Chevy Game Time App Wins Creative Media Award

MediaPost - Creative Media Awards LogoGoodby Silverstein & Partners, Detroit Labs and Chevy received MediaPost’s Creative Media Award for New / Emerging / Experimental Media (excluding online), recognizing the team’s work on the Game Time App for Super Bowl XLVI.

A 24 hour white-boarding session can go a long way, my friends.

Edit: I was just informed the App also won “Best in Show.”

From AdAge, Google: Consumers Use Different Devices Together

Consumers Take Multi-Device Path to PurchaseA recent Google research project found that 80% of searches on smartphones are spontaneous, as opposed to planned, and nearly half of those are goal-oriented. Often those goals are purchases and, to Jonathan Alferness, this is evidence of mobile’s role as a bridge — and an extremely valuable one — from the digital world to the physical one… Continue reading the article >

Sesame Street Fighter vs Capcom, Part II

Note: The views expressed on this blog are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer, its management, shareholders or employees.

Quick Links
Read Sesame Street Fighter vs. Capcom, Part I >
TLDR (too long, didn’t read) Tips for Digital & Social Marketers >

C Honda by Matt CranePart II
Fan-made digital art, tschotskes, t-shirts and stickers: The bane of a brand’s existence, or valuable consumer advocacy?

From Crayons to A Whole New World
Throughout his childhood and teen years, graphic designer/illustrator/game developer Matt Crane loved to draw what he watched on television or read in comic books. From He-Man to Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Disney’s Aladdin, he gravitated toward popular cartoons and comic book characters. Visit Crane’s personal site for his portfolio >

But it was a video game, Mario Paint for the Super Nintendo, which first exposed him to the world of graphic design. “That was a turning point for me,” he said.

Since his family didn’t own a computer,Mario Paint for SNES Crane quickly became fascinated with the game’s digital drawing, painting, animation and musical composition power. “I’ve often marveled at how that early experience with Mario Paint was a small taste of many of the things I would do later in my career.”

Crane’s Life on Capcom’s Streets

It was, of course, the graphics of Capcom’s Street Fighter II game that caught Crane’s eye when it hit North American arcades of his childhood. It quickly became one of his favorites.Street Fighter II Guile

“It was impossible for me to not notice,” he said. “The graphics were much larger, and had more frames of animation than most of the games before it… The characters were so creative and fun.”

Crane fondly remembers Dhalsim, the Indian spiritualist with “stretchy limbs” who could spit fire from his mouth. And Blanka, “a green monster that can electrocute people? It was so mind-blowingly cool at the time.”

He played as Guile, a U.S. Air Force soldier who joins Street Fighter’s World Warrior tournament to avenge his friend’s death. With the ability to hurl “sonic booms” at his opponents from afar, whilst keeping his famous, exaggerated blonde flattop perfectly kempt, Guile was aJean-Claude Van Damme favorite amongst American players. Errr… Perhaps favorite until Jean-Claude Van Damme portrayed the character in the 1994 live-action film/abomination, Street Fighter. Gah… right in the childhood.

Sunny Days?
Now, with children of his own, some of the popular characters of his childhood and teen years continue to influence Crane’s home and professional life.

He’s introduced one of his favorite Sesame Street characters, Oscar the Grouch, to his children. “I love reading an Oscar book to my kids… It’s one of our favorites to read together,” he said, “where he keeps telling the readers to GO AWAY.”

Oscar's BookGO AWAY…  A giggle-inducing outburst from a lovable, albeit curmudgeon of a kid’s character. But, when Capcom, video game giant and producer of Street Fighter II, responded Grouch-style to Crane’s fan artwork, there was little to laugh about… More on that, but first, some background.

Cartoon Mashups, Culture Connections
Though the idea came to him as a young teen, Crane admits he was “certainly not the first, nor the only person who had the idea to combine Street Fighter and Sesame Street.”

