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Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Tips for 2009 PR Grads

In Insight on May 29, 2009 at 8:33 am
Hi, we were just wondering if you received our press release?

Hi, we were just wondering if you received our press release?

As many college seniors graduate this month and next, the marketing communications industry will be flooded with new blood. That, I believe, is a good thing. New minds bring new ideas, fresh perspectives and a hunger to succeed. With 12 years of marketing communications experience under my belt I’d like to pass on some advice to these new members of our industry. These aren’t things I’ve “learned over the years” but rather what I see as critical skills necessary to survive and succeed in today’s business environment:

1. Getting the job

Before we talk about what to do at work, you’ve first got to get the job. Two pieces of advice:

First, if you haven’t done so already, start building a brand. Note, I didn’t say start building your brand, I said start building a brand. Read my The Brand You is Dead post here. What do I mean by that? I’m not that impressed by the number of followers you have on Twitter, or how many Facebook friends you have. Those things are pretty easy to artificially manipulate. I’m talking about building something bigger than yourself. Show me the work you did in college to help a friend launch her website. Tell me about the weekly get-togethers you organize for your tribe of American Idol fans. It can be anything, just show me that you understand what it takes to engage people and pursuade them to follow your lead.

You’ll learn more creating and building your own brand than you will taking a class on media theory.

Something else you must decide: Do you want to be a marketing communications professional, or do you want to be a publicist? What’s the difference? A MarComm pro provides strategic counsel, based on research and consumer insights, to companies who appreciate what such a person can do to advance the goals of the brand. A publicist runs around cleaning up messes from ungrateful clients who don’t respect you. Your choice.

Once you’ve identified a job opportunity the next step is usually to send in a resume. Resumes are a dime a dozen and don’t really do a great job of distinguishing you from other candidates. Make your resume the equivalent of typing in your name on Google – it should just be a launching point for the real content. Make sure you provide, right at the top, links to your Twitter feed, Facebook and LinkedIn pages and blog. You do have those things right? If not, I’m already putting you in the B pile from the start. If you have those things, but don’t list them, you may still be in the A pile, but you’re an A minus.  If you do have other experience, internships at agencies or brands perhaps, provide appropriate links to things you worked on.

2. On the job

Congratulations, you got the job. Now what do you do? Show your value. Yes, do whatever you are asked, but instead of going out after work for drinks every night, go home early (or stay late at the office) once in a while and gain some knowledge. Real specific knowledge. For instance if the agency does a lot in telecommunications, become an expert in mobile marketing. Healthcare-focused shop? Learn WebMD like little girls learn Jonas Bros. songs. You get the idea, become the absolute expert in a super-relevant niche. Know more than your supervisor. Know more than the boss. Then, if/when things get tough and your company has to let people go, be nice to your former colleagues as you see them clean out their desks, you’re not going anywhere.

You’ve made the choice to be MarComm professional so don’t think like a publicist. Understand event marketing and direct mail; advertising and investor relations and most certainly Social Media (actually, I prefer the term, ‘Shared Media’).  All these things matter because clients aren’t looking for an “ad” idea or a “PR” idea, they’re looking for a great idea and they don’t care where it comes from. You’re not in the PR business, you’re in the great idea business.

So read books like Buying In by Rob Walker, and most definitely Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Solis and Breakenridge.

Ok, now the lightning round:

  • Free your supervisor up to do higher level work and you can have her job someday
  • You don’t have to speak up all the time to show how smart you are, wait until you really have something to add
  • Remember, your supervisor is dealing with a ton of stuff you don’t even know about, cut him some slack
  • Take every opportunity to learn something from all your colleagues
  • Remember you need to pay your dues. I spent plenty of time making lists, pasting clips and doing research, you can too
  • Take a reporter to lunch/drinks when you can and find out what they need, rather than trying to jam your message points in their face


  •  Whatever you do, don’t end up here

So, good luck and please feel free to get in touch with me here or on Twitter.


Books as Marketing Tools

In Insight on May 28, 2009 at 11:10 am
Godin, Kawasaki, You

Godin, Kawasaki, You

Great post by Joe Pulizzi over at Junta42 on writing a book as a marketing tool called “Why You Need to Publish a Custom Book: Q & A with Eloqua’s Steven Woods.”

This is especially interesting to me as it’s a subject I’ve been considering. I feel that I’ve reached a certain plateau with eyecube right now. I’m looking at several things to help push me through the dip and on to the next level. Perhaps a professional logo (more on that soon), owning my own URL (in the works) but probably the thing I think would make the biggest impact woudl be publishing a book.

Joe’s interview has lots of great advice and tips. Because both the subject, Steven Woods, and Joe have written books, you’re getting great first-hand advice, this is not theoretical stuff.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

JP: Why a custom print book over something else?

SW: I think there’s still something about the format of a book.  Regardless of whether it’s a physical book, or on Kindle (we did both), the length of the format lets you dig into an area more deeply than you would if you were reading a one or two page article online.  We wanted to give marketers something that they could take on the plane, relax, and make their way through, getting immersed in the topic for a few hours.  I’ve had many marketers tell me that that was exactly how they read the book, and when they landed, they had a host of new ideas to take back to their teams and get started on.

I think each format has its own unique characteristics, and they work best when they are used together.

I encourage you to check out the whole post, but I also encourage you to take a shot at writing your own book. It doesn’t have to be a Seth Godin-best seller, but I think the process and the product will be beneficial.

Viral? Social? How about Shared?

In Ideas, Innovation on May 28, 2009 at 8:53 am

UPDATE: Some fantastic comments on this below, make sure you read those. Also, a related post today from Patricia McDonald of BBH Labs here.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be asked by Adam Broitman of A Media to participate in an article he wrote for iMedia Connection – Social Media: Whose job is it anyway? In addition to myself, industry heavyweights David Berkowitz, Shiv Singh, Michael Lazerow, Christine Perkett and Shel Holtz all contributed their thoughts on several thought provoking questions. It’s a way worthy read you should definitely check out.

After reading it, I got to thinking about one of the specific questions:

“In two years, will the term ‘social media’ still be relevant?”

My hunch is that the answer is “yes, it will,” but that doesn’t mean I think it is the most appropriate term. In fact, I think “Social” along with our dear friend “viral” both need to be rethought and/or scrapped.

Did you say Viral? Cough, cough, I’m feeling ill

Remember back in the day, you know, last year, when everybody wanted “Viral Videos” that would magically spread across the land, showering your with traffic, sales, etc.? Yeah, well then smart people like Mike Arauz, Faris Yakob and others shed the light on this concept and I’m not seeing the term “viral” used as much, at least not by Social Media marketing practitioners.  While I understand the original analogy, let’s be honest, who wants to engage in conversation or interact with a virus? Aren’t viruses things to be avoided? Come to think of it, that’s how I think of a lot of the “viral videos” out there now. Quite frankly, I don’t want to see another video of people dancing in a subway station; or kids lifting their eyebrows to the beat (see, I’m not even going to link to them, you know which ones I mean though).  I think the term “viral” has seen it’s time come and go.

Social Media? When was the last time you had a cup of coffee with a blog post?

Let me go back to the original article, in which Adam asked: What if the term “social media” is wrought with flaws from the onset?

 “In two years, will the term ‘social media’ still be relevant?” The alternative being that all media will inherently be social, and ultimately treated as such. The multiple choices were:

  1. Yes
  2. Yes, but I am not happy about it!
  3. No
  4. I sure hope not!

I was shocked by the response. All but one of the respondents answered “yes.” The outlier answered, “I sure hope not.”

It is my belief that the term “social media” will still be around in two years, but I hope the industry matures to a point where we realize that all media is inherently social, and that what was once deemed “social media” is now part of a larger trend in media — participation.

Let me reiterate: All media is social!

I’m not sure I agree with this, and here’s where I’m going to put forth my alternative term.

All media isn’t social, all media is shareable

I don’t think we can attribute a quality like ‘social’ to an inanimate object. To me, people are social (or not); videos, posts, photos, podcasts, etc. are simply content. Now, that content can generate social interactions between people – generate conversations, drive debate, challenge preconcieved notions – but the content itself is just that, content. If I write a blog post but never publish it, is it still ‘Social Media’?

I think the term Social Media still has relevance, when you add the word Platform at the end. A Social Media Platform (or Network) such as Twitter, Facebook or Flickr provides an opportunity for people to be social.

Shared Media – Now we’re talking

So what is good content? It’s shareable. In the PR industry they talk of earned media, as opposed to the paid media of the advertising industry (aside: Check out Greg Verdino’s take on earned media v. earned attention as well as Matt Hames’ piece on earned v. social). I think Shared Media fits nicely between earned and paid. Yes, your paid media can be shareable, but you have to earn the share by having quality content and by sharing it with the right people in the right way.

I think the term Shared Media also speaks more accurately to what is actually happening. When you pass along that great content you are sharing it. The content isn’t doing it (like in ‘Social Media’), the person is. It’s not inherent in the content (like the notion of ‘Viral Videos’), it’s based on how the content is utilized.

Let’s hear from Adam again from his Imedia article:

The word “media” itself involves two parties — a sender and a receiver. The word “social” is based on theories that involve the co-existence of people. If two people co-exist in an ecosystem and one does not respond to a message, there is still information that is sent back to the point of origin (the information being, “for one reason or another, I am not interested in your message”). Given the advanced nature of our information technology, the excuse, “I had no way of responding” does not hold water, leaving us in a state where the lack of a response is, in effect, a response.

Yes, but a lack of a response does take the ‘Social’ out of ‘Social Media.’ Shared Media allows for the possibility of one-way as well as two-way engagement.

I’d love to hear from the folks who participated in Adam’s article, as well as Adam himself, Mike and Faris too. And please share your thoughts here as well.

Terminator, Star Trek, The Watchmen: Can Free Will OR Fate exist in a Time Travel Universe?

In Ideas, Innovation on May 26, 2009 at 8:45 am
I totally knew that was going to happen

I totally knew that was going to happen

This has already been a good year for Science Fiction fans at the movies as The Watchmen hit the big screen, Star Trek got a reboot and The Terminator made its return, this time with Christian Bale. While they may not be Academy Award-winners, they were all fun enough. But in one manner or another, all three touched upon some deeper issues.

ALERT 1: This isn’t a normal Eyecube marketing post, so if that’s what you’re looking for, take a look around the archives. Today I’m unleashing my inner-nerd, but in a thought-provoking way (at least I hope).

ALERT 2: There will be what could be considered spoilers, so if you are planning on seeing these movies, be careful reading this post. Consider yourself warned.

Let’s talk about time travel. But not the way it’s usually debated. People smarter than me can explain black holes and worm holes, string theory, etc. Go read Godel, Escher, Bach if you want to try to figure out the ‘how’ of time travel. And for some mind-bending fun on multiple dimensions, watch this video:

Let’s, for the sake of argument, agree that time travel is possible. You have to if you are planning on seeing movies like The Terminator as the whole mythology of the story revolves around time travel. All these movies ask us to willingly suspend our disbelief and I’m going to as well. So, yes, time travel is possible. But I think that if we are playing along,  there are bigger ramifications here than just the ability to go back in time and put $10,000 on Google’s IPO. I think believing in time travel means the whole argument of fate (or determinism) v. free will is rendered moot.

First, you have to accept a different notion of time, and of how it is experienced. We tend to think of time as a singular point along a line that we experience as the ‘now.’ But with time travel you have to take a much broader view. Rather than looking at a timeline through a key hole, imagine being able to see all time – past, present and future – simultaneously. That’s what time travel would allow, for if future already exists, then the past must all be currently happening. But beyond that even, you would also have to accept that there are an infinite number of ‘nows’ and ‘future’ and ‘pasts.’  Not only is any event possible with time travel, every event is possible. Actually, it is bey0nd possible, even beyond probable, everything is actual.

Free Will

Let’s use the example of The Terminator movies as they provide the best platform from which to discuss this. The general premise is that killer robots from the future are sent back in time (to roughly our present) to kill someone who in the future who will defeat these evil robots. That’s not a bad plan if you are the robots – the ultimate pre-emptive strike if you will. But let’s look a little more closely: If you know robots from the future are sent to kill you, so you don’t kill them when you grow up, then you must be alive in the future and therefore are not in mortal danger right now.

After all, if the robots did kill you in your present, the future (their present) would potentially be so radically different that they (the robots) probably wouldn’t exist at all. And that takes us to our theory of time with an infinite number of timelines. 

In Terminator 4 the pretzel logic is taken to an even greater extreme. The hero, John Connor, is in his mid/late-30s. A subplot involves his desperate attemp to save Kyle Reese (who appears to be in his late-teens, early 20s). Those of us familiar with The Terminator movies know that Kyle Reese is later (in the Terminator timeline) sent back to the past (Terminator 1) to save John Connor’s mother. Reese goes on to become the father of John Connor.  If Connor doesn’t save his future father, does he (John Connor) just go “poof” in a puff of white smoke and disappear? Again, I’d argue that forces beyond his control govern his actions and the actions of those he engages with.

SIDEBAR: I know I said I wouldn’t get in to the weeds on time travel, but it’s funny when John Connor in T4 is freaked out by advancements in Terminator technology that are small potatoes when compared to the Terminators he saw in T2 and T3.


