Thursday, 29 July 2010

Geo-location and Privacy: A Subtle Balance

This post is also featured on the recently launched "Typing On The Wall" Blog.....

Location Based Social Networking (LBSN) is prominent within the media zeitgeist at the moment, driven by the increasing growth of the category's current darling, Foursquare. As Foursquare recently added its 2,000,000th user and its 100,000,000th check-in, some can argue that the increasing growth rate (having added its 1,000,000th user only 3 months ago) and press coverage of the network are currently the most prominent stories.

Foursquare CNN World Cup Badge

CNN partnered with Foursquare during the World Cup to direct users to check-in at certain locations worldwide, unlocking badges and interacting with content

Given the company's growth rate and the utilization of the network by advertisers such as Domino's, the Huffington Post and CNN, this may be set to change. For media however, questions about Foursquare and other LBSNs go past the common questions of user growth and campaign concepts into "What insights can the network's data generate?"

Campaign metrics are key to creating attractiveness for advertisers, as greater data availability allows marketers to justify activity and modify comms efforts. Standing conversely against data availability however is user privacy.

User privacy concerns are inherent in social networking, but even more so when dealing with a user's location history. Sites such as popped up early on in the emergence of the current geo-location trend, highlighting a feed of users exposing their locations through auto posts onto Twitter. Concerns about user privacy have also been illustrated in recent studies, with a recent US/UK survey showing 55% of respondents worry about privacy relating to geo-location (Webroot).

Balancing privacy, key to growing the base of active users, and providing useful data & insights, key to growing advertiser investment, means that LBSNs must strike a careful balance as both network operators and data providers. Foursquare's solution to this issue has been two fold, providing basic data about venues & friends through the API (Application Programming Interface), while also providing business level analytics to venues claimed by the owners.

Given the open nature of the API, anyone can obtain a key and begin obtaining data and building applications, data is limited to what is available on the website. User specific data is limited to friends, while venues can provide the current amount of check-ins, who the mayor is and venue information. Data from the API is useful to monitor popular venues for a certain area or to create visualizations such as these, but it doesn't provide the specific level of data required to manage a large amount of CRM or loyalty plans.

Foursquare Analytics

Alternatively, the Foursquare analytics dashboard for a venue currently displays check-in data over time, different time periods and whether users clicked through to provided Facebook & Twitter links. In addition, it provides a stream of recent check-ins & top users, creating the ability to target individual users based on their behaviour for promotions. User check-ins not relevant to the specific venue are still protected.

Foursquare's approach to data visibility balances user privacy with metric creation in a way that provides venues an opportunity to customize promotions, while not risking user outrage by making data completely public to marketers. This strategy seems to be the way forward for LBSNs, as it encourages growth by unlocking the value of the network's data, without leveraging the privacy of the user base.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Daily Links for 27.07.2010

Sports & Money: Texas lands athletics sponsorship with "green" energy firm (via @Sociablesport)
The Uni. of Texas is going to offer branded green energy provision through their Texas Longhorns Energy program. While branded products for alumni are no big deal, leveraging the alumni network, passion for the university, sponsorship and environmentalism creates a novel approach to moving the UT brand and taking a step forward to a greener Texas. While its partly surprising that this idea emerged from the heart of oil country, I wouldn't be surprised if this didn't signal a novel move in collegiate sport sponsorship.
It seems Twitter has finally gone the way of Brizzly and is looking at embedding content within the tweet-stream. Such a move may seem to be an easy win for improving the user experience of Twitter, but depending on how this is implemented, it may fundamentally change the way user's approach the network. For one, this adds a value to using that 3rd party clients will have to scramble to compensate for (something that seems to be quite a trend lately). Secondly, this changes the way the user experience exists, as a clean, text based content stream becomes heavily loaded with thumbnails and preview widgets. Will it work in the long run? Probably. But I wouldn't be surprised to see a little unexpected handwringing in the near future.
I like the Diesel 'Be Stupid' Campaign, but this really takes the idea and drives with it. Facepark took a park in Berlin and encouraged people to 'Be Stupid' by creating an analog version of Facebook to rival the 'smart' digital version. What results is some really good viral content, an interesting website and a hope they might do this again in London one day.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Daily Links For 26.07.2010

Data security and opt in user consent are some of the looming issues in geo-location and social networking. The data freely available through APIs such as Foursquare's is rather useful for monitoring relative popularity and activity over time, but granular level user data is where businesses are really going to harness the usefulness of the network. This data is going to require user consent (either tacitly or implied) and this is where the conversation about geolocation & privacy truly begins.
For all the noise about regulating airbrushing in advertising, I think it is a really noble idea. That aside, aspirations are always going to be unreasonable and limiting marketing that utilizes these unreasonable (yet societally reinforced) goals addresses a manifestation of the problem, not the problem itself. Does advertising go to far in pushing an ideal, sometimes yes. However, the extreme cases of airbrushing etc. are regulated by societal outrage and the rest just represent what we have brought on ourselves for ideals. The answer to this problem isn't modifying advertising, but turning the mirror on individuals to empower themselves and create/push for healthy ideals.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Daily Links for 21.07.2010 - International Marketing, Outrage & Pepsi Nostalgia

Pepsi Remakes 'Diner' Spot
I love the original Pepsi/Coke diner spot from years ago. It's easily worked its way into the nostalgic lexicon of treasured childhood advertising. This is why I didn't think I'd like the update that much, as I expected it to be rather derivative.

That being said, I love the new twist on the old setup. Without spoiling it, it seems to fit the brand well. One could claim that the brand values of Pepsi Max (an incremental improvement over traditional Pepsi for those that want to avoid calories), deserves an incremental update over traditional existing ad content.
Following along the lines of the global marketing trend in several of my recent links, I love the story of how a brand like Pabst Blue Ribbon transforms itself across cultures. Going to uni & growing up in the US, I knew the Pabst brand already meant different things to blue collar workers, college students & hipsters, but within the US, only the image changed. As shown in the NY article, price point seems to rapidly change as well once enough space has elapsed to prevent information asymmetry.

I love the fact that seemingly downmarket beer made since 1844 in Milwaukee, saved from possible termination by a hipster renaissance of ironic consumption, can run as a premium product in different markets. Now if I can just get my hands on one of the upmarket versions.
I know this has been out for a few days now, but the story touches on an interesting issue about cultural relativism in global marketing. Just as with the KFC Australia ad earlier this year (Google 'KFC Racist Ad' and you should find the story relatively easily), when localized marketing and values are placed on a global stage, we find that misunderstandings can occur. Skin color is always a touchy issue, but vanity products do exist in every culture, representing social norms & values. The challenge, both for society and marketers is how to dance the fine line between localized relevance and (if relevant) global scale.

I know my links may be a little Geo-location heavy lately, but I thought this was an interesting entry detailing almost all of the conceivable badges you can earn on Foursquare. Badges as virtual incentives are an interesting concept, so seeing the breadth of how they have been applied so far is rather interesting.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Top 30 London Ad Agenices on Foursquare (for 16.07.2010)

Thanks to everyone who suggested new venues on Twitter, by email or in the comments last time. I've added quite a few new listings to the overall list. I'm hoping to upload the full list and simplified data in a few days, once I can plug it into some quick data visualization software for a post.

Also, I've fixed a bug in the aggregator that combined data from Proximity London & SapientNitro, so you should see these as distinct entries now.

As always, if you think that I've missed an agency or location to add to the search list, just email/DM or comment.

.jpg Version below (click to enlarge)

Friday, 16 July 2010

What can the Means-End Chain teach us about digital content?

      So, its no big secret that two of my largest geek obsessions: psychology & digital marketing, come together rather often on the blog. However, where as I normally start with a digital marketing concept/story and throw in some consumer psychology, I thought it might be entertaining to do the opposite.

Aside from being as far from the actual World Cup as possible, what makes Nike's ad easy to share while others aren't?

      With this in mind, I was recently considering what tools might be useful to differentiate the mass of digital content posted by brands. With the World Cup coming to a close and people marveling over the number of views advertisements like the Nike 'Write Your Future' video garnered, its interesting to consider what separates this from other similar, less viewed World Cup content. Along these lines, I thought I would take a relatively basic consumer psychology concept, the means-end chain, and apply it rather liberally to the world of online viral marketing, to view content in new ways.

What is the Means-End Chain?

       The means-end chain is, at its most basic, a way to describe how a product interacts with the consumer. Whereas more complex explanations can be found elsewhere, for our purposes, I'll go with a basic definition I've used since school At its heart, a product on the means-end chain breaks down in three different areas:
Not every product touches the consumer in each of these areas (some basic products may only deliver a basic benefit and possess simple attributes), but by analyzing a product along these lines, we begin to take apart its essence. Within each of the three groupings, two subgroups exist, which begin to paint a progression for product analysis (shown below).
 These six sections allow marketers to analyze not only how a product interacts with the consumer, but where advantages may exist in relation to similar products. For example, on the surface, few differences exist between Coke & Diet Coke. If we put Coca-Cola Classic on the means-end chain, we see that it hits the boxes expected from a soft drink:
Purchasing, possessing & consuming a Coca-cola isn't a life changing decision, no matter how many people you buy a Coke for or teach to sing. Even its psycho-social benefits (those conferred from others) are tenuously weak, with a fleeting acceptance coming from only the most needy of consumer. However, when we compare it to Diet Coke, we can see that in some interpretations, a soft drink can become more than just a beverage.
By dipping into enabling values the consumer may have about fitness or getting into shape, Diet Coke has the ability to interact on a level traditional Coca-Cola cannot. While it may be tenuous to say that one Diet Coke could enable a consumer to achieve a step towards a long term goal, it does point out how we project possibilities onto products in noticeable ways.

What does this have to do with viral content?

Moving away from the straight forward example of two related products, its clear to see that the basic concept of the chain is useful to think of products in a different way. However, relating this product analysis to online content however, may be more difficult.

When someone mentions viral marketing & the internet, a variety of things can come up. From tweets to pictures, video & websites, users & brands both enjoy the benefits of the way content travels online. The reach generated by a user generated movement can multiply the effectiveness of a brand's campaign exponentially, but predicting what content will resonate with the online audience is difficult. Much like predicting product/consumer interaction, the way users consume online content is unpredictable, leading to uncertainty about communication performance.

A focus group discussing re-tweeting last year attempted to sum up how content is passed on to me as 'attributional cool'. This meaning that users only pass on what they deem cool & interesting, hoping to impart a bit of that feeling to themselves as they share with their friends. Predicting what achieves the level of 'attributionally cool' is a nearly impossible task involving analysis of social norms, reference groups & a host of other complex factors. However, the relationship between the user, content & viral transmission begins in the same way as with the user & product.

Instead of a purchase & consumption, online content hopes to motivate the user into interaction & distribution. Therefore, it may be possible to compare two similar pieces of content, in the same way Coke & Diet Coke were compared, and see if some level of interaction dictated greater depth of engagement. While the very nature of viral content & 'attributional cool' lives in the Psychosocial area of the means-end chain, I believe the other areas can still help to unlock basic insights about content.

Applying the Means-End Chain to Digital Content....

Applying the chain to viral content, it seems that the attributes and benefits may possess a more obvious presence than values, as the relationship between content and the user is rather shallow. That aside, each area seems to take on new characteristics when thought of in the digital space.

Ok Go's 'Here It Goes Again' Video helps to illustrate how concrete attributes, such as embedding functions for content, can heavily shape pass-on performance

     Attributes, as we think of them in traditional product analysis, entails the actual dimensions & capacities of the product. With our Coke & Diet Coke example, the concrete attributes described unchanging things about the packaging and the liquid itself, while functional attributes described interpretive aspects such as taste. In applying the means end chain to digital content, concrete attributes can become the aspects of the product that control viewing such as resolution (HD or non-HD), encoding, video delivery platform (i.e. flash based or HTML 5), sound or no sound, embeddable or non-embeddable, etc. Functional attributes becomes analysis about the content itself, (i.e. does it feature recognizable characters, what is it's tone, etc.). While functional attributes may seem to play a larger role in viral pass-on than concrete attributes of a product, remember the performance of OK Go's viral music videos. After their treadmill based 'Here it goes again' went viral, their follow-up 'This too shall pass' featured disabled youtube video embedding at the behest of their record company. While this was eventually overturned, views of the video were significantly lower than the embeddable original, due to a change in the concrete attributes of the digital content.

Content such as the Toyota Sienna viral 'Swagger Wagon' illustrate the challenges in balancing depth of benefits with a target group to widespread appeal.

