Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Latest Update On the Privacy Debate

A few weeks ago, Patricia mentioned Facebook in her post about digital privacy. I couldn't help thinking of that post--and the predictions she made in it--when I heard about Facebook's newly instated privacy settings. As of yesterday they've simplified their privacy controls and applied them retroactively, meaning that users can protect past posts. They've also done away with mandatory "instant personalization", a program introduced last month which draws information from users' profiles to customize other websites--for example, music sites like Pandora

The instant personalization service is still there, however--the only difference is that now it can be turned off. A nice first step, yes. But it may have come too late. Many users have decided that keeping up with Facebook's constant changes is too demanding. There are entire sites dedicated to people vowing to quit the site entirely. Even Google is struggling after introducing Google Buzz. As of yet the service has privacy controls that can be turned on and off. But then again, it has GPS and geotags your every post. Creepy? I think so. And apparently I'm not the only one. I would not be at all surprised to see it become the new fuel for the privacy fire.

--Mo Hickey

Monday, May 24, 2010

Digital Assets May Be Your Most Valuable Assets

I’m in Los Angeles this week, enjoying the palm trees and paradisical atmosphere, but also beta-testing results from new research on sponsorship in the digital culture.

Main findings: Digital assets have the unique ability to involve consumers in the innovation process.  Both sponsors and seekers understand that the innovation process is an experiment, and, in the best cases, both sides are engaged and committed to the collaborative process.

In addition, digital culture that is sponsor-worthy can broaden the reach of the sponsor and take the brand to areas and audiences that would not be responsive or engaged with a direct approach.  Using digital assets well will become increasingly valuable to brand success.

What are some sponsorship best practices?  I’m excited to share the results of my research in more detail after concluding this trip.  Look for upcoming sponsorship blogs with some striking new ideas.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ford Fiesta: RenGen Brand of the Year

Ladies and gentleman, start your engines. This week, the new Ford Fiesta subcompact will begin its traditional media campaign. I began blogging about the Fiesta campaign months ago, when it was purely viral and very RenGen. Brand manager Sam De La Garza recruited a phalanx of hip bloggers and encouraged them to unleash their creativity to take unusual road trips in the Fiesta and post about it.

Very early on, the collaboration built the brand’s, "life's a creative adventure" mojo. Sam tweaked social media platforms. He did fly-by-night test drive opportunities that he promoted on Twitter: "Hey, I'm at the corner of Lake and Wabash if you wanna take a test drive!" All of this delivered something that blew the doors off previous launches at Ford.

Get this: Before the Fiesta even launches, Ford marketing executives say 60 percent of the car-buying public already knows about the new Ford. That's huge! "It's more than five times more efficient than anything we've done before," said Matt Vandyke, director of U.S. marketing communications for the Dearborn automaker. "It's something you'll see us doing with other vehicles going forward."

Also interesting is the campaign targets--Millennials AND baby boomers. Also very RenGen—it’s more effective to market to a psychographic than demographic. But Ford execs say the Fiesta only needs to market to the much-younger Millennials to attract the Boomers. Interesting. What will happen to the Boomers' sense of themselves when other brands catch on and we stop seeing ourselves everywhere in ads?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Indie Film Industry Hopes VOD Will Get More People Watching

A while ago, I blogged about an indie film that became Hulu's most-watched movie of all time without actually being released in theaters. Now it seems that other indie films are enjoying similar attention. Netflix recently reported that it added over 300 independent films to its library. And last month, the Tribeca Film Festival launched a long-term effort to acquire and release indie films on video-on-demand. It's a revolutionary effort--film festivals almost always screen movies rather than distribute them. The goal is to kickstart the VOD market for independent films, thereby remodeling an industry that has been in flux for a number of years. Most expert agree that a large part of the problem has to do with the fact that there are too many films and too few theaters to show them in. VOD might prove to be a solution.Votes are still out on whether or not the effort will work, but everyone agrees that the industry is in desperate need of a change. As always, I'm excited to see what'll happen next. Read more here.

--Mo Hickey

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sponsorship Twist: Online Sponsors Need Face Time

To appear in two places at once is divine. So said Joseph Campbell, renowned expert on mythology. As the season opens for outdoor festivals, sponsors will seek divine deals that allow their brands to appear in two places at once--live and online. Research we completed back in Fall of 2009 on the best practices of sponsors in the digital culture revealed a common thread. Sponsors were twice as effective when they ran a promotion, contest or content-related social media engagement AND reinforced the message at retail or at live events. If it happens online but doesn't play out in people's lives, it's just more digital detritus.

Take aways:
For sponsors: Make sure your message exists in at least two places--one digital and one where customers can touch, feel, and experience it.

For sponsorship seekers: Interlace your assets--digital, live, influence. Find ways to use what happens online to promote your event, along with the sponsor's message, and figure out how you'll weave it into the live experience. And remember--your event has power. The partnership should influence and enhance the end user's experience. That's what makes 21st century sponsorship magical.

Last year, Pitchfork had peeps vote for the playlist they wanted to hear from bands. I can't remember who sponsored that promotion online. Telling, isn't it, that I have no sponsor recall. People participated, but there was no reference made to the voting anywhere at the event. Result: unmemorable.

Want to make your sponsorship magical? Two places, not one.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill Attacked By Giant Dreadlocks, Local Action + Collaboration = Good Buzz

Today I got two emails from different people asking me to contribute used pantyhose to mop up the Gulf oil spill. Both emails mention Matter of Trust. That's some buzz! Matter of Trust is a non-profit that operates an international natural fiber recycling program. Its volunteers are collecting human hair and hosiery to create huge fiber booms to sweep up the oil from the spill. Imagine giant dreadlocks. 

Beyond being in the right place at the right time, Matter of Trust is using an essential culture-tipping tool--local action. It has woven a grass-roots network of entrepreneurs--namely hair salon owners. My salon is a member of their hair recycling network. It's the kind of symbiotic collaboration that brings people face to face with a cause. And few things are more personal than getting your hair cut. When an email like this comes straight from my salon, the cause feels closer to me. No matter how digital culture shapes our lives, it can't replace certain types of intimacy. The combination of human touch with social media is insanely powerful.

I got my hair cut last week. Hopefully, my strands are doing some good out there. Now to rifle through my drawers for some dead-beat hosiery to donate. Or is that TMI?

Art+Science to help in Gulf Oil Spill Cleanup

On April 20th, 2010, we heard the devastating news of a massive oil spill that hit the Gulf of Mexico.  This oil spill is on track to become the worst oil spill in history.  
In our efforts to help, Art+Science will be donating it's hair clippings to Matter of Trust, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that's been accepting donations of non-filthy pet fur and human hair since 1998 to craft oil-absorbing hairmats -- described as "flat square dreadlocks" -- and hair-stuffed containment booms made from recycled pantyhose.  
To find out more about the organization and how you can help go to 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sponsored By President's Choice: A Private Label Brand Steps It Up

How can you tell when a private label brand is coming of age? It starts to sponsor events. Flipping through the New York Times yesterday, I noticed that President’s Choice is sponsoring Luminato, Toronto’s Arts and Creativity Festival that opens June 13th of this year.

In hopes of elevating the brand’s status among shoppers and chefs, PC will host a 1000 Tastes of Toronto event to coincide with Luminato. 
Here's the deal:
  • Top chefs use the PC ingredients innovatively
  • People "sample" the gourmet street food for $5 per serving
  • Chefs get to promote their dining establishments
  • Visitors get a festive carnival of cuisine
  • PC reinforces its claim to "premium" brand status, subverting its rep as a dowdy store brand.

Bon app├ętit!

Thanks to Greg George for the photo.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is Digital Culture Changing Our Privacy Norms?

Last year, I moved from a single-family home into an urban two-flat. Since the move, I've come to understand my values around privacy at a very practical level. In a communal building, the focus is on sharing. I like that. But the trade-off is lack of privacy. In my new world, there's one master key that opens all doors. People will let themselves in to calm a neighbor's barking dog--a lovely gesture. It signals trust. It also marks the erosion of privacy. But among the co-habitants in my building, community is valued above privacy.

Privacy has been in the news a lot lately. (Disclosure: one of our clients is a privacy provocateur.)

As digital culture evolves, people are building communities online. But they are also beginning to wonder if creating a strong community means setting some privacy standards. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says privacy is an outdated social norm. But then, he's capitalizing on the selling of people's data. Nothing motivates a digital native more than the threat of looking like a luddite.

Other voices are balancing the argument. Danah Boyd gave a nice talk on privacy at SXSWCory Doctorow is downright passionate about the topic. He's joined the ALA's Choose Privacy campaign to rally people around the issue.

For some people, privacy is amorphous. For me, it remains a daily issue of identity--both online and in the laundry room and back hallways of my building. I'm grateful for that, because nothing helps us  navigate life than coming to terms with our values. My prediction: by 2011 people will understand that their personal data has value. And we'll expect businesses like Facebook to compensate us for it. And won't that be an interesting community value--digital socialism.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oloves: Cute Packaging Packs A Punch

Meet Tasty Mediterranean. This colorful little snack is part of the Olove family, a brand that's been winning hearts since 2007. In 2008 they received the International Travel Catering Association's Mercury Award for Best New Food Product, a major achievement in the food world. They're a good example of a company that has built a real brand for itself. From design to promotion, everything they do propels their vision for the product. Their innovative packaging has gotten them the most attention. Each Olove variety--as of now there are three--has its own personals ad. A shortened version appears on the bag itself, but the website has an entire section devoted to "introducing" the Oloves. It gets better--you can reach each one via Skype. Besides being adorable, the packaging is functional. They come to you in aluminum foil pouches that, once opened, fold out to create a little bowl, making it easy to snack on the go. They don't even need to be refrigerated. Cute, smart and creative--if Oloves really were potential dates, they'd be the perfect catch.

Monday, May 3, 2010

AmEx: The Artful Sponsor Flexes Its Philanthropy

If you’re in the business of advising people, like I am, you know how gratifying it is when a client takes your counsel and enjoys great success. Bernie Griffin is such a client. She helps people partner with the iconic Fifth Avenue Theatre, located in the heart of Seattle. Having helped her re-price and re-package her corporate sponsorship offerings, I cheered her on as she outsold some of Seattle’s major sports properties. In the end, she landed six-figure deals. 

Last week, Bernie emailed me about the Fifth Avenue Theatre competing for an American Express grant. The grant is a wonderful example of a company’s wise alignment of its brand with its philanthropic partnerships. In this particular case, AmEx has partnered with The National Trust for Historic Preservation to identify organizations worthy of grants to restore or maintain their buildings. A jewel box of a theatre, Fifth Avenue was modeled after Imperial China’s grandest architectural achievement: the Forbidden City. The interior is breathtaking.

According to Bernie, American Express has selected 25 Puget Sound organizations to compete for a $125,000 grant. All of the organizations will be awarded a total of $1 million for being part of this program.

Here’s how it works. People vote for their favorite structure, and the top grant will go to the top vote-getter. You can vote once a day, every day, until May 12th. The remainder of the organizations will be evaluated once the voting is complete. Their grants will be announced in June.  

American Express has a longstanding commitment to preservation. Historic buildings fuel tourism. And travel is bedrock for the brand--“Don’t leave home without it!”, remember? To add marketing muscle to its foundation giving, AmEx is adopting a participation overlay by getting organizations to engage their publics. If Bernie Griffin delivers as she usually does, Fifth Avenue will walk away the winner. But just in case, I’m going to cast my votes Chicago style--that is, early and often. Visit the webpage here.

Thanks to BrittneyBush for the photo.