If John Connor actions didn’t really matter, then it must be fate? Not so fast. Once you have the ability to time travel you really start going down a slippery slope. If your plan to change the present by altering the past doesn’t work today, you can just time travel again tomorrow, and just go back an extra day (or week, or year) earlier. Now, again, we have to deal with the notion of infinite realities.  And in one (some? many?) of those realities the robots do kill John Connor. Can fate exist in multiple options? Sometimes it’s fate that he lives, and sometimes it’s fate that he doesn’t? That seems to go against the very notion of fate. If it is beyond our control, why would both options still be possible? For what ‘greater purpose?’

The “Poof” Corollary of Multiple Realities

So, you say, there aren’t multiple possibilities, just one possible timeline. Well, here’s another reason there must be multiple, infinite actually, realities. I’m going to call it The “Poof” Corollary of Multiple Realities. If there was just one possible timeline along which the universe flows, and if going back in time to change the future (or present, depending on your perspective) were possible, then there would be a lot of “poofing” going on. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say 20 years from now time travel is possible. My future self then goes back in time to 1989, the year I met my wife. But, future Rick monkees with something in 1989 and I don’t meet my wife. Now, jump back to 2009 and my five-year old son enters the room. But wait, I never met his mother: “Poof,” he disappears. Think of all the “poofs” there would be if time travel were possible (and we operated in a single timeline). So, if you are buying in to the concept of time travel, I think you have to acknowledge the existence of infinite realities. Either that or accept that your existence would consist of – and be subject to – a lot of potential ‘poofing’

Spock, you’re in violation of the Prime Directive!

Spock - Pleased to meet me

Spock - Pleased to meet me

Let’s jump over for a moment to our friends at Star Fleet. In this summer’s Star Trek, Spock, that Vulcan logician, appears twice: As a youngster, the chronological equivalent of his peers in the film; and as an older Spock – the one we know from the original TV series, movies, etc. (In fact, the older Spock is played by Leonard Nimoy, so we know it’s really the original Sp0ck).  Now here J.J. Abrams, producer of the film, really plays (I would say messes with) two really important issues: First, on the meta level, he allows the two Spocks to interact with each other. Maybe there are other examples, but that sort of thing seems to me to be a pretty big no-no in the world of Sci Fi. Coming in contact with your future self would so dramatically change the course of events, you’d pretty much rip apart the time/space continuum. And in the movie, as I recall, they even kind of ‘wink, wink’ this issue in the dialogue.

Now, from a Star Trek perspective, I have an even larger issue with Spock encountering himself (as well as a younger Captain Kirk). What about the Prime Directive? And I quote (from Wikipedia):

In the fictional universe of Star Trek, the Prime Directive, Starfleet‘s General Order #1, is the most prominent guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets. The Prime Directive dictates that there can be no interference with the internal affairs of other civilizations, consistent with the historical real world concept of Westphalian sovereignty.

Now of course you can argue that even being an observer can change reality (see: Observer effect from Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle), but we’ll take the Prime Directive to cover intervention (direct or otherwise), not observation.

And yet there’s (old) Spock, dramatically – if indirectly – affecting the outcome of events for young Spock and Kirk. But wait, it gets worse. There is in fact a portion of the Prime Directive specifically about time travel:

The Temporal Prime Directive is intended to prevent a time traveler from interfering in the natural development of a timeline. The TPD was formally created by the 29th Century, and was enforced through an agency of Starfleet called the Temporal Integrity Commission, which monitored and restricted deviations from the natural flow of history.[8]

As 31st Century time traveler Daniels revealed to Captain Jonathan Archer in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Cold Front“, as time travel technology became practical, the Temporal Accords were established sometime significantly prior to the 31st Century, in order to allow the use of time travel for the purposes of studying history, while prohibiting the use of it to alter history. Some factions rejected the Accords, leading to the Temporal Cold War that served as a recurring storyline during the first three seasons of that series.

For the nitpickers out there, my hunch is you can say that the Star Trek time frame would put the creation of the Temporal Prime Directive after the events of this movie. Now we can get into an argument over what constitutes canon in the Star Trek Universe, but let’s not go there.

Paging Dr. Manhattan

If I hurry, I can catch the 7:30 train... Oh, nevermind

If I hurry, I can catch the 7:30 train... Oh, nevermind

Now, a quik side trip to The Watchmen. Not surprisingly, Alan Moore, creator of one of Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 novels captures it beautifully. The most controversial character is probably Dr. Manhattan. It’s interesting to note (again from Wikipedia):

Moore sought to delve into nuclear physics and quantum physics in constructing the character of Dr. Manhattan. The writer believed that a character living in a quantum universe would not perceive time with a linear perspective, which would influence the character’s perception of human affairs.

