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Changing Brand Opinions of Consumers

Posted on December 22, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Apple, blog, consumer marketing, iPhone, Mac, marketing, Twitter, viral marketing |

A recent HARO post, a reporter asked the following:

“Looking for experts on consumer behavior or branding strategies or even psychology to discuss how press/consumers develop an opinion about a company and whether/how that opinion can be swayed.”

It got me excited that someone may be looking for new ways to engage with consumers other than the same old shotgun marketing that has been going on. I focused on consumers, as that is my area of expertise.

Here was my response:

Consumers are influenced in their opinions of brands by many factors:

Engagement – a consumer’s actual experience with a brand. This usually but not always refers to their actual use of a brand’s product or service. Sometimes this can manifest itself in their experience with the brand’s customer service.

Marketing – of course marketing, advertising, coupons and the like are a big influencer, or brands wouldn’t spend the money! A fine example is Apple. They developed a product (iPod) that was marketed as hip, cool, and trendy. Their psychographic was not just people who were hip, cool, and trendy, but those who thought they were, and those who wished they were.

PR – this taps into the same channel as above, what people are reading or hearing about a product.

Peers – Peers have replaced celebrity endorsements in the mind of consumers. They’re not going to by a t-shirt because Michael Jordan wears it (much to Hanes’ chagrine), they are going to buy it because their big brother wears it. Consumers are much more likely to engage with a brand based on what kind of experience a close contact, friend or family, has had with the brand. This may mean that I’ll buy a CD (or more likely download an mp3) of a new artist because my buddy Roy likes them (he and I have similar, but not identical tastes), or I may decide not to make the purchase because my buddy Steve (whose tastes I can barely stand) recommended them.

Peripheral Peers – while these aren’t close contacts, they are other consumers with a similar psychographic makeup. For example, my wife and I are expecting our first child in February. She did not put a single item on our baby registry without reading every single review on the site of the company through which we’re making a list. Often she would double check the reviews on another site, say a portal like thebump.com, or with our neighbor who has a 6 month old (see Peers). While these influencers have less of an impact, they make it easier to get input from those with the same mindset. I’ve used Twitter recently to get feedback from my Followers on a video camera I’m looking to purchase. This gives me a broad range of honest, yet in-depth feedback. I have to take some with a grain of salt, like the podcast pro who only uses high end Canon products, or the 22 year old that just love, love, LOVES her Flip Mino (mostly because it’s pink I think).

As a side note, I use the term psychographic when discussing groups with similar interests or mindset. A 16 year old boy and a 60 year old woman wouldn’t necessarily be in the same demographic, yet when considering marketing for the New England Patriots, it is important to keep in mind that they belong to the same psychographic: New England Patriots fans. I find that targeting a psychographic is much smarter than targeting a demographic. A psychographic is a qualified lead, while and demographic is a quantity play. When I was 16 I knew many other 16 year olds, they were all very different with very different interests, why would anyone want to market to all of us the same way?

As for your question on whether or how a consumer or PR reps opinions can be swayed, it depends:

What has lead them to form an opinion? If their negative opinion is based on marketing a good Peripheral Peer review would do it. This or a Peer influencer would overcome almost all other types of influencers. My brother-in-law got an iPod that gave him endless trouble. He was totally turned off of Apple products. Yet, after a year of influence based on my own engagement with the brand (iPod, iPhone, Macs and home and work), he changed his mind. He has since bought a new iPod, an iBook and has been begging for an iPhone. Peer input is the strongest influencer, and in it’s absence, Peripheral Peer input. Both are hard to overcome, Peer being the hardest. Only ground breaking marketing and PR can change a negative Peer influence to positive.

I assume that the question pertained to changing a negative opinion to a positive one. That takes alot of work. However, changing a positive opinion to a negative one is pretty easy. All of the influencers I’ve mentioned above can very quickly change a consumer’s opinion about a brand. Recently a viral email was sent around showing images of dead chickens (not killed FOR selling, but long dead) being cleaned for sale to Walmart. I received it from several sources and forwarded it to many more. Regardless of any of the recipients’ past interaction with Walmart, I’d guess that few that saw the email would be very likely to go back to Walmart. PR mistakes, bad press, word of mouth or a bad personal exchange with any brand can very quickly change an opinion.

That being said, customer service goes a long way. I’ve had some trouble with my car and my computers. In each case, my frustration was quickly erased by excellent customer service. In every case, a similar engagement with a brand would have sent me to a competitor, not to mention negative word of mouth. However, thanks to excellent encounters with customer service, I’m an even bigger fan of the brands (signing up for their newsletter, becomming a brand ambassador).

Customer service is going to become a larger part of corporate marketing budgets in the future as products and services (as well as advertising) become more personalized how-the-economy-back-during-the-depression-of-2009-changed-the-world-part-8-marketing), advertising becomes trickier, and more brands are vying for the eye of every consumer.

One of the best low-cost ways to generate positive branding is to find brand ambassadors like myself, those with peripheral or direct peer influence, and take advantage of them. I hear and have experienced being a targeted blogger or Twitter user who is engaged by a brand. The brand would send products, ask for, or pay for reviews, hoping that the blog or Tweets would influence others. This is a demographic approach that doesn’t often work. Many bloggers won’t do it, often their readers will see through it. Rather than finding digital influencers in general, who will at best ineffectively market their product, brands should take the extra time to find those who are already fans, ambassadors or at least interested in their products and services. These are your influencers!

