Brands still shouting to be heard

With @kingjames​ returning to Cleveland, we can all sit back and watch how many self-proclaimed social media gurus try to repeat the Oreo/Super Bowl effect. 

So far, every attempt I’ve seen is like someone’s mom trying to hang out in her kid’s treehouse – trying way too hard to fit in. This first example from Bud Light is just sad. I think my teenager has better Photoshop skills.

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Sherwin Williams is the only example I’ve seen so far that hit the right tone, right message and actually showed some relevance. Plus, they’re headquartered in Cleveland, so the connection makes sense. 

LinkedIn Looking for More Engagement

Some things recently happened in the LinkedIn universe that might indicate how various networking channels are racing to a similar playground:
  1. The site added a profile ranking that pits your profile views against your LinkedIn universe. Not quite as pushy as a Klout score but is it enough to nudge people worried about such things to get more active on LinkedIn? Gamification is just another term for behavior modification. LinkedIn provides you advice on how to move up in the rankings such as sharing more updates or joining specific groups related to your skill set. Read more on VentureBeat.
  2. Why LinkedIn might be doing this:
    • Recent updates to Klout positions it as a content machine for your personal brand, giving you aggregated articles from the WWW that you can easily post from Klout (with kustom url shortener) to Twitter, etc. complete with scheduling posts to go out at the “right” time, according to them.
    • BranchOut which is kind of like LinkedIn, but within a Facebook app and claims to have 800 million users. It fails to mention if these are active users but maybe LinkedIn is sweating that.
  3. LinkedIn also owns SlideShare and a week ago, that service shut down any more Pro account sign ups, announcing that they are revamping their Pro account. Will it be relaunch with more overt ties to LinkedIn? 

Care for a side of spam with that phone?

Saw this in my feeds this morning: 

Sweet Labs Thinks It Can Make Crapware a Little Less Crappy

One of the unsung “features” I loved about Apple way back in the days of the desktop OS battle (we’ve all moved on, right?) was a Mac was a Mac was a Mac. My friend’s Toshiba running Windows would be completely different from my other friend’s HP version of Windows because of all the spamware a manufacturer would pre-load and most people were either too befuddled, tolerant or lazy to remove all the wares. 
I know iOS preloads its own li’l set of apps on phones and iPads, but even if you hide its Maps app in favor of Google or Waze, at least they aren’t spammy. Maybe this Sweet Labs thing is a bright light for Android and Windows phone users. 

SXSW 2009, a set on Flickr.
Got a little happy birthday email from tumblr for turning 5. It made me dig into the archive, curious about my first post ever.  Turns out it wasn’t much writing but it was a link to a photo set from the ‘09 SXSWi with some great friends.  Hard to believe this is five years ago – lots of changes since while everything stays the same. Via Flickr: Yet again, an incredible time of learning and laughing in Austin for the SXSW Interactive Conference.
somebody representin’iPhone appBBQ at StubbsDoodles

SXSW 2009, a set on Flickr.

Got a little happy birthday email from tumblr for turning 5. It made me dig into the archive, curious about my first post ever.
Turns out it wasn’t much writing but it was a link to a photo set from the ‘09 SXSWi with some great friends.
Hard to believe this is five years ago – lots of changes since while everything stays the same.

Via Flickr:
Yet again, an incredible time of learning and laughing in Austin for the SXSW Interactive Conference.

Making the Perfect Mixtape

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Valentine’s Day. I hate it.

Really.

Luckily, so does my wife, but that doesn’t stop me from doing something as a symbol of the love I feel for her. The typical gifts around this holiday like chocolate or jewelry fall short, so what’s an old guy gonna do? Make the perfect mix tape, of course.

I spend most of my working hours getting inside the heads of different personae and thinking of various ways my clients can have meaningful connections with them. It’s all about empathy. 

After giving my wife a Valentine’s mix tape (OK, “mix CD” but old habits die hard) and heading into work, it dawned on me that making someone a mix of songs could be the ultimate exercise in empathy and knowing your audience. It’s an act of multiple moments that add up to more than the sum of its parts. Making a mix tape has all the elements of what I’m trying to do every day for clients:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Say something meaningful
  3. Make it a story
  4. Stay true to your own brand
  5. Never stop evolving

Know your audience. I’ve known Jennifer for over 25 years and have been making her mixes (to varying degrees of success) pretty much since I’ve known her. I’ve paid attention to what she likes and look for clues to what sparks with her. Nick Hornby has the perfect take on what it means to make a mix tape in his book High Fidelity, faithfully captured in the John Cusack movie. You can’t just make something for yourself. It needs to forge a bond and communicate emotions where words can ring hollow or trite. Music, especially shared music, operates on some cosmic level. Whatever you make has to contain familiar elements mixed in with surprises. The familiarity opens up receptors in the brain to be more accepting. It’s how Hollywood pitches movies; familiar constructs combined in unfamiliar ways.

Say something meaningful. You invest some time in the making of this and hope that what your audience gets doesn’t waste their time or energy or money. So while it can’t be flippant and self-serving, it also shouldn’t be overly concerned with perfection. “Good and shipped” trumps “perfect and paralyzed” every time.

Make it a story. The construct of the mix tape is perfectly suited to the concept of pacing. The moods and tempo can’t remain constant. As much as Jen loves Jack Johnson, she tired of him when I made a Jack Johnson compilation. Lesson learned. Each song can be viewed as a chapter and while it can stand on its own, when viewed as part of the whole, the impact gets magnified. The story you tell as a brand should take time with an eye on the bigger story arc. TV shows like LOST or Fringe have story arcs that took years to play out with smaller story lines happening to keep interest high. Gary Vaynerchuk has a killer line about brands on social media: “stop acting like a 19-year-old dude.” Be patient. Tell a story. Build a bond.

Stay true to your own brand. While I do put more emphasis on what Jen will like, I know I’m going to share in the experience so I damn well better like it too. And if it’s coming from me, it’s gotta feel like it’s from me and only my take on the mix tape. 

Never stop evolving. People change. Music changes. Time marches on so if you think you’ve got things figured out, remember it’s probably figured out for today. In this mix tape evolution, I’ve now had to accommodate a second audience, my daughters. My second audience can validate or destroy my mix tape so I have to keep up with their tastes too. To do all that, I don’t only keep spinning the Pixies and Replacements (or Zeppelin, Beatles, Police) as much as I love them. I’m out exploring and finding new stuff I love and in equal parts new stuff that makes my ears cry. It’s the only way to stay fresh and it’s ultimately satisfying when I put something like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on a mix tape a good 4 months before the single’s on heavy radio rotation. This constant evolution gives me permission to keep trying new things since I know this mix tape won’t be my last. ”Good and shipped” trumps “perfect and paralyzed” every time. 

The playlist:

  1. Forever / HAIM
  2. Is This How You Feel? / The Preatures
  3. Happy / Pharrell Williams
  4. Tourniquet / Jeremy Messersmith
  5. Unconditionally / Katy Perry
  6. Never Fade / Jack Johnson
  7. Closer to you / Brett Dennen
  8. Accidentally in Love / Counting Crows
  9. Step / Vampire Weekend
  10. Favourite Colour / Tokyo Police Club
  11. Your Theme / Superchunk
  12. Kinks Shirt / Matt Nathanson
  13. Let’s Be Still / The Head and the Heart

Peace.