Viral “marketing” – word of mouth in a YouTube world

We are presently experiencing a virtual pandemic. I am not referring to the current Swine Flu, more properly named the H1N1 Flu . I am speaking of viral marketing,  the term itself is relatively recent and started to be used in the mid 1990’s. The term’s imagery is particularly engaging. While it certainly can carry a negative connotation I want to address the ramifications of this “phenomena” as it relates to the age-old concept of “word of mouth” now sometimes referred to simply as “WOM”.  We have all heard this: there is no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth. Among other attributes of WOM, the perceived non-commerical nature of the communication enhances its credibility. One of my basic premisses about WOM in its contemporary manifestation is that technology has spawned a social networking capability that adds such potential impact to word of mouth  that it has or at least is on its way to re-asserting itself as one principal means for driving acceptance/popularity of products, persons, ideas, and “information”.

How did someone or something get notice – positive or negative – historically, let’s say in Rome in 63 B.C. “Word” travelled on horseback or chariot; escapades and episodes were passed from person to person and made reputations, for ill or well. But it wasn’t exactly speedy delivery.

Cicero, the great orator, politician, and philosopher of the period said “Like readily consorts with like”; the idea is that the transmission of a message from an accepted source has both credibility and influence, and is therefore eagerly  shared with others,  because in part, the person who passes it on  wants to be associated with the remark and the party making it.

In viral communication, those who get the “virus” affect going are usually individuals with what has been characterized as high social networking potential (SNP).  There is in fact a whole new area of marketing/public relations activity devoted just to injecting positive “buzz” intentionally through using a viral approach – kind of like seeding a cloud to produce a rain shower.

The Susan Boyle example from the TV show “Britian’s Got Talent” is a textbook study in viral communication and its potential impact. The YouTube clip of her singing in the competition literally spanned the globe with meteoric speed, and due largely to this she has become something of an icon – and rightly so, exemplifying  the adage, “you can’t tell a book by its cover”. Thus the rise of another “star”  born through the power of the Internet.

There are lots of implications for all of this. Does the viral approach to popularizing persons and things have merit or is it a menace? The verdict is yet to be rendered –  by a jury of our peers  –  and the jury is still out.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/05/24/viral-marketing-word-of-mouth-in-a-youtube-world/

Bookmark and Share

Advertisements

“Accidents” can be the answers

When I was on the advertising side of communications I had many unique experiences. Because everything wasn’t ready until the last minute  a chartered  plane took me to  Lake Placid,  New York – the plane was crammed full with presentation binders, displays, and all the necessary multimedia equipment  to deliver an annual product introduction for a major multinational company. I thought we were completely prepared for anything; oops, nobody thought to mention the unconventional  power generating system at the famous winter resort we were heading to that would grind our “gear” to a halt. We ended up improvising as a small army of volunteers manually advanced the phalanx of slide projectors cued with scripts hastily reworked on site. A minor victory over technology bugs; and  to this day I always have back up plans and try to be as “self contained” as possible for any presentation. Accidents do happen, sometimes with fortuitous result, which is the moral to this story.

One of the clients I worked with in those days was Corning, Inc. – their Biomedical division had just introduced an innovative piece of laboratory equipment, a blood gas meter, but it wasn’t selling well partly because it was different technology than the market was accustomed to using. It wasn’t selling well except in one particular sales territory where it was doing great, and I talked to the sales rep about his surprising success. “Well when I go back for my sample unit, the  lab won’t let me take it, they try it and they buy it.”  Of course he wasn’t supposed to leave his very expensive sample unit, just show it during his sales presentation. Thus was born the “Borrow A Meter” campaign, and one of the most successful product launches I can remember.

We can’t control everything. Unanticipated things happen. When that occurs you just might be able to use the result to advantage if you’re open to consider something different than what you expected.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/05/03/accidents-can-be-the-answers/

Bookmark and Share

A 21st Century Library rivals a Starbucks

I visited a local library recently. It had been just re-opened after a major renovation that took seemingly ages to complete much to the consternation of the residents who felt inconvenienced by this disruption of a tax payer funded public service. Well,  it must have taken ages alright, because I felt like Rip Van Winkle when I stepped inside. What greeted me was a library of the new millennium.  A brief description of my surroundings on this occasion will suffice to make my point. Wireless throughout, person after person, seated at tables or very comfortable overstuffed chairs,  were clicking away at their various laptops, happy as can be.  Then, looking like a command center at NASA, I saw the rows of monitors, all in use, provided for those who came empty handed. There was the obligatory Youth and Children’s section, very inviting indeed, but in addition,  a whole separate room was designated “The Teen Room” with a life-size cut out of Captain Jack Sparrow of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame, guarding the entryway – and then I spied “The Lounge” which sported a refreshments counter – coffee anyone. The shelves were filled with audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, and yes, books.

