May 24, 2011

No Stone Unturned

We have entered an age where our attention is constantly occupied by all kinds of new spaces.

We are no longer limited to television, radio, outdoor signage and other traditional spaces where content, specifically ads, have been intruding upon our lives.

Technology, specifically mobile technology, has taken us even deeper into our attention caves.

Our focus now lives comfortably in deep cavernous spaces, in new and undiscovered places.

Smart phones, eBooks, tablet computers, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter streams. Tagged photos, online radio streams, text messages, Wifi signals, location check-ins and local deals have cannibalized our attention away from the old television commercials, ancient billboards, sagging signage, morbid magazine ads and so on.

It is the age of digital distraction and these distractions are both complex and constantly changing.

To capture audience attention we now have to start communicating in places that are very different than the past. Places that we haven't yet discovered or even fully understand.

Communicating in these new spaces requires new kinds of techniques and a new kind of language, a more stealth and subtle way of storytelling. It requires us to not only tell our stories but to disrupt and inject them directly into real life situations. As virtual as they may seem.

It has been ages since I have used a traditional phone, my cell phone is my main line of communication.

I recently used a land line, upon picking it up I heard a dial tone, a white noise that lets us know that there is a signal and that we can start dialing. It immediately occurred to me that this tone is a completely wasted opportunity. Why didn't the carriers stick a message in there?

A similar thing happened when I was walking down the street, completely immersed in my iPhone, suddenly alert messages started popping up informing me of nearby hot spot locations.

These signals were coming from apartments, businesses, office building and even personal roving hot spots. Except all I was seeing was either a silly name or some jumbled letter & number combination.

Why not communicate through these micro channels that are ubiquitous to all and have our undivided attention?

This led me to sit down and to think about all of the new "places" that exist today, it now excites me to find and try to come up with creative ways to communicate through those tiny spaces.

I am extremely lucky to live in NYC, it is a great opportunity to explore some of the new, less conventional or less obvious, places that people are spending the majority of their time in and to find creative ways to enter into those spaces and communicate a message in the new and unique language that the spaces require.

So next time your out for a stroll take the time to look around and notice all of the amazing opportunities that technology offers us as marketers. Think about new ways to communicate with a population that is now living in these spaces, try and find creative ways to augment and enhance these spaces and try to retrofit your ideas to live in these new and interesting environments.

May 16, 2011

Like to Be Liked

From big box brands to the local store around the corner, every marketer seems to be convinced that offering consumers the ability to LIKE a brand or service is a way to measure loyalty and build community.

It has become one of the new holy grails of marketing.

The LIKE button is everywhere.

Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Check In to us on Foursquare...

The ravenous desire for a brand LIKE is quickly becoming a driving force behind many ad campaigns today.

It is now prominently displayed on television spots and outdoor ads, clamoring for your LIKE.

This new phenomena leads me to wonder, does a LIKE really mean people actually LIKE what they are LIKING?

Normative social influence says otherwise, there are conclusive studies that say what we do in public is often the opposite of what we really believe in private.

When a user clicks that LIKE button they are seemingly making a public, social proclamation that they endorse whatever that cute little blue thumb is attached to.

We all want to gain acceptance from people within our networks so we may intentionally LIKE or retweet something that we may not really believe in, we do this in order to gain greater social cohesion within our networks and this cohesion seems to make us feel closer than we actually are.

In reality many of us rarely see or interact face to face with the people in our networks, however we have a deep longing to maintain the relationship so that we may feel more secure about the amount of friends or followers we have.

The more friends and followers the more important we seem, at least to ourselves.

As marketers and advertising professionals we must really reconsider and try to better understand how valuable a LIKE or a FOLLOW actually is.

Solomon Asch, a trailblazer in social psychology, would conduct studies using social confederates as influencers to get people to conform with something that was obviously false.

These confederates would knowingly opt for the wrong decision and in doing so would cause the other unsuspecting participants to do the same.

However when the same participants were asked to make the same decision in private, many of them would opt to do the opposite of what they did in public because the pressure for social acceptance wasn't a factor.

Social conformity forces people to copy the behaviors of what individuals perceive as normal for the social network they are in.

In doing so they create for themselves a sense of comfort in knowing that the chances of becoming a social outcast is slim and that by participating in the interests of the network the user actually feels as if they are strengthening the network they so desperately want to be a part of.

Herbert Kelman, a Harvard psychologist, codified three major forms of social influence:

Compliance: a public conformity, while possibly keeping one's own private beliefs.

Identification: conforming to someone who is liked and respected, such as a celebrity or an industry thought leader.

Internalization: the accepting the belief or behavior and conforming both publicly and privately.

There have not been any conclusive statistics regarding the number of LIKES and the effect it has on a brand's bottom line, it is way to early to gather this information.

However I would like to raise the concern for the importance of LIKES or FOLLOWS or RETWEETS as a measurable metric of success.

We need to all step back and dig a bit deeper into the motivations behind social sharing and LIKES and try to figure out how these interactions actually impact a brand.

This will help marketers decide how much money to put behind efforts to gaining more LIKES and allow brands to spend their money more wisely and on more effective ways to gain consumer engagement and loyalty.