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How Being a Social Network Butterfly Can Help You Land a Job and Improve Your Career

Posted on October 20, 2008. Filed under: blog, BlogSpot, Facebook, Google, Heroes, iPhone, MySpace, Obama, Red Sox, Social Network, Star Trek, Twitter, TypePad, Web 2.0, WordPress | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This article was originally written as a 3-part piece for Talent Zoo. I got enough positive feedback (and found it slowly getting buried beneath new blog posts), that I thought I’d re-post it here in it’s entirety. Since this was written alot has happened with Social Media, social networks and the job market. This has not effected the overall message in the blog post, as a matter of fact, it has made it even more important to get involved in social networks.

It’s no secret that Social Networking is huge. It’s also obvious that it is continuously changing. Friendster gave way to MySpace, which is fighting to retain users that are quickly immigrating to Facebook, all the while; many of us have snuck off to Twitter and FriendFeed. If these are the only sites you know, you only know about 1/10000th of what makes up the social network universe. Don’t feel bad, few can wrap their head around the breadth and depth of SoNets, and no one is omniscient enough to have even heard of most of them.

SoNets are a fact of life and business. If you’re reading this, you’re on Talent Zoo, which means you’re looking for a job or an employee. Businesses can feel free to hire me to consult with them about SoNets and Social Media (SoMe), this one is for the job hunters.

So you’ve got your resume perfect, it gives a brilliant overview of your skills, talent, and experience. You’re already a step ahead of me! You’ve briefed your references so they talk about your strengths and not what you did at the last company outing. If you’re a creative, you’ve got your portfolio book, site, or iPod full of your best work. That should do it right? Not exactly. What happens when your future employer’s HR staff Googles you? They’ll get to know you really well or not. They may find nothing, not a big deal; unless you’re a creative, marketer, advertiser, programmer, you get it. If you’re in the business you’d better be online. ‘Why’ should be obvious, we’ll get to ‘where’ later. Let’s talk about ‘how’.

How you present yourself online, in SoNets or otherwise is as important as how you present yourself in person. Even more so since this may be your first impression to potential employers, and you know what they say about first impressions. This goes not just for job hunters involved in advertising or interactive, but for everyone. Most savvy employers won’t hold your MySpace pictures against you, some may. The Internet is public domain. Everyone can see anything you’ve posted online. So those party pictures, blogs about Star Trek and forum rants are just a click away for anyone who wants them. If you want be treated as a professional, take care to establish a professional persona online. Keep your comments, blogs, etc. professional. This isn’t to say you can’t be yourself online. On the contrary, be as personal and wacky as you want. Just do it with a non- related screen name that you only share with friends. Speaking of which, if you’re on Facebook, get two accounts. One for friends that’s private and one for professionals. Don’t let friends or non-business contacts friend you. You’d be surprised how inappropriate your college buddies or that girl you just met might be on your Wall! (update: soon you’ll be able to use Gathr.me, so you won’t need multiple accounts. Just one account and multiple public pages)

For those thinking, ‘this is such a pain, why bother’, remember that first impression I mentioned? By presenting a skilled and experienced face on social networks, you can get a jump on the competition. By getting involved in professional forums you can position yourself as an eager learner, a helpful pro, even as an expert in your field.

You can get much more from social networks than just a chance to show your mettle. SoNets are a great source of education. Other users can help you solve problems, point you to tutorials and other resources, turn you on to industry news and events, even hook you up with contacts.

“Okay, I get it, give a little, get a little, put my best face forward. But where?” There is no right answer. If I was talking just to 3D artists, I’d suggest niche sites like CGTalk.com. You’ll have to spend a little time Googling to find the best niche networks to get involved with. For SoNets that aren’t so niche, a good place to start is our old friend Facebook. FB has a great many groups, some as random as My Name Is Durwin (of which I am a member of course), or as obvious as Design & Typography. Professional groups aren’t just on Facebook though, MySpace and others have some worth joining. There are a bunch of great sites dedicated to professionals only, chief among them, LinkedIn. If you don’t have an account here, you’re, quite frankly, nuts. Talent Zoo is a great site for job searching. Not only does it offer great articles (feel free to agree below) and job boards, but also gives you a chance to interact with colleagues and potential employers.

If you have a unique interest, alot to say, or ADD (all of which I’m very proud of), consider subscribing to or starting a blog. There is no end to the number of general and niche industry blogs, from technology to job hunting, advertising to life hacking. Got something on your mind? For free you can create as many blogs as you like with sites like WordPress, Blogspot (which somehow became Blogger when I wasn’t looking), to name a few. It’s as easy as using Word. Much more than an online diary, it’s a great way to discuss your ideas and get feedback from readers. If you want to develop a larger social network, consider using Ning to launch a blog that can turn into a fill-fledges, multi-member social network. D.C. Insider Ariana Huffington turned her blog into a multi-author, political blog network worth millions.

Of course, everyone is talking about Twitter now. It has actually become my #2 news source, after CNN and tied with the Huffington Post. I’ve made tremendous contacts and learned an enormous amount of helpful and professional facts, as well as a tremendous amount of inane and personal facts! “Isn’t that where geeks go to talk about their latest podcast and what happened on Heroes?” Of course it is. But it’s much more. There is nowhere that the conversation is more raw and to the point than Twitter. In 140 characters, you’ll get everything from Red Sox plays to the latest on the McCain and Obama campaigns, behind-the-scenes images and commentary from industry events. You’ll also get help with technical problems, employee referrals, heads-up on new products, new sites and new jobs. There is a fun movie on Twitter.com that explains the service. Your best bet would be to begin by following some people whose user name you know (like mine) and see who they’re talking to. Pick the ones having interesting conversations and follow them, then see who they are following. It’s as exponential as it is experiential. Twitter isn’t just for online chat. I’ve met dozens of the people I converse with everyday at industry events. As a matter of fact, that’s how I found out about the event in the first place. Even out-of-town Tweeps come into town; they get treated to a Boston Tweet-up!

Twitter is not a place to join and start begging for jobs, or beating people over the head with your CV. LinkedIn is not the place to start Friending everyone at a company you’ve never worked at in hopes of getting an inside referral. In any social network, just like when visiting a foreign country, get to know the local customs. See how people interact, what they are interested in. You may find it’s not the right place for you. But, don’t worry, there are so many social networks, you’ll very easily find one that suits you whether you are job hunting, trying to change careers, or looking to hire.

If, like me, you find it difficult to focus on several disparate social networks, or find time to run or keep up with a blog, you may want consider microblogs. Twitter us the best known, but Pownce and Jaiku offer similar services. Twitter’s limited 2 140 characters, so u need 2 learn 2 Twitter shorthand + b concise w your comments 2 fit them in2 1 microblog submission. Everyone using these services is restricted to the same limit, but despite, or perhaps because, of this, you can very quickly pick up some gems. Just this evening I learned: of new OpenSource training videos, that Twitterers rather than major media first broke the news about the LA earthquake, and found a colleague in need of traditional and online branding experts to write for her new site. Looks like I’m going to be spending more late nights typing away at the virtual keyboard of my iPhone while watching man-movies on Spike (Jaws 2 finished, I’m on to The World Is Not Enough)! Like any SoNet, there is great deal of irrelevant junk, but, thanks to Twitters newly purchased search engine and third party sites like TwitterPacks, you can search for subjects and people of interest and Follow (subscribe) to that person’s feed. Who knows, you may gain your own Followers. I’m following 170 people ranging from CNN to Digg’s Kevin Rose and Robert Scoble and am being followed by 184. Just remember, even in microblogging, keep it professional or at least make sure you don’t say anything you’ll regret.

Everything I’ve mentioned will work to increase your search engine visibility, your networking possibilities and your name recognition. Kind of like building a brand isn’t it? Brand YOU. Brand “you need a job”, brand “you are an asset”. Use these channels to promote yourself but don’t spread yourself too thin. Some networks are a great place to

just sign up and post your resume and contact info. Some are full of colleagues and friends that will overrun your inbox. Decide which require minimum effort and stay on top of the ones that require more. Above all, make sure you keep your contact info and resume up to date.

There will be a lot to manage at first but you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t worry, relief is on the way. There are a few people, including myself, that are working on ways to aggregate, or bring together many of these social networks into one manageable tool.

Remember:

Don’t mix business with pleasure – keep your private-self jus that, private, and make your professional-self public.

Find the way to interact online that best suits you – join a SoNet, subscribe or start a blog, Twitter away.

Be easy to find, be up to date – Spread yourself around to as many SoNets as possible without spreading yourself too thin.

Always put your best face forward – be professional, don’t say anything you’ll regret.

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Social Networks Show Users are Not Designers. And That’s Okay.

Posted on July 16, 2008. Filed under: blog, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, Facebook, Michael Durwin, MySpace, Social Network, Twitter, Web 2.0, WordPress |

I recently came across fellow Twitter-buddy Bokardo’s blog on designing for social networks:

Ugliness, Social Design, and the MySpace Lesson

Good points all around. An important thing to keep in mind is Form Follows Function. In other words, first it has to work, then it can be made to look pretty. Well, like it or not, MySpace works, despite the fact that it is not pretty. But pretty is a subjective term, while working is not. In order to work, in the realm of social networking and personalization, the user must be presented with the ability to make their site their own. That means supplying the function and letting them supply the form. If the MySpace example tells us anything it’s that most users have no taste! Any designer could tell you that! It takes skill, talent and education to know good design when you see it, much less create good design. If users were all capable of creating good design, we designers would be out of a job. MySpace decided that stopping at Function suited them just fine. With their user base and cash flow, who could argue with that?

Facebook, on the other hand, has taken a different point of view. They are providing the Function and 99% of the form. The only personalization there is your apps, your friends and your pictures.

Twitter and WordPress are in the middle. Twitter (who is obviously still working on their Function) allows a bit of form to be handled by their users, but not alot. Twitter allows users to add a picture as an icon and change their background and colors. Both merely complement the user interface. With WordPress, if you’re using their hosted version, you can choose from a variety of templates to change your layout, or you can design or have someone else design a WordPress template for you. This last is not easy for a layman, so it is often someone with design skills who does it. At worst, a WordPress design can be boring, but at least it’s not as hideous as what some MySpace users are doing.

So, allowing the Form portion of your social network’s user interface to fall into the hands of it’s users may not be pretty, but that’s what social networks are all about, What the User Wants. The user has become the designer, for better or worse, of their own experience. Who knows if this will be a continuing trend? Well, maybe we have a hint already. Users in droves have been flocking to Facebook over the last year or so, which offers much less freedom of expression, at least visually. What I’ve heard over and over from those that have abandoned MySpace for Facebook, besides that it’s for stalkers and spammers (thanks Big Media), is that Facebook looks better. Maybe users are smartening up, and realizing that they enjoy elegant design, maybe, with all the different aspects of their real and online lives, they are too busy to design their experience and prefer to have one handed to them.

We will see how it shakes out over the coming year.

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Twitter Spam. It Had to Happen Sooner or L8r.

Posted on July 12, 2008. Filed under: blog, Google, Michael Durwin, MySpace, Social Network, SXSW, User Generated Content, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , |

I was introduced to Twitter back on March of 2007. Everyone at SXSW jumped on it. I dropped it for awhile as only a few people I met at SXSW were using it. Since then a ton of folks have jumped on board. It’s become a very important part of my social media, technology and all around cool stuff networking. I use Twitter for a variety of things; to communicate with friends, to engage in discussions with others of similar interest, to find out what others are interested in, to share my interests or thoughts with others and to learn. This last one is key for me. There is so much going on in this web2.0 world that no one can stay on top of it all. Luckily, so many others are keeping up on it, collectively we can stay on top of it all, by searching, learning and sharing.

I don’t follow a huge amount of people, only those I’ve mentioned above, friends, acquaintances, and a few of the Twitteratti (big shots like Kevin Rose and Robert Scoble). I follow about 50 folks, and about 60 follow me. I’m always flattered when someone decides to follow me. After all, they must thing what I’m Twitting is interesting right? Recently I began to receive a few follows that got me curious. Usually someone uses a Twitter handle (mine is mdurwin, I use it everywhere, just Google it!), their name, nickname, combination of first and last name or initials, etc. I’ve seen very few Tweeps (or Tweople, or whatever us Twitter geeks come up with next) using first names and numbers, a common practice with AOL chat and other IM services.

Lately I’ve been getting follows from users with names like Valerie434, or Stella214. I just excepted them and moved on. Then, in one day, I received follows from Lisa1961, Tammy1961, Jessica1986, Angelina1986 and a few more. Twitter spam had caught up with me. Most of these users had a personal page with a link, most to bizrotator.com and a picture that looked like it was either stolen from a MySpace college girl or a Russian bride site.

So, it’s here, Twitter spam. Luckily the most they can do is follow you and hope you click on their link. Only if you follow them will you allow them to push anything on you. The lesson learned: you know it’s gone mainstream when spammers start using it. Here’s a complete list of my spam followers so far:

Valerie434
Jasmin534
Sarah717
Stella214
Bethann35
Lisa1961
Tammy1961
Rhonda1989
Jessica1986
Angelina1986
amymlmer
bethbaker

I’d love to hear from other Twitteratti on this. Is it just me?

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Successful Update of my iPhone Firmware and Playing Super Monkey Ball

Posted on July 11, 2008. Filed under: blog, Boston, Michael Durwin, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I could go back months, where the history of the update began. That would be the announcement of Apps and games. But let’s just stick to the technical stuff shall we?

The story of the successful update of my Gen 1 iPhone began Thursday afternoon around 2pm. I was on Twitter as usual and someone (I believe Kevin Rose, but I could be wrong, my bad) mentioned that Apps were available on iTunes. I did a bit of digging and this was confirmed on MacRumors.com. By searching for a specific App (I used MacRumors suggestion of searching for AIM Application) I was able to access a sub menu and back out to the main Apps directory. I spent gleeful minutes perusing the selection; from the much-anticipated Super Monkey Ball (simply called Monkey Ballz around the office) to the eReader and iPhone Lightsaber. Many ranged in price from $.99 to $39.99 and many more were free. So, I thought, what happens when I try to download one?

iTunes would not allow a download without first updating the software to iTunes 7.7. I tried to update the software through it’s own software update menu to no avail. A little bit of research led me to a link for the download of iTunes 7.7. Once that had been downloaded to my office iMac, unpacked and installed, I was able to doenload any number of free Apps.

Unfortunately my iPhone is synched to my home machine (an ancient, 3-year old G5 dual). The first thing I did when I got home (actually second after I took the pooch out to piddle and poop) was to download iTunes 7.7. I followed the same procedure as in the office and downloaded all of the free Apps that piqued my interest. I also purchased (aaaaaaahhhhhhhh) Super Monkey Ball. I did encounter a few problems here. I couldn’t use my iTunes gift certificate so I opted for a credit card. After several trials and failures I found that it wouldn’t recognize my zip code as being in Brighton, MA where I live but worked fine for Boston. While technically Brighton, Brookline, and Allston (all within a 3 block radius of each other: yuppies, rockers and richies) are all part of greater Boston and my mail to my zip code using Boston still gets through, it is not the address my credit card company has on file. I anticipated this to throw another glitch, butto my releif it did not.

This takes us to about 8pm last night. I wrapped it up and joined my wife to watch So You Think You Can Dance (Joshua blew me away again).

(you can follow this next part as it happened on my Twitter, starting here)

First thing this morning, for me about 7:53 am, I blindly stumbled into my office and plugged in my iPhone. From then to about 10 after 8 I tried to upgrade the firmware, to no avail. Acting on a hunch, and the fact that MacRumors claimed the software was in fact live, I unplugged my soon-to-be happy device, closed iTunes and downloaded v7.7 AGAIN.

This time it took. With 7.7 installed it automatically found the new firmware update and proceeded to update my iPhone. 1 hour later to the minute it was done. At 8:12am I started the update, ran to the shower, got my lunch together, got dressed (for those visualizing, I actually dressed before getting my lunch together. I’m sure me nude fighting with Tupperware is not that attractive to many), and came back. To sit. And wait. For an hour.

I will admit that I have quite a few movies and songs on my iPhone. I’m a motion graphics artist among other things so I keep most of my better work on my phone, making it a handy, mobile portfolio. 23 movies and 390 songs later. 15 free and 1 paid App later. 121 images later. My iPhone update was complete. “Mark the time nurse, 09:12 am.”

While I was a little late for work (which I’m sure I’ll be staying to make up), the process was only mildly frustrating. I think back to getting the iPhone. I left work at noon, arrived at the mall at 1 and 5 hours and 15 minute later I had my iPhone. 10 minutes later, back home, I spent about 10 minutes setting it up for use and was out the door. While this process took less time, but more than it should, I feel bad for those waiting in line for hours with crashed systems and being told to go home. Where, by the way, new members of the iPhone Army STILL can’t set up their phones. Even some with Gen 1 iPhones have bricked Gen 1 phones and non-functioning new phones!

One of my designers took time off this morning to get his very first cell phone, an iPhone. We expected him back by noon. We’ve had some good laughs at the idea of Steve, in line for hours, being told that the system is down. Worse yet, finding that the store is sold out, as I heard from Twitter buddy Matt in San Francisco. It’s 2:54 here in Boston and Steve is not back. We’ve been discussing the possibilities:

A) He’s 5 people from the store, swearing non-stop, waiting for the machines to come back online

B) He was sent home to finish activation where he is
1) Swearing non-stop because he had to go home and is on his way into work anticipating the crap we’re going to give him.
2) Swearing non-stop because iTunes STILL won’t activate his new iPhone

C) Swearing non-stop because he’s been arrested for assaulting an Apple Store employee upon finding out that
1) The iPhone is sold out
2) iTunes won’t allow activation and he’s holding a $300 non-functioning piece of metal, plastic, and glass.

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BMW Shoots Viral Piece, Does it Hit or Miss?

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: advertising, blog, Boston, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, DVD, Facebook, iPhone, Michael Durwin, movies, MySpace, new media, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

BMW movie The Ramp

Earlier this year BMW launched a viral video to promote the launch of it’s new model in the U.S. The video was released as a documentary following the stories of a small Bavarian town named Oberpfaffelbachen. The town’s citizens include a stunt driver, over zealous police chief, event promoter and mayor, trying to save the town from hard financial times. They devise a promotion in which they will launch a 300 horse power BMW 1 Series from a 454 meter (1486.5 feet) ramp from Bavaria, across the Atlantic to the U.S. The town has created an entire festival around the event called Rampenfest. Towns folk are turning their houses into gift shops, town managers are tearing down forests for parking. I won’t give away the ending, but obviously something goes wrong. Not as dramatically as I’d hoped unfortunately.

The quality of the video is excellent, the acting, direction and effects (as subtle as the ramp, as obvious as the teeth) as good as a movie. The video has been seen by millions which can give BMW the opportunity to claim a positive impact, especially considering that it was shot overseas and cost far less than a U.S. 30 second spot. Was it successful? It’s hard to say.

As with any viral, guerilla or virtual advertising, it is hard to judge success. Many still talk about the negative impact of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla stunt, requiring a payout of 2 million to the city of Boston to cover lawsuits and the cost of our crack bomb squad (who apparently can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a light brite!). The press loves to bring up the GM (Chevy) Yukon promotion run on YouTube. Many people made anti-SUV ads from the audio and video clips GM posted in the make-you-own commercial promotion. This brings us to what determines success.

The GM promotion was considered a failure because of the thousands of ads that were created that shed a positive light on the Yukon, there were a few that were negative. But, is that a bad thing? Most people learn by making mistakes or being told they’re wrong. Negative feedback is just as important, if not more important than positive feedback. How will you know how to improve your product unless people tell you what they DON’T like about it? GM learned that there are alot of people that consider their giant SUV bad for the environment and a gas guzzler. If this prompts them to make eco-friendly, gas-conscious improvements to their vehicles, is that a bad thing for the company or the consumer?

And let’s not forget that with the launch of the BMW campaign, the GM promotion was brought up as a failure again. Really? The Chevy Yukon is mentioned in the press for another car manufacturer’s promotion and that’s a bad thing? Sounds like free press to me. Even when a guerilla or viral campaign can’t be measured in sales or doesn’t have quite the immediate impact a company would hope, there is always the fact that it will continue to keep the brand in the public’s conscience for months and years to come.

Brand visibility is the best way to consider whether or not your viral or guerilla campaign is effective. You can’t often track sales back to a campaign like this or even sign-ups. You may get a solid number of visits to your microsite, but when visitors pull down your video, or assets, or talk about it in their blog, it can be difficult to track especially since those co-opted branding placements end up living for months out of your control.

So, how successful will the BMW campaign be? Well, they millions of viewers at the moment. Add on a few million views of the video once people (like me) download the clip to their iPod/iPhone and show it around, upload it to their YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or blog accounts, hundreds of discussions of it in marketing or news related blogs (where I found it) and then it’s recurring mention every time another automaker or major corporation does a viral or guerilla campaign and it sounds like a success to me.

But BMW knows this. They were arguably one of the first to use viral video not just as a tool to sell cars but a way to engage consumers with their brand, and to redefine their brand as cool. I still have a DVD copy of the BMW Movies from the promotion in 2001. The shorts were directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, John Woo, Tony Scott, John Frankenheimer and featured Forest Whitakker, Madonna, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke and others. It received rave reviews at Cannes, from the New York Times, and Time magazine. They very successfully hit their middle-age, married, 150k/yr target.

The new spot however, at least in the words of Marketing VP Jack Pitney, was, rather than target a demographic, to target a psychographic. While most companies want to stick to categorizing their demographics by generation, age and finances, BMW is smart enough to know that they can pull an 8 year old boy and an 58 year old woman into their brand halo just by virtue of the fact that they may share common interests, like flashy cars, or mockumentaries.

Despite my feeling that this viral video may be a bit long for most viewers (35 minutes), I’m fairly certain that the folks at BMW will be pleased with the outcome. And I’m happy to help them broadcast their brand (even though I drive the “other” german car)!

Links:
Official Film Site

BMW Films Wikipedia

BMW Films Site (no videos here)

BMW Film “Star” (you can find the rest of the films here as well)

Digg submission where I first found out about the promotion

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Facebook changes my password without permission

Posted on June 5, 2008. Filed under: blog, Boston, Michael Durwin, Social Network, User Generated Content, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I received the most annoying email today from Facebook. At first I thought it was some shady company just trying to steal my login info but when I tried to log into Facebook I found out it was legit:

Hey Michael,

We have reset your Facebook account password for security reasons. You will need to use the link provided in this email to create a new, secure password for your account. Do not use your old password. In the future, please make sure that when you log in to Facebook, you always log in from a legitimate Facebook page with the facebook.com domain. To reset your password, follow the link below:
[Link was here]
(If clicking on the link doesn’t work, try copying and pasting it into your browser.)

Please contact info@facebook.com with any questions.

Thanks,
The Facebook Team

Why on Earth would they do that? Out of nowhere. I’ve been using Facebook for awhile, it’s not like I just signed up and they didn’t like my password. I have a sneaking suspicion as to why.

I’ve recently been using HELLOtxt. It is a microblog system that allows me to type once, publish many. It allowed me to edit my Twitter, MySpace and Facebook status by typing one message and hitting submit. I just put up another message and both MySpace and Facebook failed.

I’ve reset my Facebook password and reset it for HELLOtxt as well. We’ll see how it works.

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The Internet is DOA

Posted on October 29, 2007. Filed under: blog, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Not dead on arrival of course. If the Earth isn’t covered with ice or dust, a hundred years or more from now our society will look back at our current state of the Internet as a technology in it’s infancy. Web2.0, social networks, ecommerce, user generated content, MMORPGs, virtual worlds, micro-blogs, iPhones, Google Earth… all the Internet has become is, as Carl Sagan would say, the first second of the first minute of the first hour of the first day of the first month of existence. We are living through one of the most important evolutions in the earliest history of this communication platform. Like the telegraph, telephone and television, the Internet began as an electronic experiment and very quickly became the channel through which large, multinational corporations spoke down to use, sold things to us, told us how they could make our lives better, just put in your login, password and credit card number. Recently social desire and technology have converged. A team of programmers are no longer required to build a web site. A camera and lighting crew is no longer needed to broadcast a video.

The Internet revolution is being led by DOA – Distributors, Originators and Audience. With both Google and del.icio.us celebrating birthdays this week it’s important to look at what those companies really do. Google offers a magnificent search tool and an online advertising program. But what are they really doing? They don’t sell the products or make the banners that the ads are for. They don’t create the web sites, videos, pictures or information that people search for. In simple terms they distribute the ads that sell the merchandise and distribute links to the web sites, videos and images. Their adopted child YouTube is a more niche distributor. They distribute videos. Users make them and upload them or users search and watch them. del.icio.us offers social bookmarking. It is basically a place to post links and bookmarks submitted by users. In simple terms, they aggregate then distribute user content.

Scrolling through the who’s who of towering Internet brands you’ll find they mostly belong to the same leg of the tripod, distributors:
Google
MySpace
LinkedIn
Facebook
YouTube
Digg
Second Life
Worlds of Warcraft
Flickr

Of course there are still plenty of traditional companies doing business online such. What is interesting is how many of them are benefitting from this revolution. I’d dare say Apple wouldn’t have sold a million iPhones in 74 days had it not been for the thousands of fake iPhone pictures, blogs, and videos created by eager fans.

The roles of Distributor, Originator and Audience are not set in stone. A Distributor doesn’t have to be a high tech company, nor do the Audience and Originator need to be consumers. In the case of the iPhone, Apple is the originator, it’s fans were the Distributor, at least in a marketing sense, and all of you who have yet to purchase one are the Audience! The “geek” public was largely responsible for distributing news of the iPhone. The ads and TV commercials were merely for those who didn’t surf the web it seems. The rest of us learned all we needed to know and were inspired by blogs, reviews, Flickr images. I imagine there is more than one marketing research firm who would put themselves in the category of audience when tracking the trends of online behavior.

For awhile now television networks, music companies and Hollywood studios have been fighting to control the distribution of their artists. They are scrambling to figure out to be the Originator and the Distributor. I think they feel that this way they can control the Audience. Unfortunately it is very easy for the Audience to become the Distributor, especially if they don’t like the way they are distributed to. Of course for the most part, excluding some pop princess and some hip hop gangsters, the record companies are not the originator, the artist themselves are. What they’ve always needed are the record companies to distribute for them and market. Not so now. The technology is cheap enough that my former bands have been able to put out CDs with production quality to match the major labels. With the current trends we’ll begin to see a surge of artists who become HUGE, with no help from labels, simply by virtue of their talent and leveraging companies like YouTube and MySpace.

This has already happened for the film industry. We saw more buzz for the Blair Witch Project than almost any film before or since. Special effects, editing, film are all within reach of consumers, now so is distribution though many online video sites. Statistics already show that younger generations don’t hover in front of the TV or at record stores like the 30+ year olds have always done. This new Audience is becoming their own Originators and Distributors. They don’t believe commercials. They believe their friends, even if those friends are only known through their screen name.

Few can guess what will happen to business and advertising in the coming years as audiences become more and more niche and consumers close ranks amongst themselves. Will businesses and marketers be savvy enough to stay part of the equation or will we end up selling and marketing products and services to each other like a Madison Avenue commune?

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The Failure of Advertisers in Social Networks

Posted on October 29, 2007. Filed under: blog, Social Network, Web 2.0 |

There has of course been alot of buzz about social networking. Cyber-bullying, child safety, personal information security, and the lot have all been hot subjects among consumers. For Big Business there has been one subject that has dominated conversation: How do we leverage social networks to make money. From an objective standpoint no one can blame companies for wanting to make money, otherwise we couldn’t check out <a href=”http://www.facebook.com”>Facebook</a&gt; email on our <a href=”http://www.apple.com/iphone/”>iPhones</a&gt;, or download the latest Justin Timberlake video to our laptops because we wouldn’t have jobs. From a subjective stand point, we don’t want a bunch of ads popping up all over our screen while we’re looking for nacho recipes for our Labor Day party.

There is no way that the medium of Social Networks will be able to avoid corporate intrusion. Radio was invented to entertain listeners between product ads, TV followed suit, and so has the Internet, all of it, for years. After all, you can’t get something for nothing right?

Much to the cheers of social butterflies, companies are having a tough time marketing online and to social networks in particular (<a href=”http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2196857/traditional-marketing-failing-social-networks”>VNUNET, Aug, 2007</a>). <a href=”http://www.alleyinsider.com/2007/08/confirmed-web-u.html”>The Silicon Alley Insider</a> recently published an article showing how web users avoid eye contact with online ads. Based on research from the Nielsen Norman Group’s recent <a href=”http://www.useit.com/eyetracking/”>eye-tracking usability study</a>, users gravitate toward content, no matter how flashy the ads are. While other <a href=”http://www.asiresearch.com”>studies</a&gt; have found that video ads get 34% more brand recall, my guess is that as those ad types begin to become ubiquitous, they will suffer the same fate as graphic and text ads. One promising statistic is that ads appear to do better if they are related to the content.

One argument may be that ads need to look more like content, to trick viewers, but I think the data so far leads to a bigger concern: the ability of marketers to keep up with consumer habits.

Many of us Internet geeks were very excited about the popularity of <a href=”http://www.secondlife.com”>Second Life</a>. Millions of people were joining, you could fly, build things. Then big companies started to market in the virtual world. Some expected it, others felt threatened. An interesting thing happened. Most didn’t care. No one visited big business’ stores or islands. Companies who were experimenting there started pulling out. Wired Magazine claimed that <a href=”http://www.secondlife.com”>Second Life</a> was dead. Really? Dead to who? The 9+ million users? The 1.5 million who have logged in over the last 2 months? What on earth does this have to do with banner ads Durwin? Well…

What happened to <a href=”http://www.secondlife.com”>Second Life</a> is that big business and advertisers left. Why? Because their tactics didn’t work. Why are banner ads failing? Because the tactic doesn’t work. Why will making ads look like content fail? Because the tactic won’t work.

