Friday, October 30, 2009

Why Was It Called Minority Report When What This Can Do Is So Major?

Here's a clear example of why I love TED -- because it truly is about Ideas Worth Spreading.

Introducing Sixth Sense...

Do you know what this could mean for the future of the future? No really, I'm asking you? The possibilities seem endless, so let's here some of them. It's time to start the conversation...or should I say debate?

(I told you not all my posts would be long)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is Doing Good the New Black?

Trend watching has been a part of good business for awhile now, but leveraging trends to inspire a brand's mission and communications initiatives in the age of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, among other rising stars in the social media sphere, is in its infancy.

I've been thinking about that since my Fun Theory post. Right here, right now, more than ever, doing good has never been more popular or easier to do because of the mass adoption of social media platforms by people of all ages, and yet, I have to wonder, from where all this good is coming, and where it's going. Is doing good the new black, like skinny jeans in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or is this the time to find where you or your brand can make the biggest impact not just on popular culture, but the world?

There are hundreds, even thousands, of causes to support -- Free Tibet, Darfur, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the (Red) initiatives, Live Strong...I dare not try and list them all for fear of leaving any out, but you get the idea. We are all called upon to act, to shout for those who can not, to give some part of ourselves, be it our time, our money, our vote, to effect change in positive and meaningful ways every day. Unless you or a family member have been personally affected by a certain issue, it's hard sometimes to know behind which ones to throw your support. Facebook even has "Causes" apps that make it so easy to say you support a cause, one could argue that it's become little more than profile filler. Though, it leads to my point: the causes -- even something as seemingly simple as doing good -- that you or companies choose to support say A LOT more about you and them than simply jumping on the cause bandwagon.

I don't think deciding what causes to support is going to get any easier either. Since the rise of Twitter's popularity, I have never seen news spread so fast. From the moment I saw profile icons turn green in solidarity with Iranian people, mine included, I knew that the good news was that good news (and bad) would now spread faster than it ever had in history.

The cream that has risen to the top of the Twitterverse so far include @DrewFromTV, Drew Carey's effort to go down in the record books in his attempt to rid the world of cancer, @AlexsLemonade, aided (no pun intended) by Twilight/New Moon cast member and Twitter veteran @PeterFacinelli, and @charitywater, the Twitter profile for the Born in September campaign, a charity that I myself joined to try and raise money to build wells that will bring fresh water to people in developing nations. I'm keeping an eye (and a heart) on these and others as they maneuver the Twitter frontier to expand their message.

In the world of television advertising, I've already mentioned Volkswagen's Fun Theory. However, Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project is also an effort that definitely deserves more than a passing glance. If any of you have seen the "pay it forward" commercials they have been running since 2006, then you know that no company continues to run the same campaign for three years unless that campaign is showing a return on investment. And after I saw that NBC partnered with Liberty Mutual by having a handful of their hottest stars write and direct commercials based on the "do the right thing" aesthetic, I had to investigate.

I was skeptical. I don't have anything against NBC, or even businesses leveraging celebrities to help raise a cause's, or a brand's, profile. It's how a brand does it that defines whether it's a cheap tactic or makes an authentic connection. However, the commercials are actually quite good, and stay on message. In fact, Liberty Mutual has even taken the Responsibility Project even further online by having one area of the web site, "Stories" dedicated to thoughtful discussion on everything from real people sharing how someone made a difference in their life, and another area, "Point of View" that opens the floodgates on topics from Texting While Walking, Compassionate Release of Prisoners, to Grunting during a Tennis Match, and let's visitors use it as a forum for debate.

"When people do the right thing they call it being responsible. When a company does it, they call it Liberty Mutual."

These are extremely bold moves and claims, made even bolder when you consider that they come from an insurance company.

Finally (but not finite-ly) I present to you The GOOD 100. If you're not familiar with GOOD, it "is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and non-profits pushing the world forward." The GOOD 100 is a list of game changers -- big ideas, some presented in radical ways, that could change the way we live. Flavorwire has pulled some great selections from the list here.

So, is doing the right thing more than a fad? What are the opportunities that await in the social and traditional media spheres for those who dare to change the world or even their corner of it? What does it say about you if you show that you care. What does it say about you or your brand if you decide not to show it?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Your Social Network Says About You

NPR's Laura Sydell had an incredibly interesting report this morning on social networks and the demographic segmentation that is happening naturally. Just as in real life, communities online are dividing up along cultural lines. I gravitate to where my friends are and pay less attention to communities I don't feel connected to.

Social media marketers can use this information to their advantage, and should! According to research done by Misiek Piskorski, MySpace is still the 11th most visited site on the Internet, and 60-70M users from the USA visit each month. But the real interesting numbers lie in the demographics.

The Top 4 cities in the US that have the highest percentage of their population logging in to MySpace are Atlanta, Louisville, Tampa and Dayton. If you compare the per capita income of those Top 4 cities vs. the Bottom 4 cities, we should find some interesting data.

Per capita income*
Top 4 Cities
Atlanta: $36,038
Louisville: $21,340
Tampa: $28,694
Dayton: $17,437

Bottom 4 Cities
Chicago: $26,229
New York: $29,523
Washington, D.C.: $40,379
San Francisco: $45,410
*Source: from 2007

As you can see, the average per capita income for the top 4 cities is signficantly lower than the bottom 4. So where are the communities from the bottom 4 MySpace-using cities hanging out? You guessed it: Facebook.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Virtually Confused

When Janet approached me with this blog idea, I honestly thought "damn. Another blog to keep up with." But then I realized that I maintain a company's online presence, a couple of different band's presences, but NOT MY OWN? What the heck happened? When did I become so benevolent? Answer: never.

So a bit of background on me and then we'll get on to the good stuff. I'm a 24 year old woman from Texas who loves good food, good wine and interesting people. I've been to 3 of the 7 continents and still think Colorado is where I'll eventually retire (if I don't go to Oregon to start a vineyard/B&B in my "retirement"). I also love a man in uniform! I know just enough to get me into trouble, but not enough to cure mankind of hunger, poverty or loneliness.

Now on to the good stuff.

A question that pops up alot is "How do I decide which social network to join?" There are literally thousands of social networks out there and new ones start up every day! The great news is that you can find virtually any group you want to connect with out there on the web. Alternatively, you can even start your own network and I guarantee you someone else out there will be interested in it. Take a look at your ideal consumer. What is he or she into? What do they care about and why? Where are they hanging out online?

If you're pitching a cupcake company, you'd probably have a pretty good idea of your perfect customer: moderate disposable income, sweet-tooth, has love of food. Actively seek out those types of foodies and try to connect with them on any of the platforms out there from the major social networks to blogs to even interactive recipe websites. See what they're talking about and why! If you check out and don't find anything, you probably don't need to be there. Alternatively, if you find out there are already built in audiences on Facebook, make sure you're active and offering helpful advice to other group members!

Don't feel like you have to be on every major social network. In fact, being on every network and having a weak presence on each could be more of a detriment to yourself or your company than having one where you are a powerhouse. Unless you're prepared to staff an entire department of Gen-Y kids dedicated to updating everything, being on every network is a waste of your time. You should focus on your key networks and leave the rest up to your superfans or tribe members. Let your fans evangelize for you! That's the beautiful thing about social media and the viral nature of it all. You don't have to be in control! Simply guide the creation of your message and the rest naturally falls into place.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Fun Theory Made Me Do It

I've been wrestling for weeks now about what my first blog should be about here on Social Deviants. However, before I dive into the post, let me tell you why it's taken me, a writer and a marketing, advertising and brand strategist, who's neck-deep in social media, ecommerce and the entertainment industry with over a decade of experience, this long to start a blog that is an extension of who I am and what I do.

Honestly, I'm not sure I really have a good reason. I'll tell you that I really felt, and still do sometimes, that blogs are a dime a dozen...especially ones that talk ad nauseum about advertising, marketing and social media. I've read The Tipping Point, Bowling Alone, Blink, Anderson's Long Tail theory and a library full of other books with titles I've forgotten, though whose teachings I hope I have retained to some degree or another. I still stalk Faith Popcorn, and I read Seth Godin's blog and follow Chris Brogan on Twitter and am part of many related groups on LinkedIn where I throw in my two cents now and again. I subscribe to countless newsletters from Springwise, The Cool Hunter, Trendwatching, and so on, but you don't need me to "name drop" my daily to-do list, for lack of a better phrase.

I think, ultimately, why I never started my own blog dealing with many of the same topics you'll likely read elsewhere was that I never really felt like I fit into "that" world. The last thing the world needs is another talking head who claims they're an expert on one topic or another, whether giving their opinion on CNN or in the blogosphere.

So why did I change my mind? Bottom line -- I have something to say from time to time that won't fit on my blog about my son. I've got enough miles under my feet, and more than enough food for the thought, that if anything, I need a place to sort out my feelings about what's taking place in the modern world of marketing and branding. Maybe you'll agree from time to time. Maybe you won't. Maybe I'm just writing this for an audience of one. But, there are no maybes about my need to do this now.

Social Deviants isn't just me either (thus the 's' in Deviants). You'll see posts from my partner-in-crime and co-worker, Taylor Vick. While I'm the Gen X cynic, she's the Gen Y hope. She is the social media maven with a passion for personal connections, transparency and results. She'll be introducing herself soon.

Back to what finally drove me (no pun intended) to write this first blog: Have you seen the new Volkswagen The Fun Theory campaign? When I got chills and misty-eyed from watching the two ad spots, I knew I couldn't keep my enthusiasm and passion bottled up any longer.

While I'd been in music writing, marketing and promotions for years, my first job with an ad agency came in 2001 with Michaelides & Bednash, an award-winning ad agency based in London (though I worked at the new satellite New York offices at the time).

I had come to New York in 1999 with four job offers on the table. The Internet boom was still, well, booming (from my viewpoint anyway), and so I took the one offering the most money. I couldn't believe my good fortune. I was in New York, making more money than I ever had in my life, and was on top of the world. And then I wasn't. Like so many others, I found myself on the receiving end of a pink slip and some severance by the end of 2000.

I was perilously close to the end of the Unemployment train when I did what lots of people do -- I reached out to every friend and friends of friends in hopes one of them had a line on something that would prevent me from having to move back in with Mom. That's when I found Michaelides & Bednash (Thanks, Moh!).

M&B taught me to get to the heart of the good idea (or The Big Idea as Donny Deutsch would say) and figure out how and why an idea was a good one. It was about making an impact, not on pop culture, but within it. It was unbearably frustrating for the me, the newbie, to toss out what I thought were great ideas one after the other because they "meant nothing to the brand's ethos and strategy," and were nothing more than "here today, gone tomorrow" because they didn't "cut through the clutter" and "resonate" with pop culture, and were simply "irrelevant." Oh my god, I wanted to scream, and did...often.

At some point, somewhere down the line of reading all those books and sitting at that long table of creative equality, it finally clicked. I finally understood why campaigns like Avis "We Try Harder," Nike's "Just Do It" and Volkswagen's 1958 "Think Small" campaigns were different, better. The list of adjectives is long, but I choose three: They were authentic, relevant and brilliant. They were able to get to the root of what was currently driving pop culture at that time; they were able to look inward at what their company not only was, but was going to be; and they were able to find a way for those things to matter and speak to consumers in creative and often genius ways.

When I read about and watched Volkswagen's The Fun Theory this morning, I got that same itch -- that passion for ideas that transcend ads and traditional marketing, that pioneer thought and change behavior. I encourage you to take a look at what Volkswagen has done. Anyone can make a clever car ad that says "Hey, look how fuel efficient and eco-friendly we are as a company!" But few can get you to change your behavior toward your health, the environment and social responsibility without having the brand shoved down your throat, much less by making it FUN.

I had to write this post. And I look forward to scratching that itch here often - sharing what I've gleaned, igniting debate on this and that or just learning something new along the way. And I promise that not all my posts will be as long as the M&B table.