Archives For advertising

 

Earlier this week Ikea made the news when it was reported that the had officially asked Jules Yap, the owner, of Ikeahackers.net to either find a new URL without the word Ikea in it or to eliminate all advertising from the site. Ikeahackers is a site started by an ardent fan who takes common ikea products and mixes them to come up with completely new solutions for the home and office. Of course this type of thing attracts other users like a friend of mine, Antonio Scarponi, who has come up with a complete hydroponic set-up with Ikea products. After Jules Yap published a post about the Cease and Desist request from Ikea, the story was quickly picked up by magazines and papers like Fast Company. For most people, going after a private person, a smaller company, or group of creatives adding value to your brand seemed unjust and the fallout has been quite negative. As Mark Wilson writes in Fast Company:

…You have to wonder, is it ever a good decision to take legal action against an ardent fanbase? Does a site rallying Ikea modders called “SwedishModernFurnitureHackers.net” really serve the Ikea brand better? 

After seeing the reaction of people around the world Ikea also thought it might be going down a wrong course of action and are now again in talks with Yap to find a better solution, though exactly what that is remains to be found out. (Follow the story from Yap’s perspective here). 

Is Yap gaining from using the trademarked name Ikea in her URL? Probably. Is Ikea losing? Most likely not, in fact they are probably winning, as eager do-it-yourselfers are reading about simple hacks that let them forgo buying more expensive furnishing solutions and building their own with Ikea products.

Interestingly enough this same week I had a client sat a large Swiss pharmaceutical company call me. He started off by telling me that his company employs social listening software and that I had come up on their radar. I had checked in to the company on Foursquare and taken a picture of the art hanging in the main foyer of the office. The people doing the social listening quickly tracked down who I was, who I was there to see and asked my client to ask me to delete the check-in and to not post anything further mentioning their name. The company, though they never told me of this, does not want to be identified with any of its vendors. Though this be corporate policy, like with Yap’s case, this course of action actually hurts the brand. I deleted the reference, and with it a reference to the welcoming and nice atmosphere that the company has in its offices as well how their support the further development of their employees, two important factors when it comes to recruiting new talent. 

The take away from these two situations is that your brand’s value comes from how it’s perceived. In David Sable’s blog “The weekly ramble” this week he quotes Abraham Lincoln:

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Your brand value is the shadow, your company’s products, actions, and people are the tree. Your brand’s value comes from what your brand does. When others mention your brand positively, are fans of your brand, use your brand, and work with your brand, though you might be bigger, they are adding value to your brand. Your brand also gains in value when others gain from it. When your brand’s guidelines and policies work against the people you want on your side, you hurt your brand. We are moving further and further into a sharing economy, and sharing your brand is going to be an important aspect of increasing brand value.

Here’s a great TED talk on the importance of re-mixing and hacking in support of Jules Yap.

 

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Congratulations, you and your company have done it. You have your own Facebook page and Twitter stream. How hard was that now? How do you feel, and what are you expecting to gain. Now that you’ve caught up to the times, here are some things you may want to think about before investing too much more time, money, and energy in this endeavour, because chances are that your company should ditch Facebook, Twitter and Co.

“What is this guy talking about?” you’re probably thinking. “Why would we do that after everything that we’ve invested already?” Here’s my answer to these questions.

Let’s get started

social_media_explained_donuts

From Xplornet

First of all let’s look at the purpose of social media. Social media was initially created to connect people using the internet. Sure we were already connected via e-mail and chat rooms, but generally the internet was and is a repository for information. Individuals, companies, and organizations can load information onto the web, where it can be found thanks to search engines like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Co. This content and search function was to be paid for by online advertising. Social media was supposed to be, well… social, and connect individuals to engage in conversations. However, already at an early stage social media started to become a public stream of consciousness. With so many messages showing up in any average user’s stream(s), trying to get heard has become a shouting match, and unfortunately much of what is being shouted lacks any importance, it’s like the below scene from Anchorman, where Brick, played by Steve Carell, best sums up the intelligence and importance of what many are saying.

The Story Continues

Continuing on with our history: Companies were obviously quick to adopt social media into their marketing. Being social, meeting the customer where they’re comfortable, and metrics were the lucrative claims that sold business decision makers. Your advertising could go viral for next to nothing. People would market for you. The promise was akin to actually being able to track and quantify word-of-mouth advertising.

The easiest thing to measure are Likes on Facebook, and followers on Twitter, views on YouTube, and +1s on Google+. So everyone went looking for them, but how do you get people to like your page? Well either people like your brand or you need to attract them. Attracting them usually revolves around giveaway campaigns. These campaigns do a great job attracting those looking for free stuff, but they are not evangelists. These are not people who spread the word about a product, and some companies have realized this like Burger King in Norway

Of course your interactions will generally climb as a percentage the fewer followers you have. Liking is too easy and doesn’t actually say or do anything other than potentially give Facebook & Co. an insight into your interests, though even here there is the difference between saying and doing. And when we see how many things are posted on social media without any background research (a simple googling of a term or event*), it’s quite probable that even with Big Data, the picture companies get of us isn’t entirely correct. As Crisis Relief Singapore points out in a poignant ad – liking isn’t helping:

crisis_relief_flood

Deceiving Metrics

And while some companies have figured out that the number of likes isn’t important, here is further case for how much damage all your likes might be causing your brand on Facebook.

And for users of Twitter, a recent article in the New York times shows that the trending metrics might not really be important at all, as what’s trending is either trending with people who already love your brand. Think about any time Apple launches a new product. Or people who either dislike your brand, or are customers you don’t really want. Think about the irrational, anti-Coca Cola tweets after their Super Bowl commercial this year.

Digibabble and the importance of real conversations

For many companies, and yours might be one of them, social media has become pushing mechanism. Deals, sales, and new products and services are highlighted on a continual basis. And when you’re not pushing profit generating products and services you’re chasing likes through often meaningless pictures and banter like “Guess where this picture was taken,” or “Congratulations to So-and-So for winning the Oscar for Film XYZ” both of which have little to do with what you actually do. All of this culminated in a cacophony of meaningless digibabble as Y&R Global CEO David Sable calls it. Furthermore, when fans actually interact with your page, interaction fails. Dialogue requires a flowing exchange of ideas. Questions and answers do not count as dialogues. Read Plato and you have a long discussion, not simply Socrates posing the question “What is justice?” and a simple answer that “Justice means living up to your legal obligations and being honest” and then ten people liking the answer. Often this is not your social media team’s fault, but rather a lack of resources. Know that when you open yourself up to conversations you need to be open to both compliments and ridicule, and you best have answers to questions. This is why Apple Computers doesn’t bother engaging in Social Media. Sure they’ve claimed their sites, but they don’t post anything, because it doesn’t align with their philosophy. If you have a question, a Genius in the Apple Store will gladly help you during your pre-arranged appointment. An example of a company doing it wrong, or showing that a social team needs quick, accurate answers to questions is Lufthansa.

My friend Gerrit has Senator Status with Lufthansa. Recently he wanted to fly from Munich to the US. Arriving at the airport he was told that his reserved seat had been given away. When he asked to speak to someone he received no help, nor did he receive financial compensation for needing to spend another day in Munich. As no one at the airport would help, and he was told to file a complaint in a letter via the post. Not happy with this resolution, he posted a message on Lufthansa’s Facebook page. The answer he received here too was a link to the complaints part of the Lufthansa website where the same information was posted. To say the least he was not happy, and Lufthansa may have lost a loyal customer. Not that social media is to blame, but it didn’t help, and it didn’t help because the company is not set up to deal with customer complaints in real time. Otherwise if you check out the Lufthansa Facebook page, they do a pretty good job of answering questions, but as it’s all in a stream it’s hard for people to follow the information or find it.

Social Media needs to be human

Social media means opening yourself up for a conversation, and in some ways a cross examination. It has the opportunity to create transparency for your company, but if you’re not ready for that, you best stay away.

Companies that have done a good job of using social media so far are small firms let be entrepreneurs and small teams that want to interact with their customers and potential customers. I’m a 50% stakeholder in a small language school in Zurich, and we care what people say and ask, we also try to answer messages and comments within 12 hours and love dialogue with people learning German and English. Dialogue however is rare, as it takes a concerted effort to write a comment and actually engage with a page, “liking” is a simple click, and is why it means almost nothing. Have we received more students from our Facebook and Twitter work? No. Do we push on it? Yes, we push our blog – information for German learners. Do we push sales? No, because people don’t want to be sold to on social media. We also try to share interesting articles and information relevant to our followers and our community. We’re not social media gurus, but we’re human and people get genuine human interaction on our page, and that’s why they like it. If you can give your social media team autonomy and the ability to answer questions, comments, and concerns with authority, and let them interact with users in a friendly and personal way, social media might help you create better connections to your customers and potential customers. If that’s not the case, shut down your social media sites, and stay focused on your product, customer satisfaction, and your other marketing strategy. And equally important, remember how many people you can have a conversation with. I guarantee 100,000 is too many.

*One of my favourites is the picture of the wave height after the tsunami near Japan in 2011, which floats around as the radiation in the ocean.

The death of TV?

For some years there has been talk of the fall or death of television, and there has been a plethora of reasons from the rise and success of Xbox and Apple TV, to illegal downloads, and YouTube, and companies like Netflix producing shows specifically for the net. While all are good arguments, if television was truly dying it wouldn’t be making record profits. Howard Lindzon makes a great argument about why TV is not dying, by saying that it has become more immersive and ubiquitous – that is straddling everything from the traditional TV set to computers and laptops over tablets and now even mobile phones. You can’t escape TV. The companies that are doing best create and distribute content over many channels.

A box of crap

The sheer amount of channels, though, and all of their media does mean that fewer people are probably sitting in front of their television to witness “historic events”; more likely they will see it on their computing or mobile device than in their living room with family and neighbors crowded around. Television is also evolving and changing, and while the industry continues to push out lazy content like Pop Idle, the Bachelor, and uncountable other shows that lead the economically destitute and those lacking education to believe that they just need a lucky break to get on TV and be famous, and not that the political and social systems have broken down and are not helping lift people into better lives through increased education and level playing fields. Criminal TV shows, which if you look at most Western TV show three different CSI shows that pretty much all tell the same brutal story over and over and over. The subliminal take away being that life is dangerous and that going out at night alone is not safe. What a great deal of TV has become is a box of crap. The intellectual, educated, and clever television that used to be common seems to have disappeared. Watch this clip of Dali on was on the game show “What’s My Line?” in the 1950s.

People want stories

With bad storytelling being done on standard networks, it’s been the cable networks like HBO, USA, AMC, and now Netflix that are telling good stories and gaining viewership in the masses again – there are fan clubs dedicated to Game of Thrones. At last year’s Edinburgh Television Festival, actor Kevin Spacey spoke about the future of television, saying that the medium is irrelevant as long as there is story. Watch the full lecture by clicking on this link, or watch the shorter version embedded in this post. Missing from the shorter version is the great message that Spacey underlines: The core of great television is the creatives, who come up with great content – great stories.

The future

Kevin Spacey also says that creative talent can come from anywhere and anyone. Welcome Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This young man is not just an actor, but also a director, screenwriter, producer, editor and musician. He’s a multi talent, and along with his brother has come up with the future of television, and I believe is launching a revolution aimed at re-engaging people with television to make sure true talent finds its way to a screen and is seen by the world. HITRECORD.TV is a project he launched back in 2005 with his brother. The two quickly saw that there is a world of talent out there. They also realized that the Internet is not just a threat or place to show media, it’s also a great place to source collaboration. From music, to short videos to art and information, HITRECORD.TV covers it all, engages viewers – respects them and highlights talent. Along with great drama driven story Spacey talks about, the open source production of HITRECORD.TV will be the future of television. For anyone wondering, yes, it makes money.

Watch the future here:

(I originally wrote this article for http://www.idezo.ch)

In November 2010, TED curator Chris Anderson started a TED initiative, in line with TED’s motto of “ideas worth spreading,” calling on companies and organizations to make ads worth spreading.

 His idea was brilliant—advertising needs to be more than stalking potential clients and trapping them into a corner where they feel obligated against their better judgement to interact with the company or product being marketed. Good companies are above that, they sell a product or provide a service that has a meaning to the audience. Mr. Anderson points out two main criteria of what is needed for an ad to do this:

  1. Passion—the intense attention of the audience
  2. Authentic community members—people want to see / read / hear your message and share it

Since Mr. Anderson’s call to action, many companies have turned to blogging—the idea behind which is to provide information about the firm and its products and services to potential customers and clients. However, a great many of these posts are built around one thing: SEO optimized fluff. These articles solely exist in order to have a blog and to get Google searches to land on a company’s blog. Just like our diets—made up of cheap calories—the printed word is cheap, and more is … well … more. And as we get fat on empty calories we become deaf and blind to the onslaught of noise and images that bombard our daily lives. This content lacks passion and does not find authentic community members. Given this reality, one might say that Mr. Anderson’s dream has failed.

Yet, I give credit to Mr. Anderson’s appeal for ads worth spreading. Some companies are doing it and they are doing it brilliantly. So how do you and your company achieve this? The answer lies in who you are and what you want. Here the Zen belief of “like attracts like” holds true and authentic messaging will find an authentic audience. Genuine, sustainable and in the end profitable growth is gained when your message is true—done with a purpose that goes beyond the simple sale’s pitch of whatever it is you have to offer. Aligning your firm with a cause that improves the lives of your customers, employees and those in the community is a way to go about this. Telling your story or one of your client’s story is another.

As always the golden rules of less is more, and quality is more important than quantity are vital. In the turbulent noise of today’s modern media landscape there is an important place for craftsmen tailoring your messaging to tell the world who you and your firm are. Elegant and precise writing, beautiful video and photography woven together with your story will find you the audience you want and help you stand out and experience organic growth.

To round off this post I’d like to tell you three stories of how I’ve seen authenticity work for businesses.

The first story is about a young design firm in New York City. While questioning the purpose of the firm and the ideals that the business wanted to see in its current and future team members the folks at Holstee came up with a wonderful manifesto picnicking in the park a few years ago. They wrote down their feelings and attitude about work and life and created a beautiful poster and did a few creative and simple videos that have since gone viral.

The team didn’t spend a lot of money on the idea, but they listened to what was going on inside their firm—that which makes them tick and then shared it with the world—that’s authentic. What’s your firm’s manifesto?

My second story is about getting to the core of what you want to do. IBM, a company that has seen itself move from computer hardware production to technology consultant that finds solutions to modern problems through computer systems simplified their purpose even more. They find answers to make cities smarter. And in identifying what it is that they do, they came up with an ad campaign that not only says what they do, but shows it. Elegant yet simple posters also meet a societal need in the urban world. Authentic messaging provides the audience with a value.

Lastly, I’d like to share my own story. I used to teach German in Zurich. After watching Mr. Anderson’s video and thinking about what it was that I did. I realized that many of my students had no grammatical background and that this is necessary in order for them to understand German. I started blogging about the German language in English and taking real-life problems and explaining why they happen and how to correct them. The blog grew slowly, but now receives over 20,000 views and approximately 12,000 visitors a month with over 100 articles entailing over 600 hours of research, writing, and formatting. This was one of the most authentic things I could do, as it picked up on real problems that many German learners have and can now find clear answers to. As a result the exponential growth curve of visitors and further recommendations show that even without investing hard money into Google Ad Words or Facebook marketing, you can get a following with genuine material.

As an individual, a firm, or a brand, I am positive that finding your authentic voice will get you your authentic audience. Great advertising isn’t advertising at all, it’s being yourself and showing who you are. You can get started with this right away by holding focused brainstorming sessions with your team members. Start off by asking them about the words that they associate with the company and its purpose, and then which stories they would tell. Doing such an exercise may even reveal new product and market potential for your firm. The possibilities are as endless as the ideas teeming inside your company. So before you go out and hire someone to invent a new story for you, or to yell out your tagline, take an inward look at the amazing things already happening within your company and craft your true authentic message from that.