Apple’s T-shirt Box Photo

This is what makes Apple Apple.

Even the boxes that hold call centre employee t-shirts have been designed with the single sense of purpose, that incredible design aesthetic, that attention to detail and outstanding vision of what the company should be – a creator brand. This, along with photos of their employee job offer packs, shows the level of thought and strength of culture at the firm.

More pictures here: Apple Employee T-Shirt Unboxing Photos – Mac Rumors.

Twit-hype – Half of Twitter have never Tweeted!

This from Marketing Charts: Half of Twitter Has Never Tweeted.

So… 60% of people on Twitter abandon it after the first month.

And now we find that half of the people on Twitter have never tweeted. Furthermore,

80% of users failed to provide a homepage URL
76% have not entered a bio in their profile (vs. 20% last year)
69% have not specified a location

And we know that Twitter is for old people – people under 24 are not on Twitter.

We have seen media events broken via Twitter – or is it that the media focussed on Twitter as an additional story hook? Is it that Twitter’s limited 140 character capacity is forcing participants to provide brief and rapid updates – rather than longer, less frequent updates? Which is better?

So – what’s the future of Twitter? Is it a tool for media people to keep in touch with each other? Is it for self-promoters? Or will it evolve to become something largely useful, rather than just a handful of interesting things between tweets about outrage / quality sandwiches / coffees / weather?

The holy trinity of 21st Century communications – marketing, technology and design

Watching this video of Coca-Cola’s new interactive vending machine, Anthony J Phillips, the Global Marketing Manager of Coca-Cola, talks about the “fantastic partnership between marketing, technology and design”. I think it’s a profound and important partnership that will dominate marcomms into the future. I’d add another element – human behaviour in the form of anthropology / behavioural economics.

How best will we marketers and communicators best be trained for this future – in order to best understand and communicate with people? Technology studies? Cultural anthropology? Town Planning? Data science? Architecture and Design? Typography? Behavioural Economics? Sociology? All of the above?

To me, old fashioned integrated Marketing and Public Relations & Communications just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

Google Squared – Definitely Not for Nerds

Google has released a fantastic new search option called Google Squared – it structures unstructured data, puts it in a table, and makes compiling lists and information MUCH easier.

This a great evolution of search engines, making it simple to find relevant info at a glance. Instead of search engines providing a list links where the content might eventually be – they will evolve into a place where they curate and collect multiple reliable structured data sources and give us the ANSWER. We may well look back on the pages and pages of unstructured lists that make up search engines today and think – “how uncivilised”. Google Squared acts to structure this content, and provide some commonalities between the types of content.

How it is prioritiseed will be an interesting question – will Google prioritise based on typical search engine optimisation rankings of popularity of quality data, or will it now begin to prioritise based on the spread of quality data – for example a coffee shop that lists not only the description, address, business hours and cuisine – but also payment methods, disabled access, coffee bean menu, and other, more imaginative things like whether it has a YouTube identity by which it provides video barista classes? Alternatively, will Google provide sorting options – based on user criteria?

Whatever the case, it’s a stronger incentive for organisations of all types to ensure they build a quality, structured, informative presence across all content platforms.

Seth Godin on: Luxury vs. premium

Seth Godin asks – what’s the difference between luxury vs premium? He argues in essence, Luxury is an extravagant price on a less than extravagant outcome. Premium is quality that attracts a higher price – with a discernable and compelling value proposition. He argues that some firms don’t know which they should be.

The full piece here: Seth’s Blog: Luxury vs. premium.

The social media space has come down with swine flu

Swine flu is dominating Google search. For the past two days (in the US at least), discussions around “swine flu”, “pig flu” and other such iterations have at least 10 references in the top 100 US searches, according to Google Trends. While not in the top five searches, people aren’t simply searching for “swine flu”, they’re searching for “swine flu deaths in California” and other such specific references – breaking up the overall search.

It was the idea that people search for things related to illness that was the basis of Google’s Flu Trends – a service they set up in 2007-2008. Their thinking is that when people get sick, they’ll type in symptoms or descriptions of the illness into Google in an attempt to learn more about the disease – and cure. Google discovered that if there was an outbreak or a pandemic, that they would be able to predict it up to two weeks faster than the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). This is the power of Google – in terms of being a “database of intent”, it knows what people are doing & thinking because it knows what people are searching for, on a mass global scale.

The bottom line of search and online activity is – people want to know whether it is near them, and whether swine flu will kill them. So how has the social media space reacted?

The Wikipedia listing for Swine Flu refers to a mortality rate of around 10% (the Wikipedia page has been viewed 114,687 times so far in April vs 237 times in March – and edited over 100 times in the past day). Google Maps has a live map, listing every outbreak of swine flu – as it happens! The subject “swine flu” is the number 1 trending topic on Twitter. Nielsen Blogpulse is showing the topic making up over 1.75% of all blog posts today.

Dominos Going to Fall

Dominos Pizza has been embarrassed by a scandal where some employees of the business made a video that showed them doing some pretty disgusting things with the food they were preparing. It is extremely damaging to the company. The videos are here – and an explanation of what they should be doing next follows.

