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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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Vote for this man and help Hugo Boss democratize the modelling world via social media!

My friend Andre Zaremba has entered the Hugo Boss Runway Model Contest on Facebook.  (Is he hot, or what?)  You can vote for him there.  Just find him via the search box and vote.  He has also created a Facebook fan page.

Hugo Boss will select one male and one female winner who will walk the catwalk at the Boss Black Fashion Show in Berlin on January 21, 2010.  The event will be live streamed on Facebook.

Andre asked me for ideas on how he might rack up the votes.  Here’s what I told him.  Perhaps there are some ideas for you to promote your own personal brand.

Happy holidays!

Hi Andre,

here are a couple of thoughts.  The cool thing is that your fans can vote for you once every 24 hours.  Since they’ve already done it, they’re likely to do it again.  So they’re the ones from whom you are most likely to source the votes you need. “Strategically” it makes sense to give them a little nudge each day but do it in a way that’s interesting/entertaining, not annoying.  You do that by creating some content, that’s fun or interesting to watch, look at and read, indeed so fun and interesting that it’s “spreadable”.  I.e. people will send it on.

You could set up a YouTube page, give it a theme title related to the Boss contest, shoot a short video each day (do you have a Flip camera?) and post it there.  For example, each daily video could be about a different reason “Why Andre will be the Boss model to die for.”

Video 1 “Andre has a great body” (Andre posing like a muscle man in a bathing suit)

Video 2 “Andre has class” (Andre reading the Royal Opera House bulletin)

Video 3 “Andre has great taste” (Andre eating pate)

Each day a new video.  And each day you send the link to your network, post on your Facebook page, etc.  Get the drift?

Add a “call to action” text with a link to the contest.  And a call to action to “Please send this video to your friends.”

You could easily do the same thing as still-photos that you send out in an email to your fan base every day, or as a message on Facebook.

Set up a Twitter account.  You could build on this theme there and send out tweets to your Twitter followers.  A Twitter post can contain links to your Facebook fan page, or to the photos.  But you’ll need to build a group of followers fast.  First, search all your friends to see if they are on Twitter.  Then there are all sorts of offerings that help people build their followers fast. I don’t remember off hand any specific ones, but if you search “Twitter follower” on Google you find one.

Check out Buzzom.  This is a service that let’s you find Twitter users who are more likely to follow you because you have a common interest.  (Click on the people search option and then on bio).  Important is that the little bio on your Twitter home page reflects that interest.  So your bio might include words like style, fashion, aspiring model.  Buzzom lets you find others with those words in their bio and enables you to follow them several hundred at a time, and a day or two later, delete those who didn’t follow you back.  You can then repeat the process, and there’s a tool that allows you not to repeat following the people you’ve already contacted.

I like the idea of creating a blog.  Again make it fun, and about your quest to win the contest.  Send the link to all your friends, and invite them to send it to others.  Post daily or more often – your posts could be blog-appropriate versions of the above, you could update your followers on the number of votes, talk about your latest idea to help win votes, you could even ask your blog readers for their ideas.  Makes sure to include invites in the side panel for you readers to receive automatic notifications of your posts via RSS feed or email.  I use WordPress and it’s pretty easy to set up.

You should register at StumbleUpon and Delicious.  StumbleUpon is a site where people find sites, web pages, blogs, etc. by entering key words relating to a topic.  Delicious is a public bookmarking site. When you’ve registered, you can pretty much post any content to them with tags relating to the content (so again in this case your tags might be fashion, style, Hugo Boss, Hugo Boss contest, and other related words).  People searching StumbleUpon and Delicious can discover your content in this way (e.g. your YouTube page) and may vote for you.  Especially if they encounter engaging content and a clear link to the voting page.

Consider if there is anything you can give your community of fans that they would spread to others.  So maybe you could leverage that great body of yours to make a calendar, or post card of some sort, that straight gals and gay guys would send to their social online networks.  Think in that direction. What else could you create online that’s fun, related to the contest, that people would like to spread to their networks.  Of course whatever it is, include a call to action to vote for you and a link to Boss page where they can vote.

So those are a few things off the top of my head.  Now I have to go and vote for you again.

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Pioneer Woman — how marrying a cowboy can turn you into an emerging web 2.0 superstar

The Pioneer Woman is Ree Drummond, a former city girl who met a cowboy, married him and ended up “in the middle of nowhere” with four kids on a cattle ranch.  Her original blog, which she started writing in 2006, has grown into a significant online media property.

As beautiful and polished as it looks — the photography and overall layout of the site are fantastic — and that fact that Ree clearly has a good instinct when it comes to creating a personal brand and public identity, she still manages to maintain her honest, down-home, “I’m just a wife and mother out in the boonies like you” soul.  Perhaps this, as well as her many recipes presented with easy-to-follow photos, is what keeps her estimated 2 million monthly readers (according to the LA Times) coming back to the site.  The photo archives of Charlie, the basset hound who thinks he’s a cattle dog, is just my favorite among many examples of the content on Pioneer Woman that keep it intimate and personal, indeed sometimes just down right corny.  (You can’t say that about Martha Stewart!)  It also helps that Ree has a style and a way with words that I suspect connects perfectly with her audience — like the way she refers to her husband only as Marlboro Man.

Pioneer Woman shows how web 2.0 enables us all to share our personal passions, lifestyle, thoughts and ideas with anyone, anywhere, and that even a mother-of-four, thousands of miles away from a media metropolis, can transform those passions into a commercial media property, while staying true to herself at the same time.

Still, it can’t be easy.  Wife, mother, household, 2000 head of cattle.  How does she do it?  It’s a challenge for me to write this blog at least once a week.  And the only animal (or child) around here is a parrot.  (Uh oh.  I hear him in the bathroom throwing the shower stopper around.  That means he wants to take a bath.  Gotta go!)

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I love plaid. Plaid Nation that is

Picture 2

I fell in love with Plaid today.  Not the pattern, the Agency and its road show Plaid Nation.  Plaid is a small shop hailing from the mega-communications metropolis of Danbury, Connecticut.  They do some cool work creating online communities and social media programs for organizations and brands that include Boehringer Ingelheim, Iron Horse Bikes, Segway, Sony Music, Virgin Records and — how lovely — the Westport Country Playhouse.

I fell in love because everything about Plaid lives and breathes the best qualities of social media.  They’re open, real, honest, charming, relaxed, human.  And frankly I just like the design of their web site. It’s fun and funky.

The way I got onto them, though, wasn’t through the web site or their work.  I’d been hearing for awhile  about something called Plaid Nation on different blogs and podcasts.  I knew it was some kind of road show or tour, with a team that went across country meeting with anyone doing interesting, innovative things — people, companies, NGO’s, even other creative agencies.  But I didn’t know much more than that. Today I finally got around to visiting the Plaid Nation 2009 web site and getting behind the story.

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The first Plaid Nation tour happened in 2007.  It began as an idea for Plaid to generate awareness and PR.  A group of company staffers made over a van in plaid and drove across country to visit — unannounced — brands they liked or would like to get to know.  Since then the tour has become, according to Plaid’s Darryl Ohrt in Ad Age, “a produced ‘show’ that profiles some of the world’s greatest, most interesting and innovated business thinkers.”

Indeed it does.  Go over to Plaid Nation where you’ll find interviews featuring:

  • Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, talking about his recently completed tumultuous first year at the corporate giant.
  • Steve Pacheco,  Director of Advertising for Federal Express.  Federal Express’s late-delivery rate is tiny.  But when you consider that Fedex delivers millions of packages on any given day, even a fraction of a percentage of late arrivals can amount to a significant number of complaints on Twitter.  In contrast, no one on Twitter is going to post that his Fedex package arrived on time this morning.  That’s just one reason that Fedex has begun to engage in social media.
  • An inspiring visit to the Make it Right project, an organization started by Brad Pitt to help rebuild New Orleans’ post-Katrina neighborhoods with economically and environmentally sustainable housing.
  • A talk with the people running the The Q Hotel  – the first green hotel in Kansas City and one of only 11 hotels in North Amercia that has been certified green.

And that’s just a small selection.  All in all this year’s Plaid Nation July tour spent time with inspirational movers and shakers in Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Branson Missouri, Jackson Mississippi and New Orleans.  And the tour members shared their experiences through a vibrant combination of videos, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts.

What strikes me most about the Plaid Nation tour is its generosity.  Of course Plaid launched the tour to promote their business.  But  they realize they have the most to gain by giving.  Everyone who visits Plaid Nation profits from the ideas and inspiration they discover there, while Plaid profits from the exposure, sharing the way think and work, and letting potential clients get to know the people who make Plaid what it is.  And of course the people and projects they visit gain through the exposure as well.

Apparently it works.  Plaid says the tour has been a major driver of new business since its inception.

So pay a visit to Plaid Nation.

And to Plaid Nation I’d just like to ask, can we hope to see you in Germany some day?

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Acquiescence isn’t enough, marketers should actively embrace objectivity from their blogging partners

Much discussion has erupted lately on the topic of partnerships between mom bloggers and marketers.  It seems to have started with a call for a PR “blackout” from Momdot, a mom blogger community:

MomDot is challenging bloggers to participate for one week in August in a PR BLACKOUT challenge where you do not blog ANY giveaways, ANY reviews, and Zero press releases. In fact, we don’t want you to talk to PR at ALL that whole week.  We want to see your blog naked, raw, and back to basics. Talk about your kids, your marriage, your college, your hopes, your dreams, your house and whatever you can come up with for one week.

Burnout, not objectivity, is the reason behind MomDot has recommended a blackout.  They suggest that the array of product reviews, promotions, giveaways, etc. in which mom bloggers engage is distracting them from more general content about home and kids.  Nevertheless, the question of blogger objectivity has come up in posts about the blackout, and the issue of objectivity, paid sponsorship and editorial vs. commercial content has been a hot topic in the blogosphere for awhile, and recently in a New York Times article, as increasing numbers of marketers link up with bloggers for the purpose of reviewing or promoting their products.  Recently the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced that it is reviewing its guidelines for “endorsements and testimonials in advertising” with bloggers in mind.

Compensation for product reviews takes on different forms — e.g. pay per review, free stuff, promotional giveaways — but what is common to all is that most bloggers will only agree to the deal if the marketer in question allows them to write honestly about the product.  While bloggers say this allows them to maintain their integrity, one has to wonder if  — even with the best of intentions — they can remain truly objective when being compensated.  Won’t there be a little voice, whispering from the subconscious depths of their mind, suggesting that, despite everything the marketer says, a negative assessment will reduce the chances of being offered a paid review in future?

That’s why marketers shouldn’t simply agree to honesty and objectivity from their blogging partners, they should embrace it actively and vocally.  Here’s why it’s in their interest to do so:

  • The online social community space rewards transparency, while it sniffs out and exposes secrecy and collusion.  A marketer who tries to manipulate product reviews will be found out eventually.  That negative word-of-mouth will spread exponentially and the overall take away will be that something must be wrong with your product, if you weren’t confident enough to let the product speak for itself, free from manipulation.
  • In contrast, a marketer who makes it known that it demands absolute honesty from its blogging partners builds trust and credibility.  It tells people that you’re completely confident in the quality of your product.
  • Negative criticism isn’t a threat, it’s a fantastic source of knowledge and opportunity.  You can learn better than any focus group or quantitative test about the strengths and weaknesses of your product through an honest assessment from a blogger and the ensuing comments and online conversations about that assessment.
  • The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.  The blogosphere will forgive a mistake, provided that you listen to the criticism, acknowledge the problem and keep everyone informed about what you are doing to fix things.  You have nothing to fear, and everything to gain, provided you listen, show that your listening, take action and follow up.

Several blog posts I read on the topic of transparency and objectivity talk about the steps bloggers should take to make their disclosure and review policies clear to marketers who approach them.  This suggests that bloggers feel the need to defend their wish to remain transparent and  objective when it comes to paid-for product reviews.  Similarly, the FTC’s actions to revise its policies regarding endorsements and testimonials to address online practices would indicate that it doesn’t think the marketing community is taking adequate steps to self-regulate.  The alleged need for these policy changes implies that, generally speaking, marketers are more inclined to manipulate online reviews and comments about their products, rather than encourage the transparency and objectivity that brings true value to both the marketer and the customer.

It’s hard to say definitively if marketers are “doing the right thing” when it comes to embracing objectivity from their blogging partners.  However, when I think of all the articles, posts and comments I have read on the issue, I can’t recall any I’ve seen that have come from a marketer.  If you have, please let me know.

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Why is social media off to a slow start in Germany?

I came across two interesting blog posts discussing the fact that social media seems to be off to a slow start in Germany compared to the United States.  This reflects my own experience, as I find that most of the social media blogs I read (and podcasts I listen too) originate from my native land.  There are a couple of exceptions, and of course, as I am an American living in Germany, I have a certain propensity to read and listen to commentary in my mother tongue.  But still there is no doubt that compared to the number of blogs and podcasts originating State side, it’s slim pickings in good old Germany.

The post in ReadWriteWeb concerns itself mostly with a comparison between blogging and social media activity in the US and Germany.  More interesting are Felix Salmon’s 10 reasons why the blogosphere is failing to thrive in Germany.  While he writes specifically about blogs on economics, I think the points he’s identified apply to blogging in general.  These include:

  • A high degree of respect for traditional standard qualifications and sources of authority.  (As the world knows, questioning authority has not been a historical strength of the Germans — at least not during the first half of the last century.)
  • A general discomfort on the part of Germans to be seen as outsiders, as many bloggers see themselves.
  • Less inherent respect for the voice of the people or the common man, compared to America.
  • A propensity to be methodical and comprehensive in expressing a point of view, whereas the style of blogs (not to mention micro-blogs) favors the succinct, the sound byte and the spontaneous.  (Think of Wagner vs. Puccini.)

Map of Europe

When people ask me about certain typical characteristics of Germans (respect for authority, heightened sensitivity to instability, initial caution and reserve in regard to strangers), I cite one of my favorite theories.  It all goes back to the Thirty Years’ War.  This was one of the bloodiest conflicts in European history, it was played out mostly on German soil, a substantial portion of the civilian population was slaughtered, and society as a whole was shaken to its foundations.  It was a watershed event that left a deep and enduring need in the collective German psyche to maintain social stability and established institutions.

I am more optimistic than the writers of these posts about the future of blogging and social media in Germany.  By virtue of the borderless social web, younger generations of Germans are being exposed to, influenced by and participating in this new style of shared thinking and ideas.  And in so doing, perhaps they are eliminating the last vestages of an ingrained, common societal “angst” and exaggerated caution when it comes to expressing themselves spontaneously.  One hopes this will set their social media spirit free and enable them to embrace the blogosphere and podosphere with the same gusto and enthusiasm as their fellow post-generation-Xers on the other side of the Atlantic.

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The resurrection of an iconic German ice cream bar through online communities and social media

When I first came to Germany in 1989, I became enamored of an ice cream bar on a stick called Nogger Choc.  It was similar to a  favorite Good Humor bar variety from my childhood, the name of which I no longer remember.  Both had an outer chocolate shell, coating a creamy wedge of ice cream, and in the middle, as a crowning conclusion to the the whole taste experience, a delicious hard, chunky, chewy chocolate core.

In 2001, Nogger Choc was taken off the market by Langnese ice cream, a division of Unilever, never to be heard from again.  At least that’s what Langnese, and many consumers, must have thought.  But in 2008 Langnese reversed course and reintroduced Nogger Choc.  According to a presentation by Edelman Digital, it was the largest selling new product launch from Langnese.

The successful reintroduction of Nogger Choc was initiated by, and executed through, social media and online communities.  Above-the-line communications were not part of the picture.  And the impetus to bring back the brand didn’t originate with Langnese, it was thanks to a group of Nogger Choc passionate consumers.

It all started when Benjamin Gildemeister launched an online petition directed to Langnese, after he discovered that there were many others like himself who longed for the return of their beloved Nogger Choc.  Over five-thousand people signed.  But even more people, over 16,000, became members of the “We miss Nogger Choc” community on StudiVZ, a German online social network for students.

Langnese was impressed by the passion of these brand lovers.  And here’s what they did that was really smart.  They realized this was a business opportunity that could be best fulfilled by collaborating with the very online community that was calling for the comeback of the Nogger Choc.  And they initiated that comeback by starting their communications right where it had all begun — in the social web.

They kicked-off with an online video of the marketing director and brand manager announcing that Nogger Choc was back and thanking the community for alerting Langnese to the “big mistake” it had made in taking the brand off the market.  By engaging with the community to spread the word in blogs, forums and other online communities, Nogger Choc attained 150,000 impressions online.  That established the platform for generating traditional PR around the relaunch in mainstream media generating an additional 40 million impressions. (All figures from the Edelman Digital presentation.)

Blog post announcing Nogger Choc come-back

Blog post announcing Nogger Choc comeback

All-in-all, a winning case for the power of online communities and social media, complete with happy end.  Or is it?  There appear to be a few clouds on the bright new horizon for Nogger Choc.  The same social web that was the springboard for the relaunch is yielding a number of critical voices.  Some Nogger Choc fans claim the product isn’t the same as the one they know and loved.  Among other things, they say the chocolate core is too small and soft.  If that’s the case, Langnese should have known better.  You can’t pull the wool over the eyes, or the taste buds, of your most passionate consumers, whose disappointment and critique will spread like wildfire through the online community.  And from there it could eventually be picked up by more mainstream media, just as the relaunch was.

I haven’t yet tried the resurrected Nogger Choc, so I don’t know if it’s as delicious as the one I learned to love when I first came to Germany.  As soon as I do, I’ll let you know.

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