Tag Archives: branding

The latent sphere of the network society

Time for a brain dump. I have just completed reading work coming from Mor Naaman, Jeffrey Boase and Chih-Hui Lai at Rutgers, slated for CSCW 2010, on the content of messages in what they’ve decided to call “social awareness streams.”

And right there I have an issue. I’m lumping it together with the term “weak ties” which found prominence in the 1940s (well before the internet was considered in social theory) and the found a new audience a few years back with its adaptation to online networks.

Today, referring to the activity on microblogging sites as either of these is probably very limited, based on myriad case studies of individuals and their very real connections and friendship strength, found through CMC. They are neither “weak” (as in traditional notions of acquaintances who can be called upon when needed), nor simply an “awareness” of others in a network. They are also not built in a heirarchical organization – they are horizontal. In fact, Castells’ emphatic assertions that when we talk about communication we are actually discussing realms of power and influence, means that “communication” isn’t a term to be thrown about lightly.

He’s right.

My theory of the strength of these relationships is discovered through a realm of CMC that is primarily representated in phatic communion. The relationships exist as communities within what I call the latent sphere of the networked society. (In this sense, I use the networked society as defined by Manuel Castells.)

ghostbusters slime

You can buy Ghostbusters-type slime like this at http://www.midnightwarriorsentertainment.com

If Vincent Miller is correct, and Twitter is nothing more than a celebrated phatic technology-a technology which exists purely to support phatic communion, then the very real relationships being discovered today through its use are far more tangible than those discovered through discussing the weather in real life. And the fact that Twitter has existed and morphed in so many ways over these short years I respectfully suggest dispels any notion that it fulfills the “social awareness streams” suggested by the researchers at Rutgers. It, in fact, provides people with real connections, in the most concrete form – in fact (hold on to your hat) in a way that potentially surpasses that experienced in real life.

These people will regularly never have met in real life, until at least having met online first. Homophily still exists – we still form communities on this phatic network. (Just look at the hashtags to find the communities and topic areas that draw people together. And that’s before Twitter added the List function. And then also, what about all the third party tools that operate solely on allowing you to classify your ‘groups’ of people in that space, such as Tweetdeck…) But these communities are not just asking simple stuff like what the weather is like, or just passing the time of day. The depth of feeling is not just as acquaintances. This depth of connection to people we never before would have connected with, and in fact to many we would never approach in real life (such as the homeless), has never before been realised by any other form of media. It’s new. It’s potentially both scary and exciting.

Even though Twitter is accepted by the mainstream middle class to such an extent it no longer receives explanations in newspapers (and in fact is used as the basis for reporting by lazy journalists), it still has not reached critical mass. But it will happen.

I believe the mommyblogger community is leading the way in demonstrating the case study proof of my assertions. We have seen real connections, and real support – people reaching out in very real ways to support each other, typically in times of great need – within this community. This latent sphere bubbles up and is electrically tangible. Like Flubber (it’s highly viscuous, highly volatile, and has a great sense of rhythm) or the slime in Ghostbusters. (Sorry, but you’ll understand my meaning :)) It’s not just “aware”.

So imagine the future – where more communities realise that potential. And then take it that step further, where the brands you love most are able to be part of that space. You know the old saying that if mums ruled the world, there’d be no more war? Here we are in a global networked society, with mums leading the way. Who can tell what comes next?

 

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I’ll pay for content when there’s Twitter with penguins

Usually, I don’t consciously pay for content. I say ‘consciously’ because if I click on a link and there’s a paywall, I won’t do it. I also don’t subscribe to any newspapers or magazines (online or in ‘dead tree’ format). Basically, the quality of the content I’m seeing doesn’t make me want to pay for more of it.

Mr Murdoch does have the right idea. Getting people to pay for content is definitely a way forward. But News Corp. is missing the biggest opportunity they have. It’s a global organization, and while about 1% of their content producers are the best in the world, they are still.. the best. Why doesn’t News identify that globally based 1%, and put it in a paid-for format? At a really, really high price?

If Mr Murdoch thinks that I, or anyone else, will pay for the other 99% of his writers who are complete crap, then he’s mistaken. I’d rather read the far more professional blogs, with the diversity of opinions and transparency News cannot offer.

After freelancing, creating content for a few different publishers it also appears that organizations don’t like to pay their contributors. Waiting six months for a payment on any work done is not a viable business model. I don’t know why some people think it’s all hunky dory. And it’s been this way for many years.

So I don’t pay for content, and I’m wary of accepting any freelance job at all these days. Because I simply don’t like waiting to be paid when my time is better spent on more pressing things.

