I am on Facebook.  In fact, I’ve had a profile on Facebook for about 5 years now (just writing that shocks and embarrasses me a little).

At first, like any college student on Facebook, the ability to connect with high school friends and browse through my current school’s “directory” of peers simultaneously, was incredibly exciting and entertaining.  But since then, my interest in the relationships we are able to build through Facebook has shifted a bit.  Facebook is not only a tool for social extension between individuals, but between brands, too.  Not everyone is sharing my excitement though.

A sense of worry and suspicion has begun to surround Facebook and the enormous pile of consumer information they sit on.  Yesterday, in WIRED’s “Your Facebook Profile Makes Marketers’ Dreams Come True,” Eliot Van Buskirk wrote:

“Never before have we voluntarily publicized so much of our personal data and consumption preferences, especially not in very structured ways that ease the work of marketer’s data scrapers.  And most of it accurately reflects what’s going on in our actual lives.  But the individualized nature of social networking profile pages means that some of the resulting marketing campaigns target specific individuals too, which is what concerns privacy advocates.”

I understand the concern over privacy, but should we (consumers) really be afraid of being marketed to in more relevant ways?  The way I see it, it is happening now and nobody seems to mind all that much.

Take Pandora: I enter “Jose Gonzalez” into Pandora and a mix of a dozen or so different (but similar) artists–most of which I have never heard of–is instantly streamed to my iPhone.  I love most of what Pandora creates for me, but I only come away purchasing ONE song (Sean Hayes’ “Rattelsnake Charm”) that day–the only one song I wanted to be sure I had “on-demand.”

Or, take Amazon: I search for Seth Goodin’s, “Tribes” on Amazon and I’m given a list of related titles.  A few of them I find particularly intriguing and I add them to my “Wishlist,” for future consideration, but I don’t buy any of them.

Sure, these are both niche channels, but they are also microcosms of this “personality aggregation” phenomenon.  They are perfect examples of an online network using my personal information and preferences as a way of delivering the most relevant products/services to me.  Does anyone really dislike this?

As Rob Walker explains in Buying In, we all want to feel like we belong.  Whether it’s through association with other like-minded people or through participation in activities we feel define us best–we want to belong, and brands and symbols help us satisfy this basic need.  Wouldn’t it be a positive thing if our interests (music, books, movies, TV, etc.) could be delivered to us in a more efficient way?  Wouldn’t this actually empower individuality?

Maybe we’re afraid of having more and more relevant products and services tempt us–I find it hard to believe we are that submissive.


Rob Walker points out a great video mash-up, created by  Matti Niinimäki, with audio repurposed from the Anti-Advertising Agency Portable Sound Unit project.

As someone who rarely finds “advertising”–both in message and method–effective, the argument here could not be more on-point.

For so many reasons, owning a Smart Car makes sense.  It is an unbelievably effective model for owning a car these days, especially if you live in the city.  On average, cars spend something like 8-16 hours parked per day!  Smart Cars simply make sense and so does the creation of So-Smart URL.


I’m not usually one for marketing gimmicks, but this little service created by Smart Car is not only brilliantly on-brand, but practical, too.  Don’t be surprised if So-Smart becomes the tool of choice for millions of “tweeters” looking to include lengthy URLs while still staying within the 140 character limit–even Twitter’s “tiny urls” can be too big.

One of my roommates, mentioned last night that he “hates [these] commercials.”

Not being in the marketing/branding/communications/whatever the hell you want to call it-industry,  I know Tommy doesn’t scrutinize branding efforts like I do.  So, the fact that we disagreed wasn’t entirely surprising, but it did make me question the difference between people in the industry and those of the general public and what consider to be “good.”  Obviously, Tommy’s opinion is far more important than mine (for the same reason people in the marketing world are not supposed to participate in focus groups and/or interviews), but I wonder, who’s missing something here? Me or him?

For me, “Dead Zone” is good.  It’s effective, because it works as another great extender of Verizon’s primary brand-differentiator, “The Network.”  As much as the “You’re good!” guy annoys me, he is probably one of the most recognizable faces in advertising and he and his “posse” are part of Verizon’s essence.  They symbolize reliability, signal-strength and speed, and overall customer care.  Every time I see or hear him, I am reminded of “The Network” and those UNIQUE characteristics.

Even though the “Dead Zone” spots are a little corny, they reinforce the brand’s positioning and are undeniably distinct, memorable and consistent.  Consistency is huge.  You recognize the music and the mood it creates and, even with the ones you haven’t seen, you can anticipate exactly what the happy Verizon customer will say in the end…”I have the Verizon Network”…so HA!

I think my Tommy, like most people of the general public, tend to judge commercials on their entertainment value without taking into account the cores messages they are actually taking away from them.  Tommy was annoyed by the ridiculousness of the spots and the repetition of them–he had ceased to be entertained.  “Yeah, yeah , yeah, I get it, Verizon has a great network, but show me something new…I AM watching TV.  Entertain me!”  While I sympathizes with the desire for commercial breaks to be on par with the entertainment value of, say, The Office, I don’t think he could deny that Verizon’s positioning HAD been seared into his mind.

Entertainment value in commercials, is often given priority by people in the ad industry, but, in my opinion, this is only a “nice to have,” not a necessity.  Having a strong, relevant, recognizable, CONSISTENT brand message is what really sets your brand apart.  More brands need to work on this, and worry less about how funny or titillating their work is.  It would end up being far more effective.

A great piece from The Daily Show’s John Oliver on Obama’s attempts to rebrand some of the words that American’s have associated (negatively) with Bush.

Here is the link–I’m having trouble embedding Hulu videos into WordPress.  If anyone has a suggestion for Mac users, please let me know…

Anyway, I especially love the “rebranding” of “Change we can believe in” to “Modifications deemed logistically plausible.”  So true given the current “reality check” we all (well, most of us) are experiencing now.

Trent Reznor Gets It!

April 8, 2009

Today, WIRED released a really nice piece on Nine Inch Nails‘ Trent Reznor, who has probably been one of the most forward-thinking “brand managers” of the last year or so–and I don’t mean music-specific branding either.  The report was sparked by news of Reznor’s upcoming release of a NIN iPhone App.

The free Nine Inch Nails app, scheduled for release as soon as it gets final approval from Apple, is a mobile window on all things NIN: music, photos, videos, message boards, even — thanks to a GPS-enabled feature called Nearby — the fans themselves.

Nearby is “kind of like Twitter within the Nine Inch Nails network,” says Rob Sheridan, Reznor’s long-time collaborator. “You can post a message or a photo by location, and if you’re at a show you can see conversations between other people who are right there.”

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the power of branded iPhone apps and asked why more brands (STILL!) have not created their own. So, it’s always nice to hear these kinds of announcements–industry leaders, like Reznor, truly grasping the opportunity and capitalizing on the value these “brand-extending tools” can add to the overall experience you create for your customers (fans).

As WIRED notes,

[This] is the culmination, at least for now, of a process that began a year-and-a-half ago, when Nine Inch Nails succeeded in extracting itself from its contract with Universal Music Group’s Interscope label…Since then, Reznor has pioneered a new, fan-centered business model that radically breaks with the practices of the struggling music industry. His embrace of “freemium” pricing, torrent distribution, fan remixes and social media seem to be paying off financially even as they have helped him forge deeper connections with the Nine Inch Nails faithful.

I will admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of NIN’s music, but their apititude for brand building–especially in today’s so called “unknown” environment–gives them huge props in my book.

This morning, VSA writer/strategist, Phil K. points to some of the new work VSA is collaborating with O&M, SYPartners and IBM on. Having participated in some the planning for the new, Smart Planet campaign and these videos on “Progress” specifically, I will admit, I am a bit biased as well. But I am happy to see how well they turned out.

Like many people, I was not a big fan of the spots O&M did for IBM towards the end of ’08, which attempted to combine the playfulness of Disney characters with the rigidness of  the corporate world. In my opinion, they failed. Compared with the spots I see now (including this one), the effectiveness is night and day.

As Phil mentions, this is “some gorgeous, emotionally resonant work in support of IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign.” At a time with so much uncertainty and so many questions about the future of the country, world, etc., the message is relevant, humanizing and confidence inducing. It makes me feel optimistic about the future. IBM cares, they realize the magnitude of the work ahead, but they are some of the smartest people in the world and they have a plan to help make the world a better (“smarter”) place. It makes me want to invest (more) in IBM.

I’ve been blazing through Friedman’s, Hot, Flat and Crowded (which is terrific by the way), and it is impressive how well the Smarter Planet concept fits into his suggestion for how a “Green Revolution” could be realized.