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Archive for January 2010

Social Media Marketing: How Pepsi Got It Right

Posted Friday, January 29th, 2010

Social media marketing campaigns are proving to be goldmines rich with customer engagement and insight that companies wouldn’t likely have otherwise. Companies like PepsiCo are going to extensive lengths to foster this type of collaboration with fans, and the payoff has been big.

Mashable, January 20th 2010

The company’s Mountain Dew division is several stages into its DEWmocracy campaign — a plan to launch a new Mountain Dew flavor with the public’s involvement at all levels of the process, and PepsiCo also just launched the Pepsi Refresh Project on January 13th. Rather than spending money on Super Bowl television ads this year, the company is spending $20 million on a social media campaign.

Jay Baer, founder of the social media strategy company Convince & Convert, said brands are realizing they need to market for the long haul. “I do think it’s a good move for Pepsi. I don’t know if every brand can pull it off,” he said.

The Pepsi Refresh Project and the DEWmocracy campaigns are part of a crowdsourcing effort that’s part of the larger PepsiCo plan to more closely integrate consumers with the brand. “Driving consumer interest and engagement takes imagination and often a certain amount of reinvention, so it’s fair to say we’re rethinking everything we do from product development to marketing campaigns across our entire portfolio,” said Bart Casabona, a Mountain Dew spokesman.
A Closer Look at Mountain Dew’s Social Media Campaign

The first DEWmocracy campaign launched in 2007. This inaugural DEWmocracy effort let consumers choose Dew’s new flavor, color, name and graphics, and resulted in more than 470,000 people voting and an overall 1 million people taking part in some phase of the process, according to the company’s DEWmocracy media site. The winning new flavor, Voltage, hit store shelves in January 2009.

Brett O’Brien, Mountain Dew’s marketing director, said that for the first campaign a site was built for people to interact with, which made sense at that time.

Fast forward to July 2009, when the second DEWmocracy campaign launched. The multi-stage effort tasks die-hard Mountain Dew fans to narrow seven sodas down to one final new flavor that will become a permanent part of the Mountain Dew family, using social media platforms 12seconds.tv, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in the process.

O’Brien said that with the explosion of social networking, they felt it was best to interact with people where they are.

 Flavor Nations Play a Large Role

The second iteration of the Mountain Dew campaign is fueled by the 4,000-strong DEW Labs crew, an online community of die-hard fans. The DEW Labs are divided up into three Flavor Nations for the three Mountain Dew soda finalists: Typhoon, WhiteOut and Distortion. Once the three flavors debut in April, the Flavor Nations must talk up their flavor and get people to vote for it to become the permanent new Mountain Dew soda. That one winning new permanent soda flavor will debut on Labor Day, according to the company’s DEWmocracy media site.

O’Brien said the several stages involved are really part of the normal product innovation process. He said if they were going to be totally transparent the whole time in launching a new Mountain Dew flavor, they needed their customers to be there the whole time.

Every part of the campaign involves the fans and the public — from picking flavor names, to voting on the best user-submitted ad campaign.

Collaboration With Consumers

“What we’re calling it [is] collective intelligence,” O’Brien said. “It’s less about crowdsourcing, but more about collaboration.” PepsiCo looks at DEWmocracy, which has literally been driven by word of mouth, as a way of doing business rather than an ad campaign, he said, and the most important thing to recognize is the passion consumers feel for Mountain Dew is like nothing that’s out there.

According to O’Brien, PepsiCo looks at social media as the best way to get direct dialog with their fans and for the company to hear from those fans without filters. “It’s been great for us to have this really unique dialogue that we normally wouldn’t have,” he said. “It really has opened our eyes up.”

Convince & Convert’s Baer said the DEWmocracy campaign fits with Mountain Dew’s brand and customer profile. He said giving customers ownership of the brand is a fantastic idea.

“What they’re trading off is reach for depth and they’re trading short-term impact for long-term impact,” he said. Baer sees the process of brands asking customers to craft better products or services as a trend. He pointed out that companies aren’t just soliciting customer input, but they’re putting it into practice. And some business decisions are now based solely on customer feedback.

“To me, that’s tremendously exciting,” he said. “To me, that’s the social media story.”

Social Media’s True Impact on Haiti, China, and the World

Posted Friday, January 22nd, 2010

We’ve seen some major world events unfold on the social media stage this week, the biggest being Google’s threat to pull out of China and the Haiti earthquake.

Google’s actions have brought attention back to the long-standing Internet censorship that blankets China, while the destruction in Haiti has mobilized hundreds of thousands to open their wallets and their hearts.

