14 posts categorized "User Generated Content"

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

 

March 31, 2010

Why Sharing Matters

TheShare.001

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

     

    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

     

    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:

    June 25, 2007

    If You Build It (The Parts That Is) Will They Come?

    In the 1989 baseball movie “Field of Dreams,” a disembodied voice keeps telling Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella: “If you build it, they will come.” Taking a bit of liberty with this piece of classic dialogue and framing it within the context of the world of video mashups, this might be rephrased and asked of brands and new media businesses: “If you build it – the video parts that is – will they come?”

    Mashup_2 A video mashup is created by the combination of multiple sources of video (can also include audio and photos) that usually have no direct relationship to each other— and this combination forms a new “derivative” creative work.

    Most often we think of mashups as underground, not officially sanctioned by the brands, artists or companies who originated much of the source material. As danah boyd said in her talk, “Film and the Audience of Tomorrow” at the Cannes Film Festival this year:

    “Most remix, video mashups, animated music videos, and machinema (film made by "shooting" a video in a virtual world) is made by the under-25 crowd and it's increasingly underground because of pressures by the content copyright owners. This creative outlet is the result of a new form of consumption, a very active form of consumption. People are consuming cultural artifacts like film and regurgitating identity expression.”

    But what happens if and when brands officially provide video bits and other elements and encourage audience engagement and “identity expression” in hopes of the creation of material that reflects back positively on them?  And what happens when people create it anyway – officially sanctioned or not – positive or not?

    In looking at the “officially sanctioned” mashup side of the house, some food for thought in considering the initiation of such a campaign:

    • A brand needs to be comfortable with the premise that in a world of consumer-controlled content, the consumer can't be controlled. And not only be comfortable with that, but be able to embrace the probable outcome that some of the resulting mashups will be, on the surface, negative to the brand.
    • The content elements that a brand provides need to be worthy of a user’s time.  Mashups are an active form of media consumption, taking time and thought to create.
    • Any form of user-generated content campaign, mashup or not, will only work if it fits the product.
    • Mashups naturally blur the line between advertising and content.

    Some Examples

    Consumer Products - Chevy Tahoe
    On March 13, 2006 -  Chevrolet introduced a Web site allowing visitors to take existing video clips and music, insert their own words and create a customized 30-second commercial for the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe.  Not all of the 22,000 video remixes were glowing homages to the truck, and in fact, the negative parodies  garnered significant attention.  But negative on the surface may in the end be positive to the brand depending on how the reaction is managed. As Forrester Research’s Charlene Li said:

    “While some people point to this campaign as an example of the failure of viral marketing and social computing, I think it points to a great success. Our definition of social computing is when technology results in power shifting from institutions (like Chevy) to communities (like customers). By losing that control over the brand experience, Chevy actually brought more people into it — witness the debate over the campaign itself. The environmental and SUV fuel economy debate has always existed outside of the Chevy experience, but by bringing it into chevyapprentice.com, Chevy has harnessed it into a promotional benefit ... Marketers that have the guts to turn over their brand to the public will in the end win over their customers.”

    Movies – Star Wars 30th Anniversary
    For the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, Lucasfilm has allowed fans to create mashups of the movie. In fact, they have gone beyond “allow”, encouraging it by making the source content available. At some level, they understand that allowing fans to interact with the material will ultimately enhance its value and reach.

    Television - NBC's Heroes
    Heroes has a campaign active now for fans to create their own comic book or music video as part of a contest leading up to the 2007 Comic-Con in San Diego.

    Politics - Hilary Clinton/Barak Obama/Apple 1984 Ad Mashup
    While not in the "officially sanctioned" category of the above examples, how can you ignore the power of a mashup example in which as of today there have been almost 3.5M views and  10,000 comments just within the YouTube environment – that is not counting links and conversation outside this space.

    Without a doubt, uncensored user generated media, of which mashups are a part, are powerful, and often personal, forms of expression.  And where there is passion, creativity, and easy-to-use technology for creation and distribution  - it wil exist and thrive.  Using mashups as part of the communications media mix - be it for a brand, product, media property or politician - is for the consideration of the well-informed adventurer and those willing to engage in two-way conversation as opposed to one sided scripted "product lectures." 

    June 13, 2007

    What Brands Can Learn from Ze Frank

    The Show with Ze Frank began on March 17, 2006 and ended exactly one year later. You can watch Ze's Zefranktitle sportracers (aka his viewers) giving their "I'll be seeing you's" in a compilation video with many homages to the past year of shows. Ze provided an easy way for fans to upload their videos  and see those from others. Don't miss Ze's final show.

    Now imagine a brand creating a way in which it can engage its customers and influencers in as interesting and honest a way.

