You know the guy in this year’s Budweiser Clydesdale Superbowl spot? The guy who nurtures the Clydesdale foal, feeds him, trains him, guides him and then says good-bye? I have to admit I feel a little bit like that today.
It was four years ago when a few of my creative hacker friends and I conceived of Brandbowl. The idea was to get an ad agency and an industry aware of, and interested in, Twitter by giving them something familiar and easy to talk about: the commercials. After all who doesn’t want to be a advertising critic?
By most indicators it was a huge success. It helped launch Mullen’s social media business. (You may have seen this Forbes column, which named the agency among the top 10 in the U.S. and attributed that ranking to an early adoption of social media.) And it played some role for sure in getting traditional agencies to sit up and take notice of a new platform. It may be hard now to remember that just a few years ago ad agency resistance was strong, not just to Twitter but to all the new digital tools and platforms.
However, it did suck up a lot of resources to pull off. Designers, developers, writers, social strategists, analysts, project managers and PR people all contributed. And that doesn’t even count the help that initial partner Radian 6 offered or in the last two years our third partner Boston.com.
And so Mullen this year decided to take a pass. Between opening new offices, pitching new business, producing volumes of work for existing clients and pursuing new innovations (as in what comes after BrandBowl) it was time to move on.
Fortunately our friends at Boston.com decided to assume the mantle with a new partner Points Local. (Radian 6 had to excuse itself due to contractual obligations with Twitter.) I can’t think of anyone to whom I’d rather give the concept.
It should launch today. I’ll be there, tweeting away with my all time favorite hashtag. #brandbowl. Hope you will be, too.
I had the pleasure today of sitting through a brilliant presentation from Mullen’s Kelsey Hodgkin, who was kind enough to talk about “The role of brands in the digital age,” to my Strategic Creative Development class at BU.
Kelsey cleverly started with the Roman Catholic Church – the greatest brand ever created – to demonstrate the power that comes from supporting a single belief with multiple touchpoints, participatory events and transmedia story telling. Bet you didn’t realize the Church pioneered all the same tactics and techniques we typically credit to Nike and Red Bull.
“Today smart companies know there is no such thing as a marketing department; only those companies who know how to market themselves and those who don’t,” Kelsey reminded us.
Virtually all brands know that it starts with crystallizing their beliefs and finding their position in the marketplace. They may use a classic approach, an inside out approach, brand archetypes, or any one of dozens of generic or proprietary branding models to arrive at that belief. But smart brands also get that it has to be reflected in their behavior and the new products and platforms they create if it’s to truly resonate.
We can all name the brands – sadly the same ones over and over – that pull this off. But it’s likely that in the future our industry will find itself charged not so much with articulating a brand through advertising, but with advancing, preserving and re-inventing a brand with new ideas that go well beyond campaigns and projects to products and inventions.
All the more reason to expand our definition of advertising, learn to create in new and emerging media and get comfortable with the tools and technologies that allow us to do so.
If you’re interested in how we’re exploring some of this in the classes I teach at BU, take a look at this project just getting underway.
The wonderful thing about the web is that it makes it easier and easier to come up with useful ideas rather than just ads. Immerse yourself in social behavior, sharing, and how to leverage community to solve a problem and you can virtually invent new ways to sell stuff.
Which is what W&K just did for Dodge with the creation of the Dodge Dart Registry, or at least the commercial that drives you to it. Go to the site, customize your car, add the features you want, then invite friends and family to help you pay for it by sponsoring individual parts. You can watch as the money pours in (presumably) and pick up your car when it’s done. Hope you have a lot of generous relatives.
The Dodge Dart Registry is like Facebook meets Kickstarter. A commercial application of what Steven Johnson envisions in his book Future Perfect.
It’s not so much a digital idea as it’s an idea for a digital world. It allows you to customize the experience, share it across the web, and get people involved with a few clicks and links. And, of course, the entire experience generates content and awareness as you’ll want to share and promote your wish and your your contributors can share their support. Dodge gets data, profiles, free social media attention and probably some sales out of the deal.
Not that digital registry’s are a new idea. Lots of brands have tried similar tactics. And it’s not as if this hasn’t been considered for a car company. In fact student Hedvig Astrom shared a similar idea with the advertising industry a year or so ago in her NY Art Director’s portfolio review. (Heck, for all I know that may have been the genesis of the Dart idea.)
But either way, any idea that can make it easier for a young Millennial to buy his or her first car is a good idea.
I was one of the early users of Lore.
It was nearly a year ago when Boston University student Maurice Rahmey, hearing that I planned to teach a course at BU, implored me to use the new social teaching and learning platform then called Coursekit.