One of the things that most clearly separates Dr. Manhattan from the other characters is his perspective on time:

After his transformation, Jon begins to experience time in a non-linear, “quantum” fashion. His already weak will becomes sublimated further during this time. It is implied that he does not so much perceive the past or future as directly experience them. He increasingly has difficulty acting in what those around him consider the present moment. This leads to many accusations and even the public perception that he is emotionless. However, during the course of Watchmen he displays powerful emotion several times. His apparent lack of sentiment is more a

Alan Moore - What time is it?

Alan Moore - What time is it?

matter of radically altered priorities.

Now see how this perspective of time alters his perception of all matters:

His precognition does not allow him to change events. He believes he has no choices for the large part of Watchmen. His total determinism of action and the implied amorality of such a position is strongly contrasted with his ability to do almost anything. In some sense, unlimited power has come at the cost of the total absence of responsibility. During the period where he fights crime, because his government told him to, he states that the morality of the activities escapes him. From his radically altered perspective, almost all human concerns appear pointless to him. This growing sense of disconnection is marked by his use of clothing which over the years gradually shrinks until he is naked by the 1980s.

His ability to see time from a larger perspective in part disconnects him from the free will v. determinism argument!

Unified Theory of Sci-Fi Time Travel

Back to The Terminator, John Connor dying as a teenager (in T2) would prohibit his older self from sending his father back in time to save his mother (inT1), rendering him ‘unborn.’ To me, that eliminates true choice (free will) from his actions. No matter what John did or what happened to him in T2, he was going to live. Otherwise there is no T2. Therefore he simply couldn’t have been in mortal danger. With iminent death bearing down on him, he could have calmly grabbed a cheeseburger. Someone or something was going to intervene on his behalf.

On the other side, we’ve created the “poof theory” so there must be multiple realities. And if everything can, and does, happen fate is really out of the equation, merely sitting on the sidelines.

But these two theories don’t currently disprove each other. What we need here is a Unified Theory of Sci-Fi Time Travel vis a vis the Free Will v. Determinism argument.

Ok, here’s the best I can do:

In fictional universes in which time travel exists, neither free will nor fate rules that universe. Rather, all possibilities exist across infinite, non-parellel, non-mutually exclusive universes.

The key here is that these multiple universes are not discreet. They do at times, to borrow a phrase from Ghostbusters, cross streams. These universes actually cross over each other quite often. Some differ for an hour or a minute or a second, then overlap again. In one I go to Wendy’s for a frosty, in another I don’t. But a few minutes later they are back together. In a third I’m in a car crash on my way to Wendy’s and in a fourth I get a salad instead of the Frosty, and in a fifth…

So, yes, John Connor can makes choices, but it doesn’t matter, because in fact he has made both choices – or both choices have been made for him.

I’d love to hear from experts and Sci-Fi fans alike on this, please share your thoughts.

Worst: A defensible branding position?

In Innovation, Insight on May 21, 2009 at 9:11 pm

I’ve said it before, you don’t always have to be the best, but you have to be memorable.  Take a look at this post from Rohit Bhargarva on a hotel in Amsterdam that markets itself as the worst hotel in the world. Or how about this God-awful t-shirt that Rob Walker highlights.

Rob writes of the Tee:

At first, it was simply a bad T-shirt. Then it became that bad T-shirt, the one that attracted a reviewer-flash-mob.

I’d take it a step further, not just that bad T-shirt, but THE bad T-shirt, the one by which all other bad T-shirts will be judged. Not that’s a defensible position!

Now, this approach isn’t for everyone. I don’t think the marketing folks at Tiffany’s or BMW are going to go this route anytime soon. But being the best is tough. For one thing, there is only one winner, one best in class. Also, everyone is gunning for you and everyone is rooting for you to slip up. Nobody likes rooting for Goliath (or Microsoft).

But Mr. Irrelevant, the last guy picked in the NFL draft? Who doesn’t want to see him succeed? But don’t misunderstand what intentionally being the worst means. It doesn’t mean simply being crappy, that’s apathy. It takes effort to be brilliantly awful, and imagination and dedication. There are hundreds of one star hotels throughout Europe, but only one that gets written about by marketers.

But I’m not really advocate that your brand/products should be junk. What I am saying, and these examples bear it out, you must be distinctive, a purple cow in Seth Godin’s words. Not everyone will like you, but that’s ok. Be distinctive and appeal to a certain segment. Treat that group special and nurture the relationship. Let them do the work for you after that.

