Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is @Dove soap really so engaging?

Television commercials that "work" all do the same thing: connect with the audience. It's a matter of timing, content and context that, when swirled together in all the right ways, can make magic. 

Entertaining. Intriguing. Powerful. Beautiful. These are four characteristics that Adweek looks for when collating their best commercials of the year. Not all winners hit on each characteristic, but all are certainly emotionally charged. Because in order to connect, we need to be human and not a brand. 

Dove's sketches of real women is a great example of a brand who quite literally puts a face on their latest marketing campaign. The new video, which currently has 27+million video views, was the creative concept of  Ogilvy & Mather Brazil. Recently, the video made it's way to the top of the AdAge Digital viral video charts; because it tackles a critical social issue in a sensitive and moving fashion, but also because the campaign is integrated across all channels; tv commercials, print ads, social & digital media --- all telling the same cohesive story. That makes it powerful

When you click on the YouTube and start to watch the video, you will quickly notice that simplicity is the theme here. It's simple, yet instantly entertaining. The forensic artist who introduces the concept, the voice-over, the bare studio space, the sheer curtains and sparse furniture in the room and the quiet, humble voices of the 7 featured women...these elements tell a beautiful story without actually shouting it out loud.

Then take another look through the social/digital lens. Dive in and explore #wearebeautiful. Maybe do a Google search. Check out the Dove Facebook page. Read all the comments from the supporters of this quiet, yet mighty cause. Also be sure to check out the naysayers and their curated content around this campaign. It's true that no news is bad news for a brand, and this campaign is benefitting from it all. The more you look, the more intriguing it becomes. This is especially fascinating because the message is so simple yet really is making people think, react, connect in real, authentic, moving ways. All without a hard sell for soap, too. Well done Dove. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Forget seasonal affective disorder, be on the lookout for Facebook depression.

The sun is out, finally, but the chill is still in the air. You know what that means? Seasonal affective disorder continues to have it's unwelcome grip on most midwesterners as we anxiously await a more hospitable outdoor climate so we can resume an active lifestyle and heed off the winter blues.

But is seasonal affective disorder (SAD) really at fault for all our otherwise gloomy spirits or is there something else brewing? Not everyone lives in seasonal-restrictive climates that have us holed up for months at a time. But nearly everyone (I know) uses social media in one form or another. Probably the most popular of all is Facebook. Enter an era of Facebook depression.

Facebook depression is something that started gaining attention after cyber-bullying made headline news but dare I suggest it's really something that has existed well before the most ubiquitous social platform every took to total world domination. Because it's not just bullying that's causing some rather unhappy feelings via social content. It's jealousy, coveting thy neighbor and regular old greed; the emotions are the same but the channel is new.

Back in January 2011, Ph.D. student at Stanford Alex Jordan authored a paper in the January issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and drew some bold conclusions about Facebook behavior to what famous philosopher and social commentator Montesquieu
wrote over 250 years ago about the human condition:

"If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are."

Simply put, social media can make us sad. 

Click here to read the original story by Libby Copeland of Slate. She makes a compelling statement about why Facebook may be the next SAD. She even calls Facebook the "anti-social network." Click here if you want even more detail and data into the psychology of how social media is changing the perceptions of ourselves, our world and each other. (It's an article in Insight Magazine by Sherry Thomas and it's quite impressive. Very well done.)

Copeland's article made me think that maybe the inability to be happy for others is really -- the root cause of and the solution to -- all the woes of using social for both people and brands. Watching our friends post about their vacations to exotic places, reading Tweets about cool & exciting new adventures and looking at images of purchases, places and people that we are not experiencing makes us feel like failures more than allows us to celebrate for others. Conversely, social media has the ability to draw us together around collective issues or causes and has power to affect real and reaching global change like Ellen's cyberbullying campaigns or how the social web supports national breast cancer awareness month in their own ways or how TOMS shoes uses social media to change the world one step at a time. (That's the part I adore.)

For brands, it's a bit different, but not altogether. Instead of getting jealous of what another brand is doing (that happens all the time, so don't be fooled) brands measure their own marketing success by comparing fans.

Recently social media research company Syncapse published a study that proclaimed a Facebook fan is worth $174, an estimate up from 28% in 2010; illustrating growing reasons for brands to be jealous of other brands who are able to collect more fans. And we all know that the collecting of fans can be a very expensive endeavor. Just ask SocialCode, another internet research firm that published findings in 2011 that seem to indicate that fans are 291% more likely to engage with a brand than non-fans, but that the true value of a fan can be calculated using a cost per click formula; roughly estimating that the real value of a Facebook fan is only $10.

That's a lot of data and I don't want to confuse you. My point is this: social media is not a replacement for real life. It's terrific, but it's not a replacement.

Just like life, social media is far too expensive and complicated and fraught with errors to waste too much energy trying to figure out who your real friends are and who can simply be bought.

The relationships, the experiences and the real conversations are where it's at. IMHO, this is true for both brands and people. Because guess what? A brand's social media is people. And customers? They are people, too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

What the World Needs Most

What the world needs most, turns out, is not social media. It's love, after all.

In times of turmoil, it's easy to stay glued to the tv. Add social media to the mix and addictive human behavior grows like mold on bread. It's not pretty, it's not good for you and it seeps from one to the next until the whole loaf is hurting.

This last week brought natural acts of devastation across the globe, unthinkable cowardly terrorist activity at the Boston Marathon, another first responder tale of heroism and tragedy in Texas and more, that generally left humanity feeling a little beaten and achy, as a group. 

Disconnect and reconnect, experts are saying and that's sage advice. It's about taking a step back away from ubiquitous media and a giant leap toward connecting with people you love in real authentic ways.

It's not as easy as it sounds, though, especially for those of us that use social in our everyday jobs. Here are just a few tips I'm trying to live. Let me know what helps you keep aware, balanced and most of all happy.

  • Use social to take a break, instead of vice versa. Catching up on your Facebook stream, watching a viral video, pinning a few pins can give you a break from reality while the news is blasting bad stuff that keeps us up at night. Cute kitty images may help, but only in small doses. 
  • Use social media to find details, but realize it's not all facts. Look for answers for specific questions, like recipes, formulas, research but travel lightly when it comes to second hand information or live social coverage. 
  • Continue to use social media for professional networking. Google+, Linkedin, and professional online groups  are great to stay connected in small, quick and easy ways. But nothing replaces face to face relationships. 
  • Stay part of the group through social media, but also try to join a real life group to connect the two. There is a collective sense of achievement, improved morale, and commitment that can flourish across social media channels like no other place. Instilling productivity, happier employees and bridging globally displaced friends and family can be accomplished via social media; in real channels that offer real opportunities to stay connected. 

  • Abuse social media or use it as your main form of communication. Too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing.  Staying glued to the television is okay once in a while; like taking a personal day or spending the entire day napping. Staying glued to the TV with your iPhone, iPad and laptop open only makes it worse. Shut it all down and force yourself to totally disconnect. It will make your connected time even more fulfilling. 
  • Let social media bog you down; easier said than done, but it's the truth. Too much concentration on always staying on the up and up is a game that will defeat you. The internet is always on. Social media never sleeps. You need to sleep. Maintain a balance and search for peace when it comes to social media.  
  • Let social media blur the lines between the real and the surreal. Your real life needs more attention than anything going on online; so pay attention to the fact that what happens on the internet should stay on the internet, as much as humanly possible. If you find yourself starting all your real life sentences with the following phrase, you may want to consider checking yourself: "On the internet, it said..." 
  • Blend too much pleasure with work, when it comes to social media channels. This one is an easy one if you really remain true to who you are (which is what I recommend for all your social media channels, by the way) Here is an easy way to determine your real-to-social life relationship: Does your boss follow you on Twitter? Are you okay with that? You should be or you should change your strategy. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Real Reason Gloria Cares

It's easy to sit back and pen a note about Kim Kardashian's weight gain. It's just baby weight gain. In a matter of months, she will be back to her lovely old self and we will be talking about something new.

For some though, there will not be something new. 

For Rehtaeh Parsons and Audrie Pott, there will be no new days, new feelings and new stories because they both committed suicide after being raped, cyber-bullied and cyber-raped shamed. Like Kim Kardashian, their bodies and their sexuality were the heart of the story. Unlike Kim, they wanted no part in it and ultimately could not handle it all. As unfair as it sounds to compare these stories, the issue is the same; we remain an image-obsessed culture that undervalues women as a group and a woman's body as her own.

In a horrific new trend being called "Viral Rape Shame," alleged victims of sexual assault are hassled and bullied via social media when images and videos of their attack are shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels.

The real reason Gloria Steinem defended Kim Kardashian's pregnancy weight gain debacle is not because Gloria is a fan of Kim's tabloid trash ways, but because Gloria is an ambassador for change for women across the globe. Gloria is indeed, a woman like no other, who among many things has fought for the world to recognize that a women's body is off-limits until she decides otherwise.

So sure, Kim can decide when and wear to bare it all and how to flaunt it and shake it and whatever else she wants to do. But the minute someone else decides for her is the minute something has gone horribly wrong.

It's all relative, of course, because not one single thing in Kim Kardashian's life has really gone all that terribly wrong.

The rest of us, or at least the majority of women that Gloria fights daily for, have endured our fair share of shame, doubt, harassment and more. And some of us will pay the ultimate price. So that's why Gloria defends Kim. Because she is a pillar for change, no matter the circumstance. Rape as a tool in war? She fights that. Pregnancy fat-shaming? She hates that. Unequal pay in corporate America? She has lived that. Suicide rates among depressed teenage girls? It breaks her heart. And it all stems from the same place; a place where women's bodies are being manipulated against us to keep us from the greatness that we should aspire as a group. It's all about intimidation and sometimes it turns deadly.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why Social Media Cares About Kim Kardashian's Weight Gain

It's not that people are making fun of Kim Kardashian and her healthy pregnancy weight gain. It's that people don't believe any of it is true.

Thanks to social media, Kim has become a media force to reckon with. She is unbelievably powerful because people have paid attention to her during a cultural era where a person's attention is the ultimate commerce. For one reason or another, generally speaking, people are interested in what she is doing at any given time. In doing so, the notoriously famous-for-doing-nothing family has grown very successful. It may have all started with a sex tape, but somewhere along the way, her torrid affairs turned into a story worth turning in for.

And that "somehwere along the way" is simply one place: social media.

Social media has made it easy for Kim to pump out content in quick and real ways. Social media has allowed this pretty girl to post more images, behind-the-scene photo's and images of her own behind than ever thought possible. And then, somewhere along the way, all her stories started turning into planned media opportunities. All the rich believable exclusive content turned into one paid endorsement after another. It quickly got the point where she didn't have a point and all people knew was that she got paid. To do anything.

And then she was pregnant.

Why would her carefully crafted rules for social engagement change just because her body is changing? Why should her fans (both positive and negative) all of a sudden have to cover up their feelings when she can't even seem to cover up her swollen belly? Then, of course, there are other questions that need to be asked.  Is she getting paid to gain weight? Will she get paid to lose it? Did she get paid to have a baby? Will she get paid to abuse that privilege? These are all valid questions from an audience who spent so much of their valuable time to support her popularity in the first place. To act like these ideas can thrive separately is not fair.

Kim Kardashian makes money off her actions; including regular old actions like going to the gym or shopping for toothpaste or extraordinary actions like having a baby.

For my longtime feminist hero, Gloria Steinem to say that our bodies are never public property is not fair IN THE CASE either. Kim Kardashian has treated her body -- and all female bodies  -- in a way that damages and belittle women as a group. To ignore that is ignorant. And furthermore, for Gloria to say that it's not acceptable to shame a woman when she's pregnant is not acceptable IN THIS CASE. Kim decided to shame herself when she filed the sex tape and quite frankly, when she wore these see-through pants.

