Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sincerity Crucial to Ads, PR, and Social Media

The first rule of getting noticed online appears to be "go comment on a lot of blogs."

I've been trying to increase my online presence this December, so I have been reading all the suggestions that I can find.

Each blogger has a slightly different take on the grand enterprise, but they all agree: comment on related blogs as if you were voting in Chicago: early and often.

To read the rest of this post, please visit the new site for this blog: http://www.commcognition.com/blog

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Friday, December 26, 2008

GeekBrief.tv Offers Tech Realted Podcast Fun

Note: This post is a reproduction of the original post on the new site for Communication & Cognition: http://www.commcognition.com/blog/geekbrief/ After more than three years on Blogger, it is time to move to a self-hosted site. I hope you'll keep reading there.

Review


Through the wonderful world of Twitter, I recently stumbled across GeekBrief.tv. I'm not a podcast guy, but something about the link caught my attention.

Once I arrived at the site, there was Geek Brief #481 (released Dec. 20, 2008). In this 4 minute, 50 second podcast, Cali Lewis (on Twitter) demonstrates a large green laser from Wicked Lasers called the Spider II GX (which costs just $1,699.99). According the Lewis (via the Guinness records folks), it's the most powerful hand held laser available.

This particular episode must be the Geek Brief version of Mythbusters, as Lewis puts the laser up to several tests:

  • After a long time, the laser eventually pops a balloon (presumably by superheating the air inside);

  • It ignites a wooden match;

  • It fails to light a candle, producing only smoke;

  • Illuminates steam over boiling water;

  • and makes a leather jacket smoke without leaving a hole.


After a brief introduction by Lewis, the podcast features an up-tempo professionally produced introduction. Lewis has a fun upbeat screen presence, and the podcast was lively and fun.

Mostly the podcast was interesting and self-contained, so one can watch without a serious time commitment.

And although I cannot tell you exactly why it was fun to watch, I am not alone. Lewis is a full-time podcaster with more than 25,000 followers on Twitter. I saw one estimate that each show receives between 200,000 and 300,000 views.

The laser was enough to bring me back, and I'm glad it did.

Briefs #482 (December 23, 2008), featured above, and #483 (December 25, 2008) tell the story of GeekBrief.tv's origin.
In July 2005, [husband and co-producer] Neal [Campbell] heard Adam Curry being interviewed on NPR. Adam was talking about podcasting. I didn’t have a TV in my house growing up so I didn’t know Adam Curry from MTV and when Neal started telling me Adam said this and Adam said that, I thought he had joined a cult. Then Neal played an episode of The Dawn and Drew Show for me and I fell in love with the concept of podcasting. Dawn and Drew, a young couple who live in a farm house in rural Wisconsin were doing a show from their house and building a worldwide audience. Adam Curry was doing a show from his house and building the business of podcasting. We wanted in and when Dawn and Drew announced Drew was quitting his day job so they could do the show full time, we decided that’s what we wanted to do.

The first podcast was launched on Dec. 23, 2005, just a couple of months after I started this blog over on Blogger. Needless to say, they've done a much better job monetizing their idea than me.

As an advertising professor, this was a great new media story. These two podcasts should be required viewing for our Electronic Media majors.

The rest of the two briefs tell the story of their rather meteoric success. The first brief aired on Dec. 23, 2005, and they worked out a deal with what is now known as Mevio on May 23, 2006, to podcast full-time. That's an impressive five-month turnaround.

From their inspiration by Adam Curry to their adoption of a green screen and a teleprompter, their success story is briefly outlined.

It's a great story and the kind of thing the fuels the American Dream. Hard work led to opportunity -- the way that we hope that it always will.

Mevio's Web site claims to be the "Home of Personality-Driven Entertainment," and it's Lewis' personality that drives this show.

Her Twitter bio calls her a "shiny, happy geek girl," and the description is perfect.

She has on-camera skills without coming across as a stilted professional anchor. It's just the right mix of talent and whimsy. Lewis' look might be best described as "geek chic," and it's perfect for the podcast. Lewis has bloggers calling her "beautiful" while still looking as if she actually knows about technology.

And success has led to other Web ventures, as the main GeekBriefs.tv site also links to related sites, Dear Cali, iCali.tv, and CaliLive.tv.

Whether you're interested in technology or a new media success story, I highly recommend GeekBrief.tv!

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays


Hope everyone is enjoying Christmas, Hanukkah, or the holiday season in general!

