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Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

I read a really interesting article on the emerging social media trend of ‘dark marketing’ which takes a very much ‘covert’ approach. It provides examples of companies that have implemented stealth tactics in order to reach and sway influencers and potential influencers without engaging them directly with a brand.

Dark Marketing was defined as “…discretely sponsored online and real world entertainment intended to reach hipster audiences that would ordinarily shun corporate shilling” by Tom Edwards in this article.

In order to give a balanced account of this marketing approach, I have provided a couple of positive and negative examples. Sony recently launched a ‘Fake Tourist’ campaign in which it seeded Sony camera users in a central location and asked them to engage with people to take their picture with the desired goal to lead to a ‘pseudo-pitch’ around the product. This approach faced widespread criticism as it was considered a sly tactic to try and drive up sales of Sony’s latest camera product.

Another example is Vespa in the U.S. (which isn’t listed in this particular article I am referring to). Vespa actually hired attractive models to ride around on its scooters and up to bystanders in order to lure them, with their looks, into asking for their phone number. At this point, the Vespa driver would hand out a phone number and ride off (kind of like what you would expect to see in a movie). The catch? When the bystanders called the number, they were actually directly connected to a Vespa dealership!

Don’t be disillusioned. There are examples of this sort of activity that can work – but importantly, the activity needs to be ‘smart’ and cannot offend consumers.

An example used in the article of where this stealth tactic has worked is McDonalds and its recent ‘Lost Ring’ campaign. The Lost Ring was a virtual reality viral game targeted at youth and aimed at subtly promoting the McDonald’s brand and its partnership with the Olympics. It was in fact so discrete that it was almost (and still is) impossible to attribute this back to the McDonald’s brand. Not one single instance of a golden arch. The interesting thing here is that even post-campaign period – the site has a really simple survey mechanism to solicit feedback from site visitors – and still subtle in its branding.

Marketers are getting smarter – and so they must – especially if they (and we) want to be able to reach out to and make an impact on relevant brand influencers both online and offline.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on covert/ stealth marketing. Do you think it’s right/ wrong?

Meghan Donovan

by Meghan Donovan
Category: Technology

Nowadays, we worship and rely on Google. Can you actually remember what your life was like before it? Pretty hard, isn’t it?

While in New York earlier this summer, I got up to speed on a great service (and probably one I should have known about before), but it is perfect for those of us not always completely sure where we are going or just haven’t updated our electronic  rolodexes on a regular basis.

Google Mobile makes our lives more streamlined, more on time and far less confusing. Simply text commands to 466453 (”Google” - as I’m sure you could have guessed). Commands can range from product prices (ex: PRICE Apple iphone) to weather (ex: WEATHER san francisco) to places (ex: Magnolia Bakery nyc). Other commands include sports, stocks, movie times, and directions. What more could ask you for?

Google Mobile is a great resource to have in the palm of your hand as you’re out and about going to meet a client, need to get a cross street for a lunch spot or just want to be able to obtain the necessities instead of dealing with the browser on your smart phone.

Now get those fingers typing and get on the move!

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

It seems like a logical move but who would have thought that we are well and truly advanced to the point where the Internet will be delivered to us in our livings rooms via our televisions. Intel and Yahoo are teaming up to bring this experience to consumers via a Widget Channel, representing a true evolution of the Internet as know it.

So what implications does this have for the consumer? If we are looking ahead, it means that we will have the ability to interact with these TV widgets via remote control - offering us an enhanced and all-immersive online experience. We’ll be able to purchase products online, converse with friends via email, frequent social networking sites, check out favourite videos online and share with friends during the ad breaks. The possibilities are endless.

If you are viewing an ad that features a new, must-have product, this new experience could mean that you don’t need to leave your house to purchase it. You see a product, love it, want it, jump online and purchase in real time - and from the comfort of your very own couch.

And the really cool thing - Intel and Yahoo are already collaborating with companies including Blockbuster, CBS Interactive, Comcast, eBay, Toshiba, MTV, Twitter and others in order to develop these widgets.

The future of the Internet is here! What will be next?

If you could access the Internet from your TV, what would you do with it?

Personally I am not a fan of Second Life - it has never captured my imagination and with three children, two of teenage years, it hasn’t captured their’s either. Clearly, for the virtual world creators at Linden Lab, and the early adopters that got on board at the start, it has been a success. But like most things, once the hype and excitement of a new application wanes, that is when the real effort begins. Can Second Life really sustain a presence, continue to innovate and attract new users, whether personal or business? You decide.

But one Australian researcher, Kim MacKenzie, a PhD student at the Queensland University of Technology, is trying to find the answer. Kim is completing her honours year thesis around the business applications of Second Life. She studied 20 international brands over three months last year and has come to the conclusion that many were either ghost towns or worse, had shut up shop. She often found herself wondering around with no evidence of anybody in. See the full article posted today by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Asher Moses.

Linden Labs released figures in April that showed Second Life active users in Australia were 12,245, down from 16,000 towards the end of last year. Not very impressive. According to the Herald article by Asher, it is suggested that brand engagement is not really going to be in Second Life, or not at this time.

MacKenzie herself suggests the application is still a few years ahead of the curve and companies hadn’t done enough to advertise their presence there; or, when more advanced features are added such as voice chat, she believes it will grow in popularity. I guess time will tell.

I don’t know what your experience is with or in Second Life. Are you a corporation that has had success? Or has it been an experiment or a tool to engage your staff? Or do you agree with Kate’s thesis? Or are we all missing the point? Do share.

Luca Penati

by Luca Penati
Category: Technology

I have seen so many posts and buzz these last few days about PR becoming obsolete, everywhere from TechCrunch to ZDNet. In some cases I felt compelled to post comments. Now I finally have a bit of time to log into my WordPress account and write a proper post about it.

Let me address the issue at its core: PR is not synonymous with “publicist”.

PR is much more than media relations or pitching bloggers. It’s much more than being the conduit between a company and the media (be it traditional or social.) It’s about been strategic on what you want to communicate, how, when and to whom. A good PR campaign can (and should) reach all the stakeholders and the influencers beyond media and blogs, such as financial analysts, industry analysts, academia, legislators, partners, employees, consumers, customers, local communities, online communities, Wall Street, etc. It depends on the company business and its business goals.

If the point of these posts is that the media landscape is changing and therefore PR people need to understand it in order to provide sound counsel to their clients (regardless of whether you are in-house or on the agency side) then I agree with you. However, good PR people are much more than publicists. They know that blasting a pitch email hoping that it sticks will not work. And most importantly, it never worked (not with media in the past, not with bloggers today.)

Knowing your audiences, building relationships, crafting stories, managing a crisis, engaging your stakeholders, and providing them with what they need is what PR is all about. Nothing new. What is changing is the complexity and the environment, which is richer, and, in my opinion, a lot more fun.

Good PR is here to stay. Good PR practitioners will always find a seat at the table if they continue to do what they have been doing for years: listening and adapting to an ever-changing landscape.

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

It is becoming increasingly evident that more business users are jumping online during the work day to frequent social networking sites, using it as an online hub to conduct business and connect with other users for work purposes. For example, Twitter is becoming not only a hang out place to connect with friends but from a professional standpoint I am seeing that PR practitioners and journalists are using it as a portal to tap into useful networks, scoop out stories, identify spokespeople and generate outcomes.

Interestingly enough, as we see this trend escalate, eMarketer predicts that advertisers in the US will spend $40 million this year to reach the business audience on different social networking sites. And according to its forecasts, this spend is expected to reach $210 million in 2012.

The very nature of a social network is that it connects like-minded people and those with common hobbies and interests. It is therefore no surprise that we are seeing this behaviour among the business audience. And what’s more, the very nature of social network sites is providing advertisers and marketers with great opportunities to reach out to the exact audience they are wishing to tap into, as social networking sites become even more purpose-built and niche.

Another example is LinkedIn. LinkedIn describes itself as “A networking tool to find connections to recommend job candidates, industry experts and business partners…” This site is a recruiters dream! With its member subscription having doubled in the last year, this is the ideal environment to scope out and head hunt potential talent.

I recently viewed by profile on LinkedIn and I was able to track not only how many people viewed my profile in the last 27 days but it also told me who these people were. One was ’someone in the Human Resources industry’ and the other was an ‘Account Director at Howorth Communications’. Nothing is sacred anymore.

These are just a few proof points that indicate the power of social networking sites in business and how sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter (and others) are increasingly becoming poweful tools that facilitate important business connections.

Do you think this trend will continue to escalate? Or are social networking sites merely fad? Would love your thoughts.

As I sit here typing my debut post for this blog, I can’t help but think of the dozens of topics I should write about– my thoughts on social media, the new widgets I downloaded on my iPhone, my new obsession with Twitter, or even Facebooking at work (I am guilty, and so are you.)  Just thinking of these topics made me realize how in one very short year after moving from Pennsylvania to San Francisco, I have warped into a digital girl. Prior to working as an AAE in the Technology Practice, I had no idea that blogs were big business and social networking was encouraged at work.  I still can’t figure out where all the “stuff” goes when we upload pictures or download music, it’s all still a mystery. I’m still learning.

All this digital information, mind-numbing technology, and creative innovation that surrounds us each day is extremely overwhelming, borderline suffocating but in a strange way humbling and inspiring. While studying in college I refused to read dissertation papers or reports online, I had to feel the pages, trace the words, and touch the pictures. I hardly signed on to AIM and I refused to respond to text messages, thinking it was so silly to not pick up the phone and press “call.”  I honestly thought personal blogs were rants and ramblings with no credibility (many still are), and heck, I created a blog last year just for my friends and family to read so they would stop calling me in the middle of the night while living abroad in South Korea, hence the very creative blog title. In one short year, my perception of technology has changed, drastically.

We, namely Gen Y, grew up bombarded with information overload. We are a spoiled generation, not in terms of material things, but in digital goods. We watched as the tech bubble burst in Silicon Valley, we witnessed 9/11 while sitting in classrooms, we quit Harvard and started an online yearbook, and we asked Google, not God, why the sky is blue.  We have a reputation of being “know-it-alls” because of all this technology. You can’t blame us, because with the click of our fingers, we feel like we know it all.

This year, Gen Y Americans have more incentive, power and voice to rock the vote and elect the next President of the United States.  Presidential Candidates are blogging and even YouTube is playing a fundamental role during debates. We are optimistic for the future and are more wired and globally connected with our peers than previous generations.  Yet, we are facing an economic downturn, a grim job market and a mortgage crisis.  We are renting, not buying, borrowing, not paying, dating, not marrying…or maybe that’s just me ;). We are aware of what’s imminent, but hopeful because like I said, we live in a digital world, and with technology, we can find answers, innovate, communicate, educate, spark controversy and conversation, and bring about change. 

[Disclaimer: author is an extreme optimist.]

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

So I’ve been toying around with Twitter a lot more these days. So much so, I have been abandoning my blog. I think more and more we will start to see the quality of blog posts decline with the emergence of microblogging - thanks to Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter. Twitter gives you the option to update your network/ neighbourhood on what you are doing in a mere 140 characters.

The instantaneous nature of this means that you can easily update those that are following you on what you are up to and track what others are up to as well. I was originally critical of Twitter but I am starting to find it more useful in a professional work sense. In fact, in my perception it is taking over Facebook as one of the most valuable social networking sites.

The interesting thing here for me is that you can apply it to every day work. My Twitter neighbourhood, albeit small, is a circle of PR people and journalists. The aim = to expand my small neighbourhood! Anyway, I digress…

Although many of the posts that we upload don’t necessarily provide too much insight - I find out when people need to go to the bathroom, what they had for breakfast and when they are on the train but on several occasions it can really useful. You can pick up a lead on a story that a journalist is working on, what topics he/ she covers, when he/ she is going overseas, find out what they think of products they are reviewing and reporting on, what topics light a fire under them and so forth. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse and stay in contact. Now that I think about it more, I would actually compare this to LinkedIn - it seems to be quite valuable as a professional networking tool.

I’d be surprised if blog subscriptions weren’t in decline due to the rise in Twitter feeds. This has strong implications for mobiles as well. These days, new and emerging technologies are mirroring the lifestyle trends of today’s consumers’. As people want to access to real-time information from friends, access to news, entertainment, and be able to communicate from anywhere at anytime - we are finding that today’s technologies such as mobile phones and web 2.0 tools such as Twitter are accommodating these needs.

Feel free to pipe up if you have some answers because I haven’t done all my homework in this area. Are we seeing a trend now - as people become more time poor are we seeing blog posts getting shorter? Rather than well-researched, quality blog posts - are these increasingly becoming short excerpts and randon bursts of one’s thoughts?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

Half Moon Bay that is at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech. Reflecting on what I found to be some of the best ideas shared yesterday:

- How can social media be leveraged to make your employee talent more highly engaged? Gary Hamel of London Business School cited a Towers Perrin study across 16 countries, and it found that nobody has more than 20% of employees who say they feel highly engaged. If we can engage customers, allow them to congregate and engage with collectively work around a problem, why can’t we do more with our talent?

- Where is your platform strategy? This was a recurring theme; that innovative companies are providing platforms as a strategy to allow others to build things for them.

- CC Per Annum. OK, I just made that up, but after hearing CEOs Michael Dell, Marc Benioff and Brad Smith all cite at different times in the afternoon just how many customer conversations their companies are having annually, I think we’re going to start seeing that as a communications department proof point in an effort to show innovation from the outside in. For the record, Intuit has two billion customer conversations per year.

- Books, toys and web services? I had wondered how Amazon Web Services had come to be. Jeff Bezos shared that Amazon built web services for themselves over four years ago in an effort to free up their engineering hours that were not directly adding customer value. The idea came up a few years after that to get into the web services business. I also like the analogy he used – that we’re moving into a new world where like a brewery, they’ll be able to focus on the beer and not on having their own power generator to produce it.

- Best insight of the day: Small business owners will happily share tips and advice with other similar small business owners as long as they’re not in the same zip code. Florist to florist, etc. Just think of the opportunities to facilitate that for a company like Intuit.

Which brings me to the some of the best remarks of the day, made by Intuit CEO Brad Smith. I had never seen Mr. Smith speak before, and he has a pretty polished approach, so much so that I worried he was going to be too smooth and salesy. Many around me agreed. But he ended up surprising us all and really delivered a candid commentary on his challenge; He said they’re asking themselves at Intuit, will their 25 years of success be an accelerant or inhibitor? He says the answer is with the youth in the company. He gave a great anecdote. TurboTax is a 20+ year old product, so there is resistance to change. An engineer proposed that they put the live user community inside the product for the first time – so users can talk to other users while doing taxes. They took a risk, did a test. Guess what happened? 44% of users asked the questions and got community answers, and at a higher accuracy rate than ever before. He concluded, “And it cost us zero.”

It was a great day. And I’m looking forward to more. Oh yeah, and Neil Young is here.

I’ve been reading a lot about network effects lately. I attribute this to the large number of Bill Gates retrospectives that describe how Microsoft dominated the PC area. Also there’s Steve Lohr’s story in the New York Times this Monday which describes how the principle applies to Google.

The network effect seems to perfectly describe the value of social networks. However, I can’t help wondering: what happens as the Web becomes more open, more semantic? Doesn’t increased data portability, by definition, undermine the effect as it applies to social networking companies?

Social networking has helped individuals (and the groups they belong to) benefit from the network effect in new ways. That’s not going to go away. But is it possible that continued innovation will eradicate the ability of the host networks themselves to benefit?

What’s to stop social networks from ending up as widgets easily added or subtracted from a fully-customizable, personalized and interactive home page (iGoogle or myYahoo)? How can they stop it from happening?

I’m genuinely curious. Anyone have any ideas?

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide