Last night, a few of us had the pleasure of attending NYC’s first #kittencamp, a rap-battle-inspired showcase of ‘viral awesomeness’ that pitted four ad-industry strategists and their favorite YouTube videos against one another.
While I had no clue what I was getting myself into at first, I’m now sort of wishing these things happened more often.
Here are some highlights from the evening, which featured clips within a number of categories:
I thought they nailed the ‘Epic’ category, with this clip in particular standing out.
The ‘Music Video’ category featured a remix of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop that was pretty neat.
I’m not generally one for cat memes, but I must admit that this silly little tune was stuck in my head all night.
My favorite category was the “Branded” one. The winner was this Air New Zealand Safety Video, a great twist on a traditional industry practice that really showed off the airline’s personality.
Anticipation is a powerful emotion and competition is a powerful motivator. I’m struck by how effectively two different brand/product launches happening this week are leveraging both feelings, using slow-release tactics that build a sense of excitement in quite a purposeful way. Capitalizing on the fact that they have impressive products, both brands are:
1) Initially being selective with access to their product
2) Launching in beta, and making it clear they’re still in beta
3) Building a system where people make ‘reservations’ in order to buy (sort of like the Kickstarter model)
Maybe we can all learn a few things by continuing to follow these launches over the next few months…
1. Google Glass- The brand has engineered a situation where people must apply through social media to buy their product. I think it’s brilliant how Google is creating a competition to get Glass in the right hands first, and of course as a purposeful side effect, building serious social media buzz by making applications public (check out #ifihadglass).
The concept of ‘Explorers’ ensures that their early customers are on-brand. Few others are really thinking like this, since most brands push for maximum sales right off the bat. Allowing only the coolest, most creative people to use their product first makes brand sense (in addition, of course, to the logistics of working out kinks and the current minimal supply of the product). A launch like this builds real stories around your product. I’d bet that Google will turn this whole experiment into a commercial/campaign (‘here are all the cool ways our real life Explorers used Glass…’). I think more companies should innovate in public in this way, allowing users to compete for access to beta versions, then ultimately sharing their stories.
2. Mailbox - To build on the early media buzz that this app has been getting without overwhelming their capabilities, Mailbox has created a system where ‘everyone can watch the line move in real-time from inside the app.’ You download the app (placing a ‘reservation’) but don’t get access to it right away. It’s turned into a competition in some circles. Over the weekend, I heard two friends talking about where they were in line, playfully competing to see who was closer to the top of the list. Two other people overheard and jumped in line because, why not reserve their spot before everyone else? I particularly love that as part of this interface, they’re showing people with reservations the number of ‘people behind you’ in line. While at first glance this seems like a meaningless statistic (logically, you should only care when you get the product), it does a great job of a) making people feel special for being early adoptors and b) showing the intense demand for the product, assuring people that they made a savvy move by signing up.
Are you following either of these launches? What else are they doing right? What could they do better? Let me know @samliebeskind @wolffolins
With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, it’s the right time for people like us to write pieces about a) brands advertising during the Super Bowl and b) the analogy of business being a sport. (You know, the type of piece where CEOs are compared to coaches, employees are spun as the players on the field, etc.) We’re trying to avoid that here.
Instead, I’m thinking about the evolving business of sports, about how the four major American sports leagues are working hard to keep up with the new, 21st century challenges that all consumer brands are facing (for example, the home/digital experience overtaking the real, brick-and-mortar experience). Here are 6 things that more consumer brands should have in common with the most progressive, brand-focused, experience-obsessed sports brands.
TODAY, BUILT ON YESTERDAY
Celebration of history is vitally important for sports brands (think classic brands like the Yankees, Celtics, and 49ers), but these teams have fresh new players and story lines each year. The key is linking past to present in a compelling manner; viewing new infusions as a part of (not a replacement of) a long lineage. Because in reality, a brand is built over time, it’s the culmination of its own history. The 49ers rallying cry (and hashtag) leading up to the Super Bowl—#QuestforSix (a reference to their pursuit of a 6th Super Bowl victory)— is a linkage of today’s Kaepernick-led squad to the Joe Montana and Steve Young teams of the past.
The lesson for consumer brands? Have a style, create patterns and build expectations, but always consider the new, the next. Find your rookie and place it in context of a longer narrative. Could be a person (Marissa Mayer at Yahoo producing solid results already) or a product (Facebook’s social graph), but as long as it’s new and has the potential to be game changing, it’ll get people interested or re-interested.
