Monthly Archives: March 2010

Twitter for Madmen

I may be the last person who knows about this, but as I’m a fan of Madmen, I just had to share this in case it went by any other Madmen fans who read this blog.

Betty Draper is on Twitter.  (Latest Tweet: “Staring at myself in the toaster.”) So is Roger Sterling, Joan Harris and others.

Since the series started, fans of the show have created fictional Twitter accounts for there favorite Madmen characters.  In fact there are as many as 90, according to Brand Fiction Factory, a company that develops online content for brands and companies engaging with consumers through social media.  Indeed Brand Fiction Factory writers are the real world minds behind 16 of these accounts and they were recently named as a SAMMY Awards finalist in the category Best Twitter Branding Campaign for their Madmen endeavours. If I understand correctly, these writers weren’t paid, but created the content out of their love for the show, so this may be the first time we’ve seen a fan-based campaign recognized in this way.  That is if you can really call it a campaign.

Hat’s off to AMC, the company that produces Madmen, for recognizing the power behind this fan-based enthusiasm to intensify involvement and commitment to the series.  It’s amazing when you think about it.  The fans are extending the fictional narrative beyond television, and AMC has relinquished control and let them go with it.

I imagine Twitter could be used in a similar way for certain iconic brands to fuel the myth and stories that surround them and strengthen the emotional connection with their users.  What would The Marlboro Man tweet about, I wonder?  “Just back from the rodeo, my ass feels like silly putty and I need a bourbon and smoke.” He isn’t on Twitter.  (Although there is a real life cowboy from Nebraska who tweets under the name of marlboroman.) How does Betty Crocker manage to get through her day?  There is a Betty Crocker Twitter feed, but it’s hosted by the brand, not Betty herself.  Any thoughts on other brands that might do this?

By the way, you can also find Betty Draper on Linkedin, and she writes a blog.

Are we all going mad, men and women?

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Foursquare and Gowalla enable true “when and where they are receptive” messaging

Foursquare and Gowalla are the most well-known location based social networks.  They’ve been around for some time, but like Twitter before them, have now reached a Tipping Point of online social media conversation and debate.  Both were much discussed at the recent South by Southwest conference in Austin, as were location based services in general.

Are you signed up yet? To find out more about them, check out Crunchbase.  In a nutshell, both services use geo-location technology to pinpoint where you are.  When you log on via your mobile device, a window shows stores, restaurants, museums, cafes, etc. in your immediate area, and when you check in to one of these locations, you can automatically let friends and followers know, write a message or leave a comment, tip or rating.  You can also read other users’ comments about the location.

Foursquare also incorporates gaming elements through a system of badges that you earn when you become, for example, the most frequent visitor to a place, or have visited a certain number of new places.  As odd as it sounds, people really get into this and it obviously provides promotion and merchandising opportunities for businesses and retailers. Foursquare works with businesses to provide stats based on audience check-ins, so a local restaurant might offer a special deal to its “mayor” (the badge awarded to the most frequent visitor) and his followers to drive loyalty, increase frequency of visits, or motivate lapsed visitors to come back.  Businesses can also set up loyalty programs for customers to earn points every time they check in, redeemable against future purchases.  Those are just a couple of examples of how local businesses are using Foursquare to boost traffic and sales.  You can find more information on Foursquare’s information page for businesses.

Indeed, much of the discussion of around location-based services has been about their marketing value to small, local businesses.  But as these services develop and add on new features, they will become just as valuable for major brands and businesses as well.

An age-old tenet of traditional media planning is to reach consumers when and where they will be receptive to the message.  Indeed, one could argue that a major issue with the traditional one-way, one-to-many communications model of the last 150 years — aside from the fact that so much advertising was, and still is, tedious and boring — is that too many messages reached the wrong people, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.   Location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla can change all that.  What’s especially exciting is that these services can deliver those messages precisely at the moment when buying decisions can most likely be influenced and acted upon, at the point of sale.

Imagine you’re a mom, it’s Saturday morning and you’ve checked in at your local Tesco or Safeway using Foursquare.  Among your Foursquare friends and followers are other moms like you.  Let’s pretend Foursquare has an interface that allows you to list the categories and brands from whom you’re happy to receive information, as well as an opt-in function that lets you choose when you receive that information and when you don’t.  (It will happen soon enough!)  You opt in because this is precisely when and where you are receptive to hearing about the latest deal on diapers, the newest flavor variety of your favorite salad dressing brand, or a new recipe suggestion for preparing a quick dinner for your family that evening.

Some other ways Foursquare might help you out:

You point your iPhone at a new item you’re considering, and Foursquare immediately shows you comments and reviews from your friends or the broader Foursquare community.

You check in to Foursquare and you receive a personalized thank you message from Tropicana Orange Juice for buying Tropicana each of the last three times you went shopping at this location,  with a 50% off coupon for your next purchase.

Gerber Baby Food lets you know that 10 moms in your Foursquare network also buy baby food and if you all buy $5,00 or more of Gerber this week, you’ll all receive a buy 1 get 1 free offer the next time you visit the store.  You message your friends to let them know.

None of these functions are available yet, but it’s only a matter of time until these or others like them are.

Social media purists may find the notion of using Foursquare and Gowalla as a channel for marketing messages anathema.  Many would say that it’s fine for brands to participate in social media, but if they do, it needs to be in a genuine way, with a human voice, through personalized one-on-one conversations.  I agree that the possibility of the social web to enable more human, collaborative exchanges between people and the companies they buy from is one of the most exciting aspects of the new, post-broadcast age.  But it’s not the only way of doing things.  If a social media service empowers consumers to receive promotional messages from companies and brands that are of interest to them, where and when they want to receive those messages, and on top overlays that information with additional opinions and commentary from their peers, I don’t have a problem with that.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of the main reasons that people become fans of branded Facebook pages is that they want to learn about special offers, free samples and promotions.  So apparently consumers don’t have a problem with it either.

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“Search and save” on Facebook, Twitter?

In episode 533 of the For Immediate Release podcast, Shel Holtz provides a remarkably lucid and convincing defense of companies and organizations creating Facebook fan pages.  This was in response to comments from members of the FIR Friendfeed room predicting the end of commercial fan pages on Facebook.

Shel points out that many fan pages are indeed ineffective, because the creators have clearly not put much thought into why people might want to come visit the page.  One of the main reasons customers give for visiting a fan page is to find out about special deals and offers.  Like this one from Starbucks, which was in my Facebook newsfeed this morning.

Of course, there are other reasons people interested in an organization or brand might become a fan and be motivated to return to the page regularly.  As Shel points out, patients with chronic illnesses might become a fan of their local hospital to learn about seminars that help them to manage their condition.  It’s not hard to imagine other reasons as well.  A local retailer could keep its customers up to date on sales or the arrival of a hot new product.  Museums could announce new exhibits, or alert people to slow days when popular exhibits might be less crowded.  Presuming not everyone buys their books on Amazon, a local book seller could let literary types know when a new novel was in stock or its author would be appearing for a reading and book signing.

The point of course is that a successful fan page starts with the consumer.  What do they need, what might be of value to them, how could a Facebook fan page help?

Another aspect is particularly important. Companies and organizations can of course feed this information to people elsewhere on line, through their own web sites or email, for example  But that demands more effort and time than most people have today.  It has to occur to them to go to the web site, they need to take the time to remember your URL or find it in their “favorites” list, or consciously decide to click on your email vs. all the others that are cluttering their mailbox.  For more and more people, Facebook is where they are anyway.  And when they’ve opted in to your fan page, you are there with them, because everything you announce shows up in their news feed.  They don’t have to go to your information, your information goes to them — automatically.

Which brings me to the last point.  Most of us don’t have our eyes constantly glued to our Facebook news feed.  The same goes for Twitter.  Facebook should create a “search and save” tool, like an RSS feeder, but for Facebook posts.  It would have a function that allows you to enter the names of the fan pages from whom you would like to receive posts, and then automatically collects those posts for you to review at a time that’s convenient, with the reassurance that you didn’t miss the latest big deal or event.  I’m not aware of a tool like this, either on Facebook or Twitter, where it would also make sense.  Do you know of one?

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Pedigree’s fascinating new dog food commercial – inspired by Pleix

A Saatchi & Saatchi colleague recently sent me a new commercial for Pedigree dog food.  It’s a fantastic piece of advertising from TBWA, Toronto. No annoying voice over, just fascinating ultra-slow motion shots of dogs leaping in the air to chomp down on a single nugget of Pedigree’s vitality+.  I immediately forwarded it to dog lovers I know.  That’s what you want in an age of skeptical consumers who have the power to block unwanted advertising messages from reaching them.  Make something so good, people want to spread it around to their friends.  It’s garnered over a million views on YouTube since going up at the end of February.

The commercial brilliantly conveys vitality and great taste in an execution that breaks with all the boring conventions of the past 50 years for conveying those benefits.  As I said to a dog lover friend of mine, who is also a market researcher, it’s the first dog food commercial I’ve ever seen that communicates great canine taste appeal without showing the animal — who we know was probably half starved to death before the commercial shoot — lunging at a bowl full of food.  Take a look, and you’ll see what I mean.

The execution was inspired by a video produced in 2006 by Pleix Films for the music group, Vitalic. The similarity is unmistakable.

At first, I got all hot under the collar, because there was no acknowledgment on the YouTube page running the Pedigree version that the idea wasn’t original.  We live in an age of mash-ups, consumer generated content and transparency.  I don’t think people have a problem with borrowing ideas, or adapting them for another purpose, as TBWA has done.  But you need to acknowledge that you did.

Neither Pedigree nor TBWA are at fault, because it seems that wherever this spot appears on YouTube, it was posted by others.  Indeed, TBWA does call out on their web site that “the campaign was inspired by the talented directors at Pleix.”  Unfortunately, the post I saw on YouTube credits the idea to TBWA without any mention of its original source.

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Thoughts on a recent German social media debate

Recently a debate emerged among German social media mavens.  The question was whether social media can be successful when companies that use social media channels don’t respond to consumer comments or otherwise enter the conversation.  The debate was ushered in by a post from Mirko Lange on his talkabout blog entitled, Social Media Myth Buster: Successful Social Media Doesn’t Require a “Dialog” (Social Media Myth Buster: Es braucht keinen “Dialog” für erfolgreiche Social Media).

Two aspects of Mirko’s post bugged me.  First, he was fairly unspecific about defining “successful.”  It seemed simply to be the number of fans on Facebook or the number of followers on Twitter.  So one of his successful examples was Lufthansa Germany’s Twitter page.  Lufthansa has 20,000+ followers.  Is that a success?  Perhaps.  Some context would help.  How fast was the growth in followers?  How many of those followers actually engage with Lufthansa via Twitter?  On the face of it, it doesn’t look that good compared to Southwest Airlines, which has over 1 million Twitter followers.

The other point is that as far as I can tell, Lufthansa is indeed “dialoging” with customers via Twitter, much the way Frank Eliason has done with Comcast Cares, by identifying customers with problems and helping out.  One difference is that Frank identifies himself by name to leverage a key strength of social media, the opportunity for companies to behave like people, by having real people with real names engage on behalf of the company. As  Southwest’s Twitter bio aptly notes, ” Airplanes can’t type so @ChristiDay and @Brandy_King are piloting the Twitterverse!”

Nevertheless, I fundamentally agree with Mirko, as well as with Timo Lommatzsch, who, on the current edition of his Social Media PReview Podcast, which discusses Mirko’s post, points to the example of Die Zeit’s Twitter page, with nearly 25,000 followers.  Die Zeit is an erudite German weekly newspaper that covers a broad range of topics including politics, culture, economy and sports.  There’s no dialogue on their Twitter feed, it serves merely to inform followers of the online edition’s latest articles.  But one can imagine that these followers are the type of people who will retweet a post on Die Zeit to all of their followers, which is an effective way to spread the paper’s content across personal networks and potentially bring new readers to the site to the delight of the publication’s online advertisers.

Consider also that consumers aren’t as puritanical about demanding dialogue as social media “experts” assert.  I recall recently a study quoted by Shel Holtz on his For Immediate Release podcast.  It found that the main reason people become fans of brand Facebook pages is to find special deals and price-off promotions.

As long as a social media provides value based on how the community defines it — be it  special deals, product information, help with problems, or the pleasure of sharing one’s passion for the brand with others — the community will grow.

In writing this post, I remembered something I included in the “Who’s on the soapbox?” section when I started this blog in July, 2008.  It said, “I’m Steve Rothman … I have a passion for new media, social media, web 2.0 — whatever your preferred label for the way people are using the web to connect, share and empower each other on the things they care about. And that includes the products and services they buy.”  I didn’t write that those people necessarily had to include the company or the brand.  That’s as true now, as it was then.

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