Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Narrative Provides the Truly Tasty Bits

Heard a cool piece on NPR this morning about a seemingly fantastic epicurian experience in Washington D.C.  The chef set off to create a dining event that would be remembered in vivid detail by all who dined.

The chef, Bryan Brown of Sensorium, was sure he had the chops to make the food savory and memorable, but he needed to consult with someone to add the finishing touches relating to the brain and what actually helps people remember.  That someone was Ed Cook, a memory champion and founder of the site, Memrise.  Ed suggested three steps for Bryan to make his meal truly memorable: Make it Vivid; Ensure that each course is Distinct; and, what I found most to be most important – Extend a Narrative throughought the meal.

Bryan and his team addressed the first two and disregarded the third, narrative thread, as being cliche.

From the description that can be read or listened to on the NPR Morning Edition site, the event sounded quite spectacular.  There were actors and dancers, a circus-like host, imaginitive set pieces and presentations for the food, music, savory foods – and Pop-Rocks.  Diners left the 12-course meal full and certainly entertained, but when asked the order, what they ate and other details, the memory was just not as clear as Bryan and Ed would have liked.

The key ingredient that was left out was the Narrative, and had that been included, the memories would have been much stronger.

We see it all the time in advertising, movies, television, experiences and even product development where there’s a high-impact piece or a collection of them but no solid narrative to be found.  Because of this, the individual events might be remembered, but the whole is not. Cirque du Soleil is known for wrapping their mystifying circus feats in stories – whether clear or convoluted – for this very reason.  People can still recount the order of events from shows seen years prior due to the show’s narrative and theme.

As such, presenting a product or experience as one or a series of eye-catching features with no narrative string through them is counter-productive to instilling memory, recall and affinity within your audience.

Facebook as Media Hub – Going Too Far?

In a world of expansion in media outlets, formats and hardware, will we ever go back to single (or even a few) points of connection?  It seems like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are doing what they can to make it so.

In Ben Sisario and Miguel Helft’s NY Times article, Facebook is Developing Ways To Share Media, it seems to be pointing to their strategy of making Facebook the end-all-be-all for social networking, media consumption and even transactional interactions.  The article focuses on “in the know” comments at the time of Zuckerberg’s participation at eG8 that Facebook is looking to make it easier for users to post and share media – video, news, music, etc.

The article quotes Zuckerberg:

“Listening to music is something that people do with their friends. Music, TV, news, books — those types of things I think people just naturally do with their friends. I hope we can play a part in enabling those new companies to get built, and companies that are out there producing this great content to become more social.”

Zuckerberg and Facebook have already made huge inroads in online gaming, have stated the belief that they will change the very nature of email and have successfully introduced a new form of currency in Facebook Credits.  They are obviously extremely intelligent, in a position of strength, know the social media world – and ready to take over the world all from the lovely confines of Facebook.

The question is, do we really want everything all the time in one place?  Will I want to do my social networking at the same place that I watch TV or pay bills?  This kind of interaction is already in play for those who use their computers for everything, but to think of it being the same for a site like Facebook is both exciting and tremendously concerning.  When we developed FoxPop for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, we incorporated Facebook Connect into the service so that users could be connected in multiple ways all at once, but it was two-screen interaction and the amount of interaction was up to the user and the information collected was next to nothing – and certainly nothing close to violating privacy.

If Facebook were to become a media hub, the beauty would be that you could essentially and effectively consume that same media on your computer, mobile product, TV and who knows what else will come later.  On its face, that’s pretty cool. But what would come with using one hub or solution for all media – especially from a company that has a track record of questionable concern for users’ privacy.  If they were the outlet for all of your media, can you imagine what they would know about you and what they could then sell to advertisers?  Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the pluses to this for advertisers AND consumers, but when could it be too much?

To me, the beauty of media today is that people are free to consume it in most any way they want.  It is great that people can listen to music via CD, (MP3 or equivalent) or even vinyl if so inclined.  They can, and should, be able to see a movie in a theatre, on Blu-ray/DVD, VOD or streaming on TVs, Mobile or other.  To have that choice is great and only good for all of business.   What really is at stake here is what happens to flexibility, quality, diversity and privacy if we were to all move to one place like Facebook as a hub for all of our media.  I would certainly be happier if it were easier to control my privacy settings on Facebook – or even if they were to be more content-producer-friendly with their specs – but that doesn’t seem to be in the offerings for the near or distant future.

I’m definitely not a fearful person or a fear-mongerer in the least, but at what point is Facebook going too far?

Zappos Succeeding in Relevant Retargetting Using Criteo

There is proof that some retailers get it and are doing retargetting well and not too invasively. As most people should know, many visits to sites and views of ads are being tracked – if only via a cookie on your computer – for retargetting purposes.  In some instances, its so stronger creative can be presented (like I had done for the UNSTOPPABLE Home Ent campaign).  In others, its simply crafted to get users to “come back” to the store and close the deal.  And, in the worst case, it is generic creative and messaging that is relevant only in subject, but nothing else.  An example of this is the fact that I still see ads for Lamps Plus even though I purchased lighting and installed it months ago.  As far as I’m concerned, its wasted impressions.

I did see a great ad unit today from Zappos.  It truly was no frills, but it was completely relevant – and it did not feel creepy.  I had been to the Zappos site looking at Adidas shoes the other day, so I was my interest was piqued when I saw some Adidas in an ad unit while reading about the Miami Heat.

The ad was extremely simple, but it presented similar types of shoes to what I had been looking for.  

It didn’t have to include a sell message other than the simple button and you see that it only has the retailer name at the bottom expressed simply.  One of the other great components is note at the bottom with “Why am I seeing these ads?” and “Learn More”

Upon clicking on Learn more, a new browser opens with clear explanations of their retargetting and it also provides opportunities to Opt Out.  We’ve mentioned Evidon as a technology provider for compliance in Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) that enables easy opting out, but in this case, the company Criteo does a great job in adding more in truly personalizing the targetting and making it more relevant to the actual “behavior” it targeted. Instead of just seeing that I visited Zappos, it actually shows on the explanation page what exact shoes I was looking at that made them present the shoes they did.  I only looked at Adidas during my visit to Zappos, so I don’t know what would have happened had I looked at a bunch of brands.  You can see some of the explanation page that I got to by clicking on Learn More in the image below.

Ultimately, the experience is more comfortable and favorable due to its simplicity, openness and relevance.  It was not a targetted spamming of irrelevant content, but something that might get me thinking again and bring me back to the store to place the order.

Certainly, a well placed and well executed impression. Even if the consumer does not make the purchase, it provides the opportunity for more brand or retailer loyalty.

Old People Are Just Plain Funny – Oh Yeah, and Branded Content Can Be Passed Around

The love keeps coming for the old-age home folks… Here’s some buzz before the next series comes out in the coming weeks…

When it comes to movie spoofs, old people are always funnier.
That’s what Break Media learned last year when it produced a number of original Web videos for Fox Home Entertainment aimed at promoting its library of movies. The campaign, dubbed Don’t Mess with the Original, showcased clever send-ups of There’s Something About Mary and Office Space. But it was Fight Club at Nursing Home that took off among viewers.
Thus, Fox is back on board with a slew of senior-citizen-starring spoofs, including Rocky, which goes live on Tuesday and the kidnapping thriller Taken, which goes live on June 7. Both clips showcase guy-themed favorites — just in time for Father’s Day (June 19) gift giving. And both star the same cast of geriatrics from last year’s Fight Club.
“This is part of a larger trend we are seeing,” said Small. “Brands are looking to do viral campaigns around holidays.” Recent examples of holiday-timed viral video include eBay’s campaign with Funny or Die last Christmas and Muscle Milk’s sexy pilgrim clip during Thanksgiving. “Advertisers have wisened up to the fact that people are looking to share this type of thing around holiday seasons so they are planning for it.” 

Honored to Be Nominated!

Very proud to have been nominated for ThinkLA’s first Person of the Year: Client!  You can check out the nominees for all of the Interactive Awards categories at

Hopefully, good news will come at the sold-out event at the Beverly Hilton next Thursday night!

Affinity and Loyalty – Never Underestimate the Experience

There’s a couple solid years of service left in my Lexus, but the wandering eye has come into play – big time.  The funny thing is what I’ve been focusing on.  First of all, its a brand that I have disliked immensely in the past.  There was a point where I would have never wanted it because I didn’t like what I thought it stood for, felt the seats were uncomfortable, felt it was pretentious, boring… need I go on?

I could say my change in taste is based on new design and technology coming off their conveyor belt, but then some of their new designs are pretty tacky. It could be because I’m able to afford the pretentiousness and therefore are pretentious, but who would admit that?  I really believe it has to do with actual experience – not the experience of life or growing up, but an actual experience which ingrained an affinity or loyalty in something that I have never owned.

The auto-maker I’m referring to here is Mercedes-Benz.  I do have a strong liking for other brands like BMW, Audi, Lexus (which has been very good to me) and even Chrysler, Jeep and a couple others, but I’m actually finding myself to have an emotional response to Mercedes-Benz because of an interactive experience.  The experience was in Germany a few years ago.  I was fortunate enough to have been upgraded for free to a Mercedes for my ventures on that amazing thing called the Autobahn.  The car drove beautifully and barely even shook when I drove faster than humans without roll cages, helmets and other safety equipment should dare to do – its a good thing my wife was asleep in the passenger seat.  The other factor was our visit to the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart.  I never knew that a museum about cars would be as beautifully represented as the museum was, but this one proved it and we spent hours there.

What I can do with certainty is point to those two elements from a trip to Germany over 3 years ago as the reason for my feelings now.  Again, I was not in the frame of mind for purchasing a car then.  I wasn’t even thinking about what kind of car I could want – it was all about a great experience.  The experience was not within any purchasing cycle, season or other.  It was just a solid experience.

So, whether you think you are a brand or not, or whether your product or brand is relevant at certain periods in the year or a person’s lifecycle, there is nothing as powerful as the Experience to increase the possibility of future sales.  Sometimes you have control of that experience (like the MB Museum) or sometimes, it’s luck ( the MB rental upgrade) but what you can control is the enabling of Experience.  Much like I look at Non-Profit events as enabling people to give where they might not have otherwise, Companies should always be mindful of how can consumers can be given the opportunity to have good experiences with their brand or product, because that’s where Affinity and Loyalty come from – not just shiny ads or logos…

Don’t Get Angry, Get A Vision

There’s a company that had been around for a few years mostly doing work-for-hire products for others when they came up with an idea for a product that they published themselves.  The product went on to become huge and in the course of a couple of years, they went from a staff of a few to 65 based largely on that product. 

A friend of mine met up with the company’s COO, who told him all about the cool things they were planning to do to expand the product and the community they had built.  As they were walking down the hall, they ran into the CEO.  When they COO excitedly recounted all the things he had told to my friend, the CEO dismissed all of what he said and started talking about directions that were totally contrary to what the COO stated.

I said I imagined it was because they had not had any vision of what the product could be if it became successful and my friend said that was absolutely what had happened.

Unfortunately, we see this much too often in the business world. Either it is the small business owner who just wanted to put out the product and see if they could make a good amount of money on it, or it is the head of a major company who only knows how to manage without looking to the future. The latter forms a huge problem in today’s economy when management determines that the business credo is to protect themselves from making any less money than they are currently.  That’s great when the economy and your business is consistently good and growing, but when it is anything other, it can only lead to layoffs and stagnation – not to mention horrible morale and possible business closure.

While there are books, articles and features about the importance of vision in buisness, it seems to be the hardest ring to grasp.  While working on the mission statement for a business, I wonder how many people ponder including “We will make as much money as possible and then stop developing.”  Of course no one does, but in practice it really makes you wonder.

Whatever the business and whatever part of the cycle its in, start building up the vision of what it could be.  It can always change, but a vision that is tied only to what exists will soon lead to disappointment.