Author Archive

Is social media synonymous with plagiarism?

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

There seems to be another social media tool springing up every few weeks. There are content curation tools that churn out relevant articles and blurbs about the industry your brand lives in; third-party Twitter tools allow you to schedule tweets in bulk and hours ahead; more recently there are tweet aggregators that create custom newsletters based on the most tweeted articles amongst your networks.

All these elements of social media have a common goal: to create a “sphere of influence” with your brand at the epicenter. Your namesake is responsible for collecting these insights from influential bloggers and mainstream publications, making you the go-to resource and one-stop shop for anyone wanting a comprehensive view of industry trends and news worth knowing.

Does anyone else find something wrong with this model? If all a brand does is repurpose other brands’ original content and claim it as their own, does that alone make them worthy of the “thought leader” title? There’s a common expression that “stealing from one source is plagiarism, but stealing from multiple sources is research.” If a company’s entire social media strategy hinges on others to generate unique and relevant content, is this a sustainable marketing plan? Are you opening yourself more easily to competition? Is it technically even ethical? Does it matter?

I don’t have an answer for any of those questions. I mean only to point out that I am noticing a trend that recent tools in social media seem to be moving away from what the purpose of the medium was primarily (back in the day of web logs and to provide a vehicle for the average consumer to voice their uncensored and unpolished, but uniquely their own, opinions to their Internet-surfing peers in real time. Fast forward a handful of years and it seems today:

  • Status updates from my friends about the awful weather appear alongside tweets from packaged good brands (Skittles, Cheerios, P&G, etc.) and major publications (NY Times, The Onion, Time Magazine, etc.);
  • People love the real-time, breaking news aspect of Twitter, but also don’t have time to be tweet-ready. More and more people seem to be turning to scheduled tweets, which defeats the purpose of 1) real time, and 2) conversation;
  • Everyone, from my bank to my next door neighbor, seems to have a “custom e-newsletter,” which is content aggregated from their Twitter stream.

I’m a huge proponent of social media, if for nothing else, because it is a medium that is continuously reinventing itself and evolving as technology changes–and it’s changing quickly. But is social media evolving into an anti-social form of communication?

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ING: A lesson in how to turn a suffix into a brand

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Examples of poorly-matched keyword targeted ads and article content are objects of digital advertising folklore. We can all name examples where the right (more like wrong) ad gets paired with a somber news piece, leading to a serious faux pas with a side of irony.

ING Direct, an innovator in both the digital advertising and financial services arenas, has harnessed the power of keyword targeting to reach customers in unexpected ways. Perhaps you have heard of this online-only bank before. Their traditional advertising often displays the brand name—all three letters of it—in such a way that you think there is something blocking the rest of it. No bank could possibly have such a short name, much less a combination of letters that is often the ending of a word in the English language.

The marketing folks at ING Direct are a pretty creative group of people. From guerrilla tactics involving a hot air balloon to using orangutans for attention, this team clearly has a sense of humor and willingness to play with their brand. When your mascot is a giant orange bouncy ball, you get those liberties, don’t you?

As an online bank with no brick and mortar branches (they have cafes, but that’s a different story), it’s no surprise that they are well-versed in digital marketing and where to target display ads to potential customers. It’s a bank, so anyone that has any unmet monetary needs is a potential client, so there’s no need to be terribly specific by demography, geography, or any other -graphy’s.

In this example, ING uses keyword targeting a unique way to get the audience’s attention. When you see the orange accents around the article, your eye will likely scan the page until you find the reason for the strange color differentiation. The content of the article is completely irrelevant. ING could easily use this tactic in virtually any situation—even highlighting their brand name in articles about competing banks. Come to think of it, that would be brilliant!

The first hurdle with financial services marketing is just getting attention. Money is a highly personal, sensitive topic for most people. It is a great source of stress and anxiety, and something people would rather not think about. This is one example of a bank getting noticed in a creative, fun way that, unlike traditional financial advertising, does not bog down the audience with flashy interest rates calls to action about refinancing. If you had never heard of ING before, you may not even know what service they are selling, but I bet you would be much more likely to click through that ad.

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On Digital Darwinism

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently read a book that introduced a new (at least new to me) term: Digital Darwinism. Most people are familiar with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as it applies to the biological and physical world in which we live, but Digital Darwinism takes the evolution concept and applies it the new digital arena where we now learn, work, and play on a continuous basis.

The general idea is that digital media has “evolved” from early company websites – that were essentially brochures loaded onto you monitor – to more interactive mediums. These websites evolved by adding functionality: streaming video, a built-in “Like” button for Facebook, a widget for your dashboard, etc. Like all evolution, not all of it has necessarily been for the betterment of humanity. Case in point: not every brand needs a blog, a YouTube channel, or a Twitter account if it doesn’t align with their overall marketing strategy.

While even the best marketer knows this, the challenge is that just like traditional evolution, many factors of digital evolution are out of our control. Digital Darwinism is more forward thinking and focuses on how your brand lives on in the capable hands of your consumers and fans. A brand can create an astonishingly creative campaign and use every media channel at their disposal, but what will ultimately push the campaign to the next level of marketing euphoria will depend on how your fan base digests your content, makes it their own, and where and how they share it with others.

Look no further than the tremendously successful viral campaign of Old Spice or Blendtec. Both left the heavy lifting of campaigning to the willing public, and in the process attracted and engaged millions of news fans, all for the cost of a few witty copywriters, a blender, and a few household items. All in all, not a bad deal.

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