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Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

Back in the mid-70’s, I used to ride the bus to junior high with a kid called “Tiger” Jackson.  Actually, none of us called him “Tiger” but apparently someone in his family did and he liked the sound of that a whole lot better than “Bill Jr.”  Tiger was never particularly popular but he was always the first to have any comedy record–George Carlin, Steve Martin, The National Lampoon Troupe–and somehow, the mere act of owning and sharing that material lent him a consideration he wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise.

I hadn’t thought about Tiger in three decades but yesterday we had a long discussion about social networks with a client that is getting very active in that space and facing the challenges every corporation does as they make the foray into the less-charted world of earned media.  As we explained the “Hey Everybody!” nature of Facebook and the “Hey anybody!” nature of Twitter to a curious if bemused seventy-year old, the question of “But…why?” came up again and again.  “Why do people spend so much time on these networks?”  “Why do they stop what they’re doing to write about it?”  “Why do they think anyone would care?”

We try to answer these queries with intellectual theses about the need for connection in a socially-isolating world where people bowl alone…  We wax philosophical on how technology empowers a cognitive expansion of our collective Dunbar numbers…  But at it’s heart, this need to broadcast what we’re doing, what we think, or what we have found to an unseen audience that includes friends, nodding acquaintances and a considerable amount of total strangers, bears more than a trace of narcissism.  “Look at me!  Follow my links!  Enjoy this comedy brought to you…by me!

Picture 2I type this fully aware that this insight indicts me and my social network habits perhaps most of all.  I write this blog most weekdays, creating lessons on marketing for…well, for whomever stumbles across them.  But I want people to stumble across them so I send out links to these posts over Twitter and LinkedIn.  Every morning during my commute, I try to find some topical story to inspire a one-liner for my Facebook status update.  I tell myself that I do these things because I need firsthand knowledge of social networking or that writing about contemporary advertising forces me to develop an intellectual discipline during these rapidly-evolving times.  And all of that is true.

But that hardly explains why I check my blog stats everyday to see how many people read the post.  Or why I secretly thrill when a friend on Facebook ‘likes my status’ or someone re-tweets a link.  Or why so many people on twitter spend hours each day, forwarding links like a modern day Tiger Jackson.  All of that springs directly from narcissism; a narcissism every client wading into the waters of social networking with hopes of spreading their messages would be well advised to keep in the forefront of their minds.  As an advertiser in social media, your wants and needs will always fall a distant second to your audience, unless you find a way to align your needs with theirs.  If that seems unthinkable, just read the first few paragraphs of this MobileInsider post by Steve Smith.  As he winds up for his pitch against ill-considered mobile phone apps, he says this: “For the benefit of those consumer brands that weren’t listening the first few hundred times this has been said, consumers do not wake up in the morning thanking the lord they live in a country where they get to worship your brand and see life through its narrow self-serving lens. That only happens in the retro-fantasies of Don Draper and the households of top executives at many of these major brands.”  Ouch.

Adjusting to the foundational narcissism that fuels social networks not only presents a real challenge, but a direct juxtaposition to the necessary narcissism of every corporate marketer.  Which is why these are, and will continue to be, very interesting times…

Of course, if you feel differently, I welcome your comments.  Even if you think my thinking is way off-base, the narcissist in me will take comfort knowing you responded.  Bless you.

Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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The HSBC 'Points of View' Campaign   

The HSBC ‘Points of View’ Campaign

For the past four years, HSBC has run a provocative poster campaign from JWT.  Using a brilliant media buy in high traffic airport jetways, the ads highlight paradoxical points-of-view.  Simple graphics and headlines illustrate the insight that people from different regions, backgrounds or cultures often view the same phenomena in vastly different ways.

More than anything, this campaign demonstrates the fungible nature of opinion; something that’s become all the more relevant with the massive informational and behavioral changes brought on by the pervasive, worldwide adoption of the participatory Web 2.0.  By most any measure, opinion’s recently emerged mass distribution channel makes it far more impactful than TV, print, and radio combined.  We may not think of it as a traditional medium per se, but we ignore it at our peril.  As word-of-mouth experts are fond of saying, as much as 92% of all purchase decisions are driven by recommendation, which is nothing more than vocalized opinion.  More importantly, opinions have never been easier to come by; out culture is literally awash in it.