The concept of consumer-driven advertising is a tough thing for most advertisers to swallow. For decades advertising has been about telling the consumer or user what to buy, where to shop, who to listen to. With so many choices, and the Internet as a “shop and compare” tool, consumers are no longer just buying what they’re told to. They are asking questions, they are demanding improvements, they are looking for options. According to a recent survey from the <a href=”http://www.centerformediaresearch.com/cfmr_brief.cfm?fnl=070827″>Center For Media Research</a>, 70% of mothers use search engines before making an online purchase and 57% do the same for offline purchases. People aren’t just surfing company web sites and online stores though. They are joining forums and reading blogs, they are talking to regular people about their experiences with products and brands.

In short, they are choosing how they receive information on products.

This effects social and virtual networks in the same way. In <a href=”http://www.secondlife.com”>Second Life</a> for example, why would avatars that can fly, build their own houses, and grow wings want to test drive a car, or buy a plain t-shirt? These may seem like good ideas in the real world but in virtual worlds they are pedestrian. Not only do marketers need to be more creative but they need to develop a deeper understanding of the cultures of Second Life. It’s not just one group of cyber-geeks, but many, many cultures living in a virtual space. Goths, v-sex addicts, gamblers, gamers, 3D modelers, furries and WW2 re-enactment fans represent just some of the denizens of <a href=”http://www.secondlife.com”>Second Life</a>. How can you appeal to all of them the same way? You can’t.

Social networks are becoming more and more niche. There are so many options that they can choose what advertisers to listen to. We’re not talking about a few people. When <a href=”http://www.Facebook.com”>Facebook</a&gt; added a user tracking feature several groups popped up demanding a boycott if the feature wasn’t removed. There’s not enough space here to go into to detail but at least one group was 20,000 strong and the uproar caused <a href=”http://www.Facebook.com”>Facebook</a&gt; to overhaul the new feature and apologize to users.

<a href=”http://www.myspace.com”>MySpace</a&gt;, the current reigning champion of social networks has done an exceptional job of providing marketing opportunities to users. Rather than redesign the site or add features no one wants, they are offering these as a choice to users. The recent Simpson’s movie campaign offered users the ability to Simpsonize themselves and their space. Users could edit Simpson-styled avatars to look like the comic show version of themselves. This, along with home page themes, games, sweepstakes, icons and ringtones made for the biggest marketing blast on <a href=”http://www.myspace.com”>MySpace</a&gt;. The home page was redesigned, kind of. The usually blank sides of the <a href=”http://www.myspace.com”>MySpace</a&gt; home page were Simpsonized as well. This cut down on the need to remove favorite features to advertise. In addition, all of the ad spaces were occupied by Simpsons ads. The combination was overwhelming. But no one complained. Why? Think about who they were talking to. Teens and adults that grew up on the Simpsons. The movie is funny, the goodies are hysterical. Alot of thought and time went into developing marketing assets that were a perfect fit for <a href=”http://www.myspace.com”>MySpace</a&gt; users. They didn’t just repurpose traditional advertising to jam down users throats.

As much as the Z-shaped viewing pattern of books has changed to an F-shaped pattern for web pages, advertisers need to change the way they do things from A-Z. Internet usage among future generations is increasing rapidly, while television viewing and book reading are declining. Consumers aren’t going to give up the power they now have over brands and advertising. That means advertisers need to learn to adapt and they need to do it quickly.

Social networks have had 110 million unique visitors in July alone, up 40% from the previous July (<a href=”http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118825239984310205.html”>comScore</a&gt;). Professionals are flocking in droves to social networks such as Sermo for physicians, InMobile for the wireless industry, AdGabbers for advertisers. New social networks for professionals are popping up quickly. Reuters is launching Reuter’s Space for traders and analysts, Integrative Practitioner for alternate healthcare specialists.

Next week I’ll be talking about how a new group of marketers are using alternate reality gaming (ARGs) to promote movies and video games to phenomenal success.

UPDATE: David Schatsky, president, JupiterResearch says, “While these (social network) sites may appear to be the most effective manner of delivering a message regardless of brand appropriateness,” he said, “by failing to truly understand the audience, viral marketers stand to alienate as many consumers as they interest.”

This was in response to an article detailing how “viral” email campaigns are failing when aimed at younger audiences or social network campaigns aimed at a broad range of audience. Younger online users don’t use email nearly as much as older users and certainly don’t forward advertising on to friends. Older users aren’t as effectively reached via social networks. Which will lead into the upcoming article on ARGs.

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My First iBlog

Posted on June 30, 2007. Filed under: Apple, blog, Browser incompatibility, iBlog, iPhone, Safari, WordPress |

I’m happy to report that the Apple iPhone is currently living up to it’s promise in my hot little hands. I’m only typing a little slower than usual because I’m only using on hand.
This phone is unbeatable. But it’s 2:45am so you’ll have to wait until morning.
p.s. WordPress needs to fix the image upload feature for Safari. It doesn’t work. Otherwise I’d be able to add a picture to this iblog to show more functionality. Fortunately this is a WordPress issue, not an iPhone issue!

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