PROMOTE THE STORIES
People always seem to want an inside look, a behind the scenes view of an organization they’re interested in. In the last few years, the leagues have all created documentary-shows that add a human element to their games (MLB’s The Franchise, NBA’s The Association, NFL’s SoundFx, the NHL’s 24/7). Combined with other small touches like NFL players tweeting live from last week’s Pro Bowl- sports brands are, more than ever, the sum of a set of personalities and faces.
The lesson for consumer brands? Be transparent and promote your people, your strategies, and your culture. Today’s best CEOs are now celebs. Zuckerberg is a household name. And Google has done it better than anyone, giving peaks into their culture to not only appeal to employees but attract customers as well. They fully understand the benefits of innovating in public, and the fact that their audiences are watching for the wins and the losses. The next brand to watch: Warby Parker. In my mind, this annual report is one of the coolest documents ever produced by a company.
PRESERVE THE QUIRKY, UNIQUE TRADITIONS
Sports brands are largely built on traditions. Some are serious, some are playful, but all are highly anticipated. The Packers have the Lambeau leap, The Yankees and Cubs support rowdy bleacher culture, the NBA holds an annual slam-dunk contest.
The lesson for consumer brands? Hold on to those unique moments that made you special when you were small. Do some things for the fun-of-it, because they’re exciting, different and bring a smile to people’s faces. Not everything needs to have a measurable ROI, productivity boost or revenue stream. Apparently Microsoft used to ceremonially throw Gates in a campus lake after each product launch. Burton famously awards employees snow days after blizzards cover local mountains. And Google’s doodle is nothing more than a delightful quirk.
REWARD THE COMMITMENT OF SUPERFANS
Sports fans pour passion into their teams. They spend countless hours of their lives promoting and defending their team. The most progressive teams are rewarding these people more than ever. The New York Knicks have started rewarding “Season Subscribers” (season ticket holders) based on tenure, essentially rewarding loyalty over straight-up cash. The NBA’s Detroit Pistons and NFL’s Indianapolis Colts are partnering with SocialToaster to give superfans exclusive, behind-the-scenes content and creating contests that encourage sharing.
The lesson for consumer brands? Do everything in your power to keep your users happy and help your fans look good themselves. View everyone as a user, not a consumer. Give them valuable content to share, ask what you can do for them, and help them help others. It’s no longer enough to just ask people to ‘share’ your content on Facebook.
DON’T BE SELFISH
Responding to loud calls from fans, the NFL has realized that just because someone shows up to an arena or stadium doesn’t mean that they want to place 100% of their attention on the field. Fans care about the other games too, a huge reason why they were staying home and watching on TV (it’s REALLY easy to change the channel!). So teams have pushed to get wi-fi in stadiums (so that fans can check their smartphones for scores around the league) and started posting out-of-town fantasy football stats on scoreboards.
The lesson for consumer brands? Understand that people don’t want to be tied down, that they don’t like commitment. Be boundaryless and don’t hold users hostage. Give them control and the tools to customize their experience. Last year’s Twitter/Instagram tiff that resulted in the removal of Instagram pics from the stream was an unfortunate step in the wrong direction.
All of the above is important, but ultimately, it needs to work hand-in-hand with a product on the field, court, or ice that’s producing. In sports, this is really cost-of-entry. But it’s not all about money (despite having by far the MLB’s largest payroll, the Yankees haven’t won a World Series in 4 years). It’s about being smart, building a product that’s different, that plays to its strengths and exploits everyone else’s weaknesses.
Lesson for consumer brands? Build a complete experience off of a solid foundation. As much as Apple builds its brand, it ultimately saw mass-protest at the end of last year when its Maps app surprised users and went haywire.
When done well, these tactics go a long way towards building daily engagement and life-long loyalty: something most sports brands have and all consumer brands want. By building a multi-platform story, a community of ownership, the brand becomes part of our lives. “New York Giants fan” or “Apple user” become a key point of identity. And for brands, that’s a win.
Since Splash.FM had its public launch a few weeks ago, co-founder Jason Fiedler has been busy watching the start-up grow and making constant changes.A friend of Wolff Olins, he took a few minutes to chat with strategist Sam Liebeskind about the early-stage site and his plans to engage more listeners and brands.
If you haven’t yet read about Splash.FM in TechCrunch, Rolling Stone, and Gizmodo or stumbled onto it on your own, put it on your radar.This young social startup helps you find new music that you’ll love based on what your friends and go-to sources are loving.It joins a crowded space of sites claiming to do just this (Big hitters like Pandora, Last.fm, iTunes Genius, to name a few), but unlike most others, Splash rejects algorithm-based suggestions in favor of human recommendation, pulling together the best features of sites like Twitter, Klout, and HypeMachine.
SAM: First, the basics. What is Splash and who would use it?
JASON: At its core, it’s a social network— ‘a Twitter for music discovery.’You create an account, you splash (post) music you like, and you follow others whose taste you trust.It’s an easy way to stay on top of the latest music. Most people don’t like the stress of deciding what to listen to, but they want music they like.
At the same time, it’s a place where artists and tastemakers can prove their influence.We recognized that for everyone who has trouble finding music, there’s someone that thinks they have the best music.So each user has a “Splash Score” that’s based on how successful they are as a recommender.It’s really powerful, and really addicting.
I could imagine.So is that why people should use splash instead of Spotify or Rhapsody?
They shouldn’t use Splash instead of those guys.They should use it in addition to them.We’re not really trying to play in mainstream music, to compete with Spotify or Rhapsody.We don’t want to be an all access music provider for people who know exactly what they’re looking for.
Paint me a picture of Splash.FM’s personality?
The company is really just [co-founder Alex Gatof] and me so the brand doesn’t fake anything.It’s just us, so that makes it easy.You want to be fun and social.But you don’t want to make too much of a personality of your site because you don’t want to alienate any type of person.Look at Twitter and Facebook- they’re innocent. You want to be subtle without being sterile.
On the platform, to splash means to share a song (think ‘tweet’).Ripple means to like/re-share a song (think ‘retweet’). I love the name and terminology.How did that come about?
After trying to just come up with a name for the site for like, 3 days, I stopped thinking on that level.I needed to think bigger- more about the concept- and put that into words.I just talked out loud to myself and I was like, ‘Domino effect, one person affecting another…then all of a sudden I got onto waves and thought, its like someone just splashed [into water].’Right when I heard that word, I just knew the whole analogy would work.
Right.And the interface of the site carries the analogy through.Can you talk a little about the site’s design?
We never sacrificed the interface and the look.We invested heavily on that. And spent a lot of time on the logo too.I came up with the idea for it after a lot of research. [Some startups] might want to try to skip it but you have to really put time in there early. I audited the logos of all the other music sites out there before designing the concept of ours.
Tone of voice was also really important for us.I took a course [at Penn] on writing copy…It really is an art.You have to always remember that people are reading all this.So I thought, what would I want to read?
I see Barstool U currently has the highest Splash Score. What opportunities are there for other established ‘non-music’ brands to leverage your platform?
Splash gives lifestyle brands specifically an additional channel to express themselves and cultivate their image. If you go with the notion of brand as a personality, the type of music you listen to and like is pretty core to that. You can imagine Nike splashing a lot of workout music, Lululemon splashing tranquil yoga tunes… The goal is the same as Twitter- to amass and connect with a large userbase, build and maintain a loyal following. With Splash.FM, lifestyle brands can add depth to their brand perception that they previously couldn’t.
BarstoolU specifically has influence in the college demographic, and as a result they’ve resonated really well with our current user base. We’ve featured them, and will continue to feature similar brands that make sense.
You’ve read our Game Changers report.Which of the 5 qualities do you think Splash really nails?
Definitely experimental.To be a good product guy you just have to never be satisfied.Actually, if we didn’t have a hard date that we set, we’d still be in private beta, and probably would be forever.That’s how we still think today.
So what’s the future of Splash?
Eventually, we want it to be about more than just finding music.
One way to potentially expand in the future is this “cannonball” idea that we’ve been playing with.In theory, you’d get a cannonball if a song you uploaded or rippled early really went big.They would accumulate and turn into a virtual currency that you could use to get concert tickets.Or maybe it’s just about having a high Splash Score.This might be used to get you into bars/clubs (we’ve already done a few things with clubs where if you have a splash store above 70, you get to cut the line).Ultimately, your splash store is going to be a big deal.
What does success look like for you guys?
The ultimate success is to have people using our words beyond the site—make “splash” synonymous with liking a song.
If you sign up for Splash, be sure to follow Jason (@Jason) and me(@sam_liebeskind).Give us some ripples!
Visual art museums–Should they be a peaceful sanctuary to escape from the always-on, back-lit, digital world in which we all now work and play? Places to appreciate the spiritual energy of something raw and “real”?