He remembers doodling the characters in junior high school, sketching Bird Bird throwing fireballs at Grover, a ‘la Street Fighter’s protagonist Ryu. “There was obviously some cross-over potential, just based on the fact both franchises have the word “Street” in them,” he said.

The fourth installment of the Street Fighter series ultimately led to Crane’s decision to “take a serious crack” at developing the Sesame Street Fighter illustration series. He noticed some characters naturally “mashed up” together. “Bert and Ryu? Both serious guys, in contrast to Ken and Ernie, who are less serious, fun-loving types.”

Tschotskes, T-shirts and Other Weapons of Infringement
Big Bird Shirt by Matt CraneFor Crane, the idea of creating and selling merchandise from his fan art was “an afterthought.”

“I never thought I’d be able to sell my artwork… I just did my illustrations and posted them on,” where he’s been a community member for about five years. “I just hoped I’d get a few laughs and page views,” he said.

Oscar iPhone Cover by Matt CraneHe found tschotskes, trinkets, t-shirts and stickers on Websites like Zazzle and Cafepress, where users upload personal artwork to produce custom merchandise, Crane had the idea to make his own line of Sesame Street Fighter items. However, site censors quickly identified and rejected his work, citing copyright infringement.

Eventually, he discovered, where he noticed a number of parody and satirical designs from licensed franchises like Star Wars. “Sure enough, [they weren’t] as strict as the other Websites I tried using,” allowing him to begin selling his items. Visit Crane’s Store on Redbubble, Buy a Shirt >

Capcom the Grouch
Capcom LogoWhile it’s unclear how Capcom became aware of his Sesame Street Fighter merchandise, Crane indicated the company contacted Redbubble, demanding the site remove its trademarked characters. The site complied. “I was saddened, of course,” he admits, “but wasn’t all that surprised… At least I sold a few shirts, and bought one for myself and my wife before I got shut down,” he said.

After his initial disappointment, Crane began searching through Redbubble to uncover other fan-made merchandise that used trademarked characters. A Star Wars parody, featuring Calvin and Hobbes, caught his eye. “I’m doing exactly what these other people are doing… Why can these other people sell their work… but when I try, I get shut down?”

Crane composed an e-mail to Redbubble, appealing its compliance to Capcom’s demands. He included examples of his work, then referenced other parodies he found. “Amazingly, they actually cared enough to respond to me,” he said. “They basically said that they weren’t saying I was violating any copyrights with my artwork, but Capcom was pushing [the site to remove his merchandise].”

The Greatest Form of Flattery
Redbubble directed Crane to a number of forms and Websites that helped him create an official rebuttal to Capcom. After following the instructions, his appeal was simple: “I didn’t believe I was infringing on their copyright,” he said. “What I was doing was clearly a parody, and that as a parody, my work would be protected if they wanted to take me to court.”

“It’s an important distinction,” Crane said. If he were simply creating illustrations of Big Bird, or Ken & Ryu, then selling the individually trademarked characters on his own merchandise is “obviously not right… I wouldn’t blame Capcom at all for stopping me from doing that.”

But Crane maintains his unique twist on Capcom and PBS’ intellectual property is something altogether different. “That’s what makes it fun,” he said. “A combination that we all know would probably never actually occur between the two companies,” although, he noted, Hello Kitty is producing Street Fighter material, “which is great.”

“Honestly, I don’t think the existence of my Sesame Street Fighter Parody merchandise is any kind of threat that Capcom should be worried about, legally or financially,” he said.

“Was Michael Jackson getting screwed by Weird Al? Was George Lucas getting screwed by Mel Brooks when Spaceballs came out? … I doubt it.”

Crane thinks George Lucas is “smart enough to know that if fans want to create their own little spin-offs and parodies, that it will help more than hurt him.” He believes Capcom benefits from his parody as well. “It’s free publicity for them, and I doubt there are fans out there who are buying my parody stuff instead of buying official Capcom licensed stuff.”

George Lucas at Comicon

George Lucas regrets nothing. No, not even Jar Jar Binks.

