Musings of a Trendspotter

Friday, December 10, 2010

Show me the Honey

'Just be human' is the popular mantra of social media. Wherever we turn, there's another reminder the job at hand is to humanize brands, make them love their community and thus allow the community to love them back.  The thought being, the more love a brand shows, the more love the brand will receive. Makes sense. There is, however, an art to delivering that love, where interactions with the community seem real, honest and valuable.

Being human is a worthy goal, but in doing so, sometimes brands (and people) overdo it to the point of seeming...well...less than human.  In some social circles, being human relies heavily on over-excessive flattery, psychologists would claim likely stemming from some deeply traumatic childhood event (I blame my sycophant behavior on that aggressive girl in sixth grade who stole my coveted unicorn sticker collection). Despite some reports, an abundance of niceties and enthusiasm will not win you fans, or stickers. It will rather make you suspect. From ingratiating flattery to over-excessive #FFs, boisterous complimenting will earn you a reputation, for certain, but probably not the one you imagined, or planned.

Now, there are people (and brands) that fall into the genuinely nice category, but they are genetically/strategically designed as such.  It's not a put on.  It's not taken from a how-to guide on a blog written by some social media expert. It's real. Innate.  Believable.

Brands are real.  Yes, there is some phantasmagoric element about them that exists in the ephemeral, where our imaginations create emotional connections that project onto our lives, but at the end of the day, brands are created by and run by people. Real people. Brand mysticism aside, brands are real. Brands are human. But being human does not mean flattery to win friends. Being human means being true to who you are, what you represent, where you came from and where you are going.

It's no wonder social media is evolving platforms, such as Facebook Groups and Path, that focus on limiting our networks and mapping them based on who we love most, who we are intimately, personally committed to.  Those people, those devoted consumers, deserve truth and openness, they deserve unfettered love.

The new mantra: Just be real.

And, of course, here's the how-to-be-real guide:
  1. Focus on those closest to you.  Whether selling ice cream or medical devices, the direction's the same, know who your closest customers are.  It's not about driving numbers of followers and fans from all corner of the social spectrum.  It's about embracing the right people and holding them tight, caring for them and delighting them with surprises, just as you would a good friend.
  2. Remember the nuances. Real relationships have a natural ebb and flow. It's not enthusiasm and flowers every minute of every day. Fans appreciate a natural approach to language and posting.  And, yes, when you do bring the flowers home, bring 'em big and proud.
  3. Be honest. If it seems contrived when you are concepting an idea or writing a post, it will feel 10 times more contrived to your fans. Be honest, not just with them, but also to yourself as a creative, as a human being. And...there's that word again.
What are your thoughts and tips? Honestly, I want to know what you think or if you've seen my sticker collection.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Hilary Stein

Friday, October 15, 2010

Troublemakers, An Homage

The best campaigns cause trouble. At the end of the day, or the end of the check-out line, it's better to be noticed than not. In fact, Gap may have planted that horrific logo to gather some relevance. And it's probably the best thing that's happened to the brand in years.

Let me be clear, 'trouble' in the creative arena isn't destructive, it's collaborative, explosive and replete with creative energy. Juicy's campaign featuring the art of troublemaking didn't get as much attention as it should have in the mass arena, but the dirty call-to-action of its copy set the brand apart from its fashion cousins in the collective industry. It elevated the brand into a different arena, where perfect alabaster supermodels lounging on white leather couches seem,...well, boring. And what brand wants to be boring? Right, Gap?

Creativity by its very nature is the act of changing the complexion of a thing, a space, or an idea. How can that be done without causing a bit of trouble? Even when campaigns tap sentimental emotion wholly and ride on the shirttails of the heartstrings, there's a spirit of unbalancing the normal, the safe, the happiness. That's trouble. Our job is to touch a nerve, to ignite reaction.

I wonder if feigning creativity to cause trouble is a new social strategy. What do you think?

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Love Haters (and How You Can, Too!)

I fall in love easily. Just look at my following count on Twitter. Every time I turn around, there’s a new brilliant person with crazy ideas and big thinking, expressing wit and irony with every post, visual creators living in color and dreamers spouting imagination and thinking into the creative stratosphere. I love everyone.

Or at least, I think I do. Of course, I’m being fed people like me. No wonder I love them. They think like me. Live like me. Work like me. I’m a ranter against homogeny and here I am creating a virtual world of people like me. Uh oh.

Social networks should have the ability to feed us people unlike us with dissenting opinions, different life perspectives and well, maybe people and ideas we don’t ‘like.’

I want it to be easier to see the other side of my opinion. My world is being colored by a socially fed optimism, a collective belief that the world is improving. That we all share a bright, shiny, democratic, creative view of the world. And when I hear a differing opinion, I balk. I balk not because I don’t want to hear it, but because I’m beginning to believe my socially delivered world is a real picture. And it’s not. How do we find dissension when our lives are constantly being endorsed by our networks?

There’s beauty in opposition. I crave it, honestly, and I see it slipping away. From a sociological perspective we should all be concerned our ‘liking’ and ‘following’ is eroding reality. Are the polarities in the world growing larger each day? Is there a giant vibrating world of hate collecting on the other side of my spectrum?

How do we bridge the chasm? Crowd thinking is beautiful, indeed, but is it endorsing a homogeny we might fear in the future?

Here are some ideas to embrace difference:

  1. Seek out the opposite.
  2. Talk to someone unlike you and engage them in debate.
  3. Visit a virtual community outside of your comfort zone at least once a month.

What are yours?

Photo credit: pasotraspaso via Flickr Creative Commons

Monday, August 9, 2010

Stop. Collaborate and Listen. Three Steps to Social Nirvana.