Amusement Park + Content Marketing + DINU = Hogwarts

In DINU, Innovation on May 21, 2009 at 8:47 am
Harry Potter: Book, Movie, Amusement Park?

Harry Potter: Book, Movie, Amusement Park?

Yesterday I wrote about marketing programs and how some traditional marketing programs felt like a trip to the amusement park, while utilizing content marketing was like the Museum of Modern Art. I also acknowledged that I’m very much playing around with the notion of content marketing, seeing how it can stretch and twist to fit different  modes of engagement.

Well, the amusement park idea kind of stuck in my head. How would an amusement park be different if it was based on a content marketing strategy? Well, I think I have an answer…

Not since the creation of the Star Wars universe has there been a franchise so rich in content as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The books and movies, along with ancillary products, have created a rich universe that has become a classic. 20 years from now nine-year olds will be discovering the books as if they were just written. But the series has in fact ended, there will be no more books. So, how can the franchise stay relevant beyond the page or silver screen? By creating a new kind of amusement park.

Right now even Disney, the best theme park operator going, has a rather disjointed offering (by design). Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland… there is no real connection between them. There is no over-riding narrative that connects the park together. But a theme park based on the world of Harry Potter would be like living in the books/movies. In fact, it could bring the books to life in a way that the movies never could because of the conventions of modern movie making (2-3 hour films).

Imagine shopping in Diagon Alley before taking the Hogwarts Express from platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station in London. You travel through the countryside before arriving at Hogwarts, an amazing castle. From there you interact with characters, go on rides, see shows, all the things you expect from a great theme park. But at Hogwarts, everything works together in concert and your experience becomes deeper and richer with every interaction at the park.

Perhaps you could sign up for special park tours that recreate the action from a specific book (sorry, I haven’t read them all so that may not be possible). You meet the teachers and characters from that book, this way you could come back to the park seven times, one for each book, and have a different experience every time.  There are several ways you could manage the experience, but to me the amazing thing is that you are harnessing the power of the content in a completely innovative way.

So, many of you are probably saying, “Yeah Rick, that’s a great idea, that’s why they are doing it at Universal Orlando.”

Yep, guilty as charged. I wrote this whole post, then just for laughs typed ‘Harry Potter Theme Park’ into Google. Oops. And if you watch this video, it sounds like they are planning on doing it the right way. Ultimately though, it’s still just a module inside a larger theme park, so you’ll miss some of the detail mentioned above in my concept (Hogwarts Express, Platform 9 3/4, Diagon Alley). But the plans they do have are indeed a departure from the conventions of traditional theme park fair. Perhaps this is a step towards the Content Marketing Theme Park of my dreams.

Your Brand Stategy: Six Flags or MoMA?

In Innovation on May 19, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Every day I become a bigger believer in content marketing. I’m still exploring what it means, or can mean, so I end up trying out a lot of analogies. This morning on the way in to work the following occured to me:

Traditional Marketing is like Six Flags, Content Marketing is like the Museum of Modern Art.

Traditional marketing so often relies on the Big Event. A launch with a celebrity, a big payoff at the end of a promotion. It can be like a ride on a rollercoaster for consumers. It’s exciting, then there is a big drop off; then it’s exciting again, then there is a drop off. Up and down, hot and cold, engagement and then no engagement.

Do you want your marketing to look like her...

Do you want your marketing to look like her...

And of course no trip to the amusement park would be complete without cotton candy. No nutritional value, no real anything except a sugar rush (and the subsequent crash). Sort of like those clever TV adverts with talking animals or other CGI graphics that you really enjoy, but can’t quite seem to remember what brand it was in support of.

Then, as you’re just about ready to leave Six Flags you stop to get a souvenir. Maybe a pin or key chain, or one of those wacky hats with a crazy brim. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the key chain ends up in a junk drawer and the hat is in the back of the closet.

Now of course, there’s the long drive back home. Plenty of time to think about the high cost of going to the amusement

...or this guy?

...or this guy?

 park. For a family of four admission can be $160.

When your Six Flags program is over, consumers might have had a good time, or they might have gotten sick on the teacups. Chances are they won’t give your brand a whole lot more thought, at least not until you figure out a way to get them back to the park.

But what if your marketing program was more like an art museum? What if, instead of putting your consumers on a rollercoaster, you walked them through room after room of deep, contextually-rich content? So much content in fact that most people couldn’t even take it all in in one trip? No long line to ride Colossus, just a leisurely stroll, at your own pace, engaging with the content.

