Monday, October 31, 2011

Digital Culture: Interactive Murals

To my delight, an interesting mix of offline/online experiences continues to proliferate. The folks over at Simply Zesty spotted this interactive mural that comes from the Canadian tourist board. It promotes Canada as a holiday destination to Americans using a gigantic interactive Twitter mural.

Set up on city streets, it powerfully funnels live tweets, video and photos from tourists currently on vacation in Canada.

While this campaign is very cool, it does make me wonder about the value to the end user. After all, it interrupts the pedestrian.

Time-starved urbanites tend to treasure the mind space they have while roaming urban streets. Advertisers continue to believe that people WANT to be distracted from their inner thoughts as they walk city streets. So the campaign has to lure people over using barkers, if you will.

Meanwhile, somewhere else across town people are standing in line, or otherwise captive, and open to a uniquely engaging experience such as these digital murals.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Infusing a Brand into the Culture: Bing and Jay-Z

Cultural relevance can be grown organically or hyper-infused. A blockbuster example of cultural infusion is the partnership between Jay-Z and Bing. This epic multi-channel marketing campaign used an online game as its pinnacle element of engagement. Econsultancy reports that Jay-Z added 1m Facebook fans and Microsoft reported that the average player engagement was 11 minutes per visit. (That’s big!)

Here’s a behind-the-scenes tour of the campaign:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Raises a Militia

It’s fascinating to watch Occupy Wall Street explode into a full-fledged movement. The latest is the rise of a well-trained volunteer militia. In this case, it’s retired Marines.

If you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s circulating rapid-fire around the world. It’s an ex-Marine dressing down NYPD for its aggressive handling of protestors. It helped launch the militia, which is organizing via Twitter using the hash tag #OccupyMarines.

The militia even has a required uniform:
“An OccupyMARINES shirt or sweatshirt with military service affiliation and Occupy Wall Street logo
; Dickies EMT black cargo pants; 
Ranger Joe's Corcoran Boots-I XC Jump Black Aviator Boots; 
and blouse bands - Elastic bands used by military members to fold the hem of their pants up and drape over the top of their boots.”
Uniforms are a visual signal that the movement is turning a corner. They express a desire to be seen, as well as heard, as an organized and intense movement that can protect its activities on a daily basis. This creates a sense of safety for members of the movement. Once its safe, a broader swath of citizens will feel free to join the fray.

When a movement can raise a standing militia, things escalate. I continue to gather lessons into how Occupy Wall Street is seeding its message and going viral.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cool Infographic: Yelp Heat Map

I’ve got a thing for infographics. If art and science had a baby, it’d look like an infographic. When I spotted this one about Yelp usage, I couldn’t blog about it fast enough.
The trouble is what to say. I mean, this heat map of Yelp usage has a jillion stories to tell. For example, why Chicago is the 3rd Yelpiest city in the U.S. or how a bakery in a tiny town out West has earned outrageous Yelp love.

I don’t know about you, but in my experience, Yelp reviews have been helpful and accurate. From where I got my tires to where I get my toenails done, I’ve benefited from its solid recos.

What’s at the beating heart of Yelp’s success? It isn’t its social media utility or any fancy algorithms. Nope. I’d like to argue that it’s a gooey interface as old as the hills—passion.

People take the time to write a Yelp review because they either love or hate an experience. Earning that level of excitement (love) for your brand is the brass ring of marketing. And what this Yelp heat map reveals is that it doesn’t take a colossal marketing budget to do so.

Later this month, I will be moving house. This time, I’m choosing to keep only things I love. It leaves me with less. Much less. But it’s all stuff that enhances my life--like the ornate cut glass tumbler I brought back from Rome that I sip from while writing.

Life is busy. Life is messy. Now more than ever, we need to love the ones (and things) we’re with.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's Your Favorite Color?

Photo by Sarah and Mike ...probably
What’s your favorite color? Bet I can guess. Okay, I’ve got inside wisdom on the matter. Dulux Paints conducted a survey and found that 42 percent of males and 30 percent of females have the same favorite color.

It’s blue.

Sky, water…the world is filled with woozy blue things that enthrall us.

The reason I ask is that I need to choose paint for the house I recently purchased. So far, Glass Slipper from Benjamin Moore is my favorite. Kind of blue-ish.

This got me thinking...If the color blue is so popular, why is it used so infrequently in marketing?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Zombie Apocalypse Starts Now

Just in time for Halloween, Culture Scout Mark Hayward and his Los Angeles-based company, Idea Monkey, announced its first location-based mobile gaming experience: Living Dead Uprising using SCVNGR.

Pop culture loves zombies. Consider that the cult classic Night of the Living Dead caused a sensation when it premiered forty- three years ago. The coming zombie apocalypse has become a fun part of contemporary culture with books like The Zombie Survival Guide and even this site from the CDC. Living Dead Uprising resurrects the classic film by engaging a modern audience in an interactive game that is part scavenger hunt, part trivia game and part physical challenge, all driven by updated clips from the original film optimized for the smartphone format.