    June 07, 2007

    Integrated Branded Content - It’s All About Engage vs. Tell

    Boomers. GenXers. GenNexers. Regardless of the generation a brand is trying to reach, a relevant and emotional connection with the audience is the goal. With the proliferation of media vehicles that people have to choose from today - or perhaps more likely, that they are trying to avoid - brands must reach beyond the traditional and embrace new, powerful forms of storytelling communications.

    Brands can create "branded content or entertainment networks" by creatively leveraging existing media assets, generating original programming, and encouraging user/consumer generated media. That programming can then be distributed in a number of ways — by the brand itself, via syndication with other sites and networks, or virally through the social media world. Finally, how individuals engage with that content should be monitored and measured in real time in order to inform changes that need to be made during the campaign.

    These digital solutions can be integrated with more traditional media to create a powerful, effective and ongoing program that promotes the creation and sharing of content and story. Below is an example of this concept applied to a simple Branded Content campaign.

    Branded_content_roadmap

    (1) An online web or podcast series (with or without gaming component) could drive awareness to a live event.

    (2) The live event would provide press stories and additional content for more online programming distributed at the website and through partner sites, blogs and social networks; and with appropriate retail hooks, drive store traffic.

    (3) Programming from the event and from seeded influencers could inspire a user/consumer generated media campaign, the unique and passionate stories of which would go on to fuel “traditional media” in print and broadcast coverage.

    (4) Many of the elements can be designed to connect to affinity/loyalty programs that can facilitate deeper engagement and can feed directly back into the digital media and live event worlds with premiums, content and special access.

    June 06, 2007

    Does the Shape of a Network Influence Its Value?

    Does the shape or structure (small/tight vs. open/loose) of a social network determine its usefulness to members and hence its value to a brand attempting to engage those members?

    A tight/closed network could be seen like a “clique” in high school where friends only do things with each other and there are many redundant ties.  Once something is accepted by the group, it may be deeply embedded and universally accepted – but the ability to infiltrate the group with something new from the outside in the first place is small.  And the likelihood that it will be spread outside the group even smaller. More open “virtual or influencer” networks, where members have ties outside the ”branded space” into a variety of networks, and can bridge the two, may offer greater opportunity for the introduction of new ideas and conversations – and hence have greater value to a brand in terms of engagement.

    Influencer_network_3

    If this is the case, those seen as popular within the confines of a “more closed” social space (those seen as power players with 1000 friends or 1000 connections), may not be as valuable as they appear on the surface if they are not also strongly connected to a number of “outside” networks. And in the case of an entire branded social network, its real value may not just be in the number of members (and we can always debate the total members v active members story), but also in the number of members with strong links outside the network.

    Fewer friends, more outside connections -  may be more of the story of real individual influence and network value.


    May 08, 2007

    Can You Fake Being Popular?

    Remember high school where the “popular kids”  - the cheerleaders, jocks and fashionistas would stake their claim to the Tonapah_girls_basketball best spots on the school patios and lunch areas – making sure that they were seen?  How did they get crowned “popular” and why did people pay attention to them – and did people really pay attention or change their behaviors as a result of watching them?  Did their popularity have any real impact on the world around them –  the real measurement of power and influence?

    Now on the Web, many seem to be obsessed with getting their content rated  “most popular” or “most viewed” so that it bubbles up to the top and is seen in the “popular kids” part of the YouTube  home page. Much of this obsession comes from the need to get your content seen – whether for financial or personal reasons.  With less than optimal search, discovery or informed recommendation mechanisms in most sites, casual visitors may only skim the surface and spend their 3 minutes a day looking at what other people seemingly have looked at (eg most viewed), which may not be the most relevant to their interests.  And based on an interesting post over at RabbitBites, that popular video clip may not have even really been viewed by those thousands of people.

    So how do people manipulate the stats, game the system and fake being popular? Chou-Chou and Buns can give you the details of their investigation into YouTube , but in a nutshell …  There are Firefox extensions that automatically refresh your browser window, so while you sleep, you are racking up “views.”  Want to get into “most discussed” or “most reviewed” categories?  Some individuals hungry for attention create multiple dummy accounts within a service – that upon closer inspection have no data at all.

    So when you are looking at “most viewed” and deciding what to watch and where to spend your time, are you getting something others in the community that you “trust” are really interested in and that got there on its own merits – or did it find its place “on the popular kids patio” by gaming the system? And if that’s the case, maybe personal relevance becomes a more interesting way to look at finding and determining what content to spend time with.  And then maybe trying to be “popular” won’t be so popular anymore.

    Other interesting takes on the subject from:

      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.