Or, should directors and curators be looking to integrate cutting edge technology into museum spaces- to make the experience somehow more educational and accessible, interactive and fun? And if so, how?
It’s an interesting question, and one we’ve kicked around internally and with a numberofclients over the years.It’s also one that big tech guys like Google (Art Project and Google goggles-> maybe Google Glasses in the future?) are rapidly trying to digest and influence.
This month the Louvre followed in the experimental footsteps of the Brooklyn Museum, the Met, and a host of other world class institutions with their own future-looking answer.As part of an ongoing partnership with Nintendo, the museum created a handheld console aimed at evolving the age-old “audio guide” into something more fit for our hyperdigital expectations.If you haven’t seen it, you can check out pics and video here.
I find this incredibly exciting for a number of reasons. On the most basic level, it’s useful. The console simplifies the logistic challenges of a visit to the Louvre, allowing its operator to focus less on navigating the famous labyrinth and more on the art itself. It also offers flexibility in the level of info each user consumes- a nice middle ground between basic didactics and the commitment of signing up for a tour.
But maybe more importantly, it communicates that the Louvre is serious about designing an experience that’s not so far removed from people’s everyday lives.It’s an attempt to shift the institution from a sacred place you visit once a year (or once a lifetime?) to a space for continued learning and relevance.Hervé Barbaret, Managing Director of the Louvre says “the new audio guide is a valuable tool that will help make visiting the Louvre a more dynamic and rewarding experience, particularly for those that are not so familiar with a museum environment.” It’s a conscious move to get fit for the future and it will resonate with new, younger audiences.
Regardless of this program’s success, the Louvre has taken their shot at answering that fundamental “role of technology” question.Considering the way they’ve answered it though, maybe the issue isn’t as black & white as I originally posed.The challenge for cultural institutions might instead be more subtle: How do you integrate technology into the experience in a way that’s useful to those who want to take advantage of it, without distracting those who don’t?
Have you recently visited the Louvre and had a chance to test this thing out?We’d love to hear your thoughts here or on Twitter.And if not, feel free to weigh in on how technology is enhancing/destroying the experience of visiting your favorite museum. @wolffolins
The Jordan brand is absolutely massive. Led by a 71% share of the US basketball shoe market (according to SportsOneSource), the label brings in over $1 billion each year. In fact, the brand built around 14x all-star Michael Jordan is so huge that other NBA players like Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony have actually signed deals to directly promote Jordan.
Think about how crazy that is: Nike has celebrity athletes boosting another celebrity athlete. Clearly, the Nike/Jordan relationship has grown way larger than the simple endorsement it began as (a 5 year, $2.5 million agreement, with royalties).
That’s what makes the lawsuit filed late last week by Jordan (the man) against Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports (Chinese for “Jordan Sports”) so interesting. The hoops star has been called Qiaodan in China since he burst into the NBA in 1984. Now, Jordan’s claiming that this company has unfairly built their entire brand around his identity. In a video statement on his website he says ”no one should lose control of their own name…It’s not about the money. It’s about principle. Protecting my identity and my name.”
Though the name Qiaodan is a trademark registered by the company in accordance with Chinese laws, Jordan’s own personal brand has transcended nations and language. Jordan or Qiaodan, he seems to have a pretty strong case.
Between all the strategic pre-game leaks, Twitter’s Ad Scrimmage, and the NBC/YouTube partnership that created the Ad Blitz channel, the actual 30-second Super Bowl on-air spot is now the center of a more prolonged, immersive advertising experience. Often these experiences are so focused on the spectacle or story of a campaign that the real merit of the brand gets lost in them.
Marketers have done a great job of capitalizing on the one opportunity each year where people are actually anxious for commercials. And in turn, an estimated 54% of those watching last year’s game were actually more excited for the ad breaks than the game itself, according to a 2011 study by Harris Interactive.
But where advertisers think they’re speaking to people asking to be “advertised to,” most viewers are really just anticipating a series of performances.The commercials that people generally “love” (the ones that will appear on most bloggers’ “Top 10” list and the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter) aren’t the most effective, they’re just the most entertaining. While raw amusement is awesome for viewers (who doesn’t want to watch a series of 30-second comedies?), most of today’s Super Bowl commercials probably aren’t getting the job done for brands.
