Tag Archives: Digital

Aside

In an internet age that has become ever more socially-saturated, devising and delivering something that offers true differentiation is becoming increasingly hard.  ‘Pheed’ is the latest social network to launch and whilst the platform itself doesn’t appear to offer anything … Continue reading

Instagram: Why Digital Darwinism is a Good Thing

Image

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is up in arms.  The denizens of Shoreditch, Hoxton and Dalston are revolting.  This Easter weekend, hipsters nationwide are NOT happy bunnies.  Why?  Because Instagram, darling of artisans, students and cool people worldwide, has been snapped up by Facebook for $1 billion.

Despite Instagram having a userbase of over 30 MILLION users (thanks in no small part to the recent release of the Android version), the app is apparently a sacred space for ‘cool’ people to attain subcultural capital and rebel against large, corporate digital behemoths vying for our digital data.  The app allows users to take photos, apply filters and be truly unique (as another 29,999,999 people).

While I’m clearly being facetious, the backlash against Instagram’s ‘sell-out’ has been surprising.  People have been using and enjoying this FREE service for a year and a half, whilst 13 guys in Silicone Valley have worked hard to support and develop a great little app for everyone to use.  For free.  Yet their payday has come, their hard work has been rewarded, yet suddenly they are the bad guys.  Why?

YouTube was started by two chaps in their garage – you can’t get much more raw, authentic and anti-corporate than that.  However, Google acquired YouTube and over the past few years, the service has developed into a mainstay of popular culture, so much so that we now have TELEVISION shows ABOUT YouTube clips (take a bow ‘Rude Tube’).

However, people were against YouTube being taken over at the time.  They claimed, just as they are doing with Instagram, that ‘they like things how they are and don’t want the service they know and love to be changed’.  Imagine if YouTube hadn’t evolved?  Imagine if smartphones, nay, MOBILE phones hadn’t evolved – we wouldn’t enjoy half the convenience, information and communications benefits that we do now.  It is with noted irony that people moaning about Instagram selling out to a ‘corporate’ are doing so on their Apple / Google mobile devices.  Hmm.

So while I argue that progress is a good and necessary thing in the digital space, what exactly is this progress?  What does this purchase of Instagram represent?

Without a shadow of doubt, Facebook is making a shrewd acquisition into the mobile space.  Instagram is the world’s largest mobile-based social network – fact.  Mobile is an exploding area in digital communications, simply because smartphone capabilities are evolving at such a rate – and this means this is a huge area of focus for businesses, brands and services.

Up to know, Facebook has enjoyed phenomenal usage on mobile devices thanks to its iPhone and Android app.  However, Facebook has also admitted that it has struggled to monetise and capitalise on this huge surge in mobile usage.  The purchase of Instagram may not immediately address this, since the app makes no money (at present) – however, it is clear that Facebook is moving with the times – and that means really moving into the mobile space.

So, there’s no doubt that Facebook will look to develop Instagram.  This is inevitable.  However, contrary to hipsters’ fears, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  If something is good, people will flock to use it in large numbers.  Large numbers = significant interest from big companies.  It’s a natural digital evolution.  But this does not mean that the service, or indeed, the CONTENT, need change.

After all, just think where we’d be if YouTube was still stuck in a garage.  Or for that matter, if Steve Jobs had not decided to make an Apple phone.

Progress is a good thing – especially in the digital sector.

(I may not be a hipster, but I do have a beard and work in digital – which means I love Instagram too.  The shot at the top of this post was taken by me, using pre-Facebook Instagram, this Monday.)

Things are getting Pinteresting…

The public’s appetite for new and innovative social networks shows no signs of abating, with Pinterest rapidly emerging as ‘the’ social media phenomenon of early 2012.

Between September and December 2011, unique users on the site grew by 400%.  As of February 2012, the site has 10.4 million registered users and an average of 2 million users per day.  And its explosive growth has been the fastest of any independent website of all time, taking less than nine months to reach that impressive 10 million users mark.

So what is Pinterest?  At base, Pinterest is a ‘visual pinboard’, allowing users to ‘pin’ images onto ‘boards’ on their profiles, according to themes, groups and passions.  According to the site:

Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favourite recipes.  Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

And perhaps this description goes some way to explaining the unique gender demographics of this network.  Statistics show that 97% of Pinterest’s Facebook fans are women, a demographic split that is replicated fairly accurately on the main Pinterest site.  And these women have been adopting Pinterest in their droves…

Between September and December 2011, unique users on the site grew by 400%.  As of February 2012, the site has 10.4 million registered users and an average of 2 million users per day.  And its explosive growth has been the fastest of any independent website of all time, taking less than nine months to reach that impressive 10 million users mark.

What does this mean for brands?

Needless to say, the sheer number of consumers flocking to Pinterest makes the platform an attractive proposition for brands and businesses.  Add to this the fact that Pinterest currently drives more traffic to third-party websites than Google + and LinkedIn combined, and you can quickly see a huge opportunity for the right brands in this innovative new space.

Indeed, many of the world’s biggest brands have flocked to Pinterest already – but how are they using it?

Clothing and ‘lifestyle’ brands such as GAP have been quick to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon, creating mood boards that reflect ‘inspiration’ for their latest collections and ‘denim icons’.  What does this do?  It allows GAP to curate a broad visual identity for itself, building lifestyle and aspirational messaging into its branding simply through subtle image association.  A well-executed and proven method to build on a brand identity through a popular new platform.

Other businesses have taken a more commercial approach to Pinterest, using its visual appeal to showcase products in a way that consumers find easy and appealing.  Tarte Cosmetics (in the US) uses its Pinterest boards to display its broad product ranges by category, offering a brief description with each picture.  Due to Pinterest’s simplicity, all users have to do is click on the desired image and they are taken directly to the product page on the company’s e-commerce platform.

Brands can also offer users the chance to pin their images onto the brands boards.  This is yet another example of social crowd-sourcing that allows consumers to feel closer to, and valued by, the brands they interact with as part of their world.

The Future?

There’s no doubt that Pinterest is big business – and here to stay.  It undoubtedly has strengths in certain key areas and naturally appeals to certain demographics that are visual-led, for example fashion, photography, retail, clothing, make-up etc.  These prominent ‘sectors’ also explain why Pinterest is such a female-dominated platform.

However, the advent of ‘digital snacking’ has seen users shift towards visual images and short copy as a preferred means of digital consumption.  Pinterest highlights this shift and brands would be wise to consider how their business could utilise this latest craze.

Social Peacocks: Social Media Display and Brand Affiliation in 2011

Back in 1959, Erving Goffman published a book entitled ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’, which, amongst other things, explored the theme that we ‘perform’ different roles dependent on specific ‘stages’ and situations we find ourselves in.

Although Goffman’s lauded name has become synonymous with this sociological concept, this is a theme that has run throughout history. Plato spoke of the ‘stage of human life’, whilst Shakespeare penned the pertinent phrase “all the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

It’s now 2011 and with the advent of social media, the concept of displaying ourselves on a stage has become more pertinent than ever before. We live in a world that is permanently switched-on; ever-connected. Sharing all aspects of our lives, from big news such as engagements and pregnancies to banal trivia such as what we are watching on TV, sharing on the social stage has become very much de rigeur.

With over 600,000,000 active users, Facebook has rapidly risen in less than a decade to become arguably one of the biggest ‘stages’ in modern life. Our social circles are no longer limited to close friends we see regularly; instead we can now ‘perform’ to old school ‘friends’ (I use the term loosely), casual acquaintances and old work colleagues as part of an ever-increasing audience viewing multiple ‘stages’.

But over the past two years, social media marketing has also made significant strides, with brands and businesses seeping osmotically into our online lives. The updates we receive from friends and family are now intertwined with communications from retailers, car companies, food brands, charities and local restaurants – in short, anyone that we actively choose to ‘like’.

Whilst recent research shows that many users are motivated to ‘like’ brands and businesses for the chance to win prizes and receive exclusive discounts, research has also started to highlight the growing trend in ‘liking’ brands in order to visibly display association with that brand to a peer network on social media channels.

This form of ‘display to convey’ is nothing new: take coffee tables adorned with meticulously arranged ‘high-brow’ literature / magazines; t-shirts adorned with branded logos; carrier bags displaying which shops we have just frequented. All around us, we display our consumer preferences through related collateral, be this actual or aspirational.

And this age-long trend has continue into the social sphere. Whether it’s using geo-locations to ‘check-in’ at a trendy bar or ‘liking’ a fashionable brand on Facebook (Apple, Aston Martin, Tag Heur et al), we are now sharing more and more of our consumer choices with a much wider audience. Why?

I conducted some research in various LinkedIn groups, asking the question, “Why do you click ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page?”, which threw up (amongst others) the two following responses:

“I already feel a big connection with the brand and want to let people know I like it.”

“The reason I did [like a page] was much more related to the identification I have with the brand rather than a special feeling […] they are a reference for me.”

Even from these two ad hoc quotes, we can glean that social media users (which in 2011, comprises the vast majority of us) are building, constructing and displaying their chosen ‘identities’ on one of the world’s biggest stages. Humans have always desired to display a side to themselves, be it status, wealth or sexuality – however the advent of display in social media has given rise to what I call, the social peacock.

I’m not for one moment claiming that this is the sole reason for consumers to ‘like’ a brand’s page. As previously stated, material incentives such as prizes and discounts are huge ‘like-drivers’. Social channels have opened up another level to customer service, with dedicated teams on Twitter, Facebook and Skype becoming standard practice for companies in the Utilities sector.

But for many social media users, ‘liking’ brands has become a way to collect badges and trophies that speak about them as a person; it allows them to project a desired image of themselves and their life choices. Like it or not, we live in a global economy driven by capitalism, and much of our perceived identity is intrinsically linked to the brands (as opposed to products) that we consume.

Who knows what the future may hold, especially since one of the rising trends in social media is the focus on local communities and niche ‘pockets’ of users sharing niche interests. But for now, clicking ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page remains very much a way of conveying choice, status and image – and marketers would do well to ensure that ‘social peacocks’ are one of the key groups they focus on.

Sony Rips off Honda to Promote New Tablet?

I’ve long been a fan of Sony’s advertising, especially when the Playstation 2 was launched, ushering in a fantastic series of eerie and creative adverts.

In creating some buzz around the forthcoming Sony tablets, the electronics giant has produced a teaser that is typically nebulous, ethereal and creative.

It’s clearly a fantastic short video, and I’ve no doubt that the tablet will sell hundreds of thousands of units.  But am I the only one who thinks that the brand has completely ripped off Honda’s award-winning creative?

Advertising is Dead: Long Live Engagement.

OK, so advertising is not actually ‘dead’; however it’s syntactical position as the exclamation mark or full-stop in a campaign has been usurped by the genuine need to engage and interact with consumers.

It’s interesting to see how different brands, different businesses and different sectors are employing this need to engage with their customers.  This weekend, I visited Tesco as usual to carry out the weekly food shop, when the following piece of in-store signage caught my eye:


This signage struck me for a number of reasons:

i) It blurs the boundaries between the offline shopping experience and online engagement.  Supermarkets have traditionally bombarded us with in-store signage in order to tempt us with special offers and multi-buys.  However, this piece of advertising clearly goes beyond that and considers the shopper long after they have left the store.

ii) The QR code is a nice touch – it allows smartphone users to access more information (and thus, engage more deeply) with the brand right there and then.  My only criticism is that the social media handles are not signposted clearly for those who do not use QR codes – an ‘@Tesco’ for example would allow customers to search specifically when they got home.

iii) There is an opportunity for genuine two-way interaction and engagement – customers are asked to submit their own recipe and get involved with Tesco’s new venture, the Real Food TV show.

iv) The platform on Facebook itself is innovative, dynamic and adds value, offering a place to compile and view recipes.  Not only is this a nice tool in itself, but it offers clear potential for several repeat visits.

v) It ties in with Tesco’s key business – the app details food that is ‘in season’ etc., providing a clear call-to-action for consumers to return back to the store and spend money.

In a previous post, we saw how Facebook’s marketers are talking about the new cycle of social engagement, and this piece of social marketing activity adheres to each step in that cycle:

AWARENESS: In-store signage
INTEREST: Competition mechanic and recipe feature
DECISION: QR codes and social channels visited
ACTION: Interaction with the application online
RECOMMENDATION: The ability to share / tweet tool with friends

Engagement is not solely the preserve of social media channels, as we saw in my recent ‘Social Media is a Budweiser Bottle’ blog post.  Social media undoubtedly acts as the platform in which brands can engage consumers more deeply than ever before, but successful brand engagement is an integrated phenomenon.

And this first-class example from Tesco highlights how the offline and online channels are becoming ever more intertwined.

Social Media is a Budweiser Bottle…


Social ‘media’ has undoubtedly acted as the catalyst in creating a more connected, social world in the digital space, but humans have been ‘social’ long before the advent of Facebook et al.

This brilliant new campaign from Bud Light uses special labels on its bottles that drinkers can etch messages on using a key or blunt object, penning anything from a name or party invite to a mobile number:

Although undoubtedly a gimmick, this is a great piece of marketing that taps directly into our fascination with being social, sharing and communicating with each other – yet the only social ‘media’ being used is a glass bottle!

Needless to say, there’s support for this campaign on the brand’s Facebook page, ensuring that interaction and engagement can continue into the online space through established social media platforms.

But the pertinent point is this: Bud Light started this campaign by creating something that taps into our fundamental psychological fascination with communication and being social.

Of course, social media allows us to reach and engage with consumers in authentic new ways never before seen. But at the very heart of any social strategy, we need to remember that, like the Bud Light bottle, we need to appeal to real people in ways that fascinate and engage them.