Sunday, 30 May 2010

London Advertising Agencies on Foursquare (28.05.2010) [Infographic]

 So given that the last London Foursquare Agency graphic was a bit more graphic than info, I decided to add a little bit on the current version. I've posted the current infographic in both .pdf and .png formats. Also, thanks to Sinead Doyle for publicising the last Foursquare ranking post on her blog
Click for Larger Version....
 As always, if you think that I've missed an agency or location to add to the search list, just email/DM or comment.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Daily Links: (26.05.2010)

The fake BP twitter page @BPGlobalPR is showing, once again, how users can hijack a brand presence on a network. I'd like to say that BP's Official brand presence could do something to prevent this, but given the circumstances, there isn't much that can be done. It seems like BP is just going to have to sit back and take the PR damage from this angle as well.
With Spotify doing social listening & iPlayer doing social watching, it has really come a time where content is better enjoyed with others. I like the idea that the BBC is making it to where their shows aren't just finite episodes, but objects to be passed on.
With Fast food restaurants offering more upmarket menu items, its great to see somewhere bring out an upmarket/unusual experience (if in a mostly novel/tongue & cheek manner) to promote a normal product. It seems like this should be a nice promo for hardcore brand fans and the sporadic Chick-fil-a customer.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Daily Links: (25.05.2010)

I can't wait to see how the logistics of this work out on a National level. Checking in to get rewards (free pizza for mayor, free sides for check-in) should get people using Foursquare for the incentives, but the policing of how its implemented will be the really interesting point. Check-in fraud and tying purchase to check-in should be key to getting this working successfully.
After yesterday's announcement that 3rd party advertising networks won't get access to the network, Twitter's latest move, claiming a share of ad revenue from gadgets & viz using network data, isn't that surprising. They have managed to quickly lock down access to their greatest asset, user generated data, and the moved on to taking a share of the derivative product. These moves should definitely silence some of the lingering doubts about the network's profitability, but I can't imagine some developers are happy about the pace of it (at least those that are still developing after the company turned their sites on traditionally 3rd party functionality).
Posted: 24 May 2010 11:11 AM PDT
This might be the best example of illustrating the power of a sale sign ever created outside of a social psych lab. Best Buy apparently took a regularly priced item, raised the price and then advertised it as on sale 'as advertised'. While its not the most effective use of 'premium comparison pricing', it does highlight the power that information asymmetry & visual cues have on purchase decisions. Logically it seems like some stocking/coordination error, but interesting implications.
Interesting that while the UK General Election wasn't the digital PR fest that some predicted, the channel was rather effective at changing intentions in some target segments. I'm intrigued that only 5% of respondents said they engaged with political content on Twitter, but This may stem from possible biases towards Facebook/other more established platforms and those with a greater depth of presented content. Facebook tends to present a greater amount of content that exists within the perceived page, while Twitter's external linking may mean respondents believed in a disparity between the political content & the network.

Regardless of details within the digital channel, data like this shows that the next election could possibly be much more digital in its comms.

How Powerful Are Virtual Incentives and Why are They Always Badges?

The introduction of Facebook's new badge for accomplishments system & website like 'Get Glue' (a recommendation engine using badges to encourage sharing) show that incentivizing on-line behavior through virtual badges is on the rise. While 'token economies' are nothing new and virtual incentives have been shaping behaviour for years (recent examples can be found in about any Facebook app), the manifestation of badges as a reward is quite interesting.

In a previous article about the psychology of Foursquare, we noted that Foursquare's badge system works to economize offline activity through online rewards. Check-in at a number of Starbucks and you get a 'Barista' badge, visit 20 pizza parlors and get the 'Piazzolo' badge. Working in concert with other operant rewards (items on Gowalla, titles on sites like Qype/Yelp, rewards/points in virtual games, etc.), these virtual items have some real behavioural change power. However, what are limits of operant behavioural conditioning through virtual badges and more importantly, WHY a badge?

To start considering the choice of badges as popular virtual rewards touches on the heart of what virtual items can be effective. Badges represent a perfect example of efficient signalers as rewards. Badges in the real world, just as in the virtual, are highly visible. They communicate an important quality or accomplishment to others in a succinct yet understandable way. Their public, yet simple nature gains its power by being understood across an audience respected by the wearer. Therefore, one can assume that the effectiveness of a reward badge is measured by how visible the item is to an audience, how communicative it is to the audience about the importance of the act and how much that audience is respected by the wearer. 

Boy scout merit badges are a good example of this. Though I only attended one scouts meeting (an introductory session which caused me to decide that not wearing a uniform and camping sounded much more fun), I and others can understand the system of how members earn badges for accomplishments (such as fishing or first aid) from popular culture.This means that the badges, which are recognizable by a large portion of a population (from either respected group members or secondary cultural members) can easily convey prowess at an activity to a large group from their highly visible position on the member's uniform.

Virtual badges on sites such as Foursquare utilize this same mechanic. The badges stay on the user's profile page, where they are instantly visible to a respected audience (other users within the wearer's network) and simply convey the accomplishment of an act.

Through these criteria, the examples of the Facebook badge system & 'Get Glue's' seem to have serious challenges, but for different reasons. The Facebook badge system, which unlocks badges based on various network accomplishments (ranging from having 'x' number of friends to opening 'x' number of groups) will instantly get adoption, due to the large number of Facebook users. The audience, combined with the ability to place it directly on the profile page/news stream, makes the reward highly visible. In addition, the audience that the badges speak to have a minimum of respect with the wearer, as they happen to be the user's peers. However, despite these strengths, most of the listed accomplishments that the badges reward for are rather pedestrian.Where is the respect for getting a moderate number of friends or starting a few groups, when any user could do it relatively easily. In this sense, Facebook faces the challenge of getting users to care about the acts the badges represent, facilitating the items to communicate a respected act easily.
Alternatively, sites like 'Get Glue' face different challenges in implementing effective online badges. The site's badges (or 'stickers' as they are called) revolve around recommending various items to others, an act integral to building the attractiveness of the network. While Facebook's 'like' feature and open graph may quickly render the site's premise obsolete, the challenge amounts are large enough that other users on the network could respect the accomplishment. The badges are highly visible on the user's page, which leads to an ease of signaling about the accomplishment. However, the small size of the site's current audience relative to other related networks (, Facebook. Mr. Wong, Stumbleupon), diminishes the power of the respected audience. A smaller possible audience to notice a badge requires a fervent/insular user base to maintain the same effect, placing great pressure on the site to attract repeat users and foster frequent activity.

In both examples, as well as other rewards online, the challenge generally falls within one of our three reward criteria. However, even through considering all three factors, user behaviour is highly unpredictable. Only through understanding the overall user experience for a website or network can we attempt to predict behaviour and only then can an effective reward economy be created.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Daily Links: (24.05.2010)

Considering the UX on some parts of Yahoo's Mail/Maps & IM , this really saddens me. I think Nokia has put out some of the more amazing things (outside of Apple) in terms of usability for the mobile market, but this can't bode well for continued success.
"Older masses are better than none at all" seems to be the sentiment about US broadcast TV within the article and I agree with the sentiment, but not the idea. Upfronts are a great idea of illustrating how a traditional media channel buying system is being shoe-horned into a new media world. Until a fleshed out, cross platform, buying system (and more importantly sales culture) is fully implemented, it seems that buying for reach without full efficiency will continue to be a fact of life.
It had to happen sooner or later, but I'm surprised that the ads won't still be hosted by Apple. Apple's 'Get a Mac' ads will go down as a brilliant entry to the recent history of advertising, but it seems like a combination of time, Microsoft's Windows 7 ad approach (actually the subject of my 1st post last year) & an orientation towards the iPad's promotion finally did them in. Good on Apple for not running a successful idea into the ground, but its also amazing how many were actually made and what they achieved.
I waited a few days after first hearing about this to post, as I believe my knee jerk reaction to Google TV may be wrong. In a world filled with Boxee's which can't access Hulu (meaning content still isn't as platform free as hardware is currently allowing) & Microsoft Xbox media extenders (who's implementation was bad enough that open soure X-box media center & a cracked Xbox destroyed them functionally), its easy to look at the Google TV idea and scoff. Perhaps this initial reaction will end up being true, but for the moment, I'm optimistic that Google may march through this particular elephant grave yard and place the flag where others have failed.