But my kids? That’s another thing entirely. I currently pay for three social network memberships. And while I’m a member of about 15 social networks, none of these payments are for me. They’re for my kids. My kids totally expect to pay to get access to information, community and technology. They’re growing up with a pay-for-it frame of mind. At the moment it’s a mum-pay-for-it model, and I’m fine with that because the quality of content accessed by my kids on networks like Club Penguin is really worth $5.95 a month. It’s a vibrant community, with great quality stuff. If organizations continue to treat them this way, by the time they’re my age they’ll be paying for content, and believing they should.

But a key part will be getting rid of the 99% of crap for adults and creating something worth subscribing to. We need a Club Penguin for grown ups.

Sidebar: For the “something shiny” HCI people: Twitter with penguins. Now we’re talking.

 

 

Glade’s sweet smell of good social media PR with Edelman

This week I was happily invited to join some other Colorado-based bloggers for a few adult snacks, refreshments and the opportunity to build a basket of goodies to take home. It was a great evening, put on by Glade’s parent company, S. C. Johnson’s wonderful PR team from Edelman in Chicago, to promote their Sense & Spray product.glade scent sense and spray air freshener

This event demonstrated Edelman actively identifies good people for brands to work with, and can put together an event that suits all parties. Edelman has fantastic staff, for a start. The company also teamed with social media expert, Ann-Marie Nichols, to ensure they are hitting the right targets.

If you ask me, Ann-Marie and Edelman are smart operators. After meeting/catching up with them on the evening, my belief is that the bloggers were hand-picked to represent ethical, good quality content providers who actively engage with their readers. Women who are authentic. At a time when companies are seeking out mommybloggers more than ever, there are now bloggers who do nothing more than run around the USA for the opening of every envelope. Smart companies, like Glade and Edelman, see beyond what I’ll call “the usual suspects.” (Yes, I’m biased. I was invited.)

Edelman’s staff were well equipped with plenty of information for us to take home in the best format – a USB drive. The activity of putting together our basket of goodies allowed us to chat about the product informally, and we also had fun coming up with possible names for a new Glade scent. (Yes, someone said Bacon. I said Aussie Bush. Ambiguity FTW.) I was so lucky to have Jen Goode so kindly say yes to drawing by freehand (magic marker) one of her lovely penguins on my mug. jen goode penguin mug

It has pride of place on my desk and reminds me how special women entrepreneurs like her are. I have always loved Jen’s designs and you can check the penguin ones out on her blog, and buy a whole range of stuff featuring them. She also does other designs too. She’s an amazingly talented woman in so many areas. I feel so lucky to have actually met her too now.

The event was a great success for Glade. The bloggers discussed myriad issues beyond and including the product, and we all came away feeling positive – and that associated value rubs off. Edelman gets it.

But the goal kick for me was the extra mile Edelman went for me. Here’s the thing:

We were all offered a basket to give away on our blog. Awesome. However, I asked if it would be okay for me to give it away to anyone, anywhere – given some of my readership is in Australia. Glade is a global brand, but I completely said I understand if that’s not okay. I just needed to be clear on my blog. On the spot, the Edelman ladies said “Absolutely, we will make it work. We will send the basket to anyone who wins.” So I’m stoked. I love that foresight and appreciation of my needs.

And I’m excited to give away this lovely basket of goodies to you, even if you’re an AUSSIE!

glade basket

What you'll win! (The mug will be a fresh one that you can draw on. Great if you're like Jen Goode!)

The basket contains a snuggly IKEA blanket/picnic rug, Swiss Miss mix with mini marshmallows, eye cover, ceramic mug and some permanent markers to decorate it with, and the wonderful new Glade Sense & Spray plus a refill that we have had now in our bathroom for a few days. It smells great and with the refills costing under $4 each (USD), and them lasting about a month each, even graduate students and startups can afford it (ahem).

HOW TO WIN!

To enter is easy – Leave a comment below with your recommendation for a new scent for Glade, focused on Australia. It can be funny or serious. The winner will be picked by Harry and Charlie on Wednesday and I’ll contact you via Twitter/email (make sure you leave contact details). I’ll also announce the winner on the blog. Go for it!

The three steps to being influential in social media

To be influential in social media takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. You can’t buy it. It’s not advertising.

So if that’s what it’s not, how can organizations and people get to be really influential? Here are the steps to influence. When you and your brand get it right, that’s when you get to influence others.

