Monthly Archives April 2013

Brand Mis-Deception

Today, even with all the big data abounding, brands know you behaviorally. Think about it, only by your actions, purchase patterns, click throughs and by the perks they throw your way. Few brands (or the people who manage them) know you emotionally or get you empathetically.

I love brands.  In fact, some of my best friends are brands.  It’s true, my Nike Pegasus(s) have taken me to more places than I could ever recall. And, I do love, unconditionally my Bic 4 color pen- it too has taken me to many places weird and far.

But, lets be real it is a one-way street.  My old school writing partner wouldn’t know me from Kurt Vonnegut.  And, Nike knows me mostly as the obedient discount reacting Pega$u$ guy.

Today, even with all the big data abounding, brands know you behaviorally.  Think about it, only by your actions, purchase patterns, click throughs and by the perks they throw your way.  Few brands (or the people who manage them) know you emotionally or get you empathetically.  They may be using Radian6 like tools on your Facebook comments or Tweets or what you blog.  There is a lot of heady ( or hoody?) extrapolating and projecting, but for all they know about you, not the persona you, but your emotional you, brands still have along way to go in getting real.

Brands of course want a deep and meaningful relationship, but it’s difficult, let alone really creepy for the “inanimates” to know too much, get too close.   Unless you’re a “people” who position themselves as a brand like Jillian “5 more reps, now!” Michaels or Justin “Be a Belieber” Bieber or anyone with the surname “Kardashian”, then it’s cool.  It’s like who needs another bud, when you just want another Bud?

All I am really saying is, all of us in brand land (all of us!) need to take it easy on the over the top ways of getting attention and penetrating our hopeful or loyalist lives. Just because we now know way more about the navigational and transactional pathways of our “friends” doesn’t mean we should use it against or for them. Most brand and digital brand people especially, live in the never-ending world of new and cooler “shiny objects.”

So  given this, what I’m REALLY saying is just maybe the only way to truly navigate the future of effective brand marketing and cultivate sustainable relationship value is say or sing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and practice RESTRAINT.

Still using stock photos on social? It’s really time to stop.

If your grandparents looked like they crawled off a Clairol box, then congrats on hitting the genetic lottery. For the rest of us, stock images showing perfect people in perfect families just aren’t relatable. They also just don’t work well on social and here is why…

What is one of the worst things brands can do on social media? Use stock photos! Stock photos and product shots on social make us cringe, but the practice is all too common. If your social media marketing strategy involves stock imagery and products shots we have rounded up the top reasons to convince you to change it up.

Here are the top reasons not to use stock photos in your social posts:

1. Who are these people anyway?

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 11.13.04 AM

If your grandparents looked like they crawled off a Clairol box, then congrats on hitting the genetic lottery. For the rest of us, stock images showing perfect people in perfect families just aren’t relatable.

Showing images of real people using your products, who are truly enthusiastic, are going to go much further with your target audience. Your brand’s likes,  share and overall engagement will go up.

2. Cans lack soul.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 1.38.36 PM

It’s a can of cat food. Yes, if you are a cat owner you probably have a brand of cat food that you like. And, if you are the cat food company then you probably paid thousands for a photo shoot in which each piece of niblet of meat in this can was arranged.

But, chances are if you saw this can of cat food pop up in your newsfeed accompanied by copy like “Like this if your cat eats this”- you would not even pause for a second look. Even if it had the most gorgeous label in the world. It’s still just a can.

On the other hand….

If you are a cat food company and post a pic of a real cat a user shared on your wall or on another social platform, who is super cute, and put your branding on it, BOOM. Magic happens…

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People will share. Fancy Feast rocks this tactic all the time on Facebook, and their images get a lot of love. Always think about your brand’s content from the user’s perspective- not just the brand perspective.

If your brand is posting cans, bags and other product shots- not matter how lovingly poised that product may be, it will never have the soul of a user generated image.

3. Stock photos aren’t funny, smart or interesting

Couple brushing teeth in the bathroom

Think about it for a moment. You went to school for photography. You have to make extra cash. So, you create the most generic images possible like the above “couple brushing teeth” and add a million random tags to the photo in the hopes that your image will be downloaded enough times that you can buy groceries this week.

