Friday, June 27, 2008

Create Your Own Presidential Campaign

As I am leaving for vacation, I thought I would share something fun with you through my blog. Go to the following link, enter your name and/or your friends' and they'll receive an email telling them they've been spotted in the news and they're a major contender in the presidential race....

I spooked some people already. I am not going to analyze why this is going around the Web as the latest viral phenomenon - no need to overthink here. Humor on current affairs trumps everything else.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Verizon: Who You Twittin?

I love Verizon. They work. Their systems work. I am saying this even though I am not their cell or wireless customer. I envy those Verizon customers who can talk on their phone in a tunnel, at the subway, on top of a mountain. Their 'Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign is worded perfectly. It addresses an issue every other cell phone user in the US experiences and coins it as a theme. It's part of jokes, it's part of conversations. Simple and therefore viral.

Verizon impressed me with their twittering customer service. My colleague Jeff who had a problem with his Verizon service twittered about it and got an almost instant reply from a Verizon blogger who saw his message. His technical issue was not resolved on the spot, but Jeff was so impressed with the approach, he told at least 20 people about this fast response and genuine care from Verizon.

So what happened with the twittering teddy? (Check it out at This is a semi-fictional character who is supposed to represent all the help Verizon can offer to upgrade homes and solve networking issues...I think...The site is a bit busy, first introducing the twittering teddy, then building stories around him, grassroots events, DIY tips, etc.

I think the twittering teddy speaks more to marketers then to the typical Verizon customer. Twitter and Web 2.0 are not mainstream terms. So, the clever tag line of 'how 2.0' is probably lost on many. Verizon does better when it tells a simple story and gets to the core of the problem.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

AP's Red Flag About Copyright In The Blogosphere

The AP announced that it expects bloggers to comply with copyright laws when quoting from the news source. The announcement stems from the allegation that the Drudge Report "reproduced" parts of AP articles rather than "referenced" it.

In principle, the AP is right about raising a red flag about copyright issues. Many cybercitizens, including myself, freely comment on the news. And during this process, some may inadvertently copy and paste more than allowed, without interpreting the content for their readers.

Yet the big question is, how AP will monitor and track all this activity. Would they have claimed the Drudge Report incident if it weren't for the blog's prominence? Perhaps we'll see more cases from ordinary cybercitizens, similar to the early days of online music piracy issues.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hillary vs Obama on Video

I read this fantastic post in SF Gate a few days ago on how the Clinton campaign lost the online video war.  San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli chronicles the Clinton campaigns missteps in communicating with online audiences through video releases. He notes how lack of an authentic voice, wrong script choices, mash-ups lead to the undesirable kind of viral activity. 

I don't think it's just the video medium though... The Clinton campaign didn't find its voice until we saw how hard Hillary was fighting and were reminded how hard she had worked to get there, representing all the women. 

Obama, meanwhile, had a very simple and clear message. Change. How refreshing amidst all the economic, social and political chaos! His videos and speeches are so emotional, you feel you are part of his movement just by passing it along. I am not even an American citizen. I cannot vote. I have to admit I felt drawn to his story as someone who lives here and has family affected by US politics in North America and abroad. 

Obama said what was on everyone's mind. The Web made it loud enough for everyone to hear. An authentic message, powered by passion and emotion, distributed by 1's and 0's. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Online Healthcare - It's A Matter of Trust

Healthcare communications is a fascinating field, especially when it comes to reaching patient groups online. Looking up health-related information is among the top reasons why people go online and yet the drug brands are pretty restricted in the way they can reach out to consumers--as they are part of a heavily regulated industry. These Web sites contain the basic drug facts, usage and safety information, without many bells and whistles. And some would argue that's the way it should be. It's about health facts, not entertainment. 

The Web 2.0 era's direct and simple healthcare brand sites seems to be reaching their audience. The 11th annual national survey of Consumer Reaction to DTC Advertising of Prescription Medicines indicates that

  • More than half (53%) of all consumers go online to look for prescription drug information (up by 12 percentage points from 2007)
  • Half of consumers (50%) have visited the Web site of a pharma company and 40% have gone to an advertised brand's site
Meanwhile, the same study points out that consumers are not very likely to change their perception of drugs in pharma ads endorsed by doctors.  Seven in 10 consumers say the appearance of a doctor in a pharma ad doesn't make the drug seem effective or safe. 

So, the take away is that consumers are less likely to trust or rely upon paid endorsements even if it comes from a medical professional. They do make the effort to find out information on their own about drugs.

These findings make you think about the content marketing professionals plug into pharma Web sites. It seems like nothing is superior to objective, scientific, reliable and clear information. Patients will choose their own medical experts. 

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How Sporting Portugal Went Viral

It's hard to predict what type of message or content will go viral. There is no secret formula, but there are some smart choices you can make. First, understand the audience's attitudes. Second, make sure to strike an emotional chord. 

I was eyeing Marketing Sherpa's Viral Marketing Hall of Fame 2008 list. My personal favorite is Sporting Portugal's campaign that uses the soccer team's Web site to draw the audience into the team's experience as the new season starts. Fans who visited the Sporting Portugal site would watch the video of a nervous Paulo Bento, the team's coach, calling a fan and telling him to get down to the stadium as the game started. Then they could submit their phone number on the site and get a 'personal' phone call from Paulo Bento asking them to come and support the team at the stadium. 

The campaign drew more than 610,000 people to the site in two weeks and the team hit all-time season ticket sales record on the first day of the season (1,500+).  That's pretty successful, especially considering the country is about 11 million people. 

Having grown up in Turkey, where soccer is by far the most popular sport, I can attest to Mediterraneans' passion for their soccer teams. People develop para-social relationships with the players and the coaches through the media at a level that goes remarkably deep. When everything else is so-so in your life, your team's success means the world to you. When they win, you gloat. When they lose, your week is ruined. (Think Superbowl excitement that lasts as long as the season.) Soccer is the leading topic of conversation among buddies. Children need to play soccer to make friends in the neighborhood. 

You always discuss how the team "could do this to you!" And you have a few bits of advice to give to that player or coach. The Sporting Portugal campaign broke through the mold and heightened the excitement about the beginning of the season, because it held the phone to the fans' ears and had a real voice at the other end of the line. All of a sudden, the para-social connections became real. 

And if Mr. Bento has made a personal effort to call you, how could you let him and the team down? After that point, it's a matter of honor (and fun.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why Dell's Blogger Outreach Was Successful

After reading about Dell's success with bloggers in Ben Worthen's Wall Street Journal article, I typed in red mini Inspiron into a few search engines. It was true! Consistently, all mentions on the first page of results were from social media, including top technology blogs. Only one mention was from the company -- and even that was from Dell's blog, aptly coined "your blog." The company had managed to turn the mike to tech-fluentials and they were promoting the new laptop since late May. 

Two things in the Worthen article are worth underscoring:

1- It took Dell a year (I'd say more) to engage with key bloggers
2- Dell has a team of staffers dedicated to tracking online buzz and responding where appropriate

In other words, blogger engagement pay off greatly, just like any other relationship, when you invest the time and energy into it. It's not about using the blogger's space as a sales vehicle. It's about making a valuable contribution to a conversation. It takes time (and in this case budget) to earn street creds...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Content Is King, When It's A Commodity

Like many readers I was fascinated to learn about Battle At Kruger, a YouTube eyewitness video, being featured at the National Geographic Channel. The video was taken by David Budzinski from Texas who was on a Safari trip. It is your typical story of baby buffalo gets attacked by the lions, who almost lose the baby to an alligator. The miraculous act happens when a buffalo herd shows up to save the baby. 

Budzinski shops the clip to the National Geographic Channel and the Animal Planet upon his return, without much success. Yet after his video garners 33 million views on YouTube, he gets the TV executives' attention and his clip is featured on the National Geographic Channel. 

Even if some people viewed the clip several times from several different computers, 33 million is a force to be reckoned with. The YouTube counter served as an indicator of how many viewers would watch the episode and how much money it would generate. 

Too bad we do not have the episode's ratings or insights as to why/how the audience decided to tune into National Geographic for this program... Or, I'd like to think they did. (Why would I want to pay for cable TV or remember to tune into the program, when I can just search for the same footage online and watch the director's cut as many times as I want for free.)

The dynamic between YouTube's audience and the TV executives made me think of my former classmate Fernando Bermejo's take on online audience measurement.  In his book, The Internet Audience: Constitution and Measurement, Fernando points out the following: 
  • the audience is the first requirement for a mass media channel to exist 
  • the media industry needs to define a commodity by its audience before buying or selling it 
Had it not been for the YouTube counter and the hundreds of comments posted under the video, the Battle At Kruger may have never made it to TV. Video views and consumer-generated comments do not have the same level of accuracy and representativeness as census bureau statistics. Yet, when the buzz is large enough to capture and the volume is too high to ignore, we get to embed user-generated content into traditional media.