Revenge is a Dish Best Served Pink

From the Underbelly
Courtesy of Reddit’s front page, this video is sure to make its way to a newsfeed near you. Currently view-capped at 318 views, I expect it to pick up steam rather quickly. But first, some context:

Increase Your “Social” Vocabulary, from Urbandictionary.com

Frape [freyp]. noun, verb
A combination of the words ‘Facebook’ and ‘Rape.’ The act of Raping someones Facebook profile when they leave it logged in. Profile pictures, sexuality and interests are commonly changed, however fraping can include the poking or messaging of strangers from someone else’s Facebook account.

“Dude, did you see Jonny’s Facebook profile, someone fraped him big time.”

Fun, no? But, for me, there was something slightly “off” about the video, and it wasn’t the not-so-subtle placement of an adult toy & condom juxtaposed against the decor of a stereotypical young girls room. Or the offensive Justin Bieber poster…

Wait, was that a Durex condom?!

Marketing Paranoia
While I found myself anticipating the reveal, and smirking along the way, I kept expecting extremely subtle marketing messages for a brand of paint, or a new home renovation show to launch on HGTV later this year. Was I being duped as I watched?

Clearly my “social” cynicism or marketing paranoia at play. How many times have we fallen victim to clever marketers using unbranded content to draw us in, and make us pay attention? Read my previous post to see how lightly-branded content can build a product’s brand >

In my opinion, the real “advertisement” wasn’t so subtle, appearing in the video’s YouTube description. Tall Tales, a clearly savvy production company in the Netherlands, specializing in documentaries and commercials put this video together. I suspect their website traffic will spike today, and for weeks to come.

Regardless of the producer’s intentions, pure entertainment or increased interest in their company, I wonder: will consumers ever tire from this type and quality of advertising? Doubtful. Personally, I’m too lazy to care.

LazinessRead the original Reddit thread >, with comments from the video’s creator.

Internet Gold: Strike a Pose and Let’s Get to It

From the Underbelly

March 14, 1992: In the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Shaun Sperling read from the Torah and became a Bar Mitzvah. Shaun chose quite an interesting theme to signify the religious celebration.

Posted six days ago, the video has already received 49,000 views on YouTube.

A Mountain (Dew) of a Train Wreck, Ragú: A Saucy Reward for Innocence Lost

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.

Dub The Dew Mountain DewSpeaking candidly, I love a good marketing train wreck.

This includes my own crashes and blunders, as, in my career, I’ve paid more than my fair share of “tuition” for miscalculations with six to seven figure price tags.

For those in the digital marketing world, every action has a measurable reaction: from billions of impressions to individual clicks a consumer makes (or doesn’t make). For some, marketing online is more science than art. The vigorous testing, scoring, progress reports and report cards can be brutal to a marketer’s creative side. And, trust me, creative and media train wrecks are frequent – if you look at the numbers alone.

Measurement aside, for me, there’s something delicious and altogether captivating about awkward moments between marketers and consumers. On either side of the coin, it’s difficult to quantify that feeling of betrayal of trust, disappointment or “what the hell were they thinking” moment after experiencing an “off” ad or campaign.

While I think it’s important to examine a brand’s intention and objective when examining the wreckage of a botched campaign, online consumers have little incentive to care about such things beyond a simple comment or “Like” on a Facebook newsfeed about the event.

“Mountain Dew Just Lost the Internet”
In many cases, digital subcultures can take advantage of a brand’s digicultural naivete. Take Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen & Mountain Dew’s recent contest/name-game mishap: “Dub the Dew,” which fell victim to 4chan’s mischievous antics. Read the Time article >

Regardless of the level of appropriateness or decency, are we really shocked that names like “Hitler did nothing wrong,” “Moist Nugget,” “Fapple” or “Diabeetus” made the top of the socially/consumer generated list? The underbelly of the Web feeds off these types of situations, and was largely laughing at Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen & Mountain Dew. It was a pure demonstration of consumer dominance over brands in the online space. And, to me, it was amazing to behold.

In a statement, Mountain Dew has apologized to fans offended by the debacle, and quickly distanced itself from the campaign as executed.