With 3rd party support, a true content across mult. platforms approach and a clear, non-dilluted value proposition, Google may actually succeed where others have failed miserably.
[See Above] If more 3rd party hardware makers like this can get on board, the risk can diffuse off Google a bit for the Google TV scheme. Integration across multiple platforms is key for this to work, since Web over TV is only one aspect of an all encompassing media solution. Selling anything less will begin to seem cheap and unappealing in the long run, regardless of short term benefits.

I don't normally include a ton of web design examples in the blog, but the way addition and subtraction of color was used in these was really inspiring. Its always useful to keep up on what people are doing in web design, even if one isn't directly related to it, and these serve as a reminder of what a good designer can do while still staying simple.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Daily Links: (20.05.2010)

I don't know if I agree with every KPI on list as being incredibly important (or moreso significant in measuring performance), but it is interesting of metrics to possibly consider. the idea of social media analytics being amorphous is pretty outdated and counterintuitive to the strengths of the channel.
BK has been moving into more premium products for quite some time, but this is still pretty surprising. The upside is that premium pricing makes a Whopper meal look pretty cheap, the downside is that you'll realize halfway through your meal that you paid 18 dollars for a meal for two at Burger King...
JetBlue, which heavily leverages social media in its campaigns, decided to test the search ability of agencies vying for the account on Twitter...It seems like a pretty straight forward addition to the existing pitch process and I'm definitely surprised by some of the negative comments mentioned. Granted, astuteness on Twitter isn't a dead on indicator of digital savvy, but this falls to the categories of interest and due diligence in pitching.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Daily Links: (19.05.2010)

Really innovative way to utilize AR in outdoor, but its a shame we can't do the same without passing out paper place holders which limit the times it can be used. I know the webcam needs something to map against, but hopefully in the future.
Posted: 19 May 2010 02:34 AM PDT
Compared to WSJ's 64,000 downloads, its looking like free is the initial way into the iPad. I guess everyone needs to hold off on the 'saved publishing' tag for the device until the kinks are worked out.
The announcement that Twitter was dedicated to making its own external apps had to be a pretty worrying one to application developers. The services they've made helped Twitter expand its audience over the last two years, but with <45% of the users utilizing a 3rd party client (probably more, but thats the figure we had from UK research last year), it was only a matter of time before it turned its sights on development. Now, the strategy is coming to bear with Twitter rebranding 'Tweetie' for the iPhone and rumors of a URL shortener and other clients in the works. It looks like developers are facing a choice between acquisition (best case) or obsolescence
Facebook's 'text-only' version of their network is intriguing, but puzzling at the same time. Limiting network content to status updates and text may allow you to offer a no carrier charge option, but it basically reduces the content offering to sub-Twitter levels. This may work in very developing markets, but I'm puzzled that its being pushed so hard in the UK and others.
I was going into reading this as pretty skeptical, given my normal position on automated sentiment analysis, but it seems that by skimming down the various emotional aspects that one would look for, it may be onto something. I'd love to see this expanded into a spectrum of sarcasm that could be applied to snippets of conversation like Twitter...or would I?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Foursquare & Central London Transport [Infographic]

     Lately, I and others have been looking at Foursquare/Gowalla & the like to analyze geolocation data and wrap our heads around what its all about (hence the explosion of Foursquare data in the blog lately). More robust data is being developed, but while this doesn't promise to do any of that, I thought it would be worthwhile to try my hand at another infographic. With this in mind, I thought that the network's potential in generating transport insight might be worthwhile and without providing anything groundbreaking, the takeaways from comparing how people register their travel were pretty interesting.

     As mentioned in the graphic, people seem to be registering locations while on the go, as tube stations aren't nearly as popular as train & tube/train stations. I know that some locations are naturally busier, Charing Cross vs. Brixton for example), but the under performance of some tube stations in popular locations (Leicester Square), means that not nearly as many people are checking in after the fact as would be expected.

     Aside from this, the variety of places people checked in is quite amazing. From buses (shown in the graphic) to planes & a few boats (not shown), people are dynamically logging information when possible.

