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The changing anatomy of my online behaviour

Over the last 2 weeks I’ve noticed something about my online habits – they were being driven by primarily offline stimuli or personal silos. This was a significant enough change from the norm for me since, oh, 1995 when I got my first Internet connection. In the past 11 years I’ve surfed the web… clicking on banners, feeling lucky on Google, spending hours comparing prices or looking at vacation locations, Asking Jeeves, clicking on links in emails, blogrolls, message boards, or content on my merry way around the web. In a way I let the medium guide my behaviour and direction of my habits. I passively consumed the content and allowed my experience to be guided by the various entities I encountered.

The last two weeks (at least that’s when I started paying more serious attention) have been, well, a tad different. I’ve been busy catching up at work, I’ve been busy trying to read my RSS feeds & emails, and I’ve been out networking and strategizing in real life. This has left little time for any kind of surfing that wasn’t directly related to my immediate, or short-term needs. I clicked through to the articles that interested me from my email newsletters and bookmarked the ones to come back to. On occasion I followed a link from one of my RSS feeds to another site. Except… for the three TV commercials I saw while taking a break which prompted me to write down the URL’s (yes, with pen & paper!) and visit the websites. The commercials grabbed my attention because they were well executed, catchy, and had a memorable URL. And one prompted me to go out and buy the product (okay, fine, it’s the Trivial Pursuit Totally 80’s board game, I couldn’t resist even if the website was umm, not robust…).

Then there were the four conversations I had offline, that referenced something I googled when I got home (yes Google, I actually googled on Google), and explored in more depth. Two were brand related and confirm the power of WOM, and two were marketing related and confirm that content is king and SEO is more than a nice-to-have.

My web experience morphed into a self-directed one driven by stimuli that was important enough for me to take time to pay attention to and engage with.

As we continue to get more time crunched and content saturated how difficult will it be for companies to get themselves positively featured in my self-directed experience? The goal of social media and engagement is to ensure that happens, but as we’ve talked about at the various industry meet-ups and events, the conversation exists both offline and on and changes daily. A big challenge moving forward will be the ability to successfully integrate the conversations and messages online & offline, while continuing to provide real value for the customer. Focusing on one or the other (and being a medium evangelist vs. a customer evangelist) is counterintuitive to human interaction and behaviour.

[photo credit: olivander on Flickr]

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Colbert gets TV/ web integration

Leave it to a fake anchor on a comedy network to provide a great example of TV/ Internet integration done right.

Stephen Colbert & The Colbert Report are taking the best attributes of both mediums and harnessing them to empower their viewers and build positive word of mouth.

A few key recent highlights include:

  • The on-air Wikipedia entries which spawned a thousand imitations and remain an obsession of the show
  • Taking on Chuck Norris to have a bridge in Hungary renamed in his honour (so far Colbert leads the voting with 71% of the total)
  • And the latest episode which brings branded (in this case an individual – Colbert in front of a green screen in a mock light saber battle) UGC to millions of homes via cable TV. Colbert put up the video and invited his viewers to create their own background battle scenes. He has aired two so far with a promise of more as the submissions roll in. This type of interaction creates an appetite for more audience generated creative offerings with the ultimate pay-off being a spot on national television, lionized, or ridiculed, by Stephen Colbert.

The integration and strength of the mediums continues with strong web presences and the availability of video downloads of interviews or memorable segments from the show. The high participation level, consistently strong ratings and positive buzz, even when Colbert is ridiculing the President, show a loyalty any brand slapping a video up on YouTube would be well served to keep in mind during the brainstorming sessions… it can be done, but it must be done right with the customers desires, a true understanding of your goals, and an honest look at why and how you are engaging your audience, front and centre.

As a complimentary piece, Mike Wokosin’s “7 Ways to Integrate Online with TV” is a good read with practical tips (and something the Colbert Report is obviously on top of already!)

[H/T - Eat the Press]

[photo credit: kowitz on Flickr]

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But if it isn’t a good movie…

The box office disappointment, and subsequent rearview mirror gazing, of Snakes on a Plane opening weekend should really come as no surprise to marketers because there is one simple truth in advertising: no amount of buzz or hype will rescue an inferior product. And that is what SoaP is – a B-movie.

As I mentioned previously, New Line went far beyond interacting and engaging with the blogosphere, into content development based on what a tiny subset of the population told them they wanted to see – basically Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules, from Pulp Fiction battling snakes on a plane. Unfortunately, not everybody else wanted to see that movie. The Internet is one channel, albeit a powerful one, to reach customers. For a product that relies on mass-appeal however, ignoring TV and its ability to capture our imagination visually, in conjunction with other media, is risky. The problem for SoaP of course, was that it didn’t have a compelling storyline which could elevate it into the mainstream conciousness ala Blair Witch or My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and the storyline it did have was modified to accomodate bloggers requests with an end result being a movie no one will tell their friends they have to see. Snakes on a Plane’s main selling point appears to be the, um, snakes on a plane and Sam Jackson. Is that enough to reach critical mass?

New Line could have leveraged the initial buzz created by bloggers and used that to supplement traditional movie advertising & focus on making a better film. I certainly hope the disappointing results for SoaP doesn’t turn studios against building relationships with the audience via a powerful medium, but instead provides them with valuable lessons learned that culture by committee does not equal innovation.

[photo credit: stevegan on Flickr]

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The ‘third screen’

The “third screen” is all the rage with media buying companies and content publishers these days. And why not, it provides advertisers another outlet to push products (and of course pay commissions to media companies for placement). But do they work? Are consumers just dying to watch their favourite TV show on their cell phone (and the accompanying commercials)?

Not so much it would appear.

Entertainment purveyors may be scrambling to package their content into mobisodes, video downloads and podcasts, but a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that teens and young adults — the generation most likely to be the early adopters of this new technology — have yet to fully embrace it.

About half of young adults and 4 in 10 teenagers said they were uninterested in watching television shows or movies on computers, cellphones or hand-held devices such as video iPods, the poll found.

While more than 2 out of 5 teens and young adults indicated they were open to viewing this kind of content online, only 14% of teenagers said they wanted to watch television on a cellphone, and 17% said they would view programs on an iPod.

With that in mind, the new bbTV just doesn’t make sense to me. Blackberries, unlike cell phones or iPods, are a business tool. Most BB owners did not purchase the unit themselves, but rather it is part of their job and is paid for by their employer. Which begs the question – are employers willing to shell out the fee per month so their employees can watch TV clips with company property? I can see it now, a boring meeting, the blackberries come out… and the staff starts watching TV… as if it isn’t bad enough that you can’t seem to get through a meeting these days without someone answering a (most likely) non-urgent email.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for innovative media, but not at the expense of common sense. Which leads me to a future post regarding media planning… stay tuned.

[photo credit: AMagill on Flickr]

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The automakers and ’safe marketing’

I’m not surprised Nissan would come out in favour of increased spend online and in alternative mediums vs. traditional broadcast. They’re kinda hip as a company after all. But I’m not all that sure of what this ‘call to arms’ will do in terms of changing how the Big 3 (GM, Ford, Chrysler) market themselves. Now don’t get me wrong, those companies DO advertise online, but in order to maximize the channel they have to be willing to carve out a significant chunk of their ad budgets and go full force into it. You can’t do online on a shoe string. I’m not just talking about banner ads or flash pieces, there are hundreds of ways car companies can maximize the technology and medium and get their product out in a meaningful way… with reach.

Sure, Honda (about whom I will have a post soon re: the Element campaign), Toyota, Nissan, BMW, et al are building communities, using CGM and viral elements online, but that’s because their business philosophy stems from a different place. They focused on the niche, the under-served market and on building superior products and design, or next gen tech and environmental impact. They didn’t try to make their car all things to all people, they picked a target market (i.e. the Honda Civic and “Civic Nation” which appealed to youth, when at the time, the market for Civic’s was primarily dominated by older demos) and spoke to them. They have the types of products that enable them to get involved in online communities and not be afraid of feedback. They have products people want to talk about.

The funny thing is that the Big 3 have those types of products as well, the Mustang or PTS Cruiser come to mind, but the organizations have been typically slow to embrace change and take chances. Hopefully the baby steps into search and CGM General Motors has embarked on will provide them learning and ideas to keep moving forward and engaging their customers or prospects… and boy do I have a lot of thoughts on the Google/ Pontiac tag on their TV spots… but I’m glad they did it anyway.

TV and traditional media will always be a big part of auto marketing… part of the appeal of vehicles is the ‘beauty’ or ’sexiness’ factor of a car. And it’s easy to showcase that and appeal to the emotions with images… what TV is a master of. Of course, what they need to do is branch out into using the web to convey those aspirational images and let consumers help shape the brand, and ultimately, the products.

Hopefully the wake up call from Nissan will be a further step in the right direction.

[Hat tip The Viral Garden]

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