Just like the Iran Election crisis, people are again assessing the impact of social media on the world. It’s clear that social media has the power to impact world politics and the lives of billions, but some have overstated what social media can actually do. We need to understand what social media really is in order to utilize it effectively for social good.

Let me explain by highlighting a few examples of social media’s impact on the world stage, and then concluding with how I view social media’s impact in the larger context of mobilization and world discussion.

The Iran Election Crisis

During summer 2009, the world’s eyes were fixated on Iran. Questions were raised after Ahmadinejad was declared the winner over rival Mousavi in Iran’s Presidential elections. The abnormalities and potential tampering of the vote resulted in massive protests that engulfed the Islamic nation.

Social media’s role in the Iran Election Crisis started with CNNFail, but that was only the beginning of social media’s role. With the Iranian government clamping down on information and enforcing censorship, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube became the primary mediums for bringing information out of the conflicted nation and spreading notes between dissidents.

Take a look at the Iran Election social media timeline we built if you want to see its full impact. Key moments in the crisis, especially death of Neda, were recorded and spread like wildfire, creating an outpouring of support for the protesters. Twitter’s role was so important in fact that the U.S. government got involved in scheduling Twitter’s downtime.

In the end though, social media didn’t topple any governments, although it has helped shift the political climate in Iran. In some cases the use of Twitter in Iran was overstated, yet the result is that the tipping point for Iran is close, thanks to social media.

The Haiti Earthquake

After a magnitude 7.0 earthquake (and multiple aftershocks) devastated the nation of Haiti, social media became the medium in which everybody spread the word. Dramatic Haiti earthquake Twitter pictures swept across the web, while tech giants mobilized.

The most impressive part of social media’s impact on Haiti has to be the charity text message campaign that has already raised more than $10 million for Haiti victim relief. Social media spread the word, technology made it possible.

It’s not all perfect, though: the money raised is small compared to the relief coming from world governments and donations face 90 day delays. Still, social media for social good is becoming more and more effective with each crisis.

The China-Google Standoff

While we are still far from the conclusion of this messy affair, Google’s threat to pull out of China has already had a dramatic effect in both social media and political circles.

Politically, China has been put under pressure. The U.S. government has thrown its support behind Google, though it’s doubtful that the Obama administration will get involved in the end.

More importantly though, social media is being used to lift China’s blanket of censorship. Social tools, while many are blocked by the Chinese, can get through China’s great firewall. We have the tools to undo censorship in China. Google’s efforts have re-ignited the debate over censorship, but they won’t break the barrier.

Breaking Down Social Media’s Global Impact

In all three cases (China, Haiti, and Iran), social media has had an impact, especially as the course of events evolved. Real-time communication platforms like Twitter and Facebook have spread the word about what’s happening within these nations, long before the mainstream media prints the story. These tools have also created a level awareness we’ve never seen before.

We have to be realistic, though: new media isn’t going to stop censorship, overthrow oppressive regimes, or heal the people of Haiti alone. Social media has transformed communication, media, and the transmission of information, but it still takes people on the ground to pull people out of the rubble or to fight for freedom.

Just as Paul Revere embarked on his midnight ride to warn that the British were coming, social media acts as both the first warning and the rallying cry for mobilization. In the end though, social media is just a collection of tools. It’s up to us, the people, to make the real impact on our world.

3D Technology: The End Of Product Placement As We Know It?

Posted Friday, January 15th, 2010

Avatar’s 3D technology is being credited for revolutionizing the way we watch movies. Its success has been followed by a flurry of announcements about blockbusters-to-be in 3D. While Avatar certainly revolutionized the way we watch movies, might it also revolutionize the way we place products?

BrandChannel, January 14 2010

For years now the product placement practice has been booming. Once generally considered a loose agreement between brands and prop managers, it is now an established business. A-list director Brett Ratner shamelessly boasts about his ambitions to help brands get scene-stealing placements. Even audiences have come to expect them and the term “product placement” is a household word. However, 3D technology poses incredible threats and opportunities for the advertising practice.

One of the key characteristics of 3D, as used in Avatar, is “limited depth of field.” Essentially, this means that the figure onscreen in 3D pops out at the audience while the background appears out of focus. An attempt to focus on the background causes what some call “Avatar h3dache.”

For product placements though, the loss of a clear background means the elimination of countless placement opportunities for a wide range of brands. Cars logos, soda names, box graphics and any number of other brand identifiers will appear to be just a swirl of blurry color. Any attempt to distinguish them will be pointless. What good is a product placement that cannot be seen?

Obviously, the flip side is that 3D focus might allow product placements to really jump out at viewers. Think about E.T.’s legendary Reese’s Pieces not just lined up flatly on the ground but each popping out at every rapt child in the audience. Mmm, delicious exposure.

Brands certainly will balk at paying for placements that will never be seen, but will brands even be willing to supply prop masters with products knowing the small chances of getting a decent placement?

Product placement was already a field of branding with few established norms or ground rules. A move to 3D only promises to shake it up further, with the future as promising as it is foreboding.

How Social Media Has Changed Us

Posted Monday, January 11th, 2010

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen social media galvanize thousands over politics, create as many industries as it has destroyed, and offer an abundance of visual and audio entertainment. But has all this incredible change actually changed us, or just the world we live in?

Mashable, 6th January 2010

Child Literacy

It stands to reason that children who read and write more are better at reading and writing. And writing blog posts, status updates, text messages, instant messages, and the like all motivate children to read and write. Last month, The National Literacy Trust released the results of a survey of over 3000 children. They observed a correlation between children’s engagement with social media and their literacy. Simply put, social media has helped children become more literate. Indeed, Eurostat recently published a report drawing a correlation between education and online activity, which found that online activity increased with the level of formal activity (socio-economic factors are, of course, potentially at play here as well).

Ambient Intimacy

Lisa Reichelt, a user experience consultant in London coined the very pleasant term “ambient intimacy.” It describes the way in which social media allows you to “… keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.”

Consider the many communications technologies through history — the telephone, Morse code, semaphore, carrier pigeons, smoke signals — they are all fairly inconvenient and labor intensive. Lisa has hit on the idea that communication has become so convenient that it’s actually become ambient around us. It surrounds us wherever we want it, not necessarily when it wants us. We dip into it whenever we like.

Knowledge Was Power

From his Meditationes Sacrae, published in 1597, Francis Bacon was paraphrased as saying “knowledge is power.” Fundamentally, the more you understand about life, the more chance you have at success. But these days, Wikipedia (Wikipedia) and Google (Google) have democratized information to the point where anyone is able to acquire the knowledge they may want.

As a case in point, I had never even heard of Meditationes Sacrae until I looked up the term “knowledge is power” on Wikipedia. In Bacon’s time, the only people that had access to books and the literacy to unlock the wisdom within were the wealthy with the time and inclination to learn.

Of course, books weren’t the only source of knowledge. Consider blacksmiths, dressmakers, cobblers or sailors who passed their skills and techniques from mother to daughter, from father to son. Back then, the friction that held people back from learning was low literacy, a lack of access to books and very little time. Now, that friction is almost non-existent. That is because of both the ability of computers to replicate information for distribution, and the the way that Google, Wikipedia and blogs have empowered people to share what they know. Now, the only real friction that exists is our own desire for knowledge. It’s there for you — if you want it.

The Reinvention of Politics

A recent report by PEW found signs that social networks may be encouraging younger people to get involved in politics. You only need look at Twitter’s (Twitter) recent impact on the Iran elections, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and even the election of Barack Obama to see that more and more people are getting involved in politics and are feeling they can make a difference.

One of the most popular blogs on the web, The Huffington Post, is mainly political. Politics has a fast pace, and that lends itself well to social media. UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said in June last year that because of the Internet, “foreign policy can no longer be the province of just a few elites.” Twitter even postponed an upgrade because of the important role it was playing in the Iran (Iran ) elections.

These are all signs of both social media’s growing influence in politics, and the growing interest in politics from users of social media.

Marketing Flux

Marketing and advertising is transforming itself from an industry reliant on mass market channels to one which must embrace the power of the consumer and (attempt to) engage in conversations. The traditional approach of wide reach and repetitive messaging is now being replaced by many much smaller, niche and people-centric activities. Advertising isn’t dying, it’s merely changing form. We now have more power and more choice.

News as Cultural Currency

We’re no longer lazy consumers of passive messages. Instead we’re active participants. We now get news through the network we’ve created, and the news we pass to one another says something about us. It tells others what we’re interested in and what’s important to us. We used to call this gossip — and to a certain extent it still is — but unless you were a journalist at a local daily, the amplification that’s now possible through the likes of Twitter, Digg (Digg) or StumbledUpon hasn’t been experienced before.


Clearly there are skeptics. Susan Greenfield thinks that social networking is turning us into babies, shrinking our attention spans, our ability to empathize, and eroding our identity. She even suggests a correlation between the rise in prescriptions for drugs used to treat ADHD with an increase of time spent at computers. Similarly, Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster recently suggested that social networking causes increasingly “transient relationships,” is “dehumanising” community life and, as a consequence, we are “losing social skills.”

I think they couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone with the slightest experience of using social media knows that it’s about being more social. We are more engaged with friends, we are more literate, more connected, more open to creating new relationships, and generally more interested in the world around us.

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