Find Relevance

Your first mission is to produce content that is relevant to the people you’re seeking to influence. That sounds pretty obvious, but so many people and companies don’t really have a great snapshot of their target market. They’ve spent so long with basic demographics that are ballpark indications of who their market is that they’ve lost touch with the real personalities of these people. In social media we’re no longer talking about eyeballs, or about mass market publications that look after great big segments of a market. Instead, you’re looking at individuals. Yes, those individuals tend to move in packs – they’re communities of similar people. And those communities have some people with bigger voices. But that can change in an instant, and one bigger voice doesn’t mean they influence everyone in that community. They are individuals first and they are all powerful. Some will love your brand, others won’t care much, and others might detest your brand. Spend some time working out who they are, what their interests are, and what they really think before even trying to produce content for them. Be relevant.

Find Resonance

Readers of my blog know I love to talk about resonance. You can create all the good quality content in the world but if it’s not hitting the mark and connecting with people in a solid way, you’re not getting social media right. It’s a massive error to think that simply creating good content leads directly to influence. You need more than that. You need to produce content that makes people talk about you. Retweet you. Post the article to their Facebook account or write about it on their blog. When they do that, they’re demonstrating their personal involvement with your content, and that’s what you want. Not just for the eyeballs to hit your page, but for the message to be meaningful to them. To the extent that they’ll tie their name to it and go talk about it elsewhere.

You need to create resonance.

One caveat here, particularly for brands and companies running them, is to be aware that to achieve resonance you need to really understand your audience, and remember everything you say reflects on your brand. I wasn’t kidding before with step one. These people have opinions, are smart, engaged and want to work with others in this space – but don’t think you can control the conversation or give half-assed engagement or try to pretend you’re not the person representing the brand, even if that’s not your intention. A great example is the furore surrounding Nestle right now on Twitter. The good news is that while you’ll get called out for crappy behavior of any kind, the social media community wants you to get better. They will celebrate with you when you do, and they’ll be your loudest proponent. If you really listen, and really work with the community instead of trying to manipulate it you’ll get there and find resonance (I’m kinda hoping Nestle eventually realises that.)

Nirvana – Influence

When you’ve achieved the first two steps, that’s when you can seek to be influential. And you’ll see results. You can invite people to play with your new stuff and be confident that because you have resonance with them, the brand will be welcomed enough for people to want to try it out.You can be a thought leader. You can gain a few minutes of peoples’ time to talk about stuff, and they’ll really listen to you.

It doesn’t matter if you have a personal brand or the biggest brand on the planet. Everyone wants to be influential. Using social media is a great way to discover influence through resonance with a target audience you may have forgotten. Rediscover people. Don’t treat social media like other forms of promotion. It still sits in your toolkit, along with other areas like advertising and sales promotion, but it works differently. Get it right and you’ll find the opportunities you are looking for, with the people who matter most.

Don’t think influence, think resonance

The new buzzword in social media appears to be Influence. According to conferences, some marketers it’s what people want. To influence others.

This is a mistake. It demonstrates a very shallow, one-sided view.

(cartoon from xkcd.com)

Talk to most people in social media for example, and they’ll tell you the truth. What they’re doing is looking for, and responding to resonance, not influence.

What all of us seek in social media is Resonance.

The influence part happens afterwards.

In social media, you can’t influence someone unless they want to be influenced.

Guess what… if traditional media had understood the need to find real resonance with its market, it wouldn’t be in the situation it is today.

Resonance. It’s what creates meaning. Just like the rice here.

Personal brands and the Unique Selling Proposition

After the Creative Revolution in the 1960s, advertisers began to try to find communications that gave people a reason to buy their product. That developed into the Unique Selling Proposition or USP – the ‘thing’ that makes people choose your product. It still applies. Every successful product has a USP. Over time this went from features to benefits. You’ve probably heard ‘sell the sizzle, not the steak’. Sell the benefit. In a marketplace full of things that do the same operation, to stand out from the crowd you need to have something that sets you apart. And that’s your sizzle.

The USP for M&Ms: Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

The USP for M&Ms: Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

For example, there are heaps of dishwashers. They all wash dishes. It’s hard to be known as a product, based purely on that. It doesn’t set them apart. But sizzling benefits like being ‘whisper quiet’, or ‘economical’, or ‘green’ will make the difference for the consumer in a target market. Make no mistake, these benefits might be common to more than one product – but the first to market with it as a sizzling quality, to make it a USP, will get to own that benefit.

In the 21st Century, if you are one of the many who believes you, personally, are a brand (do a search on personal branding and you’ll see what I mean) then the USP has never had more importance.

How do you sell yourself? What’s the one thing about you that makes you different and desirable? What’s your USP?