The Semi-Silent Treatment
Crane never received an official response from Capcom, though his materials were relaunched on Redbubble soon after his appeal. His sales total slightly more than 200 items since his encounter with the brand. “That’s a drop in the bucket compared to whatever kinds of numbers officially licensed Capcom stuff is selling, I’m sure.”

Matt Crane

Matt Crane, digital artist & He-Man enthusiast

“I’m assuming that they decided it wasn’t worth getting into,” he said. “It’s funny,” Crane adds, noting Capcom’s former online community manager, Seth Killian, posted his Sesame Street Fighter artwork on one of Capcom’s largest fan Websites when his work was removed from Redbubble. One community member commented “The most epic fanart crossover… ever!!!!” in response.

While Killian’s comments weren’t exactly complementary, he obviously had a sense of humor about it, Crane figures. “[He wasn’t] looking at it as something that’s a threat to the company.”

“I think [Killian’s posting] is a good example of the kind of response I would hope Capcom would have toward my artwork,” he said. “Just have a good laugh, then go back to making tons of money selling great games, right?”

Crane speculates Capcom’s staff in Japan may have had a more difficult time discerning between infringement of its intellectual property and fan work. “What I’m doing is a compliment to them,” he said. “I’m a big Capcom fan, and I’m also a big Jim Henson fan. I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt either of their intellectual properties, and I don’t think I am.”
A Brand’s Guide to Picking Its Fights
To be fair, brands and marketers have an obligation to protect corporate identities and trademarks. Allowing any and every violation of trademark and copyright infringement to simply slide through in the name of creative freedom could set a precarious legal precedent.

Street Fighter's BlankaHowever, the digital and social revolution has forever changed the relationship between brands and consumers. Consumers effectively “own” a brand’s reputation.  A single consumer tweet, wall post or Instagram photo can rally troupes for or against your product or service.  Thus, whether it’s moral, ethical or otherwise, my not-so-legal opinion remains: when consumers organically use your brand to express themselves online, it’s something we should celebrate, not litigate. Recognizing and understanding consumer intent is key.

But how can marketers ensure brand identity is consistently maintained in the online landscape as it exists today? First, I agree with Ernst & Young’s suggestion that marketers develop and implement a holistic digital and social strategy that both protects your brand, but allows for flexibility in the rapidly evolving space – especially when it concerns consumer expression of brand enthusiasm and loyalty.

Secondly, if you truly need to feel in control, provide fans with tools, parameters and opportunities to “play” with your brand. It could be high resolution photos or images, logos, etc. Encourage fan and enthusiast expression on your digital canvas, like my former team at Ford did when we produced the second incarnation of the Mustang Customizer.

As mentioned in my previous post about Stride Gum & Apple, parody and satire can be powerful tools to rewire consumer thinking and jumpstart brand conversations, whether it’s brand or fan-produced. I believe fanwork like Crane’s enhances Capcom’s brand and reach.

Using nostalgic cultural icons, it both has relevance to potential new fans, and reignites positive sentiment and conversation to its existing base – all at no cost to Capcom. Frankly, I wonder how much cash Capcom potentially wasted on legal efforts to thwart the very objectives and engagements they’d pay for through media investments.

My opinion? If it’s truly not hurting your bottom line, it’s likely helping your brand in the long run. Perhaps legally naive, but digiculturally appropriate.

A few tips & opinions:

  1. Recognize the difference between opportunists/parasitic companies and true consumer enthusiasts. Sure, Crane may have made a few bucks with his parody, but both Sesame Street and Capcom gained precious digicultural relevancy. Online fans, enthusiasts and owners have already given you their attention, engagement and advocacy, which is incredibly valuable. Don’t punish them.
  2. Celebrate fandom. Show your appreciation. Ask if you can share their work with other fans. Give them prizes or shoot them an appreciative note.
  3. Provide fans with tools, parameters and opportunities to “play” with your brand (high res photos, logos, etc.).
  4. Have questions or concerns about fanwork? Begin a dialogue with the consumer(s) in question directly – and, potentially, discretely. With Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites, it’s fairly easy to identify a way to make meaningful contact.
  5. Don’t intimidate your fans, or act like a corporate Goliath. Big corporations can be scary. People who work at corporations? Less so. Demonstrate you’re someone who cares, who happens to represent a company. I’m clearly not a legal expert, but don’t leave it to your lawyers alone.