This post is all about creating environment, this can be done in real spaces and in virtual spaces – think of a blog as a virtual space, for example. Environment, which is a cousin to climate can be thought of in this way: “constructed surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging from the large-scale civic surroundings to the personal places.” (from Wikipedia)

Now with any endeavor, you want to strive to “construct” an environment appropriate to the activity, to encourage involvement. You want to generate the “I think I’ll hang out here awhile” feeling. Each application has its optimal set of environmental elements which need to be defined and applied . These are not just trappings, they are integral to the total experience of the moment, and upon their effectiveness often rests the viewer/listener/participant decision to stay or go.

Of the many consulting projects I have engaged in over the years, I sometimes have been involved in working with restaurant franchising enterprises from concept to prospectus, and this type of venture requires the “packaging”  (see previous relevant post re. “packaging” ) of a complete  “environment” which can be duplicated for each unit to be built. I always enlisted the assistance of a particular specialist in restaurant interior design who in my opinion was one of the best. Everything was tied into a theme. Everything worked to create a certain ambience that was unique to that venue; the totality of these environmental elements quite literally became the “signature” of that franchise. Even the acoustical properties of the space were taken into account. Turns out “building in” the sound of happy chatter – the more the better – has a positive impact on diners.

Back to the library. There are many lessons to be learned from my visit to the library. Go visit one, one that you are sure is “state of the art”; observe the library patrons around you,  and see for yourself. In the meantime I recommend a visit to the DaVinci Institute web site. The Institute is a non-profit futurist think tank based in Colorado. The web site features an excellent “discussion” of the future of libraries, delving into ten key trends that portend the library of the future – a number of the trends cited have  broader implications for communications in general as well.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/07/a-21st-century-library-rivals-a-starbucks/

Bookmark and Share

The Gypsy Kings and Dr. Seuss

The Gypsy Kings is one of my favorite musical groups. They perform rumba flamenco,  a musical form indigenous to the Catalan region of northeastern Spain and southwestern France.  Never heard of them you say? Well, they have a wide audience alright, (selling over 18 million albums) but in a sea of such expanse as THE GLOBAL ECONOMY how does one define “wide”? One definition, “Large in scope” (from the Wiktionary entry: “wide”), leads on to another – what do they mean by “large”, and so on ad infinitum.

Which brings me to Dr. Seuss, who used a pseudonym by the way,  just like some in the online new media of today. His real name of course, Theodor Seuss Geisel. Of his many wonderful children’s books, the one on point for this occasion is: Horton Hears a Who! For those unfamiliar with the story, I refer you to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horton_Hears_a_Who!

Basically, Horton, an endearing elephant in the jungle, seems the only one capable of hearing the inhabitants of the city “Who-ville”  who live on a tiny planet comprised of a speck of dust. For the purpose of this post the important point to note is that: “In the end it is a ‘very small shirker named JoJo’ whose final addition to the volume creates enough lift for the jungle to hear the sound, thus reinforcing the moral of  ‘a person’s a person, no matter how small’.”

So now, let’s cite some stats. Technorati, the be all – end all for blog info tracks around 112 million blogs at this point (from “The History of Blogs” in The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging)! So how can any blog ever hope to have an impact, let alone an audience? Which brings us to audience profiling. Who in “Who-ville” is the blog really trying to reach? That answer defines the “universe” (size, total number) of the intended audience, which may very well turn out to be only a handful. So evaluating effectiveness of “reach” (a media advertising term which in essence tries to quantify by numbers and/or percentage how many readers/visitors from the intended audience any particular blog in this case is actually attracting) is the important consideration.

The Complete Guide to Blogging states:  “There may be 112 million blogs in the blogosphere, but only 7.4 million, Technorati tells us, have been updated in the last ninety days.” So close to 94% of the blogs out there are essentially dormant.  That narrows things a bit!

Thus, the moral to this story is “an intended audience, effectively reached, signals success – no matter how small”.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/23/the-gypsy-kings-and-dr-seuss/

Bookmark and Share

Girl Scouts ban use of internet to sell cookies

A seemingly innocuous AP piece is being picked up by a number of newspapers around the country. It hit me like a ton of bricks. So I did a little further checking online, and sure enough it is true. Newsweek is my source and I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of its report. http://www.newsweek.com/id/188714?from=rss

Girl Scouts of the USA does not allow the use of the internet to sell its “got-to-have-them” cookies! This exposé comes on the heels of the welcome news that the Vatican has awakened to the value of the internet (See my recent post on this matter). Kurt Soller’s article states the key point to be made about this whole imbroglio:

“…the group’s digital strategy seems confused and behind the times.”

The Girl Scouts organization purports to offer the largest program to teach entrepreneurship to young girls and yet it eschews e-commerce. Seems kind of like an oxymoron to me (ox-y-mo-ron) with emphasis on the last two syllables!

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/15/girl-scouts-ban-use-of-internet-to-sell-cookies/

Bookmark and Share

%d bloggers like this: