the grass is greener on the internet

2 bits of genius in Google+
July 14, 2011, 10:21 am
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Okay, so Google’s strategy is that customer value comes first and monetisation will follow. So here’s my take on how the customer value of Circles in Google+ translates to 2 pieces of genius from a marketer’s perspective.

In case you’re not familiar with Google+ and the concept of Circles: Google+ is the latest social networking site (started by Google, in case you weren’t sure) to hit the scene. Unofficial figures say that it’s reached 20 million users in less than a month, which makes it one to watch. Though it’s touted by many commentators as a ‘Facebook-killer’ the functionality is more of a Facebook/Twitter cross.

One of the key differences to both of the aforementioned is ‘Circles’, where your contacts can be put into separate groups as opposed to just being your ‘Friend’ or ‘Follower’. This means that content can be shared with a limited group defined by the user – on the one platform you can discuss work with your colleagues or share last night’s party photos with your party people, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

On to those two bits of genius…

I’ve been speaking to a lot of people who are trying to figure out what value their business can derive from social networks. A lot of people like to focus on the ‘glamourous’ side – giveaways, viral videos, gaining followers etc. Well, they’re important, but I really believe there’s more value in being able to target the right people at the right time and find out what they’re really thinking. So here’s what I’m hoping to get from Google+…

1. More sharing

Privacy is an interesting thing. It used to be that you could very easily keep separate parts of your life, well, separate. It was purely 1 to 1; f you wanted to write illicit love letters to 5 different people, they would only find out if they compared notes.

Then came technology, with email, blogging, social networking, microblogging, and more. We had 4 ways to share; 1 to 1, 1 to friends, 1 to every1, or ‘dammit I’m not telling anyone’. Most of us learnt this the hard way on Facebook. We wanted to share content with a limited group of friends, but suddenly all of our ‘friends’ or even the whole world could see. As a consequence, there were some types of information that we just stopped sharing altogether.

Here’s an example:

As you can see, you might want to share at several different degrees, but you often end up sharing with more or less people that you would like to.

Circles, as I’ve explained, allows you to share in degrees the way we want to. It means that you have more privacy – if you added up all of the bars above, you’d find that you are sharing to a lesser degree as a whole. However, you’re actually putting MORE information out there because you can limit the degree it’s shared.

More data being shared is marketer’s gold. Share more information and I can get a bigger picture of who you are, how you live, what you like and what you dislike. It tells me what I should share with you and when I should do it.

If Google can tap into more data, they have a very powerful tool for their ad network.

2. Ads in a social context

The jump to social media came from one premise; I am more interested in people I know than people I don’t. I care about what my friends are doing but I don’t really care what a stranger had for breakfast. I know that my friends have good taste in music and I’ll trust that more than a record company telling me their latest artist is fantastic.

As a marketer, I’m interested in two things from this; insight and influence.

Circles allows us to map social structure like never before.

Since each circle created represents a specific social group or interest, we know that if A, B, C and D are listed as being in the same circle by many people, chances are that if A, B and C all click on ads related to cars then D may be more likely to also click on a car ad. This ‘social logic’ allows us to imply insights from people that share their data to people that share less.

Since adding someone to a circle is a one-sided act, it is easier for us to see who influences who. If A is following B but B is not following A, B is the more influential. I can get more value out of targeted advertising to B as an influencer than A as the follower. (This one-sided mechanism is why Twitter is used as a better quick yardstick of influence than Facebook, except that Twitter does not have the mechanisms in place to take advantage of this.)

So what does this mean?

I’m not here to make predictions about whether Google+ will take over from Facebook or completely change the social networking game. However, I will say that if they manage to make the network a success, Google will have no problems in monetising it and getting businesses on board.

The two factors I’ve discussed may be subtle…but they’re also genius.


July 21, 2010, 9:48 pm
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It’s the quiet ones you want to watch.

There’s been commentary on the recent social media development spend by Unilever, the trials by P&G and the move to umbrella brands by both. But what about other FMCG companies?

Reckitt Benckiser has actually been doing much more on the social media front. I previously reported on their Clearasil site, which aimed to be a forum for young people to discuss issues relevant to them.  Almost more importantly, within a week I had a response to my post (even though I wasn’t particularly nice).

But I’m loving their new recruitment Facebook app – poweRBrand.

It’s a virtual office game billed to help players improve their sales and marketing skills.

Players are sent tasks through an ‘inbox’ then must decide how much time to spend on specified activities using sliding bars. Some of these pop up through ‘phone calls’ where you have to make a decision under pressure. More pop up each day, like the real world.

uh oh. Tick tock tick tock...

Phew. After wasting 10s on a screenshot...success! Now hire me please.

After completing tasks players get money to deck out their office (including alll RB products), promotions or even relocations.

It’s a really interesting concept which I think will be great for recruitment (although maybe it tries a little too hard to persuade that there’s good life/balance –  I wasn’t sure about one ‘ideal’ answer which says that to raise funds for a cause the effort spent on cleaning your office and waxing your body with VEET (I wonder who owns that brand) (what if you’re a guy??) combined should be more than running a marathon (I assume this is a fund-raising marathon) and asking agencies for help combined).

You can of course invite ‘colleagues’ who become your team members. I think that more team members increases the number of experience points you get per task.

Check it out, it’s actually kinda fun…best interactive facebook app I’ve seen so far!

Mazda keeps it simple on Facebook
April 26, 2010, 4:08 pm
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I think the conversation went something like this…

“Guys, we need a Facebook campaign. But don’t worry, I’ve got it!

What kind of people do we want to attract? Party people!

What do party people do on Facebook? Post photos!

So…let’s run a party photos competition on Facebook!

It’s going to be legen– wait for it… DARY!”

Mazda has developed an app for submitting any party photo you choose, and best one each day gets a prize. Easy to get involved and spread the word to all the other ‘party people’ you know.

I guess we get all tied up with brand engagement sometimes. But does this activity really promote our brand values? Then it just gets too hard for people to come up with a video to outline your 3 core values and second tier of 5 other brand wanks for the 20-28 age group in exactly 28 seconds. So nobody gets involved.

Here it’s just fun, free stuff and some zoom zoom. Simple.

Thanks Mazda for making it fun!

Pimp my product placement
March 20, 2010, 1:05 pm
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If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone rave about Lady Gaga’s new music video this week…

Well, Lady Gaga is no stranger to product placement, and it certainly makes sense to have a phone featured in a song called ‘Telephone’, but the close-up around 2:06 really gives a whole new meaning to ‘product placement’. I wonder how much Virgin Mobile paid for THAT location.

Gratuitous is just about the only word for it…

A direct mail I wouldn’t vote for
March 19, 2010, 9:07 am
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As you may know, South Australia is in the grips of an election. The choices are the super-slick media-savvy Premier of 8 years (aka Mike Rann) and new kid on the block Isabelle Redmond.

Both are struggling with trust issues; one an alleged sex scandal and the other hardly in the public consciousness until last year.

Enough background; in a nutshell, it will be a close contest.

It’s in this situation that I opened my mailbox a couple of days to find several plain envelopes, one for everyone in the family. And who is it from but…Mike Rann!

What have I done to deserve such an honour? Been ethnic, apparently…

Mike askes that I endorse his friend for the Legislative Council, a Vietnamese immigrant who ‘does know what it is like to hop into a rickety boat […] master a new language and relearn all those things you need to survive in the modern world’. (There is a handwritten postscript saying Mike’s friend is both hardworking and courageous in case you weren’t sure.) Mike is delighted that his friend wants to run for Parliament, to be a key member of the team and represent all people from non-English backgrounds…

…serving a secondary purpose of trying to convince a migrant population that all you have to do is tick the ‘ALP’ box at the top of the voting form.

I don’t know whether to be impressed or sick.

I assume that this DM was sent out to everyone with particular surnames. You need to suck up to everyone in politics, but it seems to me that there are a lot of migrants who will be less educated about Australian politics and more open to manipulation. (His wordy 1 page letter would be challenging for those of us with poorer language skills, but luckily there is a Chinese version on the back.) For Asians relationships are important – we like friends in important places.  It may well gain him some of the votes.

The final straw for me is the encouragement to use this one guy as a reason to vote the entire party in. I’m half of the mind that even if I wanted to vote for him, I would feel too manipulated to be able to do it.

Am I the only person who thinks that if you need this much spin to distract from your policies it’s not a good sign?

But let us be fair, it happens on both sides. I for one am still suffering mental recoil from the rather arresting interview headline “Redmond bares all”.

Less PR, more policies, please!

Less is more, for outdoor?
October 10, 2009, 4:16 pm
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Ads have become an expected part of our lives. We just expect them to yell ‘buy me!’ at us, so we’ve learned to ignore them unless they’re really interesting or something we’re looking for. (Or bored.)

So ad agencies crank it up all the time; it’s got to be more inventive, more sparkly, more entertaining, and of course artsy enough to win some awards.

But it’s interesting to see when they decide to go the other way. Like this bus stop ad:


Part of me wants to say, “You spent heaps of money buying all that space, and you’re not even using it??”

But I think in this case, ‘less is more’ rings true. Seeing these ads had me curious for weeks. In what I think of as the Apple syndrome, simplicity and sans serif is now a differentiator. It’s more effective for the ad-wearied because it’s less like a pushy salesman in paper form.

Only I would have to repeat that classic client line: make the logo bigger!

I didn’t know what the ad was for until I found I’d been invited to the event on Facebook. Fail.

Hope for their sake that it works, our casino is the only one in the nation to be losing money. I do like their current TVC, though I can’t see it appealing to anyone I know who currently hangs out at the casino (which I guess would be the point).

Things are better when you do them together
August 3, 2009, 10:13 am
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The Australian supermarket playground is notoriously small. Woolies and Coles are the big bullies, currently at a stalemate for who can build the biggest sandcastle.

So if you can’t win on your own…get a partner.

I don’t mean another shopping chain – the ACCC is already turning some of its attention to some of the tactics used to keep smaller players like Aldi out.

No, I’m referring to the recent ads which seem to be co-financed by Woolworths and Continental (Unilever).



The ads themselves are largely unremarkable; I couldn’t find them online. Essentially, there’s a product demo for Continental, followed by a message that you can find the products at Woolworths.

++ In a recession, particularly when you’ve just undergone high capital investment, partnering up might help stretch that ad budget further.

-+ Sharing ad time might confuse viewers, or lose the message completely. On the other hand, it’s more subtle and modest.

— As a retailer, promoting a household brand could encourage consumers to buy it…elsewhere.

Neither *seem* to be short on ad spend, with Continental’s ‘three-thirtyitis’ campaign** (DDB work I believe) and the re-done Woolworths ‘fresh food people’.

Perhaps Woolies feels that it needs to raise its publicity, since rival Coles backed winning horse ‘Masterchef’. This campaign certainly takes a similarly indirect approach, though whether it has helped flailing Coles remains to be seen.

How's that for co-branding...I didn't even have to edit the colours

How's that for co-branding...I didn't even have to edit the colours

++ Coles should benefit from the greater opportunities that arise from TV shows, such as recruiting judge George for product development.

— Two’s company, three’s a crowd. Just from viewing the show, you can tell that Coles isn’t the only organisation that put money behind Masterchef.

[I realise that I always seem to be commenting on Woolworths and what they’re doing, not Coles. Perhaps that tells you something…]

**I suspect that some of the ad budget has come from lowering production costs, if the Pasta Flakes Pasta & Sauce is anything to go by.