Friday, January 29, 2010

Online is Real Life, Too

Online or virtual life gets a bad rap for being less than real, which is weird as we're essentially labeling social media as antisocial. It keeps us away from our real life social circles and robs us all of face-to-face time the advocates of real life argue. And, while they make a good case, certainly some people are on their computers far too much, I think they also do a disservice to a very important point: real life and virtual life do not need to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they have great potential to augment one another.

Yesterday I spent just about all day inside my apartment working on writing articles, editing others and watching a good amount of TV with my roommate. Under normal circumstances I would have had contact with just one person, but instead I was periodically chatting on twitter, sharing articles to read and posting on a few friend's Facebook walls to touch base. What's so wrong with that? I think my life is considerably better as a result and I see these people much more in real life because of these interactions.

I've put down some of these ideas in a much more cogent form in an article published yesterday on, titled (the same as this) Online Is Real Life, Too -- If your'e interested check it out and leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Since when is "social media" just a Facebook fan page?

Ad Age recently named Mother, New York agency of the year. And while the article covers much of their recent work, which is all very interesting stuff, one of their ideas in particular really caught my eye:

"For Target, Mother recaptured the marketer's design-oriented sunniness with a nine-faced Times Square billboard-turned-product. The agency recruited four New York artists to create the 20,000 square foot poster and then, adding a green/design/turn-your-marketing-spend-into-revenue twist, the agency repurposed the vinyl into 1,600 mini works of art, each available for purchase on, and then re-re-purposed each piece into a handbag designed by Anna Sui. The handbags sold out in a week."

On the same day, other news comes from Ad Age that P&G is planning to invest heavily in making Facebook a big part of its marketing plan.

“‘P&G's explicit goal for 2010 is to assure that each of its brands has a meaningful presence on Facebook, and they are willing to pay dearly for that,’ Mr. Hornik wrote. ‘And while P&G's thought leaders expressed some skepticism about the efficacy of Facebook's “engagement ads,” they certainly view Facebook as a must-have for digital advertising and brand building.’”

What jumped to mind after reading these two articles was that both of these “ideas” could probably benefit greatly from the other.

With a stronger Facebook strategy Target could have facilitates spreading news about their event/ stunt/ product to fans of the brand and a wider audience in general. I really like Target and I would have enjoyed hearing about this, but I didn’t. It’s a great story and there’s no reason they couldn’t have told it on Facebook and other social media platforms. Why limit the exposure of this event to NYC when your customers are all over the world and connected? Even if I don't buy a bag just knowing about them elivates the brand's identity in my mind.

On the other side, P&G might incorporate Facbook into their marketing plan, but unless they have something more to bring to the table other than a fan page, contest or quirky app I just don’t know if anyone is going to care. Why on earth would I friend P&G? Tide or Duracell? The unspoken transaction that advertising trades entertainment for attension is just as true online as off. People want something interesting and fun, and just because they are sitting at their computers all day doesn’t mean they want to feel that way. Social media is a channel or a tactic for disseminating a message, and not much of a message in itself.

I think this all ties back into the discussion of what creativity means in a digitally connected world. I don't think you need to be on social to be social--but, if you want to be successful on the social media channel it seems that we need to think about the conversation and what it means to be conversational.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Scion’s Missed Opportunity

It might not make sense for every brand to jump head first into social media and start conversing with their customers (though for many it does). Yet, with the widespread adoption of this new platform the dynamic of marketing has changed, and campaigns designed without the existence of these conversations and communities in mind will undoubtedly fall short.

Scion's marketing efforts toward hip hop and graffiti groups offers a great example of how misunderstanding the way targets interact online, even when engaging them elsewhere, can lead to negative results and missed opportunities.

What not to do:
A few years ago Scion rolled into Scribble Jam, an annual Hip Hop and graffiti festival, on a mission to promote their message of individuality. With several graffiti painted cars and carefully produced fliers about the 'indie-ness' of their brand, it was by all accounts a text book street-team style operation and a fantastic failure; the ‘graf’ community was underwhelmed, to say the least, at the relevance of Scion's message and its poor understanding their community.

Some background on the graffiti community:
To say they are rebels is an understatement. Getting caught for painting can easily lead to more jail time than a sexual assault conviction and the lengths to which these artists go to complete pieces in obscure, unreachable places is unreal. They put themselves at great personal risk for their art, their name, and “sticking it to the man.”

They paint, among other things, freight cars. And, most are careful never to paint over tracking numbers so that the cars keep running. As various pieces travel the country other graffiti artists, along with another group of people dedicated to tracking and documenting graf, snap pictures and post them online.

But they’re not posting on Facebook; the graffiti community was online before Frienster, using forums to trade painting tips and pictures. The online component of their community is largely responsible for the shaping and growing the real world community that exists today.

What could have been:
Graffiti artists are anti-establishment, read ad busters and have no love for marketing. And this is how I’d sell them Scion.

Arrive with a fleet of blank, white cars and offer them to the painters as open canvases. No brochures.

Take the best cars from scribble jam along with a few others tagged by well know graf artists and take them off the road. Place them in prominent spots where graffiti is typically found; under bridges, on the roofs of building, on flat bed train cars mixed in with freight. Then do nothing.

Because tracking and sharing found graf online is such an important aspect of the community there’s no need to build flashy micro sites or a fan page on Facebook. When members of the community see the cars word will spread. The unique look of Scions makes the brand unmistakable and the message is a powerful, silent endorsement of the community’s work and culture.

Take away:
I'm sure there are ways to drastically improve my plan, but the core of my argument is about the importance of research, and how online communities aren't just online. The media ecosystem is clearly more complex these days and the value a social agency provides is much more than creating a twitter strategy or improving SEO (though this is essential as well). An agency versed in social understands how social media networks work and how their target interacts with them. This is the type of insight your brand needs today.

Is your agency fluent in social?