In Living Dead Uprising, players assume the role of zombies taking over the neighborhood. Players are encouraged to check-in via a mobile phone application to a series of locations in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Each location offers a unique challenge to be solved by the players. Players earn badges and points for completing challenges which can be redeemed for prizes at a private after-party hosted at 1739 Public House. The game can be played Thursday, October 20, 2011 and Thursday, October 27, 2011 from 6pm to 11pm and tickets can be purchased at

The blending of reality and fantasy is perfect for Halloween season. “Our participants are both players in a game and players in a play,” said Idea Monkey CEO Mark Hayward. “They are entertained not just by watching, but by taking part in a story unfolding in shared time and space." 

Keep an eyeball out for more opportunities to live out fantasy lives in real time as mobile gaming gets hotter.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Social Media Metrics - Consumer Behavior

This presentation is full of cool stats on social media from Digital Buzz. Just yesterday, my team was debating which metrics matter most when it comes to consumer behavior online. These stats reveal just how much big players are penetrating the culture—Facebook and Twitter, as well as how mobile is shaping up. For example, find out why people download apps they never use.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Farewell to Steve Jobs

Screenshot from's tribute
By now, practically every blogger on the planet has written about the loss of Steve Jobs. I have only this to add: Steve Jobs made a difference in my life because he imbued his company and its products with the simple belief that creativity mattered. During the rise of the PC, the predominant work culture favored conformity over creativity. But Apple persisted. Thank goodness.

I just want to add my personal thanks to Mr. Jobs for waging the fight to empower people’s creative spirits.

Here’s a list of Apple products that made a difference in my life as a writer:
1. Macintosh, 1986--I write my graduate thesis on a Macintosh for which I traded my vintage Morris bicycle to an employee of the Apple Dublin store.
2. Apple 1995—My mom gets a free Apple for opening a savings account at her local bank and gives it to me to help me bootstrap my start-up.
3. iBook-I still have my first laptop with the roller ball cursor. I can’t bring myself to give it away.
4. iPod Classic—My son has lovingly curated my collections, blending MC5 and the Clash to keep me ever-rocking while running or racing to catch a flight.
5. iPhone—My least favorite product, crappy battery life, glitchy, but still feels like a magic wand in my hand.
Thanks, Steve, for continuing to believe that creative people deserve great tools.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Road Wisdom: How The Energy From Within You Can Change Things

Photo by Martin Cathrae
It’s been a little crazy. I’ve been traveling across the country sharing my latest research about which brands are Tipping the Culture and why. These events have left me a little breathless, and it’s not from leaping into cabs. Rather it’s been the way people seem to be connecting to the content that is blowing me away.

My first clue was when I started getting late-night emails from people who had heard me speak. They wanted to tell me about their ideas, situations, life events that aligned with something I’d said. They want to make a personal connection with the information.

These heartfelt emails are a window into ways human beings are feeling as we shed one culture and adopt a new one. The pressure we are under as a society is transforming us...from the inside out.

Beyond feeling honored, I also feel re-committed to my work each time I read one of these emails. It’s energizing.

I recently overheard someone say, “Bad energy is like second-hand smoke.” Which really got me thinking: if that’s true, then positive energy can set off a chain reaction of compassion, touching others in its flow.

No one is immune to the changes we are undergoing. So maybe it’s time to get smart about managing the flow of energy in our lives. From what I can tell, it flows in a circle. So it is in giving that we receive the kind of energy that fills us with sweet, scintillating potential.

It’s after midnight. Before I pack it in, I want to share this: if 20th-century leadership was all about the chain of command, then the 21st century’s leadership focus will be the chain of energy.

Surround yourself with people and ideas that enliven you. It’s what will fill you up, light you up and charge your batteries.

That and a good night's sleep…’night.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Facebook’s Brand Personality - The Sandberg Effect

It used to be that when people talked about Facebook, they talked about its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Move over Mark. There is a new personality humanizing the Facebook brand - Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO.

Last year, Sandberg's speech at TEDWomen created a stir when she explored why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions. You've seen these numbers - of 190 Heads of State around the world, only 9 are women. In the corporate world, only 15% of the top leadership positions are held by women. (Those numbers haven't moved since 2002.) There are more examples - all that either suggest that women drop out or don't have access.

Rather than focus on the problem, Sandberg offered practical ways to turn things around. Her 3 memorable principles suggest that woman can change the culture by exuding a different attitude about success:

1. Sit at the table--not on the sidelines. That means doing things that are really hard for women - like owning our successes and negotiating for better pay.

2. Make your partner a real partner.
 Women with a significant other and children do 2x the housework and 3x the childcare as their partners. The division of labor among married couples is one of the most difficult to navigate, but creates the foundation for career success and plain old happiness. In households where partners evenly split the workload, divorce rates are lower and sexual satisfaction is higher.

3. Don't leave before you leave. 
If you’re planning maternity leave, don't leave before you leave. Keep your seat at the table until it’s time to leave. Too many women take a back seat years in advance (while the men keep moving ahead).

Is Sandberg’s speech changing things? I only have anecdotal evidence. I’m hearing the ripples among younger, 30-something women as they quote the 3 Sandberg Principles.

Changing a culture around gender roles is a slow process. But in any shift of beliefs, it always begins at the grass roots with individuals and percolates upward.

That’s good news for the Facebook brand, and Sandberg...and women.