have a self-identified list of participants who are passionate about entertainment, and the event brand has even more value to them." - Jordan Glazier, CEO of Eventful in reference to the use of his company's app in the marketing of the movie "Paranormal Activity"

 

Three Case Studies

The series of posts that will follow will use the models and infographics presented in this post to look at the use and integration of digital platforms and content for three kinds of movies:

  • Toy Story 3: a major studio franchise release, the kind of movie where the amount spent on traditional media (largely TV) to open it is disproportionately large as theatrical launch is seen as the engine that drives larger downstream revenues.
  • Ready Set Bag:  the ultra indie passion project where distribution and helping theaters sell tickets has to be earned one geographic market at a time.
  • Waiting for Superman: the cause-related film where the key is knowing how to engage those already deeply involved with and invested in the topic and their surrounding communities. Favicon

March 31, 2010

Why Sharing Matters

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Sharing is no longer just about good manners.  It has assumed a front row seat in the discussion about powerful leverage points at the intersection of content and influence. If you are a media company or consumer brand (and the difference between these two is shrinking in many respects), understanding how people engage with and share content is a critical skill.

And you won’t be alone. 2010 may well be the year that brands and media companies spend as much time (if not more) looking at social sharing optimization as they do at search. The sheer volume of content (both good and bad) being added to the Web is outpacing people’s ability to find what’s interesting and relevant to them. This has been leading to a decline in the overall perceived value of content, along with companies’ and individuals’ abilities to make a living from creating and distributing it, as well as brands promoting around it.

"Abundance breaks more things than scarcity does."

- Clay Shirky at SXSW 2010

But if you can build a system than increases the likelihood of providing the right content (informational or entertainment), at the right time, to the right people, there is the opportunity to reestablish value.  Generating appropriate sharing is an essential element in this “value re-establishment chain.” Sharing lifts content above the general noise level of the Web by the fact that it is deemed important by the users (both initiator and recipient of the share).

"With all the noise online. your social circle becomes a de facto filter, surfacing useful information because they know exactly what's interesting to you and what isn't.  That piece is so important - it's the essence of  influence."

- ShareThis Blog Oct 22

Sharing Stats

  • 84% of “connected consumers” share links and bookmarks – Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report 2009
  • 50% more page views per unique via share-originated links that search
  • For many sites, sharing is now accounting for as much as one-third of the amount of traffic driven by search –ShareThis Blog, Dec 2009

"Publishers, meanwhile, are devising ways to persuade readers to share more, in much the same way they use "search engine optimization" strategies so search engines will rank them higher in search results.  A personal recommendation, they say, can be just as powerful as a referral from Google."

- NY Times, Sept 2009

Publishers and the Design Dynamics of Sharing

If sharing is becoming that powerful a source of engaged traffic, then publishers and creators need to know how and why people share in order to develop and deliver viable strategies for maximizing share-generated traffic, ad revenue and engagement. 

"If you ask a site manager, they'll know how much traffic they get from search.  But when you ask about traffic from sharing activity, they can't tell you."

- Tim Schigel, CEO, ShareThis 

So how publishers incorporate sharing capabilities is becoming increasingly important, not only because of its impact on traffic, but that it also shows that they understand the interests of their audience and want to make it easy for them to share things of interest to their communities.

ShareThis has some interesting information on how different types of media companies have addressed sharing from both technology placement and design perspectives in a post called “The Art of the Share.”   They look at the question of where to place sharing widgets (beginning or end of post) and what share platforms to breakout specifically from the widget, and how this should differ depending on the audience and media type (eg entertainment v technology site).

In the near future, sharing data may influence how publishers look at content development, and how quickly they can respond to sharing trends with more new content. Sharing patterns may also let them know that they are not covering certain areas of content in ways the audience wants.  

The Editorial Anatomy of Sharing

In addition to having the right tools to share and the appropriate design integration of that technology into the site, the content itself needs to be highly sharable from an editorial perspective.

Dan Zarrella conducted some recent research into sharing and his data contains some interesting insights into what, how and why people share content online.  The complete details and TOC can be found at his site here.

Some highlights from his sample of “why people share” provide useful food for thought as to how publishers and creators might think about the editorial nature of their content.

  • 18.6% audience relevance
  • 8.8% increase their own reputation
  • 8.6% further a specific cause or message
  • 7.4% utility and usefulness; conversation starter
  • 5.5% feedback; wanting others’ opinions
  • 5.2% meet new people

Another study from the University of Pennsylvania examines the character of the most emailed articles (email is certainly one form of sharing).  From that study:

“Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe … They used two criteria for an awe-inspiring story: Its scale is large, and it requires “mental accommodation” by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.”

Once we understand more about why people share from an editorial perspective and have the tools to help them appropriately share and receive shares, how do we look at the editorial process to “give back” and reward “topic specific influential sharers?" This provides the potential of creating a "virtuous loop of personalized content" that fits the editorial criteria of "sharable." Might we begin to use sharing data to design customized programming experiences that could include:

  • Recommended content provided to senders and receivers of shares via a syndication of realtime topic matching (you shared this, you might also like this)
  • Special content for "topic specific" influential sharers pulled from a brand's archives or created as "behind the scenes" sneaks

    In these models, people are treated as unique individuals vs members of a broader group.  This type of customized programming can be monetized at the individual level, yet still maintain individual privacy.

    New Technologies to Facilitate Sharing

    As sharing becomes more than just a simple utility and moves toward being a core social action for Web users, existing social media companies are revamping their offerings and new ones are appearing, offering their sharing solutions to publishers and creators.  

    “The easier you make it for others to share your content with their social networks, the more you capitalize on the Internet Press — the ability to have your content taken from your central hub and then re-published on others’ hubs and among their networks…People trust their social networks much more than advertising or what a company itself says.”

    Pete Codella in Fast Company

    Three Examples

    (1) The Revamp: Digg 

    This Spring, Digg began revamping its strategy toward "social curation of all the world's content and the conversation around it ... shifting toward a personalization model, where the homepage will be based on ... a user's interests, location, who they follow not only on Digg but services like Twitter and Facebook ... and leaderboards for the infinite topic and vertical pages that will emerge, letting Digg users become trusted sources in a given niche."


    (2) The Evolution: ShareThis Stream  

    The ShareThis Stream is a real-time view of sharing across the Web, enabling users to see what content their friends have been sharing, and the comments, tweets, etc related to that content.


    (3) The New Kid: Stickybits  

    Stickybits brings the physical and digital worlds together via barcode stickers and a SmartPhone app that unlocks access to audio, video, photo, and text messages associated with an object when its code is scanned. Individuals can tag physical objects with media (text, photos, video) by applying custom stickers or correlating existing product barcodes with content. They can also receive additional notification and media from others who scan the object and attach their content to the same barcode.

    However interesting these initiatives are, the conversation needs to move from the “means of sharing” to “meaning enabled by sharing.”  Having technology in place is one piece of the equation; delivering a real user benefit and engaging experience is the other (and more meaningful) part.  While you can have searchable real-time feeds and any number of ways to rate and comment on content, it remains a solution just for geeks if it is not matched with consideration for how people want to more broadly use and interact with content.

    Too Much Information?

    As the world of digital media continues to grow at a dizzying pace, without personally relevant methods of discovery and recommendation such as sharing, users will continue to be overwhelmed and miss relevant content, or simply give up looking for anything new out of sheer frustration. 

    I'd prefer to avoid that world described in the song by The Police called "Too Much Information."

    Too much information running through my brain
    Too much information driving me insane
    Too much information running through my brain
    Too much information driving me insane

    Overkill
    Overview
    Over my dead body
    Over me
    Over you
    Over everybody     


    So can the economics of digital publishing be changed by creating a market for revealing and promoting personally relevant influence (via sharing) across the Web? I say "yes." And that’s why sharing matters. Favicon

    January 29, 2010

    Presentation: Twitter in 20

    TitleSlide_LizGebhardt_WIPP_Jan282010
    Today I had the opportunity to co-present a session on "Building Your Business with Twitter and Facebook"  along with Facebook's Director of Corporate Communicatons Brandee Barker at the annual leadership conference for Women in Periodic Publishing.  A PDF version of my Keynote slides is available here: Download LizGebhardt_Twitter_WIPP_Jan282010.

    This 25 minute talk is a very shortened version of a more robust 2-4 hour seminar I have been giving at media companies - print, TV and digital. The Twitter portion focuses on 5 main topics:

    • Twitter Myths, Misconceptions and Reality
    • The Value of the Shared Link
    • Life On and Off the Twitter Network
    • Guidelines and Tactics for the Brand and Individual
    • Tweet Anatomy: A Real World Example

    There are also related posts at this BLOG, including:

    More information on the ShareThis study referred to in the presentation is available at their BLOG. And the book "Groundswell" is available here.

    I'm interested in hearing how different media companies will use this information. 

    Comments? Favicon

     

    September 30, 2009

    The Influence Equation

    TEAInfluenceEquation

    “You don't have to be a "person of influence" to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they've taught me.”

    – Scott Adams, “Dilbert” series cartoonist


    At the gut level, we know that influence is important, whether it is for creating individual personal social capital to impact discussions and decisions, or brands looking for ways to convert influence into cash.

    Who or what influences our perceptions and decisions? Is it our family, work colleagues, a blogger with 100,000 RSS subscribers, someone on the Twitter SUL with a million followers, brands like Nike or Apple, a charismatic politician, or mainstream media personalities such as Oprah and John Stewart?

    How is that opportunity to influence earned?  What elements or behaviors make up the “Influence Equation?”  Might the relevant mix of trust, expertise and attention (TEA) come together to define “contextual specific engagement” which provides the opportunity (but not the guarantee) for a receptive and relevant “audience”,  as well as the appropriately timed moments of influence? (Meaning that influence is defined for both individuals/groups, as well as time).

    Trust

    In a previous post, “This Year It’s all About Trust,” trust was examined in great depth and dissected into the components of Ability (knowledge) + Integrity (alignment of word and deed) + Benevolence (open communication).  From that post:

    “Trust is a statement of faith about what is otherwise unknown
    because it is currently unverifiable or the results exist in the future.
    Because of that, it is a powerful attribute for an individual or a
    brand, and a prerequisite for real “credibility” … it is the currency
    that enables … attention acquisition in a time starved world.”