It didn’t take long to get dependent on the service. Lore let me post my syllabus, organize the semester’s calendar, enter assignments, add links and resources and post grades, which were automatically dispatched to students.
But Lore’s real value was it’s social quality. It took learning — in the form of discussion, debate, and discovery – beyond the walls of the classroom to a Facebook like stream where students and teacher could share blog posts, creative ideas, videos, images and commentary. It made teaching and learning interactive and collaborative.
No surprise I quickly became dependent on the service.
Then last Monday, Lore introduced a slick new upgrade to its site. Now you could invite auditors to your classes, integrate your calendar and stream, and present a more marketable profile (good for students, especially).
All great features. Except for one problem. They didn’t work. At least not for me. And since Lore hadn’t let me know the changes were coming, or what to expect, I wasn’t prepared for being down an entire day.
WTF I am pissed
Many of us tend to get pissed the moment Facebook changes something, or Twitter adds promoted tweets, or Instagram sells itself, or Lore doesn’t work. Count me among them. But are we entitled to get that upset? We receive these services for free and enjoy a multitude of benefits from using them.
(Wait a minute, you say. Lore is leveraging you and thousands of other teachers to attract students to the site. All of who will reveal information about their majors, their interests, their career aspirations, etc. In an age when the interest graph is rapidly offering brands and advertisers a more efficient way to market, a platform that has thousands and maybe millions of students along with all the data they’ll provide becomes pretty valuable. Maybe we’re doing them the favor and they do owe us.)
True. But in so many cases, Lore in particular, what users are getting is more than a fair return. Our lives are easier. Our content is better organized. We have digital tools that enhance both teaching and learning. Maybe we should not feel so entitled.
Patience is a good thing
For the first six months of this year I worked with Springpad as its interim CMO. So I witnessed first hand the time, effort and diligence a small team puts into launching a new upgrade – testing, debugging, then going into crisis support mode when something neglects to work as it should.
I took a breath. I imagined the 15 or so people at Lore in a heightened sense of urgency when they realized that everything didn’t perform perfectly, that users were locked out, that the system couldn’t withstand the increase in traffic.
Instead of dashing off the angry email or tweeting about how screwed up things were, I informed them of what wasn’t working, what it looked like on my screen, and asked for an update. Having to wait a few hours, or even a day, was in the bigger scheme of things a small price to pay for having such a powerful platform.
OK, maybe I did issue one unhappy tweet.
But the less reactive approach elicited a much better response.
Personal attention goes a long way
To Lore’s credit, their CEO Joseph Cohen responded almost immediately. And his staff kept me updated constantly. I knew what they were working on, had assurance that my content was intact, and had the clear sense they were aware of my status. All of which made it OK that the service was down even if I’d lost access on a day I really needed it.
More importantly, the impression made by Lore and its team– that they genuinely cared, that they appreciated users’ needs, that they understood the inconvenience imposed – made me, and I’m sure others, even more loyal users and advocates.
Users have a responsibility, too
The start-up phase for any new platform is trying. No matter how much load testing gets done or internal rigor is applied it’s inevitable that developers need users in real world situations to tell them if something does or doesn’t work. Or how to make it better. Or to offer suggestions they hadn’t thought of. So perhaps it’s not enough just to be users. Perhaps with the privilege of getting that invite early and to having a first crack at a new service comes the responsibility to help make it better.
With ideas, reactions, suggestions. Maybe even an occasional thank you.
So Lore, and all the folks there inventing the future of education, thank you.
As part of its upcoming Women’s Leadership Forum, the Ad Club of Boston asked a group of us to write blog posts about women we admire. I could have written a traditional blog post about the many women who have in one way or another left lasting impressions on me. But since I’ve been working with my friends at Springpad, I thought it might be more fun to create my blog post in the form of a notebook. Take a look.
Typically I don’t use this blog to stump for Mullen or Springpad. But in this case I’ll make an exception, given that while I may be the CMO at Springpad, I’m also an enthusiastic user, excited about a single platform that lets me create and share such a wide array of data types. Even for this one little notebook I was able to combine photographs (from my own library as well as the web); notes, videos, playlists, books, blog posts and more. What’s even cooler is that I could augment a single “spring” with multiple media, adding additional content and information about each person included. Readers and viewers can simply check the list, peruse the images or discover more about each of the women from books, films and music that I’ve attached.
For me, smart, digital, social notebooks work perfectly for collecting, preserving and sharing content over time. They’re persistent, searchable and even collaborative should I want to invite others to create with me.
So far I’m using Springpad to plan vacations, organize curricula, start my summer reading collection, save content on new interests, and collaborate with others who share my passions. What about you? Are you using the new Springpad?