Google “review of Pixar’s Up” and you get 3.6 million entries in .33 seconds…  Every product on Amazon features buyers’ ratings and other key retailers like iTunes, NetFlix and eBay encourage prominent feedback opportunities.  The crushing volume of blogs and soon the exponentially larger world of Tweets can be simply searched.  We even edit our own networks to match our personal opinions, watching Fox News, listening to Air America, or subscribing to magazines and blogs because they reflect our personal politics.  Opinion is literally everywhere and louder than it has ever been.

All of which threatens the relevance and usefulness of those long-held marketing saws ‘brand truth’ and ‘consumer truth.’  What is ‘truth’ in a wold where opinion holds such dominance?  And whose truth?  Can there truly be a universal product or consumer truth?

Instead of the classic Venn diagram that guided years of integrated marketing by highlighting the intersection of ‘brand truth’ and ‘consumer truth’ we now have one vastly larger, much less uniformly shaped universe of consumer opinion, with all of it’s variants, anomalies and conflict.  Brands are opinions–and so our agency job today is to determine not something as debatable as brand truth, but rather the Brand Authenticity (and yes, Authenticities) within all of that opinion and then help meld and coalesce them into a universally-accepted Brand Authenticity.

Do that, and you bring powerful alignment to the often warring worlds of paid and earned media.

At least, that’s my opinion…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Yep, for the moment I’m setting aside Groundswell and Buyology for all 480 pages of Story, a ten year old, way too heavy hardcover that focuses mainly on the craft of screenwriting.  Why?

Today's Marketing Must-Read

Today's Marketing Must-Read

Because I no longer believe that campaigns measure up in our web 2.0, socially networked world.  Today, we broadcast our messages into an environment where we can control them perhaps seventy percent of the time.  Consumers drive the other thirty percent: blogging, posting reviews, tagging Flickr photos, making YouTube videos and simple word of mouth recommendations.  When we must cede control of the message nearly a third of the time, we need to rethink every assumption we hold regarding pushing out campaigns.

And that takes me back, not immediately to McKee’s 1997 hardcover, but rather some 17,000 years to the Paleolithic age in the South of France.  Admittedly, I wasn’t there, yet those prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux still possess an eerie power all these eons later.  Because those strangely-dynamic images of bulls and horses vividly engender the notion of story; a story told once, then again, then tens of thousands of times, evolving, changing and growing with each new storyteller.

The Magdalenian Age's Must Read

The Magdalenian Age's Must Read

And that takes me back to McKee.  As marketers, we must get really smart about the principles of storytelling. If we can shape compelling brand stories that motivate and engage our consumers, and at the same time specifically identify and highlight foundational aspects of those brand stories, then we will make it easier for our consumers to add their own experiences to our brand story foundation, personalizing the brand to themselves and evangelizing it to all of their friends.  And that sounds like a way forward: not thinking about campaigns, but obsessing over story.

Besides, “campaign” is such a warlike word.  “Story” is so much more inviting, so much more one-to-one, so much more fundamentally human and authentic.  

You know, like the best brands.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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On Strunk and White…and Marty.

dsc_0191For the past twenty years, my wife’s brother-in-law Marty has steadfastly refused to use the word ‘party’ as a verb.  His diligence straddles that lonely border between nobility and futility, yet still, he holds to his standards.

I couldn’t help thinking of Marty tonight when I tripped across this Alexander Haig-esque bit of torturous new lexicon: ‘blogcation.’  In a small call out near the top of the page, the site’s author announced he was giving himself a ‘blogcation.’

Whoa.  I hardly tell anyone I’m blogging yet cause I’m not quite comfortable with that as a root word.

I’m a writer; I write.  ‘Blogging’?  Still trying to toss that off my tongue without tripping.

Which puts me a long, long way away from a blogcation anytime soon.  For better or for worse.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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