Now take it to the next level – don’t just let your consumers wander aimlessly, provide them with an audio tour – a podcast if you will – or even better have a docent that can answer any questions (kind of like a Twitter feed).  Layer more content on top of the content, further deepening the connection with the consumer.

Now, before they leave, consumers should stop off at the museum store. No junk there, just beautiful books that they’ll leave on their coffee tables or fine art prints they’ll proudly hang on their walls. With the museum located in the city, it’s not too hard to get to, and kids under 16 get in free at the MoMA, so just $40 for the family. (Pssst, go on Friday night, 4-8pm and the whole family is free!)

But this isn’t about Six Flags and MoMA, it’s about content marketing and eveything good about Social Media: relevant content, engagement, sharing, even the free economy.  The amusement park model of marketing is broken, it’s time to provide museum-quality content and interaction.

Come back tomorrow, I’ve got an idea on how to radically re-think the amusement park by making the focus on content.

The Economics of Twitter

In Ideas, Innovation on May 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm
Tweets for sale, buy one get one free

Tweets for sale, buy one get one free

I’ve written about the economics of Twitter a couple of times in the past (here and here) looking at both sides of the issue. Recently, others have chimed in, including Seth Godin and Johnny Vulkan.

Usually, the ‘monetize’ Twitter conversations revolve around advertising, TechCrunch has written about this a couple of times. The idea of user contributions has also been raised (see Johnny Vulkan link above). I’d like to propose another option and then take a look at a different side of the Twitter economy.

What if every Twitter user was required to deposit a micropayment (1 or 2 cents maybe) for every follower. Think how that would effect the signal to noise ratio. Now, like Facebook, you would have to approve a potential follower. But that person would have to have clearly demonstrated the value a relationship with them would bring. And if you wanted to follow someone you better have a proven track record of contributing to the conversation.

It wouldn’t prevent people from having one or two thousand followers, but there would be no reason to allow just anyone to follow you. Now every relationship would more likely be meaningful. People would be valued not by how many followers they have – and we all know how people game that system – but rather by how many people you are following since you needed to get permission to be a follower.

That flips everything. Now, Ashton Kutcher isn’t the big cheese, it’s @BarackObama who has been accepted by 771,000+ friends. By comparison, Kutcher is following just 146 people.

Finally, here’s another interesting aspect of the Twitter economy, TweetValue. TweetValue assigns a dollar value to your Twitter account based on, well, they seem to be a bit secretive on that. But the idea of assigning a dollar value to Twitter profiles is interesting more in the practical aspects than the theoretical. What’s the value of Chris Brogan, iJustine or Oprah tweeting your link or product? It doesn’t take much imagination to see somebody getting 1 million followers and then saying: “$1000 for a tweet, $1,500 for a retweet” Would it be worth it? Only if they had credibility and the product/service was relevant. I’m not suggesting I’d like to see this happen, but it’s not inconceivable. By the way, my TweetValue is $1,115, what’s yours?

But hey, what do I know. Let’s call in the professionals. Warren Sukernek, aka TwitterMaven, what’s your take on the Twitter Economy?:

I think the options that you described are all relevant and potentially viable.  However, my perspective is around the importance of real time conversational search.  This type of search seems to have significant potential as in many cases, it will be much more relevant than highly ranked SEO links that may be much older. 

For example, a hotel review on Twitter from someone who just stayed at the property will be much more helpful than an old review from TripAdvisor that has high page rank. Thus  I think Twitter can monetize around search in two ways:

– Relevant topical advertiser links (a la google adwords) in the sidebar, perhaps on th search site (and website) where trends lies today.

– Enhanced analytics for advertisers to learn more about those tweeting about their keywords by including data like demographics, retweets, reach, share of conversation, related tweets,  as well as an ability to engage directly with the tweeter in a much more trackable manner.

Given the size of Twitter and their organization, I see the enhanced analytics as more viable to them as they don’t have the infrastructure to be able to sell advertising in the manner described.  Of corse, they could sell twitter as another Google search channel, but I don’t think that is the direction they want to head in.

Good stuff Warren, thanks. If you’re not following Warren on Twitter, you really should. What do you think? What other aspects of the Twitter economy are worth exploring, or creating? Please share your thoughts here.

Product Displacement – Part of a DINU

In Innovation on May 12, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Gladys Santiago has a great Tumblr blog called Product Displacement that’s worth a look. In it she delves into the murky world of fake brands that hold enviable product placement spots in such shows as Pushing Daisies, My Name Is Earl and Chuck. As you would imagine, Rob Walker is all over this type of stuff. PSFK also picked up on Gladys (via Rob). At first glance, these fake brand product placements are, if noticed, good for a chuckle. But Gladys is certainly taking deconstructing of this phenomenon to near academic levels.

First, here’s her quick definition of Product Displacement:

Product displacement typically occurs when a studio or broadcaster want to avoid giving a product/brand free publicity. Displacement is also used when companies refuse to allow their brands and logos from being shown, especially in scenes and story-lines that portray their products in a negative way.

She goes on to describe to types of Product Displacement: Fictionalized and Unbranded. Go read this post for more on these distinctions. I think they are some additional nuances and subtleties to explore as well. 

Product Displacement

Product Displacement

Gladys uses the example of the Slanket (a Snuggie-like blanket cum poncho) from 30 Rock. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit, but I think the writers of that show are so clever, they’re working on several levels including meta.  Here’s what Gladys has on this:

Liz Lemon is using an Apple laptop when Tracy Jordan enters her office to ask for advice about his wife. Liz is startled by Tracy barging in and while referring to her “Slanket” robe, defensively says, “It’s not product placement, I just like it!” This is a clever response to accusations that McDonald’s paid to be heavily featured in an episode of 30 Rock, which Tina Fey denied. NBC via:

Show of hands – how many of you thought the Slanket was a fake product, just a spoof on the mega-popular Snuggie? I did.  Using the Snuggie would have been to easy. 30 Rock decided to spoof the spoof on product placement.So, let’s break this down:

  1. Regular product placement (apple computer)
  2. Unexpected product placement (slanket)
  3. Acknowledgement that product placement exists
  4. Denial of (unexpected) product placement

The last one is the truly genius part. Remember in Wayne’s World 2 when Mike Myers ‘pulled back the curtain’ on product placement:

Looking at that now, it seems so dated compared to 30 Rock. Spoofing real product placement? That’s for the squares. The cool kids now mock esoteric, bordering on unknown product placement. We desperately need Grant McCracken to sort this out for us.

Gladys continues with an interesting theory:

It requires no stretch of the imagination to recognize “Tit Tat” and “Coffee Bucks” as stand-ins for real brands, but that recognition allows audiences to engage with product placements in a manner that is significantly more encompassing than simply spotting a branded product onscreen.  Referencing these product displacements to their real world counterparts requires audiences to actively draw upon their cultural capital and awareness, therefore they have more resonance than a strategically placed can of Coca-Cola or character mindlessly raving about his/her T-Mobile phone.  Ultimately, product displacements have the opportunity to flatter the intelligence of viewers, especially if they are parodic and satirical in nature.

Paging Dr. Jenkins, Dr. Jenkins to the O.R. please, stat.

Buzzin Hornets = Benson & Hedges

Buzzin Hornets = Benson & Hedges

So, now brands are going to deliberately use fake brands that are similar enough to the real brand so that consumers will make the connection? Crazy, right? Well, no, not exactly. In fact, if you are a fan of Formula One motor racing you’ve been familiar with what is known as alibi branding for years. For a long time, tobacco companies were heavy sponsors of F1. However, in some markets, France for example, not tobacco advertising was allowed. What to do with your very expensive sponsorship? Well, if you were Benson & Hedges cigarettes, you did this:

Same font style, same placement on the car. All the teams did something like this. 

I also like to look at this from another perspective, that of brands creating a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU). When shows do this sort of thing, they are creating a richer, more complex universe for their fans. The examples are myriad and range from the Pear laptop they use on Nickelodeon’s iCarly to the fictional airline from Lost. That’s why the Slanket gag on 30 Rock is so much better than the sledgehammer delivered wink-wink, nudge-nudge of Wayne’s World 2. 30 Rock played the gag on two levels, tweaking product placement but also expanding their DINU in a way that simply referring to the Snuggie never would have.

Where does this all end? At what point does clever just become confusing?  I’ll give the final word to Gladys:

These product displacements are a far cry from the fictional worlds where “acme” branded products abound.  That said, they have a sort of quirky quality to them—they add verisimilitude and provide shows with an entertaining, parodic element.  Brand integrations are commonly seen as an effective way to reach elusive viewers in a DVR-filled world, but with product placements at an all-time high, (according to Nielsen Media Research, there were 204,919 product/brand occurrences during first half of 2008 alone) it would be naïve to think that audiences are not capable of tuning them out as easily as they fast-forward through commercials.