More social media “hype”

No time to share much Genius today… too much excitement around the TechCrunch article highlighting Viximo‘s turnkey virtual goods solution as a “massive monetization opportunity” and the growing excitement around the launch of our first iPhone apps.

But I couldn’t resist sharing some fresh data in support of all the recent “social media hype”.

And so… at the risk of further alienating the readers who told me “social media is a crock” earlier this month, called me “warped,” and threatened to bite me (you KNOW who you are!)… I present you with these tasty nuggets:

  • 3/4 of US online adults now use social tools to connect with each other (compared with just 56% in 2007). On average, they spend one hour per week using these tools; however, 19% [and growing] are averaging 7 HOURS PER WEEK. [source: Forrester Research, October 2008]
  • 75% of Fortune 1000 companies with Web sites will have undertaken some kind of online social-networking initiative for marketing or customer relations purposes in the next year. [source: Gartner, October 2008]

But don’t take it from me, take a peek at Shiv Singh‘s (former colleague and current VP, Social Media, Razorfish) presentation deck from the recent Publisher’s Summit, which dives deeper into what marketers should know as the social media landscape shifts [and evolves!] around them.

When you’re done with that, hop over to Pete Kim’s blog (also a former colleague from Razorfish. Coincidence???) where he’s curating The Mother of All Lists of corporate SMM efforts (not to be confused with corporate S&M efforts. That’s a different blog). I suspect that curating this list will become a full-time job for a team of many in the not-too-distant future.

But then, I’ve been drinking “seriously poisoned Kool-Aid.” Ahem.

If you’ve arrived here quite by accident and are feeling cold, confused, and alone, I might suggest you start at the beginning—with a quickie tutorial on just what the f*ck this whole social media thing is (brought to you by Yours Truly).

Or, you could continue to bury your head in the sand. Your choice, tots!

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Bloody brilliant!

I’m not a big fan of serial killers—or TV shows that glorify them—but I can & do appreciate a guerrilla marketing campaign that’s totally killer ;). And this one is.

Brought to you by the same Geniuses who used custom-made fountains spitting fake blood to promote last season’s Dexter premier, this display of Dexter-ous marketing featured fake “pop-up” newsstands (in high-traffic spots like Central Park, outside LA’s Kodak Theater, and San Francisco’s Union square) filled with mock issues of major mags like GQ, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker, all featuring Dexter, of course, as the cover Babe, and clever headlines like “Killer Tips” and “He’s Got a Way With Murder”.

To complete the blood-curdling experience, each newsstand carried snacks exclusively wrapped in—what else?—blood-red packaging.

Clever? Yes. But did this [literally] outside-the-box campaign yield equally noticeable results?

Apparently so. Media Bistro reports that the ratings for the show’s season premiere were up 21% over last year’s—making it the most-watched premiere of a drama on the network since 2004.

In a world of media-and-advertising-oversaturation, I’d say that’s a bloody good outcome!

You’d. Better. VOTE (for Obama)!!!!!!!

I just finished reading GOOD Magazine’s Election Issue, in which they present “1565 Reasons to Vote”—a clever, compelling, and reasonably unbiased look at the excuses people make for not voting—and the CRUCIAL importance of bucking that trend on November 4, 2008.

Generous Genius that I am, I thought I’d share a few highlights…

Reason 101:
20% of NYU students polled recently said they’d give up their right to vote in 2008 for an iPod Touch. A f**king iPod Touch.

Reason 784:
You voted for Prom Queen in high school. Ditto season 2 of American Idol.

Reason 963:
Your polling place is really easy to find: vote411.org

[Not to harp on American Idol, but…] Reason 1281:
Because it’s a slightly more important vote than the next American Idol.

Reason 1283:
Former musician and full-time Whack Job Ted Nugent recently penned a “Teditorial” titled “Sarah Palin is My Girl.” Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

Reason 1544:
“Not because it’s cool, because it’s not. You know what’s cool? Smoking. Smoke while you vote.” – Jon Stewart

Reason 1524:
The average white man born in 1936 had a life expectancy of 58 years. John McCain was born in 1936. Um… he’s 72.

Reason 1559:
The seemingly important choices you make on other days in November—should I have more turkey?—are pretty trite by comparison.

And my mostest favoritest reason of all, brought to you by none other than Oscar the Grouch:

“Vote for the things you believe in—like trash, the freedom to stink and the unalienable right to annoy people!”

YEAH!

Kidding aside, THE ONLY LEGITIMATE EXCUSE ANY ELIGIBLE AMERICAN SHOULD HAVE FOR NOT VOTING IN THIS YEAR’S MUY IMPORTANTE ELECTION IS, “I WAS DEAD.” !!!!!!!

Even giving birth on election day is not a legitimate excuse, sorry. After all, you could drop by the polling place during early labor or vote by absentee ballot. Right?

Seriously, people. Have you seen what’s going on out there?

There’s this:

And this:

And don’t even get me started on issues like education, health care, or the environment.

I’ll be blunt: The Bush Administration has f**ked this country and good. Undeniably the worst president in US history, Dubs is living proof that idiots and “mavericks” shouldn’t run the country. His legacy in office has brought our economy, our environment, our educational system, our freedom, and our future TO ITS KNEES.

Please, oh, please don’t sit on your hiney next month and let the dumb-dumbs that are afraid of a black man taking the Oval Office perpetuate the same self-serving, misguided, irresponsible decision-making that has gotten us into this mess.

It’s time for change. BIG, REAL change. Change for the better.

It’s time for us ALL to vote for Barack Obama.

I’ll complete my resounding endorsement for Obama by sharing a quote from author Michael Pollan that I think quite eloquently states the situation we are in—and the most compelling reason for you to vote for Obama on November 4th:

“Over the past eight years, the government has taken steps to radically curtail our liberties and erode some of the bedrock principles of our republic—from undermining habeas corpus to conducting torture in our name. To decline to vote is to tacitly accept the administration’s redefinition of the republic; to vote for a new government this fall is to reject the project and, we can hope, begin to roll it back.”

See you at the polls.

You want me to blog about you? Okay, sure.

In response to the weekly deluge of soft (and sometimes hard) product pitches that the Genius has been receiving lately, I’ve decided to once again whore myself out for the Greater Good. No, not the old fashioned way, dirtball.

What I mean is this:

Rather than saying “no” to virtually every request I get to “review” a product or “comment” on a brand, I am going to start saying yes, effective immediately, to those products/services/brands that agree to donate $100 to Doctors Without Borders (one of my most beloved nonprofit organizations).

I’m calling it the “Blog About Me” Program (clever, no?)

Why would a company pay $100 to have me blog about them?

ARE YOU KIDDING????

One blogger can reach more people with one post than the weekend edition of USA Today.

Now I’m not claiming to be more influential than USA Today, but, as I’ve pointed out previously… I’m kind of a big deal. People know me. My apartment smells of rich mahogany… and I have many leather-bound books.

Ok, but seriously. The Network Effect is HUGE.

According to LinkedIn, I’m connected to nearly 6,000,000. And while they don’t all read my blog, a good number do. Add in my connections on Twitter and Facebook (the other 2 social media tools that I use most frequently), and you’ve got access to virtually everyone on the planet. Even Kevin Bacon ;).

So what exactly does that $100 “buy” you?

Doctors Without Borders says that $100 buys infection-fighting antibiotics to treat nearly 40 wounded children. Or vaccinations for 100 people against meningitis, measles, polio, or other deadly epidemics.  Or two high-energy meals a day for nearly 500 children.

And that same $100 guarