Monday, August 24, 2009

the 4 S's of viral

"A viral won't go viral just because it's a viral." I said this in a meeting the other day and as clumsily syntaxed as it is, I want to develop what I meant.

The client says: we want a viral.

The creative team: creates a viral.

But what IS a viral? And what makes something GO viral?

Let's find out.

"A viral is something worth sharing," says Rob Birgfeld on SmartBlogs.

Dominque Hind says there are 3 things to remember about a viral:
  • Must be a great idea
  • Viral doesn’t necessarily mean free
  • Nurture the campaign to get it out there.
And we learn from Karl Long that a viral isn't a strategy but a tactic within the more holistic term of co-creative marketing.

In the post from Karl, I especially like what he says about tactics, such as virals, building social equity with your brand. He described social equity in October 2007 as “built by aggregating, connecting, reflecting and amplifying all of the small user contributions over time so the whole is worth much more than the sum of its parts.”

You see, everything used to be about brand equity - where brands were one of the most valuable assets a company could have. But in the age of social media, we need different terms. And borrowing the term from Karl, social equity - where social networks are one of the most valuable assets a brand can have - is where we need to focus now. In creating social equity you need to take into consideration what starts a conversation and what begs to be shared - is it creativity? is it a thought? is it a point?

Anyway, back to viral. In this post, we learn that viral is a tactic used by brands to create Social equity. To do this, they need to
Simple - be birthed from an uncomplicated idea
Sharable - have all the necessary social media tools attached
Supported - be nurtured by various brand ambassadors - bloggers/influencers online, PR people at the agency, or synced up with traditional creative in an innovatively creative way
So next time someone says "let's do a viral," make sure you've got the 4 S's in place so that you're not just creating more digital crap to take up cyberspace.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

writing a brand manifesto

From David at brandgymblog:
Brand manifestos are a better way to work on the vision for your brand, allowing you more freedom to express yourself, and [to help identify] what you really want to "fight for".

What are your guiding principles, beliefs and issues you want to take a stand on?

I encourage people to use provocative language, not politically correct corporate speak.

There are a series of exercises in Brand Vision to use in creating a brand manifesto, including:

1. If you were on a protest march in the street to fight against something, what would you write on your banner? And if you were to flip this into a positive and fight for something, what would you write?
2. What is the bigger role your brand can play in everyday life? What sort of "legacy" would you like to leave behind after 5 years on the brand?

A comment on David's post reads: we forget that we're supposed to be engaging people. Not clients. Not consumers. But people. And the only way to really do this is to talk in simple, human terms.

Jennifer Rice says on her blog:

So I see a brand manifesto as a declaration of 1) the core intention of the brand, 2) the guiding principles of the brand, and 3) the policies that guide each department to effectively realize the stated intention. So unlike brand visions or missions (which only focus on intention), a brand manifesto should get into the nitty gritty of turning the intention into reality.

Ultimately, a manifesto needs to put a stake in the ground - what do you stand for? what do the people who subscribe to your vision believe in? what world do you and they want to see?

Take a stab at it, it might feel poetic, it might feel liberating, it might just be the best thing you ever did for your brand. :)

the making of a trend lab

This blog post is purely for self-reflection and to help me think through an idea. But in the process, I'm going to share with you a project I've been working on for almost 2 years.

I think it was during my first week at the agency that they handed over a project to me (more like delegated) - we want you to build a trend lab. Back then, "trend lab" was an idea completely and entirely encapsulated in two words: trend (sounds cool) lab (sounds purposeful). I got a teeny tiny room on the quiet, hardly-frequented 10th floor. I did my best to make it cool - added visual stimulation in the form of creative ad work, magazine articles, and as many different colored stick pins that I could find. No one came into "the lab," so I started inviting people down, to talk, to share, to collaborate with. At one point in time, we were capturing the Consumer Confidence Index rating, the latest in creativity, the latest in marketing/communications, general articles about innovative cultural events or transformations, and consumer insights relative to particular audiences (Boomers, Gen Xers, etc.). People still weren't coming down in crowds. The people that did come down said it was cool once they were there, but still not purposeful yet, not an agency utility. Trend Lab 1.0 lasted over a year (that's about how long it takes when you've got one person working on the idea amid actual account/client work. I also needed that time to understand how the agency worked; of course I had my ideas of what I would want a Trend Lab to be, but I needed to take into account my audience and the category - other agency resources. What would make the Trend Lab different?

In its second year (and mine), it is alive and well in the form of a Trend Lab newsletter titled the MYT (see posts below for examples). The MYT stands for Making You Think, because we really saw the point of a trend lab to be thinking outside the box, being on the cusp of edgy and cool, making the work smarter and more relevant. I knew this from the beginning but still making a room out of it has been an uphill battle. Somehow I need to change the agency's behavior to incorporate a stop at the Trend Lab, it's needs to be a culture thing. If we want to produce advertising that engages, we better have a culture that engages internally.

And so, with Trend Lab (now a proper noun within the agency) 2.0 (thanks to the newsletter, it actually exists!) we have a room to differentiate from all other rooms in the agency. We're no longer on 10 but on 13, more at the core of the agency. Now our Trend Lab seeks to engage and offers a place for something agency people can't get elsewhere. Making You Think is not just the point of the newsletter, the point of the Trend Lab has been simplified to the art of thinking. It has become a sort of "prop warehouse" for planners to tell a story, for creatives to get inspiration, for anyone interested in collaboration to join in and be exposed to how other people think through conversation.

The brand promise of the Trend Lab is close to the campaign that restored Apple's reputation but not exactly. Think Different was a call to the creative class that said you are different, embrace your intricacies. The Trend Lab exists to make you think. As a resource within an agency that has many resources - most for information gathering, but none to stimulate or engage people, the purpose of the Trend Lab (its utility) is facilitating creative conversations. There's a certain call to action with a conversation; good ones require you to engage, to interact, to provide a POV, and to listen. Trend Lab 2.0 takes a lot of cues from social media, where the people matter and the conversation is what drives the interactions.

Ok. I've got it. Now off to write a manifesto to ensure that those who subscribe to this mentality and way of working will know there are others like them, interacting, thinking, and discussing in new ways, in the Trend Lab.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

writing a social media plan

I am one part of a small team helping a local film festival get off the ground here in Dallas. As a faithful participant in various social media (Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, Blogger), I have volunteered to take a stab at a social media plan for the brand. Of course, I have all of this information in my head, and I put it to use on a daily basis, easy cheesy. But thinking about doing it for a "formal" brand, supported by a corporation, I need a formal plan. So here are some tools I'm finding along the way:

5 Steps to developing a Social Media Plan
from Mashable

Obama's Social Media Plan from The Conversation Agent

22 Tools to Consider
from Mashable (thank you guys!)

Best Buy Connect's Tips & Expectations

List of 40 Social Media Staff Policies

Hope this helps you write your own.