      Benefits, in traditional product analysis, are the deliverables that the product can bring (i.e. Coke quenches thirst (functional benefit) and it may signal something to others about your choices (psychosocial benefit)). Alternatively, when analyzing digital content sharing, the perceived psychosocial benefits play a large role in deciding if content will be passed on. The functional benefits of digital content speak to the enjoyment the viewer gets from consuming the content, while the psychosocial benefits speak more to the possible 'attributional cool' that the user feels he may get from sharing such content. While the psychosocial benefits may seemingly outweigh the importance of the functional benefits in assessing if content will be shared, we shouldn't discount the importance of the intial viewer experience in assesing content. How the initial viewer enjoys the content is very important on how he/she feels others will react to it. The reference groups of an individual also heavily shape expectations of what would be considered 'attributionally cool'. For example, a 15 year old might not progress down the means-end chain to the same level as a 35 year old family man when presented with content such as the 'Swagger Wagon' music video, though both may find humor in it. Therefore, the means-end chain helps to illustrate the challenge content faces when it hopes for a large pass on rate, delivering both functional and perceived psychosocial benefits to the largest audience possible.

Possibly one of the most well known pieces of digital content in the last few years, 'Yes We Can' illustrates how the rare phenomenon of tapping into the values part of the means-end chain can benefit a piece of content's consumption & pass-on

        As mentioned before, Values are the hardest level for both products and digital content to interact with the consumer. While few products can reach the consumer in a way that leads to delivering instrumental or terminal value, even fewer pieces of digital content can, due to fleeting engagement. However, given the scarcity and power of value based digital content, those that can latch onto some larger life goal gain a powerful chance to encourage pass-on. Content linked to political campaigns, such as the 'Yes We Can' video for Barack Obama's campaign illustrates how content may tap into larger goals due to its affiliations. While many politically related videos may touch on a similar topic in both attributes and benefits, the ability of the video to deliver the perception of instrumental value delivery gave it an appeal over others.


        So after attempting to apply the means-end chain to digital content, what have we learned? I think breaking down each section has shown that the 'content as a product' model works for analyzing how content is consumed. I think limitations exist in the power of the model based on the impact of reference groups and social norms, but that two similar pieces of content, with similar target groups and interests, can feasibly be compared for differences along the means-end chain. Overall, this entire exercise shows the value in applying new points of view to existing ideas, mining insight from the synthesis of different, but related, fields in marketing.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Daily Links (16.07.2010): Who isn't talking about Old Spice

Interesting piece by Brand Week on the current situation within geolocation. I'm amazed how quickly this has gone from a two or three network battle into dominance by Foursquare. There is also a very insightful position on the usefulness of Foursquare as a platform and not a content publisher (i.e. possibilities coming from the API, etc.).
The two popular Old Spice virals hit the nail on the head when it comes to deadpan humor and charm. Extending the life of the campaign through mini-content &social media engagement is a no brainer, but its interesting to see how Old Spice leveraged the actor from the content to generate personalized shorts involving Twitter responses to the campaign. Compared to other funny commercial characters of the past (such as last year's 'Most Interesting Man in the World' from Dos Equis), this is a well designed alternative to non-targeted short form content.

While the conversational aspect of the Twitter Old Spice shorts may get a little old after a few, its definitely a novel approach to user engagement.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Daily Links for 12.07.2010: AE Gives Away Cell Phones, App News on Phones & more..

App Inventor for Android
The ability to visually create (without required coding) object oriented applications for the Android platform could make this an indispensable part of how droid competes with the iPhone. I love the idea that simple tools and games can be easily knocked together on the platform. I'm also quite excited for how this could be used to teach basic programming, with the ability to make mobile apps as a reward.

On the flip side of it, balancing ease of use and power is always an issue. The way that App Inventor links into APIs and expanded functionality may make the difference on its shelf life.

I know iAds is still in a phase of incredibly high interest (meaning people are literally tracking down the apps to find the ads), but it is interesting that an application developer has managed to leverage the platform so quickly.

Trying on a 40 dollar pair of jeans to net a free smart phone (with a 2 year service plan) seems like a pretty entertaining deal. This doesn't seem to be costing anyone that much as the provider gets the expected revenue of a 2+ year plan, AE gets footfall and PR coverage & the handset makers get some unexpected market penetration. Hooray for retail synergy.

Interesting that this doesn't come around more often in the US at different locations. I can imagine that an iphone dock and speakers per booth will have some horrible consequences entailing a cacophony of different Top 40 songs, but its good to see locations encouraging mobile interaction.

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Top London Ad Agenices on Foursquare (for 29.06.2010) [Infographic]

 As always, if you think that I've missed an agency or location to add to the search list, just email/DM or comment.

.jpg Version below (click to enlarge)