    While there is no one universal Web-based trust metric, there are measurable actions that imply trust depending on the context in which one wants to measure.

    “From traditional media sites to niche blogs, from Twitter and
    Digg, to Facebook and MySpace, consumers are engaging with
    online content - and each other - in totally different ways from in
    the offline world. Friending someone on Facebook, linking to or
    leaving comments on someone's post, blog-rolling a trusted blog,
    adding a story to your social bookmarking service of choice - these
    are implicit actions that communicate trust. It is safe to say that
    the ability to use the web to aggregate and analyze these collective
    activities would paint a very powerful picture of both who and
    what influences a particular consumer. And this is marketing gold.”
    – Todd Parsons, co-founder, BuzzLogic
    (more here)

    Expertise

    Trust and expertise aren’t always a part of the same package, but they are both required components of the “Influence Equation.”  When the two are combined, credibility or believability results – at least in the eye of the beholder (per B.J. Fogg  in “Persuasive Technology.”)

    What is expertise? Fogg defines it as “the perceived knowledge, skill and experience of the source", and others have added in the dimension “contextual knowledge in ill structured situations.”

    Experts are different than novices in that novices must usually rely on a set of fixed rules or processes applied in very specific (narrow) situations. Individuals (experts) with expertise earned and demonstrated over time are much more flexible than novices in that they have accumulated contextual experience (beyond the novice’s rules) that can be applied as strategies “automatically” in complex, ill-structured situations. For experts, intuition becomes as important as domain-specific knowledge.

    The value that can be derived from expertise within the “Influence Equation” is well articulated in Brian Solis’ post “Unveiling the New Influencers”:

    “Those who master their domains are developing persuasive and
    important communities around their areas of expertise, interests and
    passions and now possess the prowess and authority to direct,
    instruct, and steer decision makers and referrers.”



    While there is not yet a good industry wide measure for “expertise” (we seem to know it when we see it), it should not be confused with “authority” as many bloggers do when they use the Technorati index to benchmark authority ranking.  Several good blog posts address this, including katrinah.com, Beth's Blog, and Brian Solis in a TechCrunch post.

    Attention

    Attention is a scarce and valuable resource in a data-packed 24-hour world, making it no small task to ask people to gift some of their time. As Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon (1971) said: "...a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention..."

    Chris Andersen said in his book “Free”:
    “The value of attention and reputation is clearly something, or companies
     wouldn’t spend so much on advertising to influence them. We set prices
    on attention every day: the cost to reach a thousand radio listeners for
    30 seconds, the charge for forcing a million Super Bowl viewers to interrupt
    their game. And every time a movie star’s agent negotiates a film deal, a
    reputation is being valued.  … But there’s a lot more attention and reputation
    in the world than that measured in media and celebrity.  The problem is that
    we don’t have any idea of how much more."



    So is trying to get people you don’t personally know, to do something you want them to do (but they may not yet know they have interest in), fundamentally arrogant? When considering the concept of acquiring attention, earning vs. asking might be the better model, and doing so in a “humble” manner over time might be a good idea. 

    So what is attention and how do you earn and build it?

    The “What” of Attention: Attention is ultimately about the connection between people and ideas, and it may well be considered a “flow” or a continuous collection of moments (vs. an individual or discreet thing).  This would indicate that in order to “keep attention” one must continue to do new things (Meaning one can’t take attention for granted). There are also different kinds or levels of attention that should have different values attached to them under different circumstances and contexts – ranging from “full and undivided attention” to “continuous partial attention” as coined by Linda Stone. (more here).

    The “Earn and Build” of Attention: Bill Wasik, the author of “And Then There’s This” and a senior editor at Harpers Magazine who coined the term “Flash Mob” has some interesting perspectives on this topic in a video worth watching.The high level bits regarding attention building:
    • reliably create stuff that gets attention over time,
    • understand the role of the feedback loop (criticism) in the development of attention,
    • see attention as a volume commitment vs. a one-off undertaking

    The “Where and How Much” of Attention:
    A recent HP Labs study suggests that, when measuring influence, it’s important to identify the “hidden social networks” or the “where and how much” of attention. In the network. the number of followers/friends that a person has is meaningless if there is little or no interaction. What matters are the exchanges (and attention given in those exchanges) that take place between the individuals and their circle of “real engaged friends” in the network .

    Given these frameworks, from a measurement perspective, it is clear that attention is NOT a commodity good, and that there is no such thing as a “standard unit of attention.”  At this time, there is no standard attention metric.  The soft metric has to be framed within the context of the specific audience, type of attention given, and subject area.

    Regardless of how difficult it is to measure in definite terms, understanding at least relative changes in attention is critical to both individuals and brands.  Regarding the importance of attention to brands, Scott Karp wrote:

     “In media 1.0, brands paid for the attention that media companies gathered by
    offering people news and entertainment (e.g. TV) in exchange for their attention.
    In media 2.0, people are more likely to give their attention in exchange for
    OTHER PEOPLE’S ATTENTION.”


    Regarding the importance of attention to individuals and making a strong link back to our earlier discussion on “expertise,” John Hagel wrote:

    “We all find ourselves in a globalizing world where we must find ways to develop
     distinctive and rapidly evolving capabilities (Liz – what I called “expertise in this
    post) … We all need to find ways to tap into a broader set of experiences and
    perspectives to refresh our understanding of the changing world around us. To
    do this effectively, we need to receive the deep and sustained attention of those
    who have the most to offer and we cannot do this unless we can offer compelling
    value in return. If we cannot build deep and sustaining networks of attention (in
    other words, networks of relationships), we will find it more and more difficult to
    remain relevant and productive…we risk becoming progressively marginalized. 
    Receiving attention becomes far more important than it ever was and will require
    far more effort than in the past.”


    Influence

    Influence can be defined as “the potential of an action of one individual/user to initiate a further action by another.”  That further action may be the bestowing of social capital or an exchange of real monetary capital. The opportunity for that influence to exist is the result (over time) of the development of deep Trust, the demonstration of appropriate Expertise, and the ability to garner some form of Attention flow. And that Engagement-Influence is specific to the context, community (collection or an individual), and content (area of expertise).

    With shifts in the media landscape away from a purely professionally created world to one in which user generated and user-commented (of professional) is added - it’s no wonder that both individuals and businesses are experimenting with and trying to understand how to use the Web in a very human way to build reputation, awareness and influence.  And beyond that, where appropriate, to find a way to translate that engagement-influence equation into some kind of business value.

    The question remains: Is there an engagement -influencer metric or set of metrics that reflects this model of Trust-Expertise-Attention (TEA); something that is beyond old school reach and penetration?  That is what companies such as BuzzLogic and ShareThis are betting on.  And that’s all food for a future post that moves past this philosophical framing and into the search for real (and useful) numbers and maps. Egv_tiny_blogicon



    August 18, 2009

    Inspiration - Some Of The Best Ideas Come From Unexpected Sources

    InspirationCompositeBorder

    The items in the images on the left inspired the products and brands on the right.

    In his 2005 book, "A Whole New Mind,"  Daniel Pink proposed that we have entered an era in which creative conceptual thinking has become increasingly important. Right-brain thinking that is emotionally and observationally based needs to take its rightful and valued place next to the left-brain thinking of logical analytical and theoretical thought. Both science and business often say that the result of creative thoughts need to contain both originality and appropriateness. To get to that final stage, there is a process (the 4I's) that takes inspiration into idea into invention and later into continuing innovation.

    So with creative thought a valued process, where does the "first I of Inspiration" come from?  Some examples follow that demonstrate that some of the best ideas and solutions come from truly unexpected sources that are about as far removed from the "industry of record" as possible.  A humble kitchen. A walk with a dog. Street art in some dicey alleys.

    1940’s - Velcro

    The inventor of Velcro (Swiss engineer George de Mestral) was inspired by the burrs stuck in his dog’s coat.  Returning home from a hunting trip in the Alps, he noticed all the burrs, specifically burdock seeds, stuck fast to the coat of his dog. Examining this scenario under a microscope, he saw that the burrs had hundreds of "hooks" that caught on anything with a loop, dog fur for example.  Thus was revealed the seed of the idea for a new and simple way of binding two materials together if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops that he had found in nature (burrs and fur). Ten years after that walk with his dog, he submitted the patent for Velcro that was later granted in 1955.

    1970’s - Nike

    A waffle iron led to a revolutionary athletic shoe sole design and the birth of a global mega brand.  Track coach Bill Bowerman of the University of Oregon was experimenting with ideas for shoe outsoles that would better grip the newly resurfaced track at the university. One Sunday morning, he poured liquid urethane into his wife’s waffle iron.  This evolved into the famed Nike “waffle sole” which was first mass manufactured and distributed in the iconic Nike Waffle Trainer in 1974. In 2008, Nike’s revenues were nearly $19B. That’s a lot of waffles.

    1980’s - MTV logo

    On August 1, 1981 MTV launched on a small New Jersey cable system with a theme song in the form of a crunching guitar riff playing over a montage of images of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The MTV logo on the astronaut’s flag is the iconic symbol of the company that was inspired by the graffiti and street art that Creative Director Fred Seibert and his team would see walking the streets of NYC. Contrary to the “industry standard practice” of never touching a corporate logo/icon, the MTV logotype, true to its street art origins, is constantly changing and simultaneously existing in many different creative manifestations.

      

    InspirationTwitterNYC

    21st Century - Twitter

    I'm not sure what the real story of the initial inspiration for Twitter is.  Maybe it's as "mundane" as some form of evolution of SMS.  But I am intrigued by a recent tweet from Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey that read:

    DorseyBloombergTweet


    Lesson?  In the creative idea economy, you never know what the source and timing of initial inspiration is going to be.  More often than not, inspiration springs from unexpected sources far removed from the confines of the particular business or problem at hand, which says something about the value of an "informed naivete" in the approach to the creative process ...well that, and taking a lot of walks and spending time in the kitchen. Egv_tiny_blogicon


    July 07, 2009

    Brand Identity Is More Than Image - The Case for Product Informed by Brand Truth

    EgvBrandIdentityCircle

    Click for larger image.

    Brand Identity and Product Model for a Media Company

      

    Identity is not just image.  Not even in the world of media companies.