     Perhaps the most striking fact from the data however, was the lack of dual or superfluous locations. Being that most seek to be mayor of somewhere, you would assume to see more distinctions of tube vs. train stations (for instance, Charing Cross is only listed as one entity). The multitude of people who check in from platforms within a train station however (not shown in final version of graphic), may counteract some of this.

    Overall, I think as the service grows, we should see more people fleshing out London's transport network in line with what we would expect. From this sampling of transportation options, the network is already beginning to be represented well.

[Development Notes: I selected a subset of tube stations to represent due to the fact that I was drawing the map underneath it. TFL is rather touchy about the rights to their map, so I wanted to make sure that mine was divergent enough to not be derivative (hence noticeable differences I've made sure are present).

If this goes over well, I'm considering expanding it to a longer version (including everything that I noted was missing), so if you have any thoughts or ideas, just let me know.

.jpg Version (Click to Enlarge):

Daily Links: (18.05.2010)

So this one is slightly confusing for me. A TV show which promotes team building through going to work naked utilized a PR stunt where people rode the tube naked (with strategically placed bags). Hmm....if you take out the mentions of PR & TV out of the previous statement and replace them with 'I' and the past tense, then how do you think this would end....Apologies for the Daily Mail link...
Posted: 18 May 2010 04:20 AM PDT
It was only a matter of time until travel brands (esp. alternatives to flights) started to cash in on the ash cloud. The risk in doing so though (esp. for train operators) is that overcrowding during a flight down time or routine delays/inefficiencies can not only quickly negate any benefit from the message, but also cause consumers to see them as inept, hypocritical or disingenuous. Glass houses and all that.....
Japanese Twitter Visualization....I don't what else I can say about it other than entertaining for a few moments and properly inspired.
Openbook is doing for privacy on Facebook what 'Please Rob Me' attempted to do (and pretty much failed) for privacy on Geo-location. The site shows what can be done when you start aggregating public status updates in a pretty brutal manner. The timing of the site's growth serves as yet another hit to users accepting Facebook's ubiquity.
Facebook integration into the Apple 4.0 OS? It seems like there isn't much that Facebook will be directly linked into soon. It seems that moving beyond basic member volumes to become even more indispensable through integration is the name of the game.
I know visual effect websites in German aren't really my normal fare, but I thought the visual effect that comes from painting the bars of this fence was incredibly creative. It really illustrates what can be done with a space.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Daily Links: (17.05.2010)

Seems like seatback TVs were cool just a few years ago....
I like the idea that one of my favorite services is popular enough to have a 'killer rival' now, but I think the entire competition between the two may be a bit overblown. Mytown has pretty much never worked for me, but that aside, its purely a game. The utility vs. game adoption/lifecycle curve is quite different, meaning that whatever competition its providing against Foursquare (and vice versa) should change rapidly.
I've been thinking about this one for the last week and I'm still undecided on bits of it. Hands down, its an amazing idea which makes the normally ignored noticeable. However, I'm still curious if the target demographic for this will donate given any impetus.
Interesting piece on the actual implementation of the Super-sides, etc. that we all see everyday (if you happen to live within public transport range).
The 'conflict' between Facebook & the Open (i.e. almost all else of the) Web is an interesting one. The article sums up the different points pretty well, but I think the debate about Facebook's place is the most interesting part. Is Facebook just another layer set within the Web framework or, through its content distribution network and ease of use/user base, slowly displacing open/functional aspects of the web?
While we can all intuitively guess that WOM recommendation carries more validity to the consumer than advertising claims (deriving from the general strengths of PR), its really interesting that the efficacy of WOM in the modern age is so similar across cultures. The fact that individuals both utilize Social Media & WOM over ad claims in a traditionally individualist (US) and a collectivist culture is definitely noteworthy fact.
2 Billion Daily downloads is quite impressive no matter how you slice it, but I do wonder about comparing it with broadcast TV as they are different experiences. A Youtube video is a minute or two minute clip, while a broadcast TV show involves a more extended viewing experience. That said however, it is still an incredibly impressive feat that shows the direction media is moving in.