There are no doubt lots of people who can fulfill a good bit of your job. Code a website, write a story, answer a phone, collect a debt, change a nappy.

But there needs to be something about the way you do it that sets you apart. What’s your USP? Too many people don’t easily identify the things that they’re really great at – better, in fact, than most others. It’s time you did. What’s your sizzle?

It’s harder for women to get to recognise their sizzle than for men.

Research has shown women, in particular, are bad at identifying the things they’re really great at. A female A grade math student will say she’s “okay at math”. Whereas a B or C grade male math student is more likely to say they’re “great at math.”

It’s ironic that in the 1960s, Mary Wells, the first woman to own an advertising agency, was the first to think of branding beyond an obvious USP in the four walls of advertising.

Mary Wells, image from www.wowowow.com. Their photo essay on Mary Wells is great.

Mary Wells, image from http://www.wowowow.com. Their photo essay on Mary Wells is great.

She extended the branding across all the marketing effort, so the flavour of that USP was on the lips of everyone experiencing any part of it. Ms Wells decided communication was something that happened all across the marketing effort. Of course she was right. The first step is identifying your USP. The second is to celebrate it across everything you do. The way you behave, dress, communicate. It’s all your own brand.

A good number of mommybloggers have accomplished this. They can sell their sizzle. But far too many very deserving women are not doing it.

Grab your sizzle, sell it up. Because you’re awesome. You have a USP. Time to identify it, claim it, and use it.

How much is the Aussie brand worth?

This is just one instance of an American company trying to cash in on the good name Australia and its people have within the US. And it sucks.

As an Australian, I’m really disgusted by Procter & Gamble’s obvious attempt to mislead consumers by producing and promoting a range of haircare products as Australian.

What do you call an Aussie brand that's not Australian?

What do you call an Aussie brand that's not Australian?

The brand is ‘Aussie’ – and you know what? It’s not. You can see the associated website here (of course, it’s using simply www.aussie.com).

You should know the following:

a. This brand does not exist in Australia.

b. This brand has no money going to Australia.

c. This brand, featuring the kangaroo on its logo, and the hyperbole saying it’s part of “the latest wave from down under” actually has NOTHING to do with Australia.

d. This is NOT an Australian product.

This is intentionally misleading by Procter & Gamble. The ad, which you can see on their website, uses an Australian woman’s voice-over to reinforce the message they have something to do with Australia.

It’s a total rip-off of the Australian image and brand.

Now, whether or not the product is any good is not my concern. I believe it is obviously unethical to present a product or brand as being something it’s not. In this case, the Australian brand and people are being used to sell a product which has nothing to do with them.

So I approached Procter & Gamble with my concerns. Here’s the (cut and pasted) email response:

Thank you for contacting Aussie. Aussie® was founded in 1979 by Tom Redmond who had over twenty years experience in the professional salon industry. Tom visited Australia and was inspired to develop Australian 3 Minute Miracle, an intensive conditioner that produced real results in only three minutes. 3 Minute Miracle is now a top selling conditioner with more than 45 million bottles sold. This was followed by Sprunch Spray, Instant Freeze Hair Spray, and a complete line of hair care and styling products.

While Aussie products are not made in Australia, many of the beneficial ingredients come from Australia.

We hope we’ve been helpful. If we can assist you in the future, please let us know.

The Consumer Relations Team

013958415A/EGS

Mail sent to this address cannot be answered.

If you have additional comments about this issue, please click here:

http://www.econsumeraffairs.com/cla/contactusfollowup.htm?F1=013958415A

 

This is a company that really needs to learn a few lessons in social media and customer service. Not only is the response comprised mainly of PR crap that NOBODY would have wanted to read, and that wasn’t relevant, it was deliberately vague and even said “mail to this address cannot be answered.”  P&G is such a big company, it doesn’t want to actually converse with anyone. Pfft. Oh, they’re into Social Media – they have a Facebook Fan Page for Aussie. You can access it here. I’m going to leave a little message for them on it… I invite you to do the same. 🙂

But back to their response…I was obviously particularly interested in the claim that “many of the beneficial ingredients come from Australia.” I looked on the bottles of Aussie products in the supermarket. Nothing is listed as being from Australia. The product is completely made and produced in the USA, according to the bottles.

So I sent them another email, asking them what ingredients come from Australia and that I wanted to get it right because I was going to be blogging about this. Two weeks later, I’m still waiting for a response.

Now, I’m not expecting my American friends to be too upset over this. After all, it’s not your brand that’s being used to sell something. But I wonder how a company can get away with this shameless lying  unethical behaviour?

I’m contacting the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about P&G’s sham and will let you know what eventuates.