    Brand Identity goes far beyond a company’s logo and tagline. It is the unique expression of a deep belief system that must live at the heart of everything that emanates from and around a brand entity, manifesting itself not just in what are considered creative marketing communications conventions, but just as (if not more) importantly, in the essence of the product experience the brand delivers. Product naturally and deeply infused with brand identity innately conveys differences that are immediately experienced and observable (no product data sheet required). They are noticed even when you’re not looking for them. What I’m talking about is NOT a logo branded on an object, but the user’s (direct) product experience itself.

    Everything in the brand ecosystem – from what it says to what it does - should be thought of as a potential medium upon which brand identity is insistently and consistently embedded. It’s core to the DNA. Identity remains constant, while a particular medium and its implications may change with time and place.

    When brand identity and product truth are in alignment, there is an opportunity to create not just product satisfaction, but enthusiasm - to outperform the competition, over deliver on expectations, and even dare to surprise (in a good way) and delight the user community.

    What is Product for Media Companies?

    We often think of product in very simple terms (a car, a shampoo, a camera, a vacation destination) and models (only what the company creates that is obvious to the consumer) that miss much of the essence of 21st century product experience. For purposes of this post, product most broadly defined for a digital media company (or traditional media company with significant digital presence) includes its media content (text, video, photos), technology platforms, unique experience applications and capabilities, and its “user” community. These represented by 3 of the 6 areas in the outer ring of the model.

    The Model

    This model of brand identity is an extension of one first introduced in an April 3 post in this blog. This is a framework in which brand identity is at the heart, informing the surrounding ecosystems of communications audiences (ring 2) and vehicles (ring 3), as well as all the implicit and explicit ways that identity should manifest in the tactical aspects of the business (outer ring) – from product to content to monetization and partnership strategies to personality. This post focuses on the newly added outer ring.  The details of the rest of the model are at the original post, but briefly here:

    Center: Brand identity defines what you stand for, as well as what you stand against.  More than a tagline; it should inform, and be in the DNA, of everything in the rest of the model.

    Second Ring:  The “audience” ecosystem is comprised of the various groups with which the brand communicates and which will inevitably communicate back.  (The medium is about conversation, not just broadcast.)  For each of these, brand identity manifests in a unique positioning statement and communications architecture.

    Third Ring: This is the portfolio of communications vehicles (both digital and real world) that will be relevant for different members of the “audience” ecosystem at different points in time. Brand identity drives their strategic plan and creative execution.

    Fourth Ring: For Challenger Brands in particular, brand identity must manifest in all areas of the business, beyond the traditional creative venue of marketing communications (ring 3). These include product experience (product, content and community), business relationships (revenue generation and audience building), and the nature of the brand’s personality and greater connection to the world at large.  These are represented as discreet elements in the model for purposes of discussion, but obviously influence each other greatly in the real world (e.g. Content: accessibility impacts Audience: engagement.)  All of these elements also have unique relationships with the various members of the “audience/user”’ ecosystem.

    Brand Identity and the Arena of Product

    Products have just as much opportunity to touch people emotionally as does a marketing campaign. Product is often thought of as pragmatic and not creative, yet it can be (and should be) just as creative and "emotional" an expression of the brand identity as any marketing communications campaign.

    For media companies, content is what has traditionally been first thought of as the core of the “product” offering. For today's robust media company, it is but one third of the product trifecta, with product platform and community providing the "context for the content", rounding out a media company's product offering. So how might we think of the relationship between brand identity and these three components of product?

    (1) Content:
    How does brand identity inform decisions about the design and production, timeliness, location and sharing nature of the content?

    Design/production values and accessibility: Does the brand identity demand a polished Hollywood look , or something more of the order of garage or homemade?  Is production solely from professional sources, consumer generated or a curated mix of the two?

    Timeliness vs Quality Tradeoff: Where along the continuum of "content that reflects the most current moment" to "in-depth thoughtful production" does the brand identity determine for the media mix? In the online world, where immediacy is possible, the decision has to be made about what expectation to set.  And the closer to the immediacy end of the spectrum, traditional quality measures may decline.  However, "immediacy" in and of itself may be a new measure of online content quality.

    Distribution/Location: Different distribution locations provide different opportunities for discovery and also context for content, and context of media is often as critical as the nature of the content itself. Does the brand identity reflect a philosophy of a controlled walled garden, a free range system where search and discovery are critical, or somewhere in between?

    Sharability: Does the brand reflect an attitude of open sharing or one of "close to the vest?" And is sharing defined as inside the brand community or into any possible group.  Again, in the online world, the power of the passed link (to content) is undeniable in building a brand's power.


    (2) Product Platform: How does brand identity inform the product platform specification, execution and evolution?

    Convenience/Ease of Use/Speed: What guidance does the brand identity provide in relationship to setting priorities and making tough development calls in relationship to the ease of user access (convenience of search and discovery), to ease of use (once product/content is accessed), to speed of use (how product/content performs/responds in reaction to user's actions)?

    Performance: Thinking about product performance now needs to go beyond the functionality and industry benchmark metrics touted in the worlds of industrial design and high tech. Both the left (logical/analytical) and right (creative/emotional) sides of the user's brain must be seen as equally important.  What does the brand identity say about how the user should feel when engaging with, using or watching/reading the "product?"

    Engagement Experience: Is all engagement "deliberately planned" or is there room for "spontaneous engagement" through discovery, recommendation or other means? Does the product treat users as audience, participants or co-creators?  What other objects or experiences need to surround the core product?

    Scalability: Does brand identity indicate a boutique audience or one of potential global dimensions? How does that impact plans for scalability of platform, content, audience and interaction?


    (3) Community and Participation: How does brand identity inform the nature of the desired relationship with the "user" communities to the product platform and its content?

    Types and Varieties of Engagement Opportunities: Communities contribute to, but rarely take over (hijack), the manifestation of brand identity. They congregate around brand identity.  The levels of content engagement that are provided and enabled by a brand will define, in large part, the extent to which the users/audience will co-create and co-define the product.

    Levels of Interaction: Brand identity reflects an understanding of "audience or user" and their predisposition to engage in certain online media behaviors.  The group's technographic profile should guide the level of complexity and intent of online experiences  - understanding when, where and for whom enabling creating, curating, commenting, or sharing of content is important.

    Ability to Personalize: Personalization of product may be one of the deepest forms of engagement one can have with brand identity. Providing a platform or experience upon which one can put their own unique stamp is powerful; and pride in that personalization promotes sharing. Enough said.

    Lessons Learned

    Brand identity needs to be as much a part of the core DNA of product as it is for marketing communications. Both are  physical manifestations of how the media brand wants to attract and interact with its users/audience.

    Brand identity and product truth are inextricable interlinked. They must be if a media brand is to be successful.  And in a Web 2.0 world, product truth becomes concrete in a product experience that is shared equally by the content, product platform (technology and experiences) and the communities that surround them.

    For a media company, the question will then be to make wise choices as how to best prioritize resources against that which comprises product: content, platform and surrounding community - deciding in which cases brand identity suggests performance "at industry levels" and where it demands exceptional commitment to excellence and user/audience delight. Egv_tiny_blogicon


    May 22, 2009

    Do Big Brands Need to Think Like Little Fish?

    LittleFish

     Photo by Benson Kua

    "Being a Challenger is primarily a state of mind, not a state of market"

    - Adam Morgan in "Eating the Big Fish"


    So once you’ve made it to the top of your category, have a dominant share and are seen as the market leader, you’ve got it made … right?  There’s no way all those pesky little fish nipping around your heals are ever going to eat your lunch. That might have been the case in Don Draper’s time, but it’s a dangerous, if not fatal, concept to hold onto in the digital age.

    More than any other time in brand history, the age of digital and social media that can compress time and expand geographic reach, as well as fuel consumer influence (but not dominance) on brands, requires a “Challenger Brand” way of thinking and behaving.  The seminal work in this field is Adam Morgan’s “Eating the Big Fish” (first published in 1999) and for a deeper dive into the subject, that book is highly recommended.  But for purposes of this post, here is a “Cliff Notes” style overview of a Challenger Brand.

    By definition, a Challenger Brand is neither the market leader in a category, nor is it a niche brand.  Its leaders have great ambitions and a vision for their venture that exceed their physical resources (e.g. people and money) in comparison to the Market Leader, especially if they were to be deployed against marketing tactics that mimic the leader.  The mindset of the Challenger embraces the kind of non-conventional thinking that successfully bridging this resource gap entails, a mindset that is focused on generating a “focused few” highly leverageable ideas that are immediately actionable.

    Challenger Brands can be people, businesses, causes, and even countries, examples: T.E. Lawrence/”Lawrence of Arabia” (my favorite movie), Al Gore, the young Elvis, Avis (the classic example), Apple (maintained for 30 years), Nintendo, Google (in the early days), Facebook, Red Bull, Blurb, method, the Obama Campaign, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Tourism New Zealand, and Tourism Queensland (“the best job in the world” campaign).

    While a Market Leader cannot technically be a pure Challenger Brand (their dominant market share makes that impossible), they can embrace Challenger Brand thinking and behavior and continue to move quickly and surprisingly like the nimble small fish they once were.  If you are (or even are just affiliated with) a Market Leader, embracing the role of “change agent” and swimming against the conventions of your category should never be counterintuitive.

    Below are seven common market scenarios/challenges, four externally and three internally rooted, that Brand Leaders may face, in which continuing to deeply embrace Challenger thinking and behavior will serve them well. To get more specific, we are going to use the yet to be launched media company/cable network OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) to give suggestions as to how the situation might be framed in Challenger terms.  OWN is selected as it is birthed in part out of a Market Leader who has retained Challenger Brand thinking and behavior (that’s Oprah herself).  But OWN is also entering and will compete in a category - cable (and digital media?) network based around “best life/self improvement” programming - in which it will NOT be the Market Leader at launch.  It has the opportunity to be a Challenger Brand infused with Market Leader DNA.

    External Cause Scenarios

    1. Brand exists in a category where the long entrenched rules are unraveling, with the industry experiencing rapid and significant change.

    In the case of cable networks or cable/digital hybrids, it has appeared to be the norm (or even a “rule”) that viewers demand “high quality,” professionally produced passive programming. In the world of journalism (text or video), there is clearly a change underway in the definition of, and balance of power between, the relative value of quality vs. timeliness in media.  CNN leads breaking stories with grainy i-Report cell-phone video and later packages it in with professionally shot segments, graphics and theme music.  Bloggers and folks on Twitter are among the first to report and share images of events such as the Mumbai hostage taking and the landing of the plane in the Hudson River.  In these cases, timeliness trumped quality. Non-fiction TV can’t be far behind in being forced to (if not voluntarily address) this change of the  mix of professionally and consumer generated media that goes far beyond commentary shows featuring humorous and cute animal YouTube videos.

    OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: Respect, but don't let the old production model dictate all programming experiences. Embrace a new model of relative value between quality and timeliness of media. Create new ways of aggregating “real time” content from sources other than its own, including (if not especially from) the audience. But give them a place of their own in the programming mix beyond 3 minute segment inserts in the "real show."


    2. Brand is threatened by a “superior” competitor or completely new sources of competition.

    The competitor that one faces does not have to be another company in the category.  The real competition can just as easily come from significant changes in audience/consumer behavior as well as from businesses and platforms outside the category.

    Most would agree that the time of appointment viewing “must see” TV is pretty much over.   There is no such thing as a TV captive audience, not even for breaking events. People have many “viewing” choices and mostly multi-tasking around media anyway.  They need a reason for engagement and new tools for relevant content discovery. The “partial continuous attention” audience is a more significant challenge to creatively address than another network or show. No matter what the ratings are.   And quite frankly, how accurate are the ratings anyway in a world of multitasking vs. a world of single focused activity.

    OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: How do you break the “rule” of ratings as the guiding force and create multiplatform media where it’s OK if engagement cannot always be measured.  Develop the story for brand partners by which value is created when old category revenue models and measurement criteria are disrupted and become less relevant.


    3. Brand is faced with potential “commoditization of the category.”

    What is unique about how the Challenger brand thinks about and lives in their category? Defining and understanding the category you want to compete in is critical. (Remember the story of trains saying they were in the "train" business and not in the "transportation" business?) Additionally, if all the participants in the category define it in a similar manner, the product they deliver begins to become indistinguishable except for the network brand logo. In the world of cable TV, how many  look alike “life improvement” shows can really be “consumed?”

    OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: What's the category in which you want to define yourself and live?  Is it non-fiction cable TV network?  Probably way too narrow, especially if you think about what time constraints and life experiences you are competing against for the "audience's" attention. (For me, you wouldn't be competing just against TV time, but against going to yoga class, walking my dog and reading my RSS feeds - things that I see as "life enhancing/self improvement.")

    And regradless of subtelty or breath of the category definition, there are ways to think about programming development that fends off commoditization.  That is: Don’t always go with the expected heavy hitters; use the media and the "audience" to incubate your own next generation of “trust agents.” (Isn't that one of Oprah's greatest strengths afterall - trust?)  Trust can be built and vetted within communities online before migrating to cable distribution.


    4. Brand encounters situation where the greater social ecosystem or public opinion is set/moving against it.

    OWN isn't a political movement, so you might ask how this situation might be relevant.  This scenario can also be framed as the friction or resistance one might encounter when trying to expand audience apart from a well-understood core to include a group that might seem to be counter intuitive to the core.   While I don't have access to the stats, it's my understanding that the show "Oprah" on broadcast TV has an audience dominated by urban females, while OWN has a goal of a broader audience (including male and I assume non-urban if significant cable audience is to be found.) 

    OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: If the brand "Oprah" is to be a catalyst in the launch of OWN, then it is important to understand what part of that "Oprah" DNA will work for and against that goal. I am NOT of the mindset that "Oprah" is a female only brand.  Highlighting the Challenger brand aspect over the industry "Goliath" story will be important.  And that is based around a story NOT of Oprah's media dominance and finances, but of her ability to create and rally community and engagement.  And that is neither male nor female.

    Internal Cause Scenarios

    1. Brand allows its own complacency or even arrogance to lull them into a sense of security and permanence of success.
    Success can be a problem if it is seen as an end product and not a transitory state.  Market Leaders, and sometimes their “spawn” who are closely identified with a predecessor’s DNA, can be lulled into complacency or a sense of invincibility by confidence that comes out of years of success documented by boatloads of press clippings and awards. There are times when that comfy seductive sense of security is exactly what a Challenger needs to battle against.

    OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: Remember that “category inexperience” is often what powers Challenger brands at the beginning, enabling them to bring vitality and new possibilities to play.  A novice’s perspectives can come both from “new blood” outside the industry brought into partnership in the venture, and also can come from the “seasoned pros.” For the Pros, they need to be willing to take the time to temporarily set aside their knowledge and vested interests and “walk in the door” afresh, questioning their own assumptions about the business.  As for ”new blood” from outside the industry, well that requires some expansive Pixar style thinking that asks: “How do you hire/partner for a task that has never been done before?”  Answer: Look for people who have demonstrated mastery in another area – personal or business – outside your category, as well those who have demonstrated the ability to convert failure into success.  That’s the criteria by which NASA found the first astronauts – who were test pilots.


    2. Brand believes none of its competitors are “significant” anymore.
    When a Market Leader owns the category from a market share or share of mind perspective, what is left to compete against?  I say there’s plenty – it’s just not as obvious as someone with bigger ratings or ad sell throughs.  So how do you find your new “enemy?”

    OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: Oprah as a brand has successfully redefined “the enemy or monster” that she competes against innumerable times: so there are already great lessons here for OWN.  That which she competes against is no longer other daytime talk shows. The “enemies” are the bigger causes and issues she brings to light and around which she rallies her constituency.  OWN needs to think about not only what it fights for, but what it fights against.  That may be bigger global social or economic causes, intimate personal battles, and yes, even sometimes, the direction of an industry.


    3. Brand becomes shackled by its own success and fears breaking the “magic formula.”
    Remember that in the digital age, where just about everything is transitory, there is no longer such a thing as a “magic formula” (at least not one that lasts very long).  Clinging to that notion and becoming loss or risk averse creates behavior that is counter to what usually gets a Challenger to their success in the first place.  

    OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: Don’t let an affinity for old models and paradigms be your undoing.  It’s great to leverage what has worked in the past, especially as television is generally a medium of familiarity and predictability.  But what new models or paradigms might you create, which of course, you eventually will have to destroy when they also become conventions?

    I offer up the following as one.  Use the fact that you are hopefully building digital from the starts as a vibrant component (rather than the conventional “site brochureware” of many cable companies), and incubate and mentor new talent online (not just TV talent transplanted into the digital arena). Communities are the natural petrie dishes for new “trust agents” to evolve against specific areas of expertise.    Be conscious to create mechanisms to identity and platforms to cultivate this, and bring that talent into other media at appropriate times.

    Lessons learned as to why it's a good idea for Big Brands to think like little fish?

    You can retain your status quo of Market Leader (or offspring of the same) by being willing to constantly question, evolve and transcend the category conventions in order to be the change agent in partnership with your audience/customer. Doable.  But not easy.  Egv_tiny_blogicon

     

    April 19, 2009

    Ashton Kutcher's Billboard - Possibilities Beyond Celebrity for the Future of Broadcasted or Public Social Media

    Twitterashtonpicframed

    One of the 1,133 digital billboards provided pro bono by Lamar Advertising in the race to a million followers against CNN. 

         -  From a story in Advertising Age


    If you work in the social media space or are a CNN or Oprah viewer, it was nearly impossible to not know about the "race to a million followers" on Twitter last week between celebrity/entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and CNN's newly acquired account (@cnnbrk).  Kutcher started the challenge slightly trailing CNN, but used YouTube-distributed videos and calling on his more engaged social media followers to surpass Larry King/CNN's cable TV promo efforts. The "celebrity" facts: Kutcher passed the million mark first and appeared on Oprah (@oprah) to be crowned "king of Twitter."

    But what else might this mini-digital duel reveal beyond the obvious celebrity vanity stories and the growing importance of social media bylines?

    Benefit for social ventures and charities

    Consider that as part of the challenge, the winner agreed to donate 10,000 mosquito nets (the loser 1,000 nets) to April 25th’s 2nd annual World Malaria Day. That means 1,000s of people will have additional protection against a disease that threatens 40% of the world's population and  infects 500 million people a year. And Twitter is full of "tweets" about additional donations coming in from everyday people as a result of the awareness brought about by the race and subsequent interviews.  That's a win.

    Other celebrities including Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) and social entrepreneurs have been using the platform as well to engage an audience predisposed to quickly responding to and sharing information.

    Near future traditional/digital media mashups

    Let's go back to the digital billboards at the beginning of this post.  Not sure in terms of any measurement that might exist what they contributed to Kutcher's tally.  But the more important aspects to consider are two fold:

    (1)  Since the billboards are digital and connected to a network, the message/creative could be programmed and distributed (and theoretically updated/changed) nearly instantaneously to the 1,000+ screens.  No printing turn around time.  No guys on scaffolds with buckets of glue. The content was nearly immediate/real-time.

    (2) Now what if (for safety's and reading time's sake) that the screens had been indoors, like those we see at Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, etc. AND that the screen network's application set was sophisticated enough to take both the simple "old school" billboard message and combine it with real-time information of interest via a feed. On the simple end this could just be a tally of number of followers updating, perhaps with an additional message encouraging peple to join in via their cell phones while they were waiting in line.  Something more complex would be a real-time "curated" feed overlay to the screen of the relevant "tweets" about both the "million follower race" as well as information about Kutcher's malaria cause.

    All of the pieces to do this today exist.  If you look online at applications written off the Twitter API like Glam Media's Tinker or similar Twitter parsing/aggregation apps from Federated Media like ExecuTweets, you get a sense of what is possible through some design and then integration of an RSS feed into a public digital screen.

    Below is an example of what the live Tinker feed looked like this morning for Ashton Kutcher.  Imagine what an "indoor billboard" at a coffee shop or train station might look like with the main visual of the billboard at the beginning of this post,  with an overlay in the lower horizontal part of the screen of the Tinker Twitter stream when the race was still on.


    TinkerKutcherStreamFramed  

    Other possibilities? 

    Here's one. Given that Earth Day is this week - what about a brand doing an Earth Day promo with inspiring photos (professional images and real-time consumer photos) cycling through the screen and relevant tweets of what people were doing that day to help their local environmental efforts, as well as links to activities people could join, appearing simultaneously along the bottom of the screen. Egv_tiny_blogicon



    April 06, 2009

    Is This Advertising?

    IsThisAdertising1

    "Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image."

    -  David Ogilvy


    In this post, three categories of objects are considered: in public spaces, online, and even those that are purchased. Which of these do you consider to be advertising if we consider the following as guidelines? 

    1. Brand image lives in people's minds as a result of their direct and indirect (through media and other people) experience with the product or company.
    2. Advertising is a form of communication that typically attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume more of a particular brand of product or service.
    3. Advertising provides some level of "experience" with the product before you buy it.
    4. Advertising is a paid medium; you have to pay to place it in the real world or digitally.


    Objects Found In Public Spaces

    Nike Logoed Shirt: If an athlete is wearing it as part of a paid endorsement, then it's advertising.  But what about when your favorite trainer or running buddy is wearing it?

    iPod/iPhone White Ear Buds: In the billboard, TV and print ads, well, it's advertising.  What about the dozens of times a day you see those white ear buds coming down the street? You know what the product is without even seeing it.

    Starbucks InStore Music Screen: In about 600 Starbucks stores in the US, there are flat panel screens that provide information on the music that is currently playing, and to my knowledge, not paid for by the music companies or artists.  But doesn't it serve the other "non-paying" criteria of advertising, and couldn't it become that?  Easy to make happen since WiFi is right there with easy one click access to the iTunes store for downloads.

    Obama Poster: Post the election and pre-inauguration, Moveon.org raised money by selling postcards and posters, as well as limited edition version ($500) signed Shepard Fairey posters.  In many a window in San Francisco.  Good promo for brand Obama, yet initiated and paid for by others.

    Planet Dog Sticker: Seen in the back window of many a station wagon, this sticker costs $2.  And for that you get to state your canine affiliation as well as promote someone else's brand of which you may or may not have purchased one of their toy products.

     

    IsThisAdvertising2

    Objects Found Online

    "Will It Blend?" YouTube Video: Well-known series of videos produced by the blender company that have pulverized anything from an iPhone to glow sticks, often at the request of fans.  Produced by the company with a "home-made" feel.  More than six million views.  Free distribution on YouTube and in many an article on "viral videos."  Blender sales conversion rate?

    Rachel Maddow Show Facebook Page: 50,000 fans to go along with over 200,000 followers on twitter.  Experience brand Maddow through notes, video links for the shows; as well as other stuff she likes that never makes it to broadcast.

    Twitter Page of Zappos CEO: More than 350,000 people can't be wrong.  And if sold one pair of shoes to each per year - that's millions.

    Hunch Public Beta Invite: Great "welcome" letter/FAQ from Caterina Fake gets you interested in and sharing the "brand" before it even does anything for you.  And your participation is actually critical to building the functionality and value of the product.

    HGTV Widget: Weeks on my Facebook profile page and I didn't win.  But did I think about HGTV each day that I logged in even though I wasn't watching cable ... yep.


    IsThisAdvertising3

    Objects That Are Purchased

    Whole Foods Shopping Bag: $2 to avoid paper bag shame and carry them into stores other than Whole Foods, even competitors. Sorry Mollie Stones.

    Kleenex/Hannah Montana: I am sure that money exchanged hands here to place image and logo of pop idol on tissue box -- but which way?  Brand Miley may well have more power than brand Kleenex, so cash may have gone upstream instead.

    "Unstuck" Book by Founder of SYP: A well written book on its own, but also a great promo vehicle for the SYP agency and great client pitch leave behind. Old school print version only; not on Kindle yet.

    Starbucks Cup (old version with "The Way I See It" quote): I loved the old "The Way I See It" quotes on the Starbucks cups from people like Keith Olbermann and Jeffrey Sachs.  Currently they're using quotes from "real" customers.  See me with my soy chai walking down the street may not be 'advertising,' but if the cup is on a talk show host's desk?

    What's The Point?

    Lots of other examples to be sure. That SmartCar or Aptera parked on a busy public street. Those custom Nike ID shoes my trainer wears with a "swoosh" color of his choosing. The Motorola logo on the headsets the coaches are wearing on the sidelines at the SuperBowl.  When I change the name (or some form thereof) of a company to a verb such as “tweeting” or "googling" and use it in an email, blog post or magazine article. Other ideas?

    Lesson Learned: Not everything that builds brands is paid advertising. Sometimes the conduit of the message is free or people might even pay for the message itself. Egv_tiny_blogicon


    (Note: Thanks to friend Michael Markman for suggesting the iPod ear buds and SmartCar as examples in this post.)
       

    April 03, 2009

    Digital World Meet The Real World - An Audience And Media Model

    MediaStrategyCircles

    This is a simple model for looking at the meta choice relationships for a brand/person/program between its audiences and communities, response goals (emotional and intellectual), and engagement/distribution platforms.


    Center Circle: This is the initial source or core entity which can be a person, brand, network, program, movement, etc.


    Second Ring: With your core subject area at heart, this is about the identification of the high level breakdown of the audiences/communities that are important for you to engage with.  This may include both individuals or organizations that already know of you or do not know of you, who are your advocates, detractors or are passive bystanders.  If what is at the center is completely new, then it is about finding communities "talking about" (meaning anything from micro-blogging and ratings to full blown blog posts or videos) relevant related subject areas.

    This is the time for some "digital anthropology" of listening and learning before engaging appropriately. It's also time for finding the influencers, ambassadors and action-oriented conversation leaders and media creators through observation, as well as through a variety of social media influencer tools such as those from social marketing companies like BuzzLogic, and new conversation comment trackers (the class of startups such as SparkWords, Kutano, Reframe It may evolve into this).  A careful parsing of popular vs influential individuals is in order, segmented by content area.


    Third Ring: What is the engagement result for which you are striving - both emotional and intellectual?  What's the tone in which you are going to deliver and then what's your expectation back from the audience/community?  And are you "prepared" for the unexpected?  Data may be important, but it is passion that drives things forward.


    Fourth Ring: This is where one needs to become wary of the obsession with the newest "shiny geeky object," particularly in digital space.  There are literally dozens of distribution/engagement categories with hundreds of companies and technologies populating them.  It's easy to get swept up in the "Twitter-verse," and forget that what's right for one is not for another. That said, a healthy dose of clearly defined experimentation is always important.

    It is critical to link thinking about the fourth ring "distribution/engagement categories" to a traditional and technology-based understanding of second ring "audience/community." In "Groundswell," Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff coined the term “Technographics”  - as similar to demographics and psychographics, but with a focus on developing profiles based on technology behaviors. Before a mixture of real world and digital world distribution/engagement models can be selected, it is critical to know the distribution model of the people with whom you are hoping to engage. Are they at one end of the spectrum as creators who are active bloggers or video creators/uploaders; somewhere in the middle where the might comment or rate on content created by others; or are they passive readers or viewers who don’t leave a “visible” footprint. One can see how critical this understanding is if you look at an example of launching a consumer generated media campaign to an  audience with a technology profile that is dominated by raters/commenters.  Not much is going to happen in that case as the activity does not translate to the audience, even if the subject area is relevant.


    Fifth Ring: There is incredible power to be found at the intersection of the Digital (Web) and Real (Live) Worlds. Life is lived in both places.  No matter how much the Web has evolved, you can't (yet) touch objects as you can in the real world to create powerful sensory physical experiences and memories.  And nothing in the real world can reach the potential of the Internet for distribution and democratized exchange that pierces geographic, economic and social borders.  Think of the power where one can feed the other in relationship with appropriate audiences/communities. Egv_tiny_blogicon


    The media model in this post is not about the interrelationship between a particular selection of  real/digital distribution and engagement vehicles; it is about the high level portfolio of choices.  There is an earlier post with an example of interrelated digital and real world distribution/engagement vehicles for a theoretical campaign.


    February 25, 2009

    Nike Stores, Digital Screens and the Nike+ Application: An Opportunity In Waiting For In-Store Social Media and Influencer Building?

    Nikestore  
    Multiple digital screens with rotating images and videos form the visual gauntlet at the entrance to the Nike Store Downtown San Francisco. (photo taken with iPhone)

    Before one even sees a single shoe or pair of running sweats at the Temple of Nike in downtown San Francisco, one takes a ride up the escalator and passes by a series of programmed digital screens that are also peppered throughout the store.  Images of bodies in motion artfully shot along with select Web screens and animations of the Nike+ application speak to the brand story of aspiration and achievement.  One literally travels from the outside world to the athletic world enabled by Nike.

    On Wednesday nights the store is full of runners, members of the Nike Running Club.  They are “the faithful,” armed with iPods sequestered in arm bands and Nike+ sensors tucked into shoes.  Before heading out on a weekly group training run, they browse new merchandise and promos specially selected and staged for the evening. (Last week’s merchandise was Livestrong shirts to coincide with Lance Armstrong’s participation in the Tour of California race.)

    It’s all a great idea – bring the influencers together who use and wear the brand frequently in public, give them a group activity (that syncs with the core brand story) to do in significant numbers, and highlight new products they might like.

    So what’s missing? 

    Web meets (live) World is being overlooked. There’s a unique opportunity to engage these people even further with each other and the brand – powered by the technology they are already “wearing” and the screens and backend networks (video distribution and retail computer systems) already in the store environment surrounding them.

    Consider This : An opt-in real-time public social media system with retail benefits and bragging rights

    A whole host of new opportunities for engagement are made possible if 2-way connections can be established between:

    1. The cell phones* of the runners with an intelligent network serving the video to the screens (as opposed to video coming from a DVD)
    2. The cell phones* of the runners with the retail transactions network (cash registers)
    3. The network serving the screen video to the network that handles the retail transactions at the cash register
    4. Video screens in multiple (a least 2) Nike Store locations holding running events at the same time

    (* assuming iPhone type  devices and or docked/synced iPod minis)


    The Schematic:

    NikeTechConnections  

    If the above technology is in place, and we enable individuals to opt-in as public/in-store social media participants, some programming/engagement opportunities might be:

    1. If a runner has achieved some significant mileage milestone with their Nike+ (e.g. the 4,000 mile mark), and they come into the store for a run night or make a purchase, their mileage achievement appears on the in-store screen network or on a specific set of screens designated for this purpose (cell phone or retail network sends info to the video network) and they are also given the ability (a digital coupon/reminder) to purchase (dare we say “get for free?”) a limited edition mileage achievement shirt (retail network to phone)

    2.  On run nights, teams can issue challenges in-store to those in the same store, or in another store with a run happening at the same time.  Winning team gets on-screen in-store bragging rights, and a discount for purchases that night or an equivalent value that could be donated to their “running charity.”  (This involves syncing of team iPods in-store, aggregating those numbers, comparing to other teams, and visually displaying score results on the screens in store, or between stores.)  This could also be an aggregate competition, running many weeks in the case of earning dollars for a running charity.

    3.  When runners come into the store for the run night, they can send their “in-store digital identity/opt-in registration” information to the screens and the screens visual “slide show” during the pre-run shopping time is information (run stats, photos etc that have been pre-approved) of the actual in-store runners/participants.

    There are many other “public and personalized social media” experiences, as well as “professionally produced” programming concepts that are possible when we can connect the customer devices and networks in the Nike Store.    I am not advocating that this be done just because it can or is trendy because we are using the word “social media.”  I believe the experiences in this environment must give “the participant” at least one of the following, as did the three previously outlined examples.

    1. Help me – have a better day/run, live a better/healthier life, be more effective, make better decisions
    2. Surprise me – by gifting me, recognizing my achievement, or showing me something I didn’t know that will contribute to my cocktail conversation factor
    3. Amuse me – by giving me something to do while I am waiting in line or for the run – trivia, puzzles, games – and if I like it a lot, let me quickly download or bookmark it on my portable device
    4. Inform me –about a product or service, my community, the world – of which I have particular interest; provide quick information with the ability to mobile bookmark and learn more later without having to search for a piece of paper to write down a url
    5. Connect me – to people, events, causes that I can participate in; locally and also globally; one time or on a continual basis

    With these premises in mind, the appropriate 2-way technology in place, and the brand story clear – great Web meets (live) World personal experiences can be delivered on a meaningful and continual basis at the same time that: a brand is being built, promos are being offered, sales are uplifted, environments enhanced, ad dollars earned and impressions made, customers amused while they stand in line.  Seems like a win to me. Favicon-short


    February 20, 2009

    Digital Screens Are Not Billboards

    Starbucks

    Digital Screen at Starbucks showing song currently playing in-store

    They’re both rectangular, have images and text designed to catch your attention in a short period of time, and are built around a business premise of taking messages to places that people physically (vs. digitally) frequent.  But that is where the similarity ends… or rather where it should end.

    Burma Shave and Route 66

    Billboards have been around in some form since the mid 1800’s when Jared Bell began making 9’ x 6’ posters for the circus in the US.  Their numbers expanded in the early 1900’s when the Model T was introduced and more people took to the highways. Advertisers quickly saw the miles and miles of open road as an untapped promotional landscape, with cheap potential for increasing consumer reach. Billboards even began to achieve pop culture status when the 6 panel Burma Shave billboards began lining highways such as Route 66 in the mid 1920’s. 

    (Does this not sound a lot like the Internet of late 1990s/early 2000’s?  And I won’t pull the cheap shot of referring to the … ah …. “Information Superhighway.”)

    However, billboards are not, nor have they always been, welcome additions to the visual environment. (Kind of like the way I feel about pop-ups that are still around and clutter my screen on occasion.) Many cities in the US tried to ban them as early as 1909 - “visual pollution”; and they are currently banned in 4 states (Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii and Maine), as well as in some 1500 individual towns.

    Starbucks2

    (These billboards and others can be seen at Toxel.com.)

    So when do billboards work?  When they move away from some of the “in-the-box” thinking and premises of the media and embrace directions such as:

    1. Breaking the old 2D language: Adidas (top right) and Mini Cooper (middle right).
    2. Evolving the image (content) over time: Tide (bottom right).
    3. Integrating visual elements into the surrounding environment outside the billboard space: “Kill Bill” movie promo (lower left).
    4. Blending into the environment rather than encroaching on it:  Nike and its “gate billboard” at the opening of a park and running/nature path (middle left).

    Evolution or De-volution?

    So where are we now in the timeline of intelligent digital screens that are part of out-of-home networks?  How might they “break out of the frame” and “integrate with the surrounding landscape?” What are the rules they need to construct new creative/interaction models so they are not relegated to the role of disregarded chorus member in what some might call the growing cacophony of screen pollution.

    Friend or Foe? Networked Digital Out-of-Home Advertising or Place-Based Media

    Some might say that the whole host and variety of digital screens that we now see populating coffee and bagel shops, Nike stores, the window displays of brokers, airport terminals, and even doctors offices are the new millennium equivalent of twentieth century billboards, and with that they also bring with them the potential visual downside if misused. Like the drivers of the Model-T’s, out-of-home screens, are focused on marketing to consumers when they are 'on the go' – but now it is in high frequency foot traffic public places, in-transit queues, waiting lines and in specific commercial locations (such as in a retail venue).

     “In fact, billboards are not just for roadsides anymore. Advertisements have been popping up more frequently inside subways and buses, shopping malls, office buildings and airports.” 

    - Jan. 2007 New York Times

    But most are getting it all wrong.  Digital screens too often are turning into Route 66 billboards or an homage to “Blade Runner” with all of the associated problems in terms of consumer engagement or downright disdain because of ill conceived approaches and media that brings no personal value to viewers. With that, the opportunity could be lost to foster and grow a truly unique form of communication and connection.

    Ported Static Ads vs. Dynamic and Personally Relevant Social Media Opportunity

    We will concede that digital signs (even when approached like billboards) can offer what the industry may see as benefits over traditional static signage in that, depending on the intelligence of the backend network sending content to the screen:

    1. content can be updated and exchanged more easily, focusing on the day’s most important promotional item or message,
    2. content can be hyper-local parsing by zip code or other micro-targeting data,
    3. content can adapt to the time of day and audience profile with different programming cycles for different time-of-day experiences.

    Unfortunately, the creative of many digital screens is populated by directly ported print ads or banners, TV ads and promo videos that do not take the full potential of the medium into consideration, and other creative that looks as if it was almost directly pulled from the Web, because … well … “It’s kind of interactive.”  Those translations fall short of what the medium (I am assuming there is an intelligent backend here) could be if it took but a few premises into consideration.  If we use the earlier model of the 4 points of “out of box” thinking around interesting and engaging billboards and apply it to networked digital screens:

    1.    Breaking the old 2D language: The breaking out of the “self-contained rectangular frame” is in the potential for 2-way connection with people via their mobile devices.  This can include information that is downloaded (store and refer to later), information that is uploaded (consumer generated content) and two-way engagement (play). Examples might include: games and puzzles, download coupons and offers, bookmarking urls and downloading pdfs that relate to more info about on-screen content, consumers uploading content (a survey, comments, shout-outs, photo experiences) to the screen system on the spot, customers being identified through an integration of the digital screen and retail systems to display pre-approved personal information or offers.

    2.    Evolving content over time:  By creating programs, events and initiatives, screen network providers, the venues that host them, or major brands that “buy space/time” on them – can create integrated campaigns in which content that people/customers actively create, contribute and comment on is an important element.  This provides ever-fresh and personally relevant screen programming that with more sophisticated two-way and database capabilities/applications could be set to trigger screens when the person who contributed or commented on the content arrives at the venue and activates a mobile device and their ”digital opt-in signature.”

    3.    Integrating visual elements into the surrounding environment outside the screen: A website and mobile device outside the individual screens or screen network defines the person’s “surrounding environment” in this case.  Screens should not be seen as isolated uni-directional islands blaring propoganda.  Appropriate social media programs (per #2 above) means enabling people to create and upload, as well as download and experience – media related to the (perhaps shorter form) content of the out-of-home digital network screen on their own personal screens, tethered or mobile.

    4.    Blending into the environment rather than encroaching on it: Simply said, the look and feel (UI) and nature of the content of screen programming needs to fit seamlessly into its physical environment and feel a part of it, not at odds with it.  It must deliver on the customers’ expectations of what any experience in that environment should be, in alignment with brand image, without being obtrusive or invasive.

    In essence, screen programming needs to embrace and reflect the surrounding brand environment in which it exists (in creative execution and content) and be an integrated part of the kind of experience customers expect (even require) in that environment.  The programming experience needs to be personally meaningful to individuals at the point of physical delivery, but also provide information that can be taken with them when they leave the physical location (via their mobile device) or sent to their computer at home (mobile to screen while at the venue) for later engagement.

    So screens are NOT billboards. Simple concept.  Takes some thinking and risk-taking (technically, creatively and in partnerships) to execute. Favicon-short

    (Disclosure: Danoo, a Kleiner Perkins backed startup in the out-of-home digital network space is a client.)

     

    February 04, 2009

    Are Applications Advertising? - Examining the Nike+ Online/Real World Experience

    Nike

    "I do not regard advertising as entertainment or art form, but as a medium of information."

    - David Ogilvy

    In one of those moments of sublime serendipity, I recently received my Nike+ kit on the same day that I read a post by gaming industry advisor Keith Boesky excitedly documenting his achievement of reaching the 4,000 mile mark, as well as another post over at AgencySpy about the Nike work at R/GA. The intersection of the three made me think about the relationships between and relative value of advertising and applications, as experienced by individuals in defining their relationship with a brand.

    If you already know about Nike+ and want to skip the background info in this rather long post and get to the core of the discussion, jump down to the subhead “Thinking About the Value of Application vs. Advertising.” Otherwise, some background on Nike+ and what these blog posts said that “got me thinking.” 

    Nike+ Background

    The Nike+iPod Sports Kit is hardware and software that enables you to measure and track the distance and pace of a walk or run (and as of this summer your workouts on some gym cardio equipment). A small accelerometer device is attached/embedded in certain Nike shoes and it communicates with some iPods during runs.  Software then enables that workout data to be uploaded to the Nike+ community website during an iPod sync.  Through the website, challenges can be issued (aka trash-talking) and awards for goals set and obtained.  Over 100 million miles have been logged on the system by over a million runners, half of those miles were accrued in the 8 months between February and October 2008.   That’s a lot of miles and a very engaged community.  Who wouldn’t want that?

    Keith's Experience

    From his post, Keith is an enthusiastic runner and goal setter.  Every time he runs, he now has a positive and highly personal brand experience with Nike that often inspires him to think about other achievements and learning’s in life (not just the run data that he is accumulating).  That’s a valuable personal and emotional connection for a brand to have earned with an individual. 

    “I passed the 4,000 mile mark today with my trusty Nike +. I knew I was going to do it with this run, and I was excited to plug my iPod in to confirm my achievement. When I passed the last milestone, at 3,000, it was the highest category, I was certain I leveled to the highest class. When I plugged it in, I was taken back 22 years to Mount Fuji…”


    The Post at AgencySpy re Nike+

    This is what I read on the same day about the RG/A Nike+ work that made me think about the relationship between Advertising and Applications and the respective value of each. This is in the words of their unnamed “spy on Nike+ at the agency,” and to me clearly reflects a bit of an old school agency perspective as the inferred benchmark of “goodness” being “is it advertising?” (NOTE: The underlines that follow are mine.)

    "It's a great piece of digital work, and it helps to build the brand, but it's an application, not really 'advertising'. That doesn't mean it should be dismissed, cuz it's clearly awesome but you can't build a brand on an app. I can't take an app and air it on tv or in a magazine or on a billboard. I can use those media to drive people to the app, but that builds the app, not really the brand."


    Thinking About the Value of Applications vs. Advertising

    What's Advertising?
    (1) From the quote that started this post, David Ogilvy says that advertising is information.

    (2) Wikipedia says advertising is:

    “…communication that typically attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume more of a particular brand of product or service … through the creation and reinforcement of "brand image" and "brand loyalty".”

    (3) I’ll add one more thing to the definition, you have to pay someone to place advertising for you in places where people will be likely to see it – whether it’s a banner ad, a billboard, a radio spot, an interactive retail screen, the back of an athlete’s uniform or a multimillion dollar SuperBowl buy.

    What’s a Brand?
    We need to understand this if brand is what advertising is supposed to help define and build. (NOTE: The underlines that follow are mine.)

    “Brand: a person’s perception of a product, service, experience or organization.” – AIGA’s The Dictionary of Brand

    A “person’s perception” is about “emotional connection,” and that connection is informed by some mix of interpreted facts, personal feelings and experiences, shared “third party” experiences of others of personal influence/recommendation (delivered thru traditional media, tweet or blog), and expectations of things to come.

    5 Evaluation Factors
    From the definitions of brand and advertising above, 5 main factors of evaluation for “Application v Advertising” can be drawn. (Thanks to blogger friend Michael Markman for his feedback here.)

    1. It can facilitate some level of brand experience/perception before any direct experience or purchase of the brand product itself.
    2. Overall goal is to persuade to initial purchase or continue to buy more.
    3. You have to pay an "expert" (agency media buyer) to place it (professionally created content) before an audience.
    4. It is designed to create and reinforce brand image and/or brand loyalty to those who have already purchased.
    5. It can contain both factual information and emotional context that comes from individual interpretation as well as that from their influencers.

    Here’s how the Nike+ application plays out when evaluated by these 5 factors

    1. It enables some level of brand experience/perception before any purchase of the brand product
      • Even though you can’t directly experience Nike+ without purchase, you can experience what other enthusiasts and influencers (who you may personally know – even better) say about it – as in the case of me reading Keith Boesky’s 3,000 mile blog post before starting to use my new Nike+
    2. Overall goal is to persuade to purchase or consume more
      • With Nike+, unless you loose or break the hardware, you are probably not going to personally purchase more, but you are going to persuade others to purchase – growing the market none-the-less.
    3. You have to pay to place it before an audience
      • You pay to develop the site and application, but that’s it – you own the end product and community.  It is not an outflow of cash to another entity.
    4. It is designed to create and reinforce brand image and/or brand loyalty to those who have already purchased
      • Enough said.  You are immersed in the Nike brand world with the community and application – reinforcing the message of individual initiative and achievement with group comradery and even “trash talk.”
    5. It can contain both factual information and emotional context that comes from individual interpretation as well as that from their influencers
      • The facts – your stats of distance, time and frequency.  The emotion – talk and challenges from others in the community to drive you on to better performance.

    What the Application Has That Advertising Does Not

    There are two key ingredients that Application has that Advertising does not – in terms of the value of building the relationship with Brand.  For this Nike+ application:

    1. There is a completely personalized experience – hence more meaningful information AND emotional connection.
    2. It can be solitary/omni- directional (as with advertising) or a shared (two-way) community experience depending on the user’s choice.
    3. The results of people/the community using the application could be taken into other media for pure distribution (eg mobile alerts for getting latest challenges or updates of teammates’ running), or in creating new experiences or content, such as a show about the experience of people on 5 different continents forming a virtual Nike+ running team.

    So What's the Point?

    Applications are both information and emotion - even more so than “traditional” advertising.  So let’s go back to the excerpt from AgencySpy and do some deconstruction:

    1. “… it's an application, not really 'advertising.'
      •   Yes and that’s where its additional value comes from.  Advertising should no longer be the baseline of effectiveness goodness for engaging an audience.
    2.  "...you can't build a brand on an app...”
      • Maybe only if you are Google, or we could name a few others in Silicon Valley  You can certainly build with both application and advertising.  Some brands initially built their value with no advertising (Starbucks).
    3. “I can't take an app and air it on tv or in a magazine or on a billboard."
      • Debatable these days about the value of some of these media; but you could actually take the result of the community content that comes from the app and make content/stories to be distributed by those media.  Current TV integrated application and broadcast with Twitter streams and the presidential debates.
    4. "I can use those media to drive people to the app, but that builds the app, not really the brand."
      • Not really – the information and emotional experience of the Nike+ app that these people experience on every run and share with a community of over a million people IS the brand experience

    OK ... done typing now. Favicon

     

    January 16, 2009

    What Brands Can Learn From Dog Trainers

    Shiloh-zoe-dogs
                                                                                                    Photo © Amanda Jones

    You can learn a lot about connecting with your customers/audience/partners by understanding some of the basic rules of dog training.  Now don't jump to conclusions and think that I am equating customers with dogs. (This is not a "they'll eat the dog food" kind of post.)  Rather, the key point is this:  You really can't force dogs to do things, certainly not on a consistent basis.  They need to trust you.  They need to respect you and your actions, which comes from you being consistent.  It's gotta be fun.  New stuff needs to be thrown into the mix to keep their attention, but still must remain consistent to the core goal and what has been learned in the past.  They need breaks and pacing so they aren't overwhelmed with information and shut down.  Oh yeah, they look to each other (the pack) for cues and exchange notes with each other at the dog park.  I know; I've seen it.

    Any of this sound familiar? Egv_tiny_blogicon


    August 23, 2008

    The 4D Process - Balancing Strategy, Execution and Followup in Content/Media Creation

    4D for blog

      Creating and launching media properties that range from the seemingly simple to the obviously complex requires a balance of both strategic and creative thinking, resources and execution talent; with equal homage paid to both the left and right sides of the brain.  One cannot simply write a strategy paper or programming plan in abstentia and expect it to magically spring to life.  Similarly, being asked to run off with your crayons and typewriters (ok - our Macs, scanners, mics and cameras) is an equally foolish approach.  Sometimes these approaches will work, but I wouldn't count on it.

    Creating a "left brain/analytical" style system to make sure you address most/all of the issues that can add to the success likelihood of  content/media ventures, then allows a platform and framing to open up in which to let the creative free thinking right brain loose.

    I have given the shorthand name of "4D" to an approach that I often use. "4D" for the steps of: Define, Design, Develop, and Deploy.  While not complete - that would depend on the nature of the media venture - here are some ways to think about what each of those steps might contain.


    Define

    • Project strategy
    • Business and creative issues
    • Market and competitive dynamics
    • Leverage points
    • Optimal media mix for the program
    • Technology and distribution platforms
    • Opportunities to leverage existing client assets
    • Partner opportunities
    • Cross agency campaign integration
    • Desired engagement flow with audience
    • Opportunities for engaging influencers
    • Success criteria and measurement opportunities



    Design

    • Creative concept
    • Distribution platform
    • Technology elements
    • Program and engagement flow
    • Multi-agency program integration
    • Influencer outreach
    • Operation and logistics model
    • Measurement model

    Develop

    • Creative across all media (live, broadcast, online)
    • Integration model for new and existing communications elements
    • Technical platform and programming
    • Iteration cycles
    • Testing and QA

    Deploy

    • Launch plan
    • Infrastructure
    • Campaign, programming, content
    • Ongoing operations and logistics
    • Measurement and evaluation for course correction
    • Check-in points to identify innovation and evolution opportunities


    So whether you have a bootstrap guerrilla project or a multi-million dollar budget,  what issues do you need to consider to create a playing field in which creative and strategic minds can collaborate and thrive, and provide a result that meets both business and creative goals?

    October 23, 2007

    Consumer Generated Media Is Not Just a Digital Phenomenon

    Custom_jones Consumer generated media existed in the physical world long before the Internet ... and still does.  A great case in point is Seattle-based Jones Soda. Jones Soda has been enabling consumers (fans) to design labels and name flavors since 2000. And they have community, blogs, sponsored events and other activities that support their unique sense of brand humor and appeal to the youth market (or more broadly to those of  youthful spirit). But the final product is still physical, even though its creation is facilitated by the digital - a bottle with the consumer's photo and copy with the Jones Soda flavor of choice inside.

    The Jones Soda Photo Gallery (with some current voting results below each photo) is where you can vote on the consumer-uploaded photos to influence the next set of product labels. There are currently 538,322 photos out of the 737,206 that have been posted.  (Submissions older than 6 months are archived).  That is quite an active fan base.

    Jonesphotogallery2

    For those who can't wait to see if their photo garners enough influence votes to sway Jones' choice (or who want something for a special event), the company initiated the MyJones program where for $29.95 you can create your own label on a 12 pack of product and have it shipped directly to you.

    My recently submitted customized Jones Soda
    order is below - in celebration of (e.g.) ventures' security dog, Zoe.

    Jonessodascreen1_2

    Pepsi recently launched a "Design Our Pepsi Can Contest" that offers the winner $10,000 with the winning design printed on 500M Pepsi cans.  Their promo material claims "the first time in history" that this has been done. So I think they must have missed what Jones has been doing for the past 7 years? Pepsi's 100,000 (less than 1/5th the size of the Jones Soda Gallery) entries have been narrowed down to 5 final designs that the public can vote on.

    So what's the takeaway? Consumer generated media isn't just about digital video on YouTube. It can be something as simple as a message (a photo in this case) on a bottle.  As long as the brand and product in that bottle have relevant meaning and emotional value to the consumer.

     

    October 18, 2007

    Lessons From the Dove "Evolution" Campaign

    Even though the award-winning Dove Evolution video came out a year ago, an October 9th post in danah boyd’s blog got me thinking about it again and the power of “consumer forwarded” and “consumer generated” media, and what lessons can be drawn about audience behavior and digital engagement.  Specifically, where does a “viral hit with relevance” begin?  With the agency or brand, or with the audience?

    A little background on Dove Evolution first, with the video below.

    In this 75 second video spot, a woman (model) sits down for a rapid-fire makeup/hair session and photo shoot.  Her image is then taken onto a computer for some massive PhotoShop retouching – stretching the neck, moving the cheekbones etc.  We see the final image – which has little resemblance to the original woman - on a billboard for a faux beauty product.  This leads to the dramatic tag line: “No wonder our perception of beauty is so distorted.”

    Here's the Dove Evolution Film:

    Now the connection to danah’s post in which she talked about her own unexpected participation in the campaign a year ago, when she chose to scrape and share the video with others because it had such personal relevance.

    "I saw the Dove Evolution ad and wanted it to be spread around, especially to the anti-violence against women folks … and the teens who I was talking with. I was pissed off that it wasn't on YouTube or in any embeddable format (at the time it wasn't findable, but since, it appears as though people did post it before me). I knew it needed to be embeddable to be spreadable. So, with the help of some tech-savvy friends, I scraped the Flash video from the Unilever site and uploaded it to YouTube. And then I posted it to MySpace. And then I posted it to other video sharing sites. And then I sent it to a bunch of friends. And then I blogged about it…I wasn't the sole contributor to its proliferation on the web. Other versions had more views and bigger blogs posted links to various versions. .... somehow, I was doing exactly what a good "fan" should do, even though I had never thought of it that way."

    This peaked my curiosity to find out more about the backstory, so I wrote a friend at O&M in New York and asked her what she knew and to post her comments to danah’s blog. In essence, she told me that the video was indeed first posted to YouTube by the two women creative directors from Ogilvy Toronto who conceived and produced the film on a shoestring with no media budget.  They, along with a Unilever (owns Dove brand and Campaign for Real Beauty) product manager felt this conversation should be out in the blogosphere.

    “This wasn't a crass commercial ploy and it wasn't all altruism either. It has sold a bit of soap, but it was grounded in something bigger and more important -- the belief that the world would be a better place if women were allowed to feel good about themselves … the fact that many people choose to spread the word and encourage the conversation, demonstrates that this was an idea that was much bigger and more meaningful than any ad campaign could hope to be.”

    So who made this a piece of relevant viral content?  In my opinion, the creators AND the audience.  The creative directors made an amazing “mini documentary” that struck a powerful chord with women.  Without a media budget for the digital space, it went out into the blogosphere by its creators via YouTube and by engaged bloggers who may or may not have found it in shareable form, but scraped and posted their own version and embedded it in blog posts and a number of video sharing sites.

    It’s interesting to look at the YouTube numbers as an example. The version uploaded by Ogilvy Toronto has almost 4.9 million views.  If you aggregate the views of other posts of the video by those outside of the agency relationship, you get another 4.9 million views: two uploads at 1.4M each, another at 1.7M, 229k and 85k (from the top search returns).  A total of 9.8 million to date.  Up from 1 million a year ago.  This conversation has legs!

    Being interested in how influential the “official” post of the Evolution video on YouTube was in spreading the message, I ran the BuzzLogic enterprise software around the Boolean search phrase:

    dove AND (evolution OR “campaign for real beauty” OR onslaught)

    The data that is revealed is that 697 unique sites were involved in that defined conversation with 4,492 posts on the topics within the sites (meaning multiple posts on the topic per site).

    And indeed, that one O&M posted YouTube video (Oct 6, 2006) was the single most influential piece of media. The influence map below around that single placement of content shows 716 posts linking to this one piece of content (remember it was posted in many other places).  If this doesn’t demonstrate exponential and organic spread of a message through influencer engagement, I don’t know what does.

    Buzzlogo140wide2_3



    Buzzlogic_dove_evolution_map

    Some food for thought and lessons to be learned.

    1. In the online world, it’s not about set TV commercial timeframes of  :15, :30, :45 or a minute.  It's about setting the time that is needed to tell the story.  The Dove Evolution  spot online clocks in at over a minute, and its story clearly connected with the audience in a form (and length) they deemed worthy of sharing.

    2. Relevance, emotional intensity and context, along with the right level of creative execution, is key in creating content that influencers will share and embed and that will be part of the conversation for an extended period of time.  Reading posts from a year ago about the Dove video on YouTube states a million views.   One year later, if you sum the numbers from the various YouTube only posts of the video alone, there are now 9 million.

    3. It’s not just about one place, YouTube, but where and how people choose to discover, share and embed the content with their influence circles.   People don’t just go to YouTube to find videos, just like people don’t always go to the home pages of news sites anymore.  People are finding video content (hosted on YouTube) via the video being embedded in posts and articles from people they already read and trust.

    4. User generated content isn’t just about knock-off videos. Sure there are parodies of Evolution, but the powerful UGC here was the text in the consumer audience’s posts and comments, as well as the (non-digital) water cooler conversation.

    5. The metrics of engagement are not just about reach and page views, but are about all of the quantitative AND qualitative channels of consumer sharing and amplification as seen in blog comments, posts, and embedded links; chat groups and message board entries; email forwards; video responses and “favorites”; brand health surveys, etc.

    6. The lack of a big media budget is not a barrier to success. Prior to the Evolution video, millions had been spent on a SuperBowl ad to promote the Dove Self Esteem Fund (some posts say $2.5M others say $3.75M).  Uploading to YouTube cost nothing.  The Evolution video generated the biggest-ever traffic spike to CampaignForRealBeauty.com, three times more than the Super Bowl ad and resulting publicity from the previous year, according to Alexa.com.

    Dove Evolution worked (and still works!) because: 1) the brand had a clear mission and idea, 2) the idea had relevance to influencers, 3) influencers found the content, 4) the content was sharable and embeddable, and 5) the creative execution was remarkable.

    Here's the Dove followup film called Onslaught:

    October 11, 2007

    Toyota and World of Warcraft - "I am the lawgiver."

    With more than a million views in just a few days (if you aggregate all the various uploads of the clip on YouTube), the sharing and conversation that the "machinama-like" Saatchi & Saatchi produced Toyota Tacoma pickup ad, " Truck Summoner," speaks volumes about the importance of gaming culture and the media value of gaming  platforms (or simulating/exposing them in traditional media distribution platforms like TV) to gamers and non-gamers alike.
    Toyota_wow2

    With broad dissemination and  discussion on advertising, car and gamer sites alike, AutoBlog called it "... one of the funniest car commercials we've seen so far this year, and we're surprised Toyota didn't save it for the Super Bowl."

    The ad originally aired last weekend on CBS during various college football games, although all the buzz and conversation seems to be around people seeing and sharing it online. In the 30-second spot, a  Toyota Tacoma pickup is cleverly placed inside a convincing simulation of Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft game featuring voice chat (introduced in Patch 2.2.0 of the game) of  players talking strategy through their in-game persona-avatars.

    Here's a brief synopsis followed by the ad itself.

    As various participants choose weapons, one "Leeroy Jenkins-inspired" team member unexpectedly declares, "I'm going to equip myself with a little four wheels of fury!" The Tacoma materializes (It's his "mount" in WoW language) and he speeds off despite protests from his rigid rule-following teammates ("There's no trucks in World of Warcraft!") who then are forced to engage in a hot pursuit. (This loose cannon is spoiling their well-though-out plan, afterall.) A dragon consumes the Tacoma, which subsequently bursts from its chest with the slain beast's heart beating in the flatbed - demonstrating a big victory.

    "Did you see me lay down the law?" I am the lawgiver!" is the definitive rebel's statement at the end of the commercial.  Followed by a humble "How do I get one of those?" by a previously unimpressed teammate.

    So the traditional questions might be:

    • Is this an ad just for WoW players?
    • Do WoW watch college sports?
    • With 9 million WoW players and about 2 million of them in the US, is this a large enough market to target?
    • Aren't WoW just kids or college students with no real life or jobs to have the money to buy a new expensive truck?  Don't they just drive the 1985 Corolla they inherited from their mother?

    Maybe ... but I don't think that is necessarily the thinking behind this creative or what is important. A more interesting discussion is around how this ad is already entering the cultural zeitgeist and generates conversation (positive and negative) and influence around the Toyota brand.  I have shared the story with friends even though I have no interest in a truck from Toyota, but I do like the Prius or a Hybrid Highlander.  But it contributes to my perception of Toyota as a creative entity with a sense of humor and a firm and fresh connection to the current cultural pulse.

    Some additional information that may be helpful:
    1. World of Warcraft is a MMORPG - a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.  As with other MMORPGs, players control a character avatar within a persistent game world, exploring the landscape, fighting monsters, and interacting with NPCs (aka Non player characters) as well as other players. The game rewards success with money, items, and experience, which in turn allow players to improve their skill and power. (from Wikipedia)

    2. A mount refers to an item that, upon activation, depicts the character as riding a mount, as opposed to the normal movement of walking/running. Characters of certain levels and skill ability can acquire these mounts in order to increase their movement speed on land. Mounts can also be acquired via reputation with certain factions, completion of quests, or through special items produced in related material or as very rare loot drops obtained by defeating bosses in instances. (from Wikipedia)

    3. The famous Leeroy Jenkins video ("A Rough Go") has in and of itself inspired numerous  parodies on various video sharing and gamer sites, as well as a question on the TV game show Jeopardy. Leeroy Jenkins has, in fact, become a meme - a unit/symbol of cultural information. There's an interview with Ben Schulz (aka Leeroy Jenkins )at BlizzCon and an extensive and well-written recent background article by Joel Warner.  Here is the original "Rough Go" video.

      Or

    Liz Gebhardt


    • © Amanda Jones
      Digital and traditional (live & broadcast) media/ marketing strategist and producer living at the intersection of Web meets (live) World. More than two decades of experience in building media and technology businesses, content programming and distribution, brand stories and integrated communications campaigns.

      Believes that strategy is all talk unless it can be executed in a way that delivers on both the creative and business promises. Embraces the role of navigator of the uncharted path vs. passenger along the known road.