When does creepy become interesting: The Bird's Eye Frozen Peas Ad

     Last year, I wrote about Method's 'Shiny Suds' advertisement, which sparked a decent amount of controversy based on its slightly creepy appraoch to illustrate the effect cleaner residue can have on a shower. I've embedded the ad above because I'd like to use it to quickly discuss another ad which caught my attention, the Bird's Eye frozen food campaign using Willem Dafoe as a stuffed polar bear.

      The inclusion of Willem Dafoe in a fish finger ad would have garnered some press coverage on its own due to the seeming mismatch between the actor and the brand. This is the man from Platoon (and a less gravitas bestowing Spiderman), so flogging frozen goods may create a bit of a gap of expectation in consumer's minds. Brilliantly however, Bird's Eye & AMV BBDO leveraged the gap in consumer expectation to make a memorable ad by playing to Dafoe's unique image and the strangeness of his presence in the commercial.

'Never underestimate how far dedicated brand spokesmen will go to sell fish sticks'....
Source: Dafoe in Boondock Saints 

        Every element of the commercial seems to lend itself to being slightly off-kilter and creepy. The polar bear seems to be designed as part hallucination/part ratty hand puppet. The lack of emotion conveyed by the puppet's minimalist face and its passive-aggressive tone means that its expected behaviour and intentions are slightly worrying & unclear. Dafoe's voice makes this part as his tone easily switches from paternally reassuring & humorous to slightly sociopathic, leading the viewer to wonder if the commercial will end with a laugh track or simulated animal puppet violence. Conclusions like this make it woth noting that compared to Bird's Eye's previous campaigns (example below), this is quite a departure in a new direction.

       Compared to the previous campaign, and in general, I really like the Bird's Eye ad. However, as I previously said in my post about the 'Shiny Suds' ad, I'm not exactly the target market. I'm certainly shower much more frequently than buying frozen fish sticks, but in both purchase decisions, I don't have much involvement. As a 20 something guy, I'm still surprised that the shower doesn't clean itself with everyone using so much soap in it; as for frozen fish sticks, if I purchased any, I can tell you they would live forgotten in my freezer until the next equivalent of the Pre-Cambrian extinction came around. This aside, its not a great time to be a housewife in advertising. From showering to food, it seems that placing the archetypal homemaker in creepy situations is the current de jour for challenging convention and gaining interest.
         So, if both ads bank on housewives in creepy situations, how can I like one and feel slightly apathetic to the other? Relative to each other, the 'Shiny Suds' ad just has more malice, which while aiming to be funny, leaves an odd aftertaste on the psyche. Simply put, 'Shiny Suds' gives off a creepy/edgy vibe by being mean and creepy. The elements brought to bear in 'Shiny Suds' seems useful if attempting to bring about behavioural response to a worthwhile need (i.e. London Cabwise Advertisements), but just seems somewhat offputting when used on a FMCG.
          Alternatively, the Bird's Eye advertisement also comes off as quite creepy, but by utilizing odd voice acting, unusual visual cues and a soundtrack that seems like Phillip Glass also came along to production. The creepiness generated by the combination of the advertisments odd elements isn't as visceral or threatening as with 'Shiny Suds'. Instead its more of a novel creepiness, an awkward feeling that plays out like something from a TV edited David Lynch movie.

        The comparison with elements of a David Lynch film reminds of another recent ad set in suburbia (shown above) for Gu Chocolate Pods. The unusual composition of the Gu ad is leveraged to suggest some manner of illicit suburban underbelly instead of a purely creepy encounter, but once again shows that suburban convention can be challenged for an interesting effect. The product matches with the elements of the advertisement in a way that the previous examples do not (chocolate pods and a conveyed feeling of relaxation & illicit sensousness do go together better than with fish sticks), however all three show how skewering suburbia's norms and feeling of routinized security can generate attention.

         Regardless of comparions, considering the Bird's Eye ad as a whole, one can definitely see that potential exists to generate interest for the product. Perhaps the most final measure of success for the campaign though, is how the chief food purchaser in the household reacts to it. A stereotypical housewife may not be positively swayed by the method campaign, however, Bird's Eye's ad may have successfully found a balance that leverages creepiness into prolonged recognition and consideration.

What do you think? Are you more or less likely to buy frozen fish sticks after this? Where would you place the ads presented on a scale of creepy & interesting to creepy & uncomfortable?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Top London Agencies by Foursquare Check-ins (14.05.2010)

Agency: Id: Check-ins:
1.) McCann London 172633 684
2.) Wieden+Kennedy 219558 579
3.) DLKW 154868 493
4.) Agency Republic 154743 488
5.) Mindshare 161142 439
6.) MediaEdge CIA 537324 353
7.) Dare Digital 154565 339
8.) Saatchi & Saatchi 244912 303
9.) PHD 173059 288
10.) Profero 161146 265
11.) We are social 1168488 251
12.) Digitas London 154598 240
13.) SapientNitro 154900 235
14.) MPG/Media Contacts 1200388 232
15.) Mediacom 203677 203
16.) Wunderman 605057 202
17.) BBH London 154630 190
18.) Zed Media 154651 190
19.) glue London 523581 174
20.) AMV BBDO 171053 168
21.) Publicis 236312 152
22.) Ogilvy 156590 144
23.) LBi London 154854 140
24.) Fallon London 183035 137
25.) Rocket 538270 133

(Click for large version)

      As with last week's attempt at pulling Foursquare check-ins for advertising/media around London, 105 existing advertising agencies and 4 new locations were analyzed through Foursquare activity.With only two weeks of complete data, I'm still reconciling merged venues and entries with incomplete or closed duplicates.

      I know many agencies have a variety of check-in locations within their offices (3rd floor desk with some interesting tips at a certain advertising agency...I'm looking at you), but I chose the most popular/obvious choice presented to me, much in the way a new visitor to an office might. If you have an agency you feel I've left off (there are many), and you have enough check-ins to place you in the top 25, message me on Twitter (@dubosecole), email me or leave a comment and I'll add your Foursquare ID on the list for next time.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Daily Links (14.05.2010)

Posted: 14 May 2010 04:03 AM PDT
Funny list of random facts about the Startup's office...
Posted: 14 May 2010 02:40 AM PDT
Alec Brownstein, a guy seeking an agency job in NY, decided to buy Google adwords around the names of top creative directors in the city. His plan, which worked amazingly, was that as these directors googled their names, his question about a job would be there. Great idea and incredibly creative, though I don't think it will work twice. Look for the names of every creative director in a major agency to become slightly more expensive.
Posted: 14 May 2010 02:17 AM PDT
Monopoly based on the Foursquare Platform? Yes please....though I am a little more skeptical about Clue.
Posted: 13 May 2010 09:23 AM PDT
Useful infographic & interview talking about the present and future for Skype. Amazed (and slightly skeptical) of the claim that 1 in 12 people on the planet have downloaded the Skype software. It seems more likely that number is non-unique users downloads. Either way, very interesting.
Posted: 13 May 2010 07:31 AM PDT
An open Facebook Alternative looking to launch in September 2010. Quite a task infront of them, but they seem to already have a test running and have raised over $50,000 in funding so far.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Daily Links (13.05.2010)

Adobe is finally taking the fight to Apple over Flash and I'm surprised its taken this long. I'll be it I'm slightly apathetic to the argument as Adobe has a history of releasing some buggy products and Apple has always been rather draconian on it's 'Walled Garden' of development, but I am for anything that makes creativity flourish. If this goes well, maybe there will be a day when jailbreaking out of Steve's kingdom won't be the only way to experience increased application freedom.
Nice example of the progression of Geo-location within social media. If Foursquare & Gowalla answer the question 'Where Am I' and Twitter answers 'What you're doing', SCVNGR seems poised to 'give you something to do, while you're somewhere'..
First, I wonder if am actually a Millenial, being born in 1982? That aside, I thought this was a refreshing take on the generalization that the younger generation entering/in the workforce is lazy and can't deal with 'no'.

The tendency to project uncertainty about younger generations on everyone below a certain age is as old & erroneous as assuming that nothing is like the 'Good Ole Days' (there weren't actually any 'Good ole Days'). Its refreshing to see someone point out that just as in every generation, younger workers are motivated and hard working as most older workers believe they were when starting out.
An interesting story about how a tech-industry dad added his son's school as a venue on Foursquare, became mayor of it, ended up dethroned and then over reacted to the profile of the new mayor (who subsequently was another parent in the class). The idea that one can complain about privacy/user image after initially creating his son's school as a venue on the social network is pretty interesting.

Also intriguing about the article is the profile the author makes of the new mayor based on his Foursquare badges and Twitter account. Presented with the same information, I assumed that he attended South by Southwest, however, the article seems to assume a status as a hard drinking, bed hopping, out of town possible pedophile.

Moral of the article's story: Don't put your son's school on Foursquare, but if you do, don't automatically assume that: a.) whomever checked in is actually there instead of gaming the network & b.) that everyone is exactly how your world view perceives them.
I normally don't like 'Charts of the Day' because of they tend to focus o one factor within a situation while ignoring other, closely related ones. That aside, Facebook's Q1 2010 number of ad impression's uptick is rather impressive. Also astounding...people still using Yahoo!
I had originally seen this a few days ago and keep reminding myself to finish reading the actual paper (linked to below), but the overall methodology bothers me (as pointed out in the linked astute summary). The researchers are correct that social media/microblogging and the general internet have grown in scale to a point that makes them representative of the overall zeitgeist of the population...However, how do we correctly harness this data?

The ability to sift through millions or billions of messages and accurately decipher semantics, meaning, extenuating circumstances and conversational idiosyncrasies is still a ways away from current analytical capabilities. So, while I'm incredibly interested (and in awe of) what the study accomplishes, I'm doubtfully wondering how soon we should start calling from the demise of other research options. That aside, this is a wonderful idea to run in concert with other techniques currently.

KFC's Double Down & Stunt Product Marketing...

      Last month, KFC US launched the 'Double Down', a food offering, which if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing/trying yet, involves a sandwich with chicken breasts replacing the buns. Since the sandwich has gone largely unchanged since before the 4th Earl of Sandwich coined the term, the use of meat as bread managed to drum up quite a large amount of interest for the fast food chain.

       Company messaging stressed its filling qualities as a meal and as a culinary experience, though coverage of it in the press was more varied. The visual spectacle of the product led to an expected outrage from those within the health community (despite its nutritional content being less damaging than many other products currently offered within the sector), but it also served to generate a large amount of buzz and user generated content. Videos of people eating the Double Down (and their reactions) began uploading to Youtube and Twitter drove KFC to trending topic status around the time of launch. By marketing the product as an extreme experience, KFC managed to make consumers project expectations on a rather routinized (if slightly grotesque) food stuff. Before, one might experience an array of feelings at purchasing, consuming and then rationalizing a KFC meal bucket, now they feel as if they've conquered something, even if the act takes them one step closer to a competitive eating event.

      Of course, KFC's leveraged buzz and engagement comes at a possible cost, as with any extreme product entry, to the brand image. While fast food may always have to deal with charges about its health content, creating a deep fried zeitgeist and taking it as your own moves you to the front of the industry firing line for as long as your "buzz" lasts. For the Double Down to be a success, even during its limited run (till May 23rd), people have to respect its notoriety and infamy. Once the stunt is over though, how much of that infamy hangs onto the brand?

      Stunt product makers lacking brand equity or an established market position have the luxury of going all out without any real risk. KFC's healthier options introduced in previous years, and its association with the Pink Bucket Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, don't allow the margin for infamy that other firms may have. Blair Sauce's "Ultra Death Sauce" & Brewdog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin (a 32% Beer) have only the stunt/experience value of their product to bank on, therefore infamy comes as an added bonus. If "Ultra Death Sauce" becomes equivalent to Tabasco in the consumer's mind or Tactical Nuclear Penguin is seen as boring, then the luster of the experience goes incredibly quickly. Therefore, while stunt firms can go for broke, buying into 'any publicity is good publicity' (barring the class action kind), established brands must walk a finer line. When image is at stake, the question doesn't become "how extreme can you go?", but "how extreme will the consumer let me be without thinking I can't be trusted?"

       Trust that a firm will deliver a value is at the core of all marketing. Delivering this expected value entails finding a balance between costs, benefits, image and messaging. Delivering the world's fastest car that can be safely driven daily and costs under £25,000 is virtually impossible. Car-makers offer mild stunt claims such as being 'best in class at comfort" or 'fastest 0-60' for its price range, creating a subset of extreme superlatives through messaging without actually attempting to build a cheaply made death trap attached to a jet engine. The Double Down utilizes the same technique through product design and messaging. The sight of the product, coupled with the press outrage and social media buzz means that a pretty unhealthy meal becomes the equivalent of a heart attack on a plate.

      Unlike a car manufacturer dealing with 'speed', KFC exists in an industry where positive superlatives aren't normally achievable. The 'healthiest' meal at Burger King isn't applauded but analyzed wearily by consumers for being the equivalent of taking a punch to the shoulder instead of the gut. Therefore aiming to achieve negative superlative glory within fast food can pose a much greater and lasting risk than other industries. Within this context, KFC's limited time stunt seems poised to do some lasting damage to its brand image. Though it can strongly be argued that KFC is already seen as unhealthy, lasting perceptions from the Double Down can make the brand seem to revel/wallow in cholesterol soaked glory, haloing over to their entire offering.

      With this in mind, how can KFC, its competitors and other risky sectors utilize stunt products effectively? One answer, I believe, seems to lie in comments about the Double Down itself. In multiple videos and tweets, consumers point out that you could easily make the Double Down yourself, without it being on the menu. If KFC had promoted consumers making the Double Down, through the dissemination of user generated content, they still receive most of the possible notoriety for the product development, without much of the blame for creating it. Consumers making extra large product servings, like this Giant Kit-Kat, promote the brand without drawing any of the fire that an obvious promotion would.

    Secondly, KFC could have placed the item on a secret or non-advertised menu. Most chains offer items that aren't on the menu, creating a feeling of being in the know as the information is passed between consumers. Coupling the ease of which the Double Down could be created from other items with the urban legend appeal it could have held would have generated a lasting 'cool' notoriety for a time to come, without much of the current backlash. In-n-Out's 100x100 burger is a great example of a chain offering something that borders on freakishly unfeasible and hugely stuntish, but without much infamy.  In both of these possible approaches, KFC could have minimized risk to its brand image and appeal, while fostering a growing notoriety and stunt factor.

 "Well, I did skip breakfast..."

      We won't know if KFC's choice of promotion for the Double Down was wise until it releases sales figures for the relevant quarter, but the buzz around the product seems to indicate that this isn't the last we've heard of stunt product development in fast food or other sectors.

What do you think? Leave a comment about your thoughts on the Double Down or other stunt products you might have tried.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Daily Links (12.05.2010)

Posted: 12 May 2010 02:28 AM PDT
If you aren't reading the 52 Burrito dates blog, you should because its definitely always worth a quick laugh. The story, for those that haevn't checked it out yet, is that a media/advertising guy wins a years worth of Chilango (a delicious London Mexican Restaurant -- odd combination, I know) and has decided to share it with 52 different dates. Each date is recapped with a pretty funny blog, so its out there as a good example of how someone can quickly and entertainingly get an online narrative going.
Posted: 12 May 2010 02:25 AM PDT
Really interesting to see staff getting serious about transitioning the social media image of government, especially so quickly after the Cameron announcement. Great to see that the web team was in place to go right away, regardless of what you think of the political outcome. It should signal a continued interest in online engagement for government.
Posted: 12 May 2010 02:23 AM PDT
It looks like Facebook's Geo-location features are coming sooner than planned and fully formed. I think the idea of driving McDonald's (or for that fact any low-involvement retailer)'s footfall through incentivizing geo-located rewards is great, but I just hope the product category doesn't hamper interest or create odd perceptions about the new feature at launch. Fast Food check-ins will definitely work, it just depends on whether it would have worked better as jumping on the bandwagon instead of building it?
Posted: 12 May 2010 02:14 AM PDT
Great Quick Read that reminds about how common courtesy and a genuine interest in people can trump grandiosity and ego (at least most of the time)
Posted: 11 May 2010 08:04 AM PDT
The dynamic between Zynga and Facebook is summed up in one great quote in this article, "If developers and their apps didn't matter, Palm would have already won the smartphone war."