Digital Marketing News Weekly Roundup

#Hashtag Hijacking, Facebook Weeds out Fake Likes, Addressable TV Ads Finally a Reality, Self Checkout with iPhones at Wal-Mart, Famous Cats in Cubes, Cosplayers go-kart Mario style, Valve Confirms Hardware Play, Is this the iPhone 5?

Cosplay Mario Redditors take to the go-kart tracks of TokyoDigital Culture & Communities
Cosplay Redditors take to a Tokyo go-kart track costumed as Mario Kart characters. See the photo album >

After revenue growth slowed, and its stock price fell sharply, Zynga bets the farm on Farmville 2. Read the Washington Post Article >

Obama and Romney’s promoted Twitter tweets backfiring via #hashtag hijacking? A decent chunk of the responses to each promoted trend have been exactly the opposite of what the buyers wanted. Read about it on Mashable >

Digital Platforms & Devices
Wal-Mart is testing a system that would allow shoppers to scan items using their iPhones, then pay at a self-checkout counter – a move that could trim checkout times and slash costs for retailers. Read the Reuters article >

Real or Fakery? This video might show the new iPhone.

Gamers geek: Frustrated by lack of development in the hardware arena, Valve announces hardware development play. Read the article on IGN >

Digital Creative, Content & Relevancy
, the Japanese cat who’s famous on YouTube for jumping in and out of boxes, puts his talents to work as the star of a new campaign for Uniqlo.

Digital Analytics (Social)
has stepped up its security on brand pages, working to remove fraudulent Likes caused by spambots, malware or fake account users. Read the article on Mashable >Allstate Mayhem used in addressable tv spots

Digital Media & Sales
Addressable TV ads might finally be ready for prime time. Allstate uses Dish and DirecTV for highly targeted ads. Read the AdAge article >

Faking It, Twitter Style: Fake Followers, Fans & Video Views for Digital Marketers

If you wonder how brands, politicians, celebrities or online personalities gather millions of followers on Twitter or other social sites, check out this handy infographic (below) from Mashable’s Kate Freeman.

Twitter giants often purchase fake followers to artificially inflate their numbers. Around 30% of their followers are fake, while an additional 40% are inactive accounts.

Lady GagaThink of it this way: Twitter’s top tweeter, Lady Gaga, has 28.8 million followers, but roughly 8 million are actually active or legit.

In her article, Freeman suggests Fakers, a new tool that exposes your fake followers, has pushed this issue into the spotlight.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Why does this matter to a digital marketer? When it comes to buying follows, likes, fans or video views, it’s important to understand your ultimate objective. Is it simply growth, engagement, momentum? A couple tips:

First, don’t be a sucker for cold call e-mails or agency pitches that offer to boost your Twitter followers or Facebook fans overnight. While the allure of a million-person fan base might seem hard to resist, what you truly want – a genuine connection with people in their online lives – typically happens more organically, over time. It’s largely pointless to boast big numbers if you can’t follow through with true brand engagement. Instead, develop a digital content curriculum and stick with it. In time, you’ll collect a community of dedicated fans and enthusiasts, less likely to become inactive.

Secondly, artificial growth can work to build social momentum. By activating a powerful psychological principle online, the social proof, when a certain threshold of fans/follows/views is reached: Prospective fans follow the herd. The real fans you gain as a result of the volume of paid or fake followers can help you convince some lost lambs that your brand, product or service is worth a follow or consideration. Essentially “If someone or a brand has this many people interested, then, perhaps, I’m interested too…”

Wonder how some brands gain millions of YouTube Views overnight? Bingo. The true challenge then becomes how you actively engage and respond to the real fans with relevant content and messages.

At least there may be hope for humanity, as I now can call to question Twilight’s fan base. Read Twilight Vampires Suck their Way to 1 Million Twitter Followers >

The Appearance of Social Media

P.S. Kate. Love your not-so-subtle use of Reddit rage comics.

Digital Marketing News Weekly Roundup

Obama on RedditObama breaks Reddit, Samsung triumphs over Apple, Facebook EdgeRank Pro Tips, U.S. Open for Nerds, Salespeople Stalk on LinkedIn.

Digital Culture & Communities
President Obama
holds live Q&A with Reddit community via “Ask Me Anything (AMA),” breaking records and crashing the site temporarily. Get the stats from Reddit > or Read the story on CNET >

Digital Platforms & Devices
After $1 billion ruling against Samsung in the U.S., a Japanese court rejects Apple’s patent claim over iPad and iPhone designs. Read the New York Times story >

Digital Creative, Content & Relevancy
Boost your Facebook Edgerank (the news feed relevancy algorithm) through photos, albums, more text, out of network promotion and post targeting. Read the article on Mashable >

IBM U.S. Open iPad App

Digital Analytics & Apps
gives U.S. Open tennis fans the whole enchilada of data, partners with United States Tennis Association (USTA) to deliver cross-device stats and tweets. Read the ZDNet article >

Digital Media & Sales
Emerging social media channels (heh, are they really emerging anymore?) are changing the way digital salespeople peddle their wares. Read the iMedia Connection blog post >

Show & Tell: ANSI. An Elegant Weapon, for a More Civilized Age

London Blitx ANSI Welcome Screen by Jon BeebeMy adventures as a graphic designer began in the early 1990s, after purchasing a used EGA color monitor from a distantly related cousin. Until that point, a monotonous stream of amber-colored text defined my online existence, scrolling sluggishly upon a black field.

With sixteen foreground colors, and eight background colors now at my disposal, the digital world became my proverbial oyster, and ANSI art? My precious pearl.

TheDraw ANSI Art Program

TheDraw, not as clumsy or random as a blaster or Content Aware filter.

Before Photoshop, Illustrator or Flash were commonplace, I cut my graphic designer teeth on TheDraw, a DOS-based freeware program, which I used to develop simple animations, “logos” and rudimentary artwork.

The Dangerous Lives of ANSI Artists
Many might not realize it, but life as “Icarus,” a young, budding ANSI artist on the cyber streets of yesteryear, was far from safe. A sinister ANSI underground threatened to corrupt my newfound love for digital self-expression.

Not altogether unlike the rather ridiculous dancing gangs of West Side Story, early digital artists would frequently combine creative forces to develop graphics for Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). Their work would often feature multiple signatures, flanked by their group’s tag, like digital graffiti. Creative challenges were made and accepted, with rival groups vying for dominance over a particular online locale. From Wikipedia:

The ANSI art scene was in a continual state of flux, with intense rivalry between artists and groups. In addition, ansi artists tended to switch loyalties often, moving from group to group. Groups would merge and restructure, or completely disband

All kidding aside, ANSI greats, like “Hoax,” “Lord Soth” and iCE’s “Tempus Thales” inspired me to form my own creative – and comparatively pacifistic – gang of artists, WHiP, in 1992. Although I had little success in recruiting notable talent, WHiP produced some amazing work for the local BBS scene – now forever lost.

Having recently uncovered relics from my digital past, here are some samples from the early 1990s (below). Definitely not the best representation of my ANSI work, but the sole remaining examples.

My feelings of nostalgia are intense after viewing these. The countless hours and passion I invested in my early ANSI work help me better appreciate how far we’ve come, and continue to fuel my desire to evolve and grow creatively.

ANSI Artwork SysOp Not AvailableLondon Blitz Welcome ScreenLondon Blitz ANSI Menu