Photo credit: The other Sam Bradley.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

High Life Delivery Man : Resonant Ad Icon


Effective brand advertising necessitates emotional connections. For this reason, I am completely "in the tank" for Saatchi & Saatchi, and their CEO, Kevin Roberts. His ideas of emotional connections -- Lovemarks -- resonate with my experimental research.

And I continue to believe in my heart and mind that long-term emotional connections beat out short-term ROI for the vast majority of consumer goods and services.

Then it's no surprise that one of my favorite television of ads of 2009 came from Saatchi & Saatchi.

While reading the awesome Dec. 15, 2008, "Book of Tens" issue of Advertising Age, I came across 10 "Ads Garfield Loved."

Although I don't always agree with their rambunctious ad critic, his No. 3 choice, Miller High Life, is dead on:
The High Life delivery man is the arbiter of down-to-earth beer drinking. He's angry, confused, joyous and charismatic all at once. In the baseball skybox, amid cheese-nibbling elites who aren't even watching the game, he is transcendentally appalled.
In addition to being a funny commercial and a nice piece of storytelling, this ad is the brand. High Life is a lower-priced beer, and there is no benefit in shying away from it. Instead, this ad and the broader campaign embrace the everyman theme of an economical brew.

Frustrated that corporate America is pricing sporting events out of your range? So is the High Life delivery man.

The ad resonates, we make an emotional connection, and the magic of Roberts, Ogilvy, and Burnett happens.

Santa, please bring me more ads like this in 2009!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

LPGA Commissioner on Social Media, Equality

5 Questions

Families are cutting their sports budgets in the face of a recession, and women's amateur and professional sports struggle for equality more than 35 years after Title IX was passed.

The Ladies Professional Golf Association continues work on equality and marketing their product in an increasingly online world.

Their commissioner graciously took time in the days just before Christmas to talk with the Communication & Cognition blog. We appreciate it!

CAROLYN BIVENS is the commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the first female commissioner in the organization's history. Bivens previously served as president and chief operating officer of Initiative Media North America, the largest media services agency in the United States and part of the Interpublic Group of Companies. Bivens also has held key positions at USA Today and Xerox. In 2002, Electronic Media magazine named her one of the most powerful women in television. Source: LPGA.com.

1) What is the most important issue facing professional women's athletics today?
Equity and parity are two very important issues affecting future growth and success opportunities for women's sports. Whether it is playing the same courses (fields, stadiums, etc.) or the level of prize money and sponsorship dollars, women athletes and leagues must close the gaps with their male counterparts. We are making progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
2) What unique challenges do you face marketing international stars to a largely American audience?
The LPGA has an international membership, which we celebrate, and week-in and week-out the leaderboard is lit up with players from the United States and around the world. We must continue to build player profiles and awareness levels to help introduce the U.S. viewing audience to the great talent and personalities of the LPGA -- no matter where in the world they are from. World-class talent, engaging personalities and increased media exposure will help reach the U.S. audience. A consistent TV platform, which we are working very hard on for 2010 and beyond, would help immensely with these efforts.
3) How much will Annika Sorenstam be missed?
Annika is one of the greatest golfers in history, one of the greatest athletes in history, and one of the greatest role models in our sport. She continues to set the bar for excellence in all statistical categories, and yet to judge Annika only by her on course performance, is to miss the essence of a woman who is the ultimate role model. She's set an incredible standard for the talented young contingent of players who are following in her footsteps on and off the course. While we'll miss her in our tournaments and on our leaderboards, we will look forward to her continued contributions to the game – as a Global Ambassadors in support of the International Golf Federation’s bid to reinstate golf as an Olympic sport, a USGA ambassador, a host of a junior golf tournament as well as her many other business endeavors. As Annika begins an exciting new chapter in her life and in her career, we're also eager to enter a new chapter with Annika, who will always remain one of the LPGA's and one of our game's greatest ambassadors.
4) Is the LPGA involved in marketing through social networking sites?
We recognize the importance of reaching today’s youth and our global fanbase via social networking sites, and continue to explore opportunities for us in this emerging arena. We recently have established Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites.
5) I'm the father of four young girls? Any tips for getting them interested in golf?
Golf is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It also is a wonderful family sport whether one plays or just watches. With four young girls, I recommend you bring them to an LPGA event where you can enjoy hours of family fun in the outdoors watching the best players in the world compete. Also, introducing them to the game via a junior clinic – at an LPGA Tour site or in your hometown -- can be lots of fun as they may make new friends while learning a new sport. I’d also suggest you reach out to your local LPGA Teaching and Club Professional who could perhaps create a family learning session where the whole family can participate together. It’s a sport of a lifetime, and although I didn’t pick up the sport until I was in my 20s I am so glad I did, for the benefits of health, friendships and business are worth it!
Links:

The 2009 LPGA schedule includes 31 events in 10 countries (learn more here). Hopefully you'll be watching. The season kicks off Fed. 12-14 at the SBS OPEN at Turtle Bay (Turtle Bay Resort, Palmer Course) in Kahuku, Oahu, Hawaii.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

3 Cognitive Tips to Build Your Brand in 2009

Using tools from the basic science of human cognition can help you differentiate your brand and get it off of the long tail (check out Chris Anderson's excellent Long Tail blog here).

In about 10 days, millions of people will celebrate and then crank out their New Year's resolutions. I say don't wait.

Today is the day to begin anew. Yesterday was the winter solstice, and today begins the best six months of the year: Every day will have more sunshine than the day before. What an exciting time to let science help build your brand and reach its potential.

This blog is about where the mind meets the message. In this case, the message is your brand. For many readers, their blog is their brand and their message. Make your brand effective.

1) Ensure that your brand has a personality

Stanford University professors Byron Reeves (my academic grandfather) and Cilfford Nass eloquently demonstrated in The Media Equation that people treat mediated messages just like they treat real people. That is, social rules apply.

Research in my lab and many others confirms that this extends to brands. We treat brands as if they are real people, and we form especially strong emotional connections when we feel that their personalities matches our own.

Seth Godin does a brilliant job with his blog. The blog has a personality, and that matches the personality of his books. It's a mixture of sagacity and informality (see the picture of half his head).

But Godin cannot simply pretend to be a sage, he must live up to it. He provides excellent insight, and he is a talented writer. If he had everything but writing skills, I assure you his pageloads would be far poorer.

His brand's personality is genuine. You have to mean it. As Lovemarks guru Kevin Roberts says, you must respect your customer.

So do some diagnostics. Ask people. If [my brand] were a person, who would it be. What would that person be like?

It may seem silly, but our data are always telling in this regard. Your consumers know your brand's personality. And if seven different consumers tell you seven different answers, you have an identity crisis.

Decide who you want your brand to be, and then make sure that everything that you do is "on message."

2) Pay attention to attention

I spend a lot of time studying human attention, and it remains one of the great puzzles of my lifetime.

William James said in 1890 that everyone knows what attention is, yet it's incredibly multi-faceted and complex to study.

Importantly, you should keep in mind that attentional capacity is finite. Every bit of your brand is competing with the rest of the world for attention.

You need to make brand communication compelling. Your message has to be the most relevant thing in the room, or you have no chance of keeping attention.

In the blog world, ProBrogger had a brilliant post about three ways to engage readers. Enagagement leads to attention. Find ways to meaninfully engage consumers with your brand.

3) Emotion tells your brain what to do

The overly serious ancient Greeks (and philosophers as recent as Descartes) that emotion and cognition were separate.

They're not. They are inseparable, and they are always working in concert.

You need to know that attention is motivated. Your brain may like to read literature, sip a fine French wine, and listen to Motzart, but it's number one job is to keep you alive.

So it is especially attuned to cues related to survival: food, violence, and potential mates.

Imagine that a naked person or a salivating tiger walked in the room right now. Regardless of how you felt, imagine not paying attention. Now look at standard book page with lines of black serif type against an offwhite background. Not so compelling, eh?

Sadly this is why there's so much sex in advertising.

I'm not urging you to add sex, but I do urge you to generate some excitement within your readers. Excitement leads to physiological arousal, which leads to attention (at moderate levels).

Don't be the News Hour of your product category. Be a little bit exciting. Understand that, for example, we like to look at people. So show people, for example. Find the appropriate emotional connection for your brand.

Just don't be boring. Attention is lost.

But don't forget about personality! Sex for sex's sake is stupid, and it draws attention away from your brand. Find a way to add emotion to your brand that is consistent with the brand itself.

Putting them all together

You still have to have a good brand and a good message. But getting your message noticed and remembered is no simple task.

Your brand needs a personality, and you need to be true to that personality. But if you pick a bad one, you're doomed.

Your personality and your message should be constantly engaging. There's simply too much world competing for limited attentional capacity.

Write from the heart, as Glen advises in an excellent post at PluginID about driving traffic to your blog.

Effective use of emotion will help you engage readers. Look at these human connections phrases in a recent post by eminent social media blogger Chris Brogan: "She remembered my name," "she was a book lover like me," "she loved hand-selling books," "She ...had lots of great conversational information," "I had a beer with him," "That is the feeling I want from social media." And finally:
It’s this thing where people can spend a few extra moments to make a human connection instead of an “off the shelf” connection.
That genuine human connection may be the most basic human emotion. Make those connections in a meaningful, genuine way, and 2009 will be a better year for your brand.

Finally, it's your turn to add to the conversation. How does your brand (or blog) make an emotional connection?

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Make Powerful Social Networks in The Sandbox

If a blog is to represent anything more than a digital pamphlet, it must be about conversation. We must talk and interact. You, dear reader, must be part of the conversation.

@mark_hayward has proposed The Sandbox as the place where we make those connections.

I like the idea, and I hope you'll join me there in seeing where it leads.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

5 Newsroom Tips to Improve Your Blog Today

Updated 9:51 a.m. Dec. 21, 2008: Reader response requested.


Very talented writers publish excellent blogs every day, but the training received by most members of the blogosphere came in the time it took to fill out the forms to create the blog.

This lack of training is little problem for people sharing recipes or documenting the first days of their newborn child. However, many bloggers aspire to make a living at the craft, and financial independence is extremely unlikely for untrained hacks.

The print newspaper is dying a rather fast death, but formal journalism training benefits storytellers. With that said, here are five news tips for Bloggers:

1. Don't bury the lead

If you pick up the newspaper or call up the New York Times online, you will notice that few stories are told chronologically. That's because boring stuff usually happens at the beginning. Journalists get to the point. What makes this post interesting? Get that up front, or your readers will move on. In traditional news writing, the first paragraph is called the lead (often spelled "lede" to differential it from the hot liquid metal, lead, from which papers were originally printed).

And good leads contain the most important information.

Embarrassingly, burying the lead came to mind because I got called on it last week by a friend and fellow journalist. D'oh. How could I have been so careless?

2. Write compelling headlines

Clever, well-written headlines draw readers into the story. This was true on newsprint 100 years ago, and it's true today. Every word counts. Take the time present the most important facts compellingly.

A good headline cannot save a bad post, but a bad headline can prevent a good post from ever being read.

When I worked the copy desk at the Albuquerque Journal, I viewed every headline as a contest -- a contest that I wanted to win. Every day I wanted to hear a colleague say, "great headline."

Most people think that reporters write headlines. They don't. At best they suggest headlines, but in my experience they don't even do that. Headlines are written by copy editors, who know the font size and the number of columns that the headline needed to cover. And they have lots of practice at writing good headlines.

Blogs usually have a single-deck headline of a fixed length. Although this is limiting, it is not an excuse for lazy writing (more advice I need to remember, too).

Bottom line: Never, ever write the headline first. The best headlines are written at 10 p.m. when the reporter has been home for four hours. And they are never written before the story.

3. Make every word count


One of the biggest blog problems is excessive prose. Even when newsprint was cheap, there was a fixed newshole. And when it was filled, you stopped. This blog post can stretch to infinity. That's not an advantage.

As an analogy, consider what a former friend used to say to robust women with bare midriffs.

"Just because they make that in a size 13, honey, doesn't mean you should wear it."

Likewise, don't writer every word that comes to mind because you can.

Try to write tight. Sure there's endless space, but extra words are bad. You're probably blogging during spare time, and you don't have a rim and slot editor to trim fat. Be concise anyway.

4. Add color to your stories

I'm not a gifted writer. On my good days, I am a trained writer who tries hard. When I see a writer use powerful, concrete language, I am moved.

You can feel it when just the right detail is added to a story. What is the single aspect of a person or a situation that is crucial to the reader's understanding? Find it. Write it.

Remember that a picture is worth, more or less, 1,000 words. Only you can see what you're trying to say. Fight for exactly the right words to convey that scene to the reader.

5. Avoid adjectives

Excessive adjectives are the comforting crutch of the lazy writer. Sure, even well-trained, dedicated need some colorful descriptive adjectives. But if you're using a lot of them, then you have simply failed to find the right nouns and verbs (hopefully the humor is not lost in this paragraph).

Mark Twain is reported to have said, "When you can catch an adjective, kill it."

Did you really need to say, "violent explosion"?

This would supposedly differentiate it from a peaceful explosion.

We may talk of "future plans," but there's one adjective too many in that sentence. Unless your time machine surpasses mine, future plans are the only plans.

Catch them and kill them.



I'll be a better writer tomorrow for having reminded us both of these ideas. But surely, you are sitting there thinking, how could he have forgotten ...?

