I Found Out on Facebook…

In the past two months I’ve learned of two pretty big news items on close family members…via Facebook.

And I recognize that I’m not alone in my experience. As we continue to share more and more of our personal lives via social media, plenty others of you are undoubtedly in the same boat.

“Did you hear so-and-so was expecting?”

“No, that’s great! Did they call you?”

“Nope, I read it on Facebook.”

It’s become commonplace, almost expected that formal announcements that were once reserved for pen and paper, and then replaced by phone calls, now happen on Facebook. The thought struck me as I reflected on all of this, “Wow, how incredibly special it is to receive announcements such as these via mail. Imagine how special it will be in two years? Ten years?”

The Big Picture

In a larger sense, it’s interesting to wonder if consumer behavior and economic forces will collude to drive print media toward higher-end, luxury formats. Think Wired magazine with its beautiful spreads and high-quality paper versus Reader’s Digest.

From a marketing perspective, it’s an interesting time to be looking at print media. With people receiving so much less mail, your piece may actually rise above the clutter and be read.

As for me, I’ve decided to set a goal for myself to draft a personal, hand-written letter at least once a month to a friend or family member. (I know, it’s sad that once a month is daunting in its ambition.)

We’ll see how it goes…

The American Girl Place and Content Marketing Perfected

While in Chicago this weekend I brought my seven-month-old daughter to the American Girl place. I’m pretty against the kind of commercialism that American Girl dolls encourages, so I figured it’d be good to take her there now while she won’t remember it.

I didn’t know a whole lot about the American Girl phenomenon, and I won’t pretend to be an expert after having visited one store. But I will say that I am amazed at how well that brand has perfected content marketing.

If you know anything about American Girl dolls, then you know I’m not saying anything new. You’ll just have to forgive me. As a new dad, this whole franchise was foreign to me.

For those who don’t know, American Girl dolls are, at first glance, simply grossly overpriced toys. But take a second look and suddenly you get it.

It’s not the doll.

It’s the story.

Each American Girl doll comes with a story. Kitt is from New York and wants to be a writer when she grows up. So-and-so grew up during the Great Depression and is working as an actress to help pay the bills. Etc. Etc.

American Girl’s primary value isn’t in the doll. It’s in the story. But because they’ve invested so much in the stories, they’re able to spin off a hundred different products from it.

And once you’ve visited the American Girl Place in Chicago, it all clicks. Books. Videos. Movies. A magazine. You name it.

They probably have an iPhone app.

(UPDATE: They don’t. But they do have an online university where girls can go to play games and different activities online.)

What Newspaper Journalists Can Teach You About Interactive Marketing

(This is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote over at ParthenonPub.com, my employer’s blog.)

Amid the financial turmoil plaguing the newspaper industry as a whole, accusations and general finger-pointing has abounded as industry players scramble to figure who’s to blame. You’ve heard the culprits:

* Greedy owners took on huge debt while banking on unrealistic future profits.
* The recession.
* The Internet.
* And then, of course, many have argued that newspaper journalists themselves were too slow to adapt to the digital landscape.

A recent report by Northwestern University’s Media Management Center, “Life Beyond Print: Newspaper Journalists’ digital appetite,” sheds a bit of light on this last one at least.

Read more…

“Traitor” Movie Review: Big Buzz Marketing Undermines Message

I had high expectations for the movie “Traitor” and, unfortunately, felt more than a bit let down. The film follows Samir Horn (played by Don Cheadle) as a devout Muslim with a storied past; born in Sudan, trained by the U.S. military, fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan, turned explosives runner around the world, and eventually rises the ranks of a high profile terrorist network plotting attacks against U.S. interests abroad and, eventually, closer to home. Throughout the story, Horn’s story evokes a number of issues: Western prejudice toward Islam, racial profiling, U.S. empire building, and misunderstandings and ignorance on both sides.

In an interview on NPR, Cheadle explains how he reconciles the serious issues of the film with its summer-blockbuster-action-film marketing efforts, saying “movies like this, I always want to smuggle in those kinds of ideas. We don’t have to lead with them, but I like it when people can walk out of the theater with something to talk about.”

Shame on Cheadle

I agree. And I think the more people who can be introduced to a dialogue that I believe is crucial to our foreign policy, then all the better. Then I saw this YouTube clip. (It’s too shameless to embed). In it, Cheadle presents a parody of the movie (aired on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show) where his stunt double, an overweight mustachioed Latino, receives the brunt of the abuse during Cheadle’s interrogation scene. This may get more folks in the door, but it trivializes an important scene in the film.

What do you think?

Am I being too hard on Cheadle? The movie’s marketing efforts? Cheadle turns in a great performance, no doubt, and the film provides a great launch pad for some serious issues. Am I being too harsh?

Time-Delayed Olympics, Local Online Advertising & Icky Flash Microsite of the Day

ESPN wants rights for 2014, 2016 Olympics, would kill tape delay

PaidContent outlines ESPN’s plan to show the Olympics sans delay. I agree with ESPN. I found the tape-delay jarring.

As a disclaimer, I haven’t watched television with any sort of consistency since I was in middle school. So I’ve become accustomed to enjoying access to information as it becomes available, and I found NBC’s tape delay a bit of a surprise.

Give Newspapers a chance

A cool article on the opportunity that (still) exists for newspapers to cash in on local advertising.

Icky Flash Microsite

No, this probably won’t be a recurring feature.

No, I’m not sorry I’m sending you here.

Basically, journos get a lot of flack for losing touch with their audience, yet here’s an example of a marketer doing just that. Who wants to sit through this thing?

The One Second Film parks outside Harpo Studios

If you haven’t heard of the “One Second Film,” I recommend checking it out.

The film consists of 24 frames (1 second) of 12 different pieces of art, created by hundreds of artists.

To become a “producer,” you donate $1 to the group. (All of the proceeds are then given to charity).

And it’s being hyped as the largest collaborative art project ever. (Almost 10,000 producers in more than 50 countries).

The core group of organizers have trekked all the way to Chicago and parked outside Harpo to see if they can’t get Oprah to sign on. I wish them the best.

Here’s the Intro:

What I think is interesting… is the degree to which collaboration pervades the essence of their movement, right down to the the marketing and promotion of the event. It appears completely decentralized. And, with the exception of the 1 second film and the artwork, everything is licensed under the Creative Commons License.

I’d like to get down there to Harpo and check it out.

The virtue of sticking it out at old (established) media and marketing companies


That’s what Christie Hefner, CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Inc., told a convention of new marketers to do if their aging bosses didn’t “get” social media last week at the Forrester Consumer Forum on social media and branding in Chicago.

Get your resume out on the street, she advised.

If they haven’t seen the writing on the wall yet, you won’t be able to change their mind.

Her remark drew a laugh, and the lively room of new media advertisers and marketers (with titles such as “digital strategist” and “engagement officer”) smiled at each other in the confidence that they “get it.” But here’s why they were wrong.

If a CEO or aging marketing exec doesn’t “get it,” they’re probably on the way out

After Hefner finished her speech I spoke with a couple of account directors from Whittmanhart in Chicago. Hefner’s main point, they noted, makes sense given her position: don’t align yourselves with those who shun social media. But it doesn’t necessarily hold true for young hires.

Trusted brands don’t sprout overnight. From a media perspective, magazines are a perfect example. While plenty of them are struggling with their print editions, it may make sense to stick with them. After those aging marketing executives take their leave, it may prove easier to open up their brand and their platform than to establish brand equity in a startup from scratch..

My favorite example is Ebony, which has struggled to define itself online. But what brand has more equity than Ebony? For those wishing their companies would “embrace social media,” moving to a startup or latching onto something less-established might provide short term relief, but sticking it out could pay off in other ways.

 Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research Inc.