For a spot to be at its most effective and worth its $3.5 million price tag, it has to do more than entertain. It has to tell a worthwhile story about the brand in a way that gets attention for an appropriate reason. It also has to teach us something about the honest values and unique feel of the company it promotes.And it has to do all this strongly enough to inspire us to engage with that brand in the future, not just re-visit its commercial on YouTube.That’s an important distinction that often gets overlooked on this night.Pure entertainment gets the most hype (and yes, leads to temporary brand awareness) but it takes more than that to win true fans.
After the game (or now, since you’ve probably seen most of the commercials already), we’d love to hear your thoughts on which brands had the most effective commercials (not just the ones that made you laugh the hardest).In turn, we’ll share our own thoughts in an upcoming post. Comment below, on Facebook or tweet @wolffolins.
To watch the commercials with a more critical eye this year, here are a few fundamental characteristics to consider:
Is it entertaining? Is this commercial captivating enough to get a million views on YouTube?Does it put you in a good mood?It could be funny, surprising, dramatic or just plain cute, but a Super Bowl commercial today needs to meet a baseline level of entertainment just to meet viewers’ lofty expectations.
At its best: Audi’s “Escape from Old Luxury” (2011)- This commercial was funny, a tiny bit suspenseful, and in the end, staked out a real position for the brand.It proved that a commercial can use comedy without being completely empty.
Is it emotionally on brand?Did watching the commercial give you the same feeling you get when you’re in that brand’s store, using/consuming its products, and reading about its actions in the news?The commercial should create expectations that are in line with the rest of the brand experience and make a case for the importance of the brand’s own values in people’s lives.
At its best: Google’s “Parisian Love” (2010)- In addition to showing how easy and helpful its search features are, this spot simply oozed of the optimism and delight that characterizes Google at its best.
Is it Inspiring?Did the commercial realistically change your behavior?Did you quickly look up the new Mercedes models after (or even during?) the game?Did you buy a Pepsi Max the next day because you remembered it has zero calories?Did you rethink the value of an electric car?A spot doesn’t need to lead directly to a sale but it should inspire a viewer to do more than just watch it again and again.
At its best: Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” (2011) - Though I didn’t buy a car last year, this commercial definitely changed my perception of the brand, as well as the American auto industry as a whole.The day after the game, I remember spending a few hours reading all about the revitalization of Detroit, almost entirely due to the fact that I saw this commercial.
With yesterday’s formal introduction of new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins, the Canadian smartphone maker has officially declared the start of its uphill battle with the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. The most valuable weapon in this fight? Brand. Here’s why.
A decade ago, Blackberries were only ever seen clipped to the belt loops of corporate suits. Blackberries meant business and all of RIM’s research, products, and marketing were focused around that idea. Superior product specs ultimately drove sales.
But then America entered the “crackberry” era. As RIM’s smartphones grew more mainstream —the result of blurring lines between leisure and business, otherwise known as #Bleisure— more and more people became familiar with the technology. Then demand moved beyond professionals as everyone from college students to teenagers with delusions of grandeur started adopting Blackberries. (I remember my teenage sister begging our parents for one, even composing a handwritten argument detailing all the ways the phone would ostensibly improve her life).
RIM had trouble truly reacting to the new expectations of these shifting audiences: WORK + PLAY, UTILITY + FASHION. While the company released new phones to try to feed the momentum, their internal culture was still rooted in the past, hindering their understanding of what people wanted from their technology. Without a clear position in this new world, Blackberry didn’t stand a chance of making the best future-led phones for anyone.
Meanwhile, their new breed of customer had little connection to the brand beyond its product. Many fled when shinier phones emerged from brands that represented a specific lifestyle choice and communicated social capital. Apple = sexy design. Android = geek chic. As a result, RIM continued to lose smartphone market share and their shares fell 75% in 2011.
If RIM is to keep the Blackberry from going down as a pop-culture fad of the 2000s, they’ll have figure out what makes it unique in the eyes of their new buyer and thoroughly embrace that spirit. They need to determine what RIM now stands for (figuratively), inside and out. And they need a reason to exist in this new world, where people of all ages are increasingly mobile and connected.
If this vision is solidified and shared, RIM will be able to innovate with a purpose. They’ll start to build a product ecosystem with features that people can’t live without and over time, their authentic brand will resonate. Only then will RIM have set the Blackberry back in motion.
As I walked into Metlife Stadium this weekend to watch my New York Giants take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFL’s 13th week, I strolled past the Bud Light, Pepsi, and Verizon gates, dodged the Chase Freedom Zone and moved up an escalator past the Hertz Suites and Lexus Club before finally reaching my seat.