So, tell me. What is the sixth blog improving tip that I should have included?

Share your thoughts in the comments.


Learning good writing is not like learning to ride a bicycle (more on clichés another day). Good habits are forgotten. And writing well takes time. Take the time. Your readers will thank you for the investment.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Relationship Targeting: Know Your Customer

I'm always amazed when I stand in front of 170 young advertising students and talk about targeting for the first time.

Largely, this is lost on them. Sad, really.

Matching your brand to a small group of consumers may be the most important thing that you ever do.

My lab has done a lot of research of brand personalities, and to me the fascinating bit is just how easily people assign personalities to inanimate brands.

Right now I'm working on an exciting new project with Tim Laubacher. We're using Darwin's principles of natural selections to find out just what personality is attached to a given brand. More on this in coming months (read more on the underlying principles here).

What do targeting and personality have in common? Tailoring your target market. Sure, my last post blasted Burger King for too narrow a target, but most companies aren't Burger King.

In the Dec. 8, 2008, Advertising Age, there is an article amazingly buried on page 4.

Under Jack Neff's byline, "That 80% of sales comes from some 2% of buyers; Study: Package-goods brands' consumers bases very small, yet diverse."

Think about that. Two percent of all buyers make up the lion's share of your sales.
Numbers like those start to make a strong case for broader use of customer-relationship management among package-goods players who've questioned its applicability because of the high cost per consumer.
This means that even the narrowest of traditional markets are likely to fail. This small yet diverse bit is tricky.

Tools such as the one that I am developing with Laubacher will allow real-time diagnostics of a brand's multiple personalities. We can uncover these niche markets.

And then the real work actually begins. How do we reach these people when mass media will terribly overshoot and overspend. Then, how do we keep them among our 2%.

As Neff correctly identifies, relationships are the key. And compatible personalities are key to relationships. Think of this as a brand version of eHarmony: 29 dimensions of compatibility.

And you have to be careful not to drift. Once you establish your brand personality, you have to remain true to it. Google used to be one of my absolute favorite brands, but today I referred to them as the "Wal-Mart of the Web" due to their control of some of the features of this blog (Google owns Blogger).

I'm impressed with some corporate efforts on Twitter (e.g., @Starbucks). However, following 21,355 people (at present), this is more like a casual hook up than a committed relationship.

It's a great time to study communications. I'm counting the days until the word "Mass" is toppled from the front of my college like a statue of Lenin or Hussein.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Review: Burger King's Whopper Scent

During my first semester teaching at Ohio State, I shared with my students an Advertising Age story about Burger King's franchisees near riot over "the King."

The Oct. 25, 2005, story ran under the headline, "Franchisees turn on Crispin's King."

The problem is that BK is the No. 2 burger chain in the country, distantly trailing No. 1 McDonald's and barely leading No. 3. Wendy's.

Burger King goes well with their target market: young males. And although the King played well with that audience, he was not bringing in new customers.
Burger King is "highly effective with a very narrow target so the strategy is working, but is it the right strategy?" said one fast-food industry executive. "From a traffic perspective ... the answer is no. They're selling higher-priced products to fewer people, and that's where McDonald's understands that it's a volume-driven business."
This tension continued for more than two months:
Until now, the two sides would clash, but generally come to some form of compromise. But franchisees have recently balked at corporate plans with increasing frequency, with some criticizing the fast-feeder's focus on young males at the expense of women and families, a strategy forged in conjunction with its agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami. (Advertising Age, January 9, 2006, Peace breaks out: BK quells franchisee feud; Franchisee board renews relations after fights over chain's marketing tack).
Somehow these King ads managed to persist and even elicit imitations:
We can only imagine what the Burger King suits -- to say nothing of the entire creative department at BK's ad agency of record, Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami -- must be thinking every time they see one of a new collection of McDonald's spots featuring various kids and a plastic statue of the iconic Ronald McDonald seated on a bench. (Chicago Sun-Times, March 1, 2006, McDonald's serves BK leftovers)
Now more than three years later, the King persists. Clearly Burger King has access to proprietary data that I do not share. However, almost universally my discussions confirm the original franchisee concern: the ads play well to the target market are irritate almost everyone else.

Let's put it this way, since that original ad appeared, I have not once heard my wife suggest going to Burger King for a salad.

Fast forward to this week, and I see a Tweet by a former Tech Student @humbearto that read:
Hilarious: www.firemeetsdesire.com Click for the king. Oh Burger King, when will you stop outdoing yourself?

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