The real people hurt in this is not the celebrity who will be paid to gain and paid to lose. It will be the new mom who doesn't have the always-on support system to help her through those moments of panic and anxiety that are sure to come. It will be the mom who berets herself for not gaining enough, gaining too much and otherwise not being happy with her pre-, post- and during pregnancy body. It will be the working mom who returns to work before her body is ready and it will be the stay at home mom who needs more emotional support as she battles to find her own identity. It will be women everywhere that question if they should do it, can do it or even want to do it. This mostly affects the regular women who do something extraordinary every day. For those reasons, I agree with Gloria. As a group, women need to do a better job of supporting each other.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The ultimate customer service? Ahhh, the spa, of course.

I just came back from a spring break trip to the spa. It was divine. From the time I pulled the brass handle of the door open to the first foot out of the door 4 hours later, I was in customer service heaven. No surprise to anyone who has ever visited a day spa, the entire experience is built around pampering the paying customer to no end. In a world bent on cracking the code to perfect UX and even more perfect customer service, we need not look any further than our local four or five-star spa. 

It's obviously not something I do every day or even every month, but once a year, I try to set aside time and funds to enjoy a little ultimate spa experience. 

For this trip, I traveled to the Lone Star state to visit the Trellis Spa at the Houstonian; which proved to be both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time, thanks in part to all it's Southern hospitality and larger than life amenities.

Probably my favorite spa is the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, which can only be described in one word; sublime. I visited Grove Park Inn for a maternity massage a few years back and would love to go back and compare the before and after experience. I'm positive it would be delightful. 

And that's the main point here. Customer service can get no better than what we have come to expect at a world-class spa. In a world where both marketers and consumers alike are constantly searching for the next best "surprise and delight" campaign, website, app or store, the spa experience has this baked into the very DNA of what it offers; day in, day out. A key difference between great customer service at a spa compared to great customer service at a regular non-spa business is that greatness is expected at a spa more readily and the same level of superior customer service would be out of place under normal circumstances. Which is quite a conundrum for brands and businesses who claim to put the customer first. 

Sitting at the Houstonian wrapped in a warmed white cotton robe, with fresh muscles and minted cucumber peels on my eyes, I thought about this and came up with four reasons why the spa customer service experience is so difficult to replicate in real life/real business. 

1. It would be too expensive for the business to operate. 
Seriously, one attendant is assigned per visit. They are never rushed. They always smile. They give you  nourishment, beverage, luxurious amenities and above all else, undivided attention. They attend to your every need and if you have a need outside their abilities, they have the ability to convince you that it's not such a need after all. 

2. It would be too expensive for the general consumer to consume in a regular manner. 
I paid more than $300 for two services and spent less than 4 hours in the spa total. I'm happy to be able to do that every once in a while, but would feel quite a bit less fortunate if those same resources would be required for a random jaunt to the mall or quick afternoon out with the girls. 

3. The exclusivity of it all would vanish. 
Let's face it. We are all human. We have expectations but we certainly love surprises. In fact, we seek out adventure in all forms. So if there is no surprise in it all, likely we would become bored and move on. 

4. The spa customer service model is built on a very niche experience and targeting a very pin-pointed audience. If the spa experience also had to accommodate other audience members (think children, pets, angry republicans and men, for instance) likely it would change. I'm kind of teasing here, but it's safe to say that  for the most part, women visit spa's as a group.

The one last characteristic of a spa experience that I can't help but include is the experience from the perspective of the spa & it's staff. There is a code of order, for certain. Consumers pay to relax, so the bottom line is that they WANT to relax. They elect to leave their iPhones in the locker room. They coordinate time away from the office, the kids and daily stress. 

The ultimate goal of a spa is to encourage the deepest form of relaxation, and that's something very precious in our busy, competitive world. The act of relaxing is so very vulnerable and spa staff seem to really understand that. They are trained and paid to aid people in accepting the very best of customer service. In turn, they expect customers to hand over a little of their daily control issues, their anxiety and their trust that they will provide stellar service. Integrity, trust, intimacy and personal comfort are elements that often difficult to find in regular customer service models that aim to deliver products and services in the fastest, most affordable, most convenient manner; sometimes without any human to human interaction at all. 

Daily conveniences require their own supporting customer service models, trust me, I get it. But if you want to experience extraordinary customer service, put your tablet down and head to your nearest spa.