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August 2008 Archives

Yakity Yak, Brands Talk Back

Friday 29, 2008

The more progressive marketers keep telling us that we're in an Age of Conversation, but I would never see any real evidence of it. Sure, consumers (aka real people) were talking amongst themselves, using communication tools and social nets to spread their words and keep the ambient intimacy going strong. But I rarely see brands take part.

There's Zappos, they're obviously on board and down with the Twitter. Carnival Cruise Lines is getting its microblogging on. Obama is a web 2.0 force of nature. Anything else? I was hopeful that AMC's MadMen was taking a progressive step in the right direction, but that turned out to be the fans taking matters into their own hands and getting burned for it.

I usually see them talking but I rarely hear them answering. It has to be tough to answer the public directly. There's lots of them and one of you. Who speaks for the company anyway? Do you have a community manager? If you're a passion brand you should.

Recently I saw two good examples of brands using YouTube to talk back.

First there was Samsung with its parody unboxing video. Unboxing is a meme where people show pictures or videos of taking their soon to be beloved objects out of the carefully designed packaging they came in. Its usually interesting, but not terribly exciting. Until Samsung asked Viral Factory to make a video for the soon to be released Omnia smart phone:

Then W+K made a viral directly responding to a video made by a fan of the Tiger Woods EA video game revealing a glitch in the then current/now previous version of the game where Woods can walk on water. W+K's video shows that it's not a glitch, "he's just that good."

They also made a video responding to a guy who posts how-to videos on solving a Rubix Cube:

It seems like W+K is finally getting a handle on this whole internet thingamagig. Way to go! About damn time!

via [LA Times, Ad Age, and NotCot]

The MadMen MetaDrama

Tuesday 19, 2008

Most marketers, media outlets, or non-humans use twitter as little more than an RSS Feed. NPR posts their headlines:

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Amazon posts their specials:

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Kind of like how we humans use it, a la 'this is what I'm doing right now,' but without the conversation with other twitter users. It is a rare occasion that brands invest the resources to use twitter to actually have a twitter discourse with their followers who are probably also their customers. CarnivalCruise Lines is a great example of a company that gets the full benefits of using twitter:

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Now I have a new non-person to admire its usage of twitter. Actually, non-people. I am amazed by AMC's MadMen's glorious use of twitter. They have given all of their main characters twitter accounts. It started with the master of 60's advertising creativity, Don Draper:

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I was a little weirded out by a fictional character being on twitter and FINDING ME, but was intrigued enough to follow him back. (Look at me, I'm calling a fictional character "him." How great is that?) Apparently AMC did a great job at finding all the advertising people on twitter. At first I thought it was a time in a bottle thing, but then he started conversing with the real people on twitter:

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Then Joan Holloway came on board:

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And Pete Campbell:

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And Peggy Olson:

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And Bertram Cooper:

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Suddenly we were getting a text driven story on top of the televised story. I love it, I'll follow it, and possibly even engage with it because it gives me something in return for doing so. It gives me a little extra that I wouldn't get on TV. It gives me the characters inner monologue so I feel like I know them better and it gives me another story line to follow.

I'm surprised Heroes hasn't gotten on this little bandwagon. Twitter would fit even better with their brand and audience.

Update:

Apparently this wasn't a brilliant promotional campaign by the AMC marketing department, but a very interesting piece of fan fiction. Now AMC has forced Twitter to take down the fake profiles of a few of the key characters, like Peggy Olson and Don Draper, and left the minor players to twitter a story line involving lawyers, the FBI, and some covert organization called AMC.

I'm not sure what the right call would have been - leaving it be or taking it down. I think its a great thing when your fans take liberties when interpreting your brand, but the loss of control is scary. I think that if the writers had been transparent about their lack of association with AMC this wouldn't have blown up in their faces.

The Rise of the Gastrosexual

Sunday 17, 2008

The Daily Mail in the UK has made what I have known and what many women have known for years - men who know how to cook are hot. There is even a white paper from the Future Foundation that says so.

Men have gone from seeing their household role evolve from being merely providers to becoming full fledged partners in running the household, just as women's roles have expanded to include provider as well. The most interesting part is that men do not see cooking as a chore, but as a hobby to be enjoyed. Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver are two prime hunky examples of this phenomenon. (I don't know who that guy in the middle is)

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Summer is usually the season for the expression of manly food prowess. Men are usually bestowed with the responsibility of overseeing the grill and a lack of skill in cooking meat over flame can immediately result in a demotion from alpha to beta male. I will quote from my friend, Brian Yaeger, as he describes such an event in verse (from him to his female friend regarding the date she brought to the barbecue):

You occupy a plot in a space that's mine
Portrait of Venus with sunflowers on granite walls
A warm glow predating fire
From divergent lands, we converged in this cave
Hungry, thirsty, primitive
Time to feast
I am captain caveman
Grilling flesh on open flame
I know how to handle my meat
Unlike some date you brought
Asking how to grill
A grown lad, never ever grilled
Carnivorous I, Venus flytrap
Delicate him, pansy
Who's the delicate flower in your flower bed?
If he can't cook flesh on the porch
What animal instincts is he lacking in the parlor?
But his hair sure did look good

Nothing like a burn in iambic pentameter. But, men showing off their cooking prowess is no longer reserved for the grill alone. Now men who can tell the difference between parsley and cilantro by sight alone, can cook a slammin' dinner without calling mom, and scoff at anything labeled "Heinz" are on the rise. We can credit this to an increase in single person households and if you're living on your own cooking can be the most creative and enjoyable domestic outlet.

This movement also harkens back to Chris Riley's talk where he mentioned Alice Waters and how a macrotrend will be people wanting to be more connected to the food they eat. We can see evidence of this in not only the rise of the celebrity chef, but also the rise of the celebrity farmer. When both sides of the gender equation take care and pride in what they eat the more we will see real demand fresh food products of quality.

Where is the role of CPGs in this macrotrend? The good news is that macrotrends are slow to spread and fully evolve, so the market will be fairly stable in the near future. In the long view, people will still be multitasked and time starved, so anything that helps our domestic chefs and gastrosexuals prepare delicious wholesome meals in a timely manner will be appreciated. More frozen meal starters, where consumers can do some of the work themselves and be in control of at least some of the ingredients, instead of frozen dinners will be evidence of this.