Vanilla Ice had it right. Who knew he was the arbiter of all things social, our digital Nostradamus? He may even be the father of Chris Brogan (you might want to fact check that before tweeting).

I've been knee deep in strategies for clients over the past several weeks, waxing poetically about the benefits of mass persuasion, digital voyeurism and the rising cultural approach to advertising and in my head the whole time Ice, Ice, Baby is urging me on. I think once I may actually have said: "we need to stop pushing messages and collaborate and listen to consumers." At the risk of exposing myself as a lover of fake Eighties rap, Mr. Ice had a beautiful way of saying wake up, change your ways and understand before you act. It's simple, but a surefire way to achieve social marketing nirvana. Here's my translation for today's advertising community:

Stop: Traditional is dead. Don't do it anymore, it's over. Everything is digital, everything demands a screen and everything is shaped by the culture around it. There's not a campaign that can ignore the tide of influence or shout a message without engaging and participating in the growth of the culture around it. In fact, can we start calling traditional something else? That's probably another post.

Collaborate: Give consumers the wheel. Allow them to be curators of content, give them platforms to innovate, open the brand to them and let them participate in its growth. By creating unique collaborative platforms, such as, we allow ownership and empowerment. Imagine what that does for customer service and operations.

And listen.: Frankly, this is the hardest part. As advertising folks, all we want to do is jump in and offer ideas. Ideas, ideas, ideas. Don't like that one? Well, hold on, here's another. If we wanted to be researchers, we probably wouldn't have gone into advertising. And yet, it is an incredibly important part of creating good ideas. By listening, truly listening, to what is being said and reporting to our clients on those needs and desires, we are free to present sound, research-based ideas, and maybe even abandon a course of action that doesn't match the direction of the audience.

So get out there and execute. Social media is the revolution, where brands will build unimaginable influence by stopping to stand side by side with consumers, collaborating and listening to their dreams. Wait, that inspires the title for the next post: Hammer Time!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Global Ingenuity (Or The End of Cannes)

The tide is shifting. We all know it. And as our creative community sits on the beach during the final days at Cannes, competition further slips away from the center of the advertising community. We are a global creative department now. Shouting to each other across our loft space on Twitter and Foursquare. "Hey, @jtwinsor thanks for the inspiration!" and "@edwardboches where do you think things will go next?" Competitors? Hardly.

The cover of this week's Advertising Age designed by young Grey creatives Garrett Dafferner and Salina Cole captures the spirit of our interconnected creative community, all of us, gears moving one another, thinking and inspiring elevated concepts, designs, tools, campaigns. A factory of thought.

Is there an agency-owned idea any longer? We are shaping each other's thinking at a rapid, highly-involved and engaged rate. Nothing seems proprietary. In fact, it seems wrong to hold back, to protect and control thought, to hold captive this global creative spirit.

This is a new era of creative collective unconscious. Our thoughts are one. Your Lion is mine. And mine yours. Our creative experiences are being shaped together -- a unified personal perspective coming together with each glance at your digital portfolio, your worldview, a follow of the creative at the Mac behind you, a Twitpic from the copywriter in Finland. I become you. You become him. We are ingesting each other's creative thinking, inspiring one another. Global ideation 24/7. A brainstorm that never ends.

What's exciting is the diversity of experience fueling stronger creative. We are all becoming smarter together, brilliant creative, leading to more brilliant creative. It's a communal creative brief written together each day. How on Earth are we going to enter awards against each other at Cannes next year? I suppose we'll just all have to go onstage together.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fashion Fuel

It's no surprise to those of you who know me, or have been following this blog for a bit, or read my twitter feed, that I'm a bit obsessed with fashion. And I'm not talking the "loves to shop" kind of obsessed -- that's not what drives me -- nor is that as serious as what I'm dealing with. I'm talking the weep-over-a-garment-with-careful-stitching obsessed.

I started my career in the fashion industry, working with some incredibly well-known industry icons, although at the time, I thought everyone who worked in the industry knew them. Because of this, I have an unusually skewed sense of the fashion industry and a deep respect for the creators in the field.

Fashion is my inspiration, my art. And so today, I thought I'd share with you some imagery of late that I've used as inspiration in creating ideas and thinking for clients and, well, life in general.

Pictured below is the finale from Alexander McQueen's last show, the last look he created before committing suicide in February this year. McQueen was a genius. I think of the textural layering and royal heroics of this craftsmanship at least once a week.

Hold your breath. This image below is shot by Karl Lagerfeld for the 2010 Chanel campaign. Simple, emotional, space. I'm there. You?

Not that this is even close to being complete, I will share one more series of images from photographer Pietro Birindelli. I am a bit of a Kate Moss groupie, and he's been doing some amazing work with her, as well as others. His beauty work is so varied and intense, I'm completely moved by his artistry.

I've started a side blog, called Fashion Fuel, on tumblr that will be driven mainly by fashion imagery. Feel free to join me there, as well, when you need a bit of inspiration.

What inspires you?

Images: McQueen: WWD, Chanel: Karl Lagerfeld, Kate Moss and other beauty shot: Pietro Birindelli

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

All You Need is Love: World Cup Wisdom

I'm working on a Brazilian campaign for one of my clients that has nothing and everything to do with the World Cup. Despite our football marginalism, we Americans are entranced by the energy and excitement of the sparring cleated nations. But what's more engaging is the uber-frenzied love of the people and their undying affection for their teams.

Football for the world represents the collective dreams of a country. Inspiration. Courage. Hope. All emotions our brands, particularly in the social spaces must represent. Love is the most powerful motivator for action and has the power to engender true trust and loyalty. Have a look at this amazing video below created by Tam Airlines for the Brazilian soccer team as they settled into their seats readying for departure to the World Cup. How will you show love today? Maybe you should dribble a soccer ball for inspiration...

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