The result: Boring images.

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This image was posted on Colgate’s wall. A consumer is proving the whitening power of their toothpaste with a photo taken in black light.

That would be a very funny post from the brand as well, but instead Colgate responded “HAHAHA” and let the post wither on the “Recent Posts by Others” vine, instead of using the image in a post on their own wall with thanks to the user who submitted it.

Instead they use images like this…

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 1.27.46 PM

I don’t mean to pick on Colgate or their agency or in-house person tasked with picking stock photos of perfect people with perfecter teeth.

They are just typical of the way brands use images to little effect on social.

So, use real user generated image on your wall and consumers will see that you are paying attention to them, and even better that you are celebrating their relationship with your brand. They may also post a pic in the hopes that they will get a star turn in your brand’s posts.

Have you made the switch from product beauty shots and stock images to user generated on social? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Change is never easy or fast enough and that won’t change!

Ron Johnson the celebrated former Target, Apple, and now J.C. Penney executive clearly understood the above un-attributed law of change and went all in anyway.

So why didn’t Mr. Johnson’s strategy of getting rid of the hundreds of coupon and discount offers with everyday low price (EDLP) work, as well as, dramatic and fundamental changes to merchandise?

Some point to hubris, others to deep-rooted conviction born out of incredible experience.   Here’s my two pennies:  I say the issue was not about changing the discount culture of a store, but the broader reality of brand culture and habitual behavior/expectation that Johnson may have underestimated.

Changing people’s belief about a brand or changing its transactional soul is danger on steroids.  People are creatures of habit. Consumers even more so regarding the ritualistic behavior of imagining they’re winning with a coupon or discount. People like winning at retail and EDLP takes the game away; while, framing a new “believe me/trust me” mindset- without the dopamine.  Plus, for over 100 years J.C. Penney has meant something to its loyalists (dwindling as they may be) and that something was the feeling of special- discounts, days, savings.

Target let alone Apple never had that historical baggage to negotiate.  From day one Apple wrote its own way of defining its unique user experience.  Target with designers like Mr. Graves and Mr. Stark evolved and enhanced the product portfolio without alienating the consumer or their expectation.

Both defined their respective channels through innovation. From a brand POV innovation doesn’t have the negative reverb like change does.  The obvious proof point is Coke changing formulation into New Coke- the #1 “don’t mess with my brand” case study in history.  Coincidentally or ironically one of Mr. Johnson’s advisors, Sergio Zyman was the senior marketing exec. at Coke at the time of the re-launch.  So clearly, Mr. Johnson had first hand and learned experience with this kind of fire.

In the coming days much will be written about Ron Johnson’s tenure- was he given enough time, was he fighting an impossible product, merchant culture battle, did his senior staff leave because they sensed what was happening or not?

Regardless of what gets said or not, this much we know “if change was easy, everyone one would do it!”

In the Wake of Tragedy What Should Brands on Social Do? Be Quiet.

In the wake of tragedies, people turn to social media for instant information, to fulfill our human need to connect. This is when social media really shines, when it’s promise as an instant means of communications and information comes true.

Brands on social seem to struggle with tragedy. PR agencies, ad firms and digital shops are filled with people who are affected, even if indirectly when tragedy strikes. Everyone struggles with coming up with the right thing to say. There is a very human need to say something.

But brands are not humans.

Even though the people who staff accounts have the best intentions, creating a post in the vain of “We Remember…” or “Our thoughts are with…” is inappropriate. People are turning to each other for comfort, for news outlets for coverage. They are not turning to consumer package goods or B2B companies for solace.

In the aftermath of tragedy, brand posts do two things:

  • Clutter up newsfeeds when people are looking for instant information.
  • Give the perception that a brand is leveraging a tragedy for their own benefit.

So, if you manage social media for brands what should you do? Halt all posts, especially in the hours after the tragic event. By staying quiet, your brand will be doing something important- giving people space to find news, connect and find solace in their friends.