“Dub the Dew,” a local market promotional campaign that was created by one of our customers—not Mountain Dew—was compromised. We are working diligently with our customer’s team to remove all offensive content that was posted and putting measures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Mountain Dew has a legacy of engaging its most loyal fans to tap innovative ideas for the brand through really successful programs like “DEWMocracy” and “Your Malt Dew” and so we sincerely apologize to all of our fans who may have been offended by this customer’s program.”

Regardless, both the pizza company and Mountain Dew didn’t appear to anticipate or appreciate the reality of a digital truth: People do and say things online they would never do or say in the “real” world.

Sex & Spaghetti Sauce
Which, indeed, brings us to RL (real life, for the less nerdy). Ragu recently launched a commercial that made it’s way to my Facebook feed, accompanied by a “I can’t believe this is actually a commercial” comment or two, followed by several “WTF?!” responses.

This deliciously awkward moment brought to you by Ragu, proud sponsor of The Bedroom Olympics:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve suddenly got a hankerin’ for some pasta. And, perhaps some therapy to discuss my childhood.

This isn’t a Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Halftime Special. This is Ragu directly associating mommy and daddy’s WWE Monday Night Raw wrasslin’ with their product. Exactly what a consumer wants to think about when enjoying pasta (note to mom: heavy sarcasm).

Honestly, I find the ad rather amazing and hilarious, in that wildly awkward-train-wreck kind of way. I applaud Ragu’s bravery and “Brand Building from Left Field” attempt, though I can’t help but notice the “what the hell” reaction many consumers are voicing across the social web.

My opinion? Leaving a consumer with an awkward feeling has a time and place, albeit infrequent and targeted. I think charities and non-profits often use this method (along with guilt) to their advantage, to move people beyond complacency toward action.

Regardless of where one falls with Ragu’s sexy spaghetti ad, it will certainly ignite the online landscape with thousands of comments, arguments and conversations. Millions of YouTube views aside, I know what many of us will be thinking about when we sit with family over a large plate of gluten-free pasta: Why didn’t Prego think of this?

Sesame Street Fighter vs Capcom, Part I

Note: This post is the first of a two part series. Part II will become available later this week.

Sesame Street FighterThis specimen, ladies and gentlegerms, has become one of my favorite recent finds. Combining two of the more formative elements of my childhood, gaming and PBS, Matt Crane, aka deviantART’s Gavacho13, has created a gamer cultural masterpiece.

Street Fighter 101
Street Fighter (ストリートファイター Sutorīto Faitā, for those who prefer Japanese) is a fighting series of video games in which its players pit competitive fighters from around the world, each with his or her own unique fighting style, against one another.

Since Street Fighter debuted in 1987, it has sold more than half a million arcade cabinets and exceeded 33 million units for home gaming systems (XBOX, PlayStation, etc.) globally. The second, and probably most popular edition, Street Fighter II, generated more than $1.5 billion for Capcom alone.

Gameplay was fairly straightforward. Players pick their fighter, or combination of fighters in some cases, to challenge another player or CPU (artificial intelligence) in a bloody brawl. The goal? Knock the lifeforce of your competitor to zero, rinse, repeat for the best of three rounds.

Button combinations on the controller or arcade would allow players to execute special moves, each unique and distinct for each of the fighter characters. The character variety made Street Fighter stand out from the rest of the arcade games. From Chun-Li, the beautiful and deadly female agent hellbent on revenge, to Blanka, the green-skinned man-beast who could electrocute the snot out of you, the diversity was far more appealing to a gamer than the more generic heroes from concurrent arcade games.

Shut Up & Take My Money >
At age 12, I’d bike daily to a local grocery store to return volumes of pop/soda cans, each refunding me a 10-cent deposit. Given the fact that my family was chemically dependent on Diet Coke, my weekly cash-in was quite respectable. I could easily pull in $20 to supplement my allowance, $100 if we hosted an after-school event.

Street Fighter DhalsimI’d immediately bike to the local 7-11, where I promptly fed my entire allowance and recyclable refund to the Street Fighter II machine. I primarily played as Chun Li, the fastest, most aeriel-oriented fighter with enormous thighs that could crush a man’s skull. Ryu, the silent warrior-type, or Dhalsim, the mystical yoga master who could breathe fire and extend his extremities to smack an opponent from afar were my backups.

I’d spend hours at 7-11, and was once asked to leave after a four-hour stay. I became quite good, and could easily defeat most challengers or the CPU. I even won a local tournament, but that’s a story for a future post.

