Ozy Starts / What Can Modern Marketers Learn?

I'm always excited when new publishing titles start, because it's a chance to see the vision and values and beliefs of the founding editors come to life in, almost, realtime.  And, over the last couple years, we've seen a couple really interesting examples.  XOJane, Quartz, or the Kernel, or even the ever-evolving Forbes.com are in different phases of their evolution, but their editorial "point of view" has been clear from the beginning. 

Modern Marketers, as they continue to evolve from a "mass marketing" mindset to a "audience building" mindset,  can learn a lot from successful publishing brands who have built great audiences over time. And, in this case, new publishing brands who are trying to connect with an audience for the first time. The first couple statements from a new publishing venture – their first articles, their first "letter from the Editor", their manifesto - form the foundation of their brand. And, it's a great chance to see how well the editor/publishing team know just who they are as a brand and where they want to go. 

Ozy Media is launching this week, and it will be interesting to see how their "voice"  evolves. Here's the vision, from Carlos Watson

At OZY, our goal is to bring you news and information in a completely different way. Instead of just giving you the same 25 stories everyone else has, we’re going to give you what you really want – the new and the next. Every day, OZY will deliver stories on new people, places, trends, ideas and opinions. And when we say “new,” we’re not just talking about what’s trending now. We’re not focused on three hours or three days ahead; we want to tell you about things months before you hear it elsewhere. 

We want to show you more of this bright, interesting, colorful world we share. And if we do that, then in the end you’ll not only see more, you’ll be more.

And, here's what i think is their version of the manifesto: 

We are the go-to daily news and culture site for the Change Generation, bringing you up to speed on what happened in the last 24 hours and vaulting you ahead by previewing new people, places, ideas and trends in bite-sized original articles that are intelligent, compelling and stylish. OZY is the place where you get a little smarter, a little sooner. Our mission is to help you see more, be more and do more

That's pretty nice. But, it would be great for them to start all this with a more clearly articulated foundation: 

  • Beliefs – What they believe in, and how those beliefs will guide their editorial coverage
  • Values – The basic human values that will guide their decision, and motivate their actions
  • A clear Purpose – A single, clear statement that lays out why the platform exists.

And, in this particular case, i think Ozy is onto something kind of important: the idea of the Change Generation. It would have been awesome for them to take a shot at articulating who the change generation is, why we should think as a "generation" vs. a cohort (and why that matters), and what the change generation really needs.

At this point, i wonder if they were focused on getting the platform up and running, and getting the first articles out the door instead of fully, clearly, convincingly defining their vision, their point of view, their reason for being. With so many alternatives, a new platform needs to convince the audience they are different, they are worth paying attention to, and worth watching or reading.

Modern Marketers are often in similiar situations, trying to convince people to pay attention and care about them. They're rushing to get their social media touchpoints established, their communities started. But, they often skip past the foundation that attracts an audience: Shared values, common beliefs, and a purpose that humans want to be part of. 

At this point, Ozy is interesting because it's new, but i wonder if, over the long haul, they'll be valuable because they've got a voice that matters in the conversation. Brands should be considering the same challenges.  

Content Designed for Sharing

We’ve all been watching examples of great brand efforts that
resulted in a lot of sharing and discussion of brand content.  That is, content that gets shared or passed
around (like the first Man Your Man Could Smell Like or the Darth Vader VW
spot) or talked about a lot (like Old Spice WolfDog efforts or the recent Dove
work). We all get excited about the idea of this kind of content for the right
reasons:

  • Friend to friend sharing is a much more efficient way for
    your content to get reach. You don’t have to pay for the media
  • Friend to friend sharing comes with an implied endorsement,
    so it’s more likely to be received well
  • Word of mouth drives interest in the brand
  • It’s generally done digitally, so you can often see the data
    trail
  • And, when it’s digital, it can live pretty much forever in
    the Google search results (for better or worse).
  • Ultimately, it just makes your paid media work harder

 A lot of the examples we see seem like viral magic, an
alchemic reaction cooked up by a lucky wizard. But, increasingly, we’re seeing
examples that are pre-planned and pre-programmed for sharing; creative efforts
that were specifically designed and built for sharing, which is different than
how we typically approach it. We generally plan a great TV idea, then seek
something else – “surround”, social content, magic influencer dust – that gets
our stuff shared.  In the worst cases, we
try to engineer the sharing of a tv spot, something that is, by almost all
definitions, content for a passive audience. It’s doomed to fail. Except for
some edge cases, nobody cares enough about your tv ad to share it with their
friends.

 So, how do you design creative and execution specifically for
sharing? No one has the secret, but the two examples below characterize the best
of what I’m seeing when brands try to generate a lot of sharing (vs. simple
awareness) and discussion.

 Oreo
– Wonderfilled

You can almost hear the brief on this one. “the Daily Twist
worked great; we’ve got 33 million fans. How do we get people – young people -
talking about our product, preferably online?” Or, put more simply: Get as many
people as possible creating content about our brand: sharing it, talking about,
reacting to it, etc. From the very conception, this was an idea that was about
social sharing and discussion as much as it was about the product and brand.

First: What is it that they created? Is it an ad? A music
video? A song? A commercial? Social Object? All of the above?

 Second: the idea was open ended and designed for a consumer
response – “What would happen if *you* were given an oreo?” It almost
demands the consumer think about it and perhaps respond.

 Third: The execution was truly talkable. Remarkable, even.

  • Owl City is either loved or loathed, depending on who you
    are. Hipsters in Brooklyn probably moaned, but the tweens and young adults
    cheered. They all did it on social media.
  • The song is, depending on your perspective, either awesome or
    sacharine. No middle ground. Lots of debate.
  • The idea of top of the pops singer writing a love song to a
    brand
    ? Sellout! Savvy! Debatable.
  • Even the animation was discussable

 Fourth: The rollout was designed for sharing:

  • Stunt media buy: They launched it as a 90 during madmen, when
    all the ad nerds were watching, knowing it would generate discussion. Lots to
    discuss:

    • A 90! Who does those?
    • Visually, it was SO different from the show, it was
      noteworthy just by juxtaposition
    • They did a 90 so the ad skippers would  HAVE to see it and go back (“What was
      THAT?!?”)
  •  They rolled it out via their FB page (33 mm fans)
  • They had OwlCity tweet it to his fans (>1M) and Twitter
    followers (>1MM)
  • They supported it with lots of PR and events (again, to get
    the kids talking)

 In hindsight, it’s really, really clear that their goal was
to do something remarkable, in a remarkable way so that people would talk
about, giving extra reach to their efforts. TV was just the stimulus to get the
talking started.

 

REI-
Sharing as part of a Collaborative project

 REI recently launched their 1440 project with the goal of
capturing 24 hours of people doing what they loved in nature (1440 minutes).
Pictures for every minute of the day. It’s one of my favorite projects I’ve
seen. For REI, “sharing” was a way to generate both incremental reach (through
the shared content) but also a way to create a marketing asset.  For every picture contributed, REI asked the
contributor to share it to *their* networks. And, each image became part
of the overall collection, available for all future visitors. Plus, this effort
resulted in at least 1440 pieces of content that could get shared out to REI’s
network over the course of the year, and presumably each of those 1440+ images
were good enough that when published to REI’s feed, the fans/followers would
then like/retweet or favorite the images out
to their network.

 
5-15-2013 3-57-32 PM
But, to me, the best part of this project is that it comes
right from their values – celebrate being out in nature – and their core
purpose as a coop: A collective effort to help their members have their own
kind of experience, to  inspire and  celebrate others who are doing the same. This
whole project demonstrates their values perfectly.

 

the Problem with Medium

I really, really want to love <a Href=”http://www.medium.com”>Medium</A&gt;, the new platform from Ev (you know, the guy from Blogger AND Twitter) that’s intended to make it easier and safer to write for the web again. It looks beautiful, the ambition is there, the execution seems good, but despite all that and despite all the posts i’ve read, i just can’t get into it. And that’s a fatal flaw. I just don’t care.

The main idea is, i think, to create a space where it’s good and safe to write well about meaningful subjects. Quality over the inanity of the gajillions of tweets we’re flooded with.

My sense: the writers there are just trying too damn hard to be Important. Trying too hard to deliver Quality. And, that’s the kiss of death. Maybe. We’ll see.

From Buzz to Something Real: The Peril of “Earned Media”

Like most marketers, we're trying to figure out just how real the promise of "earned media" is. Truly earned, positive exposure for your brand is almost unicorn-esque: it takes a fantastic product, a clearly articulated brand story, and a lot of elbow grease to get it started.But more and more, we're talking to brands about how "earned media" can be a powerful benefit from great marketing.

But, we're nowhere near close to being able to answer the legitimate questions we'll be getting from smart marketers about how to equate the value of earned media to the stuff we're hoping to displace. So, when marketers ask "what's the value of earned media", we don't have the tools to really answer that question.

We know, generally, that exposure for the brand that we don't have to actually pay for is good. But, can you put a media value on the amount of blog posts, tweets, mentions, comments, etc? How do we go from vague "buzz", to real, legitimate "media value" from the conversation?

(Yes, i know the whole question is kind of crass. But, it's still legitimate. More importantly, as paid media gets less effective/efficient, we'll need to understand how to prioritize our efforts in the social space. Which brings us back to how to value the conversations… )

Here's the nut that needs to be cracked:

* the promise of "earned" media is that it could, theoretically, replace "paid" media, if we could get our arms around it.

* to get our arms around it, we need to be able to track the activity over time and see real trends emerging from the data and, eventually, make connections in the data, leading to legitimate insights

* to track it, we need a consistent definition of "earned media", and a clear, consistent categorization of the forms that earned media takes, from blog posts, tweets, comments, "likes" etc.

* To measure it, we need to see the differences over time, and equate some sort of value to each of the instances we see it. Even if that value is relative (*this* is better than *that*) and not financially quantifiable. Ideally, we'd be able to identify some causal relationship between "earned" media and cash register rings. But, until then, we'll need some sort of objective way to rank/force rank the desirability of the forms earned media takes.

* all we have – right now – is an "impression" as the common media unit. We have to be able to do better than that.

So, what I guess I'm looking for is a tool that will help us track and categorize the "earned" media we're getting like we track our paid media. I've got all sorts of tools that show me activity, some that can show me sentiment, and one or two that can give me semantic insights in the deluge of text. But, how do i know how much it's worth? It's the unicorn tool, i'm afraid.

Committing to Twitter

I’ve just realized i’ve got more followers on Twitter than i think i’d ever have on the Cuene.com blog (which, by the way, goes way back in various forms to 95, when i got the first website up and running). I’ve been dabbling since it came out, but now, since all the best links come through twitter, i’m going to finally commit. Follow me at http://twitter.com/jcuene