Part 1 – The Offending Video

Part 2 – The Reponse from the US President of Dominos (why the hell is he speaking off camera? It’s completely wrong and seems completely staged).

Part 3 – What the Dominos President’s Response reminds me of (specifically at 4’15”)

What they should do:

Stop the rot – Sack the employees that have done this – and ensure that there are no other skeletons in the closet, whether known or unknown. Make sure that whatever it is that caused this issue is dealt with – and fixed.

Apologise – not from the President (who, as I mentioned earlier, is completely lame), but from employees of the company. Other people who work at Dominos – others who are in their late teens / early 20s, who are hard working, CLEAN and responsible workers. Coming from them, it will be much more genuine. Imagine being an honest, hard-working Dominos employee right now – you’d be completely ashamed and embarrassed by the actions of two fools. If I were Dominos management, I’d be giving these employees every chance to express their sorrow and regret publicly – and have them honestly vow that they would never do such a thing. Coming from them – coming from all of them, employee by employee, store by store – it would be a company wide affirmation of their true values. It would ensure that the public would feel safe ordering food from them. It would reiterate the local presence of the company, and the care and mutual benefit that each Dominos franchise has for its community / customer base. Imagine it – a YouTube channel where every Dominos employee gets to make their own personal apology and vow to their customers – customers they value, customers who pay their bills. What a powerful statement of intent and purpose that would be.

Open up – I would ensure a rapid and public demonstration of the systems that Dominos has in place. What safety, what systems, what is in place to ensure this will never happen again. Put it all online, put it out there – every step of the value chain should be transparent. Every manager should be out there, explaining at every step how clean their systems are – from hiring to suppliers to food prep to service. This will allow people to overcome the fear they now have – I don’t know what happens in Dominos kitchens – nor do I know anything about how clean the food is.

Improve – Be daring – do something that would drive openness and engagement to a whole new level, eg: webcams in every kitchen, produce a series of podcasts on pizza making, Dominos staff cooking competitions across the country – demonstrate that Dominos food isn’t just prepared by College rejects, but by people who actually care about the food that they are providing. Build trust in Dominos as a place where you’ll have food that is not only clean, but tasty – or as the President said, delicious.

Managing reputations online – QantasSucksWorld.com

Another example of a consumer based corporate abuse site, http://qantassucksworld.com, celebrates it’s first anniversary this week.

The site describes itself as “the Qantas News website by former and present Qantas customers”, and has a litany of bad news stories collated in order to damage the reputation of Qantas. They even offer $500 per best story per month, here. The site is registered through MelbourneIT to a “Berg Berg” of North Carolina, whose email address is bberg009@yahoo.com (and whose blog is here).

For those who may think this is the sign of things to come, an inevitable avalanche of <companyname>sucks.com websites, you’re partly right and partly wrong.

You’re right if you think there is more to come. Plenty more. For as long as there have been companies, there have been people complaining about those companies. The internet has allowed people to express their complaints in ever more creative and popular ways. It’s incredibly easy to bag a company online. And people will get better and better at complaining online.

However you’re wrong if you think it’s the first example. The internet is close to forty years old, and as long as there’s been the net, there have been complaints online. If we look at a perfect Australian example, the massively popular Whirlpool forum started around ten years ago as a response to the disastrous early performance of the BigPond internet service – and allowed people to discuss performance problems not only with BigPond but also for other ISPs. It is now one of the biggest online forums in Australia, with over 282,444 active members, discussing topics including:

  • Technology
  • Computers
  • ISPs
  • Mobile
  • Hardware
  • IT Industry
  • Music
  • Photography
  • Gaming
  • Gadgets
  • Automotive
  • Movies
  • Television
  • Home Theatre
  • Lifestyle
  • Sports
  • In the News: including Politics, Current Affairs, Issues and Society

…and Telstra still hasn’t worked out how to engage with the Whirlpool community, unlike iiNet and other ISPs who have done so very successfully.

As I’ve been saying for many years, it’s not a matter of when your organisation, products, brands or issues will be discussed, the point is how big the current discussion is; how many people are discussing it, where they are discussing it, and what information do they have at their disposal, ultimately what damage is it doing to your brand in the marketplace. It’s already happening – across social media of all types, by Australians of all ages, incomes and locations. Remember, over 41% of ALL Australians post comments about products, brands or services online, and a whopping 86% of people read these comments (stats here). And for those of you you think you’ve got it covered because you search Aussie blogs, you’re waaaaaaaay off track. Blogs aren’t very popular in Australia (nowhere near as popular as forums and social networking sites), and while agencies, communicators, marketers and organisations believe their American counterparts in thinking that blogs are the end all and be all of online conversation, they will be lost.

If you’re not aware of the conversations around your brand across all social media, do something about it – now!

Online searches are getting longer (8+ words)

People are using Google instead of portals and one stop shops – we know that. Search is the gateway to content. Even Rupert Murdoch this week said:

Nobody is making money with free content on the web, except search.

Interesting that search queries with 8+ words continue to rise.

Why? Quite possibly because:

1. People aren’t finding what they want via immediate searches. so keep adding words until they find what they want. Finding needles in haystacks take some effort.

2. People aren’t very good at searching effectively, so write things like: find me a hotel near the centre of London (that’s nine words by the way).

3. People ask a lot of questions when they search. For example, right now it’s Good Friday – as per Google Trends, the eighth biggest search right now is: is the stock market open today (six words), while the 16th most popular search right now is: are banks open on good friday (again, six words). These are the sort of searches that are on the increase.

Bottom line – plain English searches are becoming more common. There are so many opportunities for firms to incorporate these sort of questions into their online content, in the form of Q&As or other text. But instead, far too many write content in the most boring corporate speak ever.

My advice is to intercept search terms by creating content on their websites related to those search terms. By having organic search traffic, it makes it easier to rise up the search rankings and also reduces the weighted average cost of acquistion, as your organic search results share increases versus your paid search results share.

Anatomy of a social media disaster

Two recent campaigns by Australian organisations have caused a debate over trust in social media campaigns.

Tourism Queensland (TQ) recently launched a campaign with a difference; instead of attracting people to the “Sunshine State” via a traditional website, TQ created a site that advertised the “Best Job in the World”. The job, The Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef (a brand ambassador role), was a 6 month contract paying $AUD150,000.

The earliest public response to this campaign was very positive. The social media sphere lit up with discussions about the campaign, heritage media covered the campaign, and the website itself, http://www.islandreefjob.com/ crashed after being overwhelmed with visitors from Australia and overseas.

A job applicant, “Tegan”, posted a video YouTube that demonstrated her passion for the job, going so far as to get a tattoo of Queensland on her shoulder. She also started a blog to demonstrate her passion, linked to a PayPal account in an effort to raise money to fund her job application. Another boost in coverage for the campaign. What followed has cast an enormous shadow over the entire campaign.

It has since been discovered by Marketing and Digital Media Blog Mumbrella that “Tegan” was in fact an employee of the advertising agency behind the campaign, and that she was asked to act “like a Big-Brother video application”.

“I thought it would be so obvious that it was fake, but I guess some people still fell for it including the lazy journalists who had nothing better to write about” said “Tegan”, also known as Cummins Nitro employee Rhiannon Craig.

Since then, another Australian campaign has been outed as a fake. It’s the story of “Heidi Clarke”, a girl who met a guy in a cafe, made some small talk and went their separate ways. He left his jacket behind, so “Heidi Clarke” created a YouTube video where she claimed “love at first sight”, and wanted to return a jacket he left at the cafe. The Australian media wanted to know – where was this man?

The “Today Show” had “Heidi Clarke” on as a guest. Smelling a fake, they asked her to look down the barrel of the camera and vow that it was genuine. She confirmed on national TV that it was. Since then, again, “Heide Clarke” has been outed as a fake, a woman hired by Naked Communications to promote a range of clothing for a major Australian retailer.

These examples of dishonest communications practices have brought to the fore the “Honesty ROI”, the code of conduct developed by the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

The “Honesty ROI” has three key pillars: Honesty of Relationship, Honesty of Opinion and Honesty of Identity.

Honesty of Relationship:
Don’t shill (get your friends to represent you)
Don’t go undercover
Comply with cultural norms and regulations

Most pertinent to these cases,

“When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product which might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience) such connection must be fully disclosed.”

Honesty of Opinion:
Your opinion is your opinion;
Feel free to share it, but please:
Provide facts / links / proof points
Don’t misrepresent

Honesty of Identity
Kids can play dress up and have make believe friends; we can’t
Please practice full disclosure

Again, relevance to these cases are best described by the guideline:

“Campaign organizers should monitor and enforce disclosure of identity. Manner of disclosure can be flexible, based on the context of the communication. Explicit disclosure is not required for an obviously fictional character, but would be required for an artificial identity or corporate representative that could be mistaken for an average consumer”.

The organisations behind these campaigns (and the broader Australian marketing and communications industry) cannot be lulled into the false economy of measuring column inches and hits as the ultimate measure of campaign success. As I would say in this such campaign measurement, H.I.T.S. are How Idiots Track Success.

Tourism Queensland CEO Anthony Hayes has since admitted: “The simple answer is that we messed up”. PR isn’t about column inches, it’s about authenticity, trust and believable, honest communications across integrated channels. TQ may have won the column inches battle, but they lost the trust war; that’s what counts. Now, people aren’t sure whether any element of the campaign was real, or whether it was all an elaborate hoax, whether any of the positive claims made by TQ are believable. The public had their awareness raised, and their trust shattered. I think it’s a real shame for TQ. As for the Naked Communications campaign for the undisclosed Australian retailer, there has been no upside.

A lesson in honesty, opinion and identity – hopefully just growing pains for a burgeoning Australian digital media industry, not the sign of things to come.