While Street Fighter II may not have given birth to it, the game certainly stands as a milestone in the history of gamer trash talk. In the 90s, I typically played against players twice my age, and taunted them regularly. I also learned my fair share of curse words along the way – usually directed in my direction when Chun Li’s innocent victory laugh mocked their defeat at my hands. Watch Chun Li kick the crap out of other fighters >

Gamer Culture
At any rate, I wasn’t alone in my Street Fighter obsession. It became, and remains to be, an important part of gamer culture, including: reprehensible Hollywood films, fan fiction, comic books, clothing & costuming (see below), arts & crafts and more.

Street Fighter CosplayCulture Connection: Street Fighter, Digital Marketing Edition
For digital marketers, understanding Street Fighter and its cultural implications isn’t necessarily going to solve sales slumps. However, I believe tapping into gamer culture is key to reaching and connecting with people online. Gaming reaches more than just 12-year-olds. The average gamer is 37, and has been gaming for 12 years (note: a recent change in methodology has brought this age into question, finding 30 to be the average age). Of course, there are different types of gamers. Again, a future post for another day.

Play Angry Birds, Draw Something (heh, does anyone nowdays? That was quick.) or another gaming app on your phone? Congrats, you’re a gamer, too – let the trash talk begin.

Anyway, my point is this: What Crane has done with Sesame Street Fighter is brilliant. By combining themes from nostalgic cultural icons into a visual/artistic statements, his work connects to fans of both gaming and Kermit & Big Bird. It cuts through the clutter, and communicates to the core of its target audience – all without having to say a word. That, my friends, is the foundation for good, relevant marketing.

To be continued in Part II…

Julia Child Remixed

After the social success of its Mr. Rogers’ Garden of Your Mind Remix and Bob Ross’ Happy Little Clouds, and in celebration of what would be Julia Child‘s 100th birthday (Aug. 15), PBS Digital Studios has released a new autotuned tribute to the culinary legend. Just released as part of it’s “Icon’s Remixed” series, it’s currently capped at 302 views. Expect this to reach a few millions in days.

Online content development tip: When in doubt, use nostalgia, autotune or both.

The Hair Flip Reborn

The Little Mermaid Hairflip

From the Underbelly
Life expectancy of memes and digital trends can vary significantly, from days to weeks, months to years. Think the difference between a political gaffe making a week-long run in meme form on social networks vs. the everlasting Rickroll.  The recent rise of Unimpressed McKayla Maroney vs. the long-standing Socially Awkward Penguin.

Over the past few days, a game of one-upmanship has surfaced, likely to make its way to a Facebook stream near you: The hair flip.

While this isn’t exactly a new trend (Google hairflip images), Reddit users have been posting photos of (mostly) women flipping their hair, spraying water in an arc. This is likely in reference to the grand matriarch of hairflipping, the little mermaid Ariel.

Users will one-up one another by posting photos, then adding comments like “I see your three-woman salute, and raise you this epic hairflip.” Check out the latest crop:

Hairflipping trend

While it might be a stretch for digital & social marketing, think of it this way: Commercial and entertaining content we produce has the potential to take on a life of its own. Read my previous post on digital content “ownership.” While I doubt Disney could have predicted the impact of its movie on digital culture, the iconic scene lives on, now evolved and expressed for upvotes and Reddit karma 20 years later.

Read the original thread on Reddit.com >

Brand Building from Left Field, Doug, Old Spice & Water Polo

Ever since Isaiah Mustafa debuted as the Old Spice Guy in 2010,  the company has consistently demonstrated its online savvy. I find its humorous and unapologetic approach refreshing and brilliant.

Old Spice Social Media

From quick-witted topical tweets to rapid responses at YouTube comments, I love how Old Spice fearlessly broadcasts or produces content unrelated to their product — while still building its brand. It’s struck a great balance between product feature/benefits and the type of content consumers prefer to read, watch and share online. Old Spice is behaving like your witty friend making a fun post on Facebook or Twitter, not an annoying furniture salesperson.

While the approach may not move product immediately, lightly-branded, engaging connections are bound to strengthen your online street credibility and relevance for future brand consideration.

For advertisers, when was the last time your brand had the intestinal fortitude to post something from left field, or without branding? It’s a risk most are uncomfortable taking.

In my past life, I’ve run online advertising campaigns with and without obvious branding. What data has indicated time after time is clear: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It really depends on the brand and/or product. For an entry level sedan, the “left field” content caught our target’s attention. For a luxury vehicle, sometimes not so much.

Adapting Your Strategy
For digital advertisers, it’s important to test and monitor your campaign messaging and approach while in flight, to ensure your content resonates with your target. This can be accomplished via analytics performance measurement, depending on the campaign objectives (retweets, views and completion rates vs. clicks and conversion rates, etc.), or by simply reviewing comments and associated sentiment.

After the official unveiling of Doug, the Ford Focus Spokespuppet, it became quite clear we needed to adjust our strategy. While the character clearly resonated with our intended audience online, several blogs and news entities pointed out Doug’s less-than-discreet approach toward women upset some viewers. Honestly, we did anticipate this reaction, but didn’t expect the media to run with headlines like “Sexist Sock Puppet is New Ford Spokesperson.”

While we wanted to hold true to our strategic approach and director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Office, Freaks & Geeks) plan, it was clear we needed to tone a few things down to address consumer, media and internal concerns. Read Brand Channel’s article “Ford to Focus Doug Character” >

Because we were still producing the Webisodes, with Rob Cohen (The Simpsons, SNL) later at the helm, we were able to capture a more well-rounded character, while still letting his “freak flag fly” (a Doug quote, not mine).

Lightly-Branded Content
Automotive enthusiasts and bloggers would often criticize our approach: We didn’t show the product, or even mention it, in all of the Webisodes. While we were sure to include features/benefits in most videos, we would sometimes shift focus toward the relationship between Doug, voiced by Paul F. Tompkins (Comedy Central), and his handler, John, who was played by John Ross Bowie (Big Bang Theory). So how did we balance it out?

While the Webisodes on YouTube served to entertain and inform, Twitter and Facebook provided platforms for product and brand messaging. A team of two writers (including the brainchild behind Doug, Sue Driscoll) would respond directly to comments we received from our fans and critics alike – often within a few hours. It is through their genius we were able to steer conversations toward the product, and how Doug and John demonstrated its features in action.

I truly believe our lightly-branded approach that made the brand/product easier to connect with in the first place.

While I’m unable to provide Ford’s internal numbers, the campaign clearly and significantly increased awareness and consideration, with some car buyers crediting the little orange guy for their purchase.

The Doug Team

Edit: Just for fun, a few people might not realize we actually introduced Doug prior to the press conference Webisode. Click to watch Doug’s origins. Three videos, which featured the puppet in acts of heroism – saving people’s lives (referred to in the press conference). Ford has since removed these videos from YouTube, but, with a little digging, I found the first video in full – completely unbranded, which originally had close to a million views. Watch it here >

Making Branded Content Ownable: Kutiman, Somebody Gotye Used to Know

Just when you thought “Somebody that I Used to Know,” Gotye’s radio pandemic was on its way out…

Just what’s so interesting? A few things.

Kutiman’s Thru-You Project
Gotye actually produced this himself, and posted it to YouTube earlier this morning. As I write this post, it’s registering just 303 views on YouTube, a result of automatic throttling/capping of views on Google’s part. I expect the video to explode fairly quickly, as it will certainly make its rounds on Facebook feeds, after an obligatory appearance on Reddit.

What’s more interesting to me, is what inspired Gotye: Kutiman’s Thru-You project, which made it’s debut in 2009, garnering 1.5 million views and a number of derivatives and copycats.

Digicultural Norm: Consumer “Ownership”
Kutiman’s creative spin on using other people’s YouTube videos to produce something of his own reflects a digicultural norm: Whether it’s moral, ethical or otherwise, “ownership” of digital content belongs to consumers.

While it might be the bane of the recording or movie industries, this principle is imperative to understand when developing and distributing content online. Ask yourself: “What’s so valuable about what we’re creating that will inspire consumers to go out of their way to 1) consume it, and 2) make it their own?”

Digitally creative consumers will often spend hours producing content like Gotye, which drives remarkable organic consumption and engagement. I wonder how many advertising dollars digital marketers would be willing to spend on views, visits, likes, shares and comments to even touch the number Gotye’s video will likely receive?

Edit: One day, almost half a million views.