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

Know Your Meme: Flipping Tables (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Flipping Tables MangaIn a heated text exchange with a friend, colleague or family member? Can’t quite capture your rage with a simple frown emoticon? Use the table flip to show ’em who’s the boss.

Flipping Table emoticon (written as: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻) is a text-based emoticon depicting a person flipping a table out of rage. Primarily used by East Asian Internet users to express rage, the emoticon became popular among Western internet users following its introduction through internationally popular online games.

The act of flipping a table out of anger has been typically associated with portrayal of frustrated fathers and husbands in fiction, TV shows as well as manga and anime series (see picture above).

From the Internet to an Arcade Near You

As with most popular memes, there are several known variations stemming from the original emoticon:

(ノಥ益ಥ)ノ ┻━┻
┬──┬ ¯\_(ツ)
┻━┻ ︵ヽ(`Д´)ノ︵ ┻━┻
┻━┻ ︵ ¯\(ツ)/¯ ︵ ┻━┻
┬─┬ノ( º _ ºノ)

Learn more about Flipping Tables at >

The Hamster, A Digital Marketer’s Best Friend: Hampsterdance (1998)

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.

HampsterdanceRewind to the mid-to-late 90s, just before the dot-com bubble burst, when Internet cafés had viable business models and video gaming went polygonal. The golden days of Quake 2 and birth of Starcraft, when early online settlers and squatters spent hours basking in the glow of low resolution computer monitors.

Living in Tampa, Fla. at the time, I attended a rather controversial religious institute (long story), and began my life as a part-time marketer, working with the non-profit and small business community.

Although I rocked a Pentium Pro PC at home, I would often find myself at a local Internet café, where I sipped exotic coffee alongside proto-citizens of the developing digital world.

For me, the shop served as a safe haven for other solar-deprived “nerds” I had come to identify with and love. Though we sat in silence, physically a few feet from one another, the experiences we shared together were legendary… Well, aside from the creepsters who were downloading porn at a snail’s pace in a public setting.

Legendary… We were helping create a new culture; one with our own language, values, heroes, myths and norms. I’d “surf the Information Superhighway” through Metacrawler and Altavista for hours, and check e-mail through my BBS accounts or Hotmail.

One day, my eldest sister forwarded a link for particularly quirky website, which I promptly shared with my online friends. And, 14 years later, I present to you Hampsterdance – essentially a cave painting from the early, “popular” Internet. Visit a replica of the original Hampsterdance website >

Hampster DanceDigital-Specific Content Generation: A Meme is Born
The story, according to Wikipedia: Deidre LaCarte, a Canadian art student, developed Hampsterdance in August 1998 as part of a personal competition between her sister and best friend. The challenge? Who could generate the most traffic/views. Sound familiar, digital marketers? Exactly.

Originally paying homage to her pet hamster, Hampton Hampster, the site featured animated hamsters and rodents, accompanied by a high-pitch version of “Whistle Stop” from Disney’s Robin Hood cartoon, which looped indefinitely on screen (and in my head for years to come).

For about half a year, the site attracted around 4 visitors each day. But, in January 1999, Hampsterdance “went viral,” spreading through e-mails, chat rooms and early blogs. And, let’s not forget setting a friend or coworker’s browser homepage to the site. Featured in news reports and a television ad, Hampsterdance became a pop culture phenomenon.  Watch the Earthlink Television Commercial > Then, as most memes do, multiple derivatives followed. Several Hampsterdance songs were recorded, becoming minor hits in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Cute & Fuzzy Rodents for Modern Marketers
For most modern marketers, it’s quite a stretch to believe that dancing hamsters or fluffy bunnies can resonate with target audiences. Or is it?

Read the article: “Kia Rolls Home with Nielsen’s Top Auto Ad Award” >

Did Kia and its creative agency study digital archeology to unearth a piece of cultural history? Perhaps.

A few points to consider for Hamster-loving digital marketers:

  1. People “speak” a different language online, through both text/words and measurable behaviors.
  2. The digital world is home to a pantheon of online heroes, oftentimes hilarious exhibitors of epic myths and sharable stories.
  3. Digicultural norms and expectations tend to determine what type of content is shared between friends and social networks, whether the point of origin is traditional (television) or entirely digital.
  4. When developing content, it’s important to consider digital anthropology: how has a particular online community evolved over time.
  5. Truly understand the differences between your target’s online and offline needs, wants and desires – which are, more often than not, not directly related to your product or service.

Watch the original Kia hamster ad on YouTube >

@Twilight Vampires Suck Their Way to One Million Twitter Followers

Twilight Eclipse Edward vs JacobApparently all that glitters, sucks or sulks has proven to be Twitter gold for @Twilight, the handle for Summit Entertainment’s blockbuster vampire series.

Although the entertainment industry has long killed it in the digital and social world, the Twilight saga became the first movie franchise to surpass one million Twitter followers this month.

Keeping Your Tweenbase Happy
How’d they do it? Simple engagement techniques to keep their tweenbase happy, including “exclusive” sneak peaks of footage, new soundtrack listings, sweepstakes and savvy hashtag strategies.

According to Mashable, around the New Moon movie release, there were about 81,000 Twilight tweets per day. And, with the final installment arriving in theaters this November, fans and followers can anticipate an assortment of teasers, infobits and content.

To celebrate, Summit released a brief, and surprisingly washboard-abs-free video on YouTube to thank its loyal fans (below), and encouraged its stars to use the hashtag #Twihards4EVER to commemorate the achievement.

Perspective: The Bloody Truth
Before we give up hope for humanity, invest in garlic futures or resort to stakes through our digital-social hearts, rest assured that @Twilight doesn’t even breach the top 1,000 most followed accounts. Not by a long shot.

Top Five Tweeters (by followers)
1. Lady Gaga, 28.5 million
2. Justin Bieber, 26.8 million
3. Katie Perry, 25.2 million
4. Rihanna, 24.5 million
5. Britney Spears, 19.6 million

Even @BobVila has more followers (1.1 million), ranking in at number 969.

Follow me on Twitter: @jonbeebe

Extra Credit: If Twitter had been around in your childhood and tweens, what franchises should have reached the million followers mark first, and why? Leave a comment.

Show & Tell: Just Call Me Steve (Jobs)

Whether you were an Apple hipster or technopleb, the reveal of the iPhone 4 with FaceTime on June 7, 2010 changed the way we viewed mobile communication. Watch the video >

In the palm of his hand, Steve Jobs held a “future” technology, once reserved for the likes of Marty McFly and generations to come: the world’s first real-time video cell phone. Or was it…

Introducing vFōn, the World’s First Real-Time Mobile Video Phone

vFon concept JonBeebe

April 2004 vFōn print ad mockup, complete with a pre-Catwoman Halle Berry as spokesperson and light innuendo.

Digging through my personal digital archives, I stumbled upon this college project from April 2004, which I completed as coursework for “Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs.” Yes, I went back to school a little later than some.

The assignment? Create, design and develop a product or service, then produce a strategic marketing plan to turn your vision into reality.

Having consulted for a number of years prior to attending college, and being known as a “Photoshop Gawd” in online communities, I had a clear advantage over my classmates. While they spent hours drawing stick figures or cutting photos from magazines, I developed my digital prototype and marketing collateral from scratch, using a few images I snagged online and a now prehistoric version of Photoshop.

My product? I developed FaceTime before iPhone existed.  Don’t you just love the dime-sized front-facing camera?

Check out an excerpt from the 2004 strategy document:

With vFōn, you can communicate face-to-face with coworkers, friends, or family.  Take high quality pictures, videos, or simply chat one-on-one, captured by a live-camera.  Whether you are on vacation and want to see a familiar face, or want to demonstrate your latest Elvis impersonation to your Aunt Beulah, vFōn technology can transmit the data in real-time.  The result?  Communication perfected.

It even sounds like an Apple product.  Later in the document, I explore the core target for the product:

The vFōn market primarily consists of young, urban individuals…The vFōn demographic, being technologically savvy and future-forward thinkers, may view the video phone technology as a necessity.  Given the fact that vFōn is the first of its kind, its novelty may appeal to many consumers.  The sleek design, futuristic image, and new technology of vFōn easily separate it from competitors.

While I received an “A” on the assignment, I’ve been sorely tempted to send my friends at Apple an invoice. I’ll waive the usual consulting fees in return for stock options and royalties. Heh.

Check out samples from the project’s final presentation. I hope you enjoy the cringe-worthy print ad write-up. Yeesh.

vFon concept introductionAnatomy of vFon conceptvFon product concept

Stride Gum Launches Mintacular, Now with Long-Lasting Apple Flavor

Mintacular GumStride gum, the brand synonymous with… Erhm… Are they really synonymous with anything in particular? …Stride gum recently launched a satirical campaign, parodying Apple’s iconic approach to advertising. The mockumentary, featuring Olympic gold medalist Sean White, is both hilarious and delicious.

My Take
With Christopher Guest-like charm and nuance, the Mintacular campaign manages to both revere and poke fun at Apple’s almost religious approach to its products and marketing. Better yet, it portrays itself as fun, dry, sarcastic, witty and scrappy. And, for me, that works. If only it were gluten free.

In the hands of digital marketers, Parody and Satire can be tools to rewire consumer thinking and jumpstart brand conversations. See another brand’s fuel tank topped off with high awareness, opinion or consideration? Parody can help you siphon shamelessly.

Read how Stride pre-launched the campaign, and its future plans in The New York Times article >;