Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why SXSW Interactive Still Matters

Photo by mjpeacecorps
Just over a week until SXSW Interactive kicks off in Austin, Texas. Next Friday, March 9th, the digerati from all over the globe gather to share, learn and generally get our minds blown. It will be my 4th SXSW. It’s not the content or the “scene” that keeps me coming back, it’s just the only conference I’ve experienced where the impassioned geeks, irreverent code artists and social mad scientists gather for a week of mental jujitsu. I love going because most people I meet there are in the business of buying and selling cutting-edge ideas, whether its related to social media, gaming, crowd sourcing or online community building.

Has SXSW Jumped the Shark?
Several of my marketing colleagues dropped out this year claiming SXSW Interactive had “jumped the shark”, meaning that it’s hit that arc of decline in an event’s evolution when quantity of input and attendees eclipses quality. Maybe so. But one thing that keeps me going back is the sheer intensity of innovative spirit that gushes forth. Of course some of it‘s schlock. But the vibe wave the schlock rides on is a thrill. SXSW Interactive is rapid immersion into what’s about to be realized in the digital culture. And I intend to bathe in it.

How to Follow the Action from Your Desk
Take note: any of you brandmakers wanting to keep tabs on the action from afar, the Social Media Club editorial team will be providing session, event and party coverage throughout SXSW, along with daily recaps featured on their Ustream channel from 2pm-3pm CST (GMT-6) Friday, March 9th through Monday, March 12th.

Hat tip to @jessicarmurray for cluing me in.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Young Men Take Back Male Fashion

The clawback has begun.

A younger generation of males, mostly straight, are taking back masculine fashion. This is not the same sentiment that drove the metrosexual movement, which became code for self-indulgent girlie men. For too long the culture has made men’s fashion and grooming out of bounds for manly men. But entrepreneurs like Kevin Ma are evidence that a better sense of balance is on its way back.

Meet Kevin Ma, founder and editor of Hypebeast, an online magazine that has become a incredibly popular and highly influential. As Fast Company describes it, a feature on Hypebeast, “Can help make or break an underground or indie brand trying to catch the attention of influencers or even savvy mainstream consumers.”

How is it that a website that covers wooly mix of entertainment, fashion, tech and lifestyle can reach around the world from its Hong Kong headquarters and make such an impact?

Part of the answer lies in filling an abandoned niche. The thing about niching online with content is that you must offer 3 things:
-fresh (not previously rehashed from big sites, but hand-curated from other little niche sources)
-real (not too fussy, but not too slack)
-eye candy—lots of lush pictures and videos.

Take, for instance, this video for a Carhartt store opening.

E1 from Carhartt UK on Vimeo.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Grammy Winner Is…Chipotle’s New Cause Campaign Wins the Whole Enchilada

This touching video is the first big move from Chipotle’s Cultivate Foundation. When it was showcased during the Grammy Awards, it drove mega Twitter traffic, and was unofficially proclaimed the star of the show.

The trend it reveals in cause-marketing is a deepening commitment to long term community building around issues that impact the sponsor’s business. It reveals a very strategic use of integrated media and an emphasis on what consumers and a brand can achieve together.

I like Chipotle food. I’ve always respected the quality of their pork production. I want to help them succeed, but I need to know they’re in this with me. Not in a superficial way because they sponsor a one-shot gig with a logo slap.

Have a look at this inspired little vid and get a glimpse at the future of QSR cause marketing when it’s cooked to perfection.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Will Computer-Generated Copy Make Good Writing an Endangered Species?

Meet Hal, our new writer covering sports marketing. Well, sorry...Hal can’t shake hands. He’s an algorithm. Recently, Hal (my name for him) has gone to work freelancing at several publications including trade publisher Hanley Wood and sports journalism site Big Ten Network and oh, yes, Forbes, as well. Hal is the invention of Narrative Science.

In all, 30 clients use the software–invented by Narrative Science that creates rich narrative content from data. Jason Boog over at GalleyCat reports that the software churns data into narratives, “fully customized to fit a customer’s voice, style and tone. Stories are created in multiple formats, including long form stories, headlines, Tweets and industry reports with graphical visualizations.” Dang!

As I write this, my desk is cluttered with books and recent New York Times and New Yorker mags. Here’s my question: How does Hal stack up to Malcolm Gladwell or Annie Proulx? Can Hal spin a yarn? Does he grasp the tension of the story’s arc?

Forgive me. I shouldn’t suddenly go all Luddite on you. But honestly, writers are rarely paid what they are worth. And really, do we need more mediocre content clogging the cloud?

I think not. But then, I love writing and books...and I’m hoping Hal will not be joining my team any time soon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Promising Platforms for Doing Social Experiments Online

This Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 12:30 PM EST, Jerome Hergueux, a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at Sciences Po Paris and the University of Strasbourg and a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, will talk about “The Promises of Web-based Social Experiments". Jerome has been exploring ways to conduct large-scale behavioral experiments online at an affordable cost. 

This poses important opportunities for academic and independent researchers alike, who need ways to probe the culture without having to land a major grant to do so.

In his talk, Hergueux will introduce the audience to one of the first online platforms specifically designed for conducting interactive social experiments over the internet to date. Plus, he’ll share the preliminary results of an experiment to help participants see the limitations and promises of online experimental economics as a tool for social research.

Interested? You must RSVP! Sign up here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cowbird: A New Cultural Force on the Internet

Since 2008, I've been keeping an eye on Jonathan Harris. He's a renaissance man for a new century: artist, computer scientist, visionary. He caught my attention with his mind-blowing show at MOMA -- I Want You To Want Me, done in collaboration with Sep Kamvar, which took the pulse of the world's emotional state.

With his latest social media foray,, Harris is poised to become a cultural force on the Internet.

Cowbird is an online community of storytellers who use photos, audio clips and words to convey a brief, personal story. It has the addictive usability of Pinterest, with a soulful subtext that allows people to witness and connect through themes and stories. Harris describes it as a "Public library of human experience."
Full article at The Huffington Post

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Little Less Brand, Please

Looking at this infographic from Aaron Wall, who runs SEOBook, got me thinking…maybe it’s time to be less in love with our brands. Blasphemy, you say? In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, consider this: branded content is hitting a wall as Google search dynamics favor the most genuine content.

What users adore is content with a voice that sounds like it was written by a person, not the legal department. It may even carry a touch of whimsy. I recently moved from my house. I went online to scope out a moving company. One had a bid engine—fill out the inventory and it popped out a price. It asked about heavy objects I needed to move: “Piano, safe, lazy spouse? (Oh, just kidding).” I roared. Simple, clever and very human. This example illustrates something that John Battelle over at Federated Media has been advising for a while now — “Given that brands are all about voice…having the skills of a conversational publisher is critical to success.”

If overworked or over-zealous brand content is spurned by search engines, conversely too little attention to the brand confuses people. Striking a balance begins by having a clear sense of “who” the brand is and what it means in peoples’ lives.

See the infographic and full article at MENG Blend

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Social Media and Private Texting May Be Different Dialects

When is a text message not a text message? When it’s scientific research. Text messages could help advance our understanding of just how digital technologies are changing language. That’s the hypothesis behind Text4Science, a global project to gather 100,000 donated texts.

Linguistic Canadian researchers from three institutions—the Universities of Montreal and Ottawa, and Simon Fraser University—are collaborating on text database that will depend on the public sending old texts to the project’s website.

The researchers hope to dismiss the idea that people sending text messages are illiterate. Researchers notice that social context matters a great deal, and private texts vary greatly from more public expressions used on social media platforms. (Consider the case of deposed Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick, whose private texts got him prosecuted.)

“When they talk to their friends, they speak differently than if they were to speak to [Canadian Prime Minister] Stephen Harper or the queen or to a university professor,” Christian Guilbault, an associate professor with Simon Fraser University’s French department, said in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. “Put them in an informal environment and they switch to a whole new register. It’s the same thing with writing; they are developing a new skill.”

Unlike social-media messages, many texts are private, so the researchers have little knowledge of the texting habits of Canadians and presumably Americans. But they will soon.

This is interesting to brandmakers who strive for meaningful connection with their audiences. The findings will give us a lexicon to invite our audiences to engage without gatecrashing their sense of privacy.

Donate your texts to science.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Serenade Your Lover: Heineken Sponsors A Love App

The folks at Heineken want to make more love possible for Valentine’s Day. They’ve created a new Facebook app called "The Serenade" and launched it in time for users to master it.

Want to create a personalized video designed to ask a potential love interest out on a date? Here you go!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Trend Alert: Coworking Spaces New “Marketing Platforms” for Sponsors

Reaching small business is a bear. Just ask the folks at American Express and HP. Both brands have spent millions trying to essentially herd cats.

For brands wanting to reach the rising tide of freelance workers, tapping into coworking spaces may be the next new thing for corporate sponsors. That was the controversial suggestion made by Italian coworking space owner Mattia Sullini at the Coworking Europe Conference in Brussels. Sullini likes the idea of spaces becoming conduits between brands and their customers to reach elusive nomad workers.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Higher Education’s Economic Bubble—Is The American Dream Affordable?

A good education is bedrock of the American Dream. Like many aspects of our culture, it’s up for revision. Consider this animated infographic that reveals the crippling economics of higher education. We are telling ourselves a new story about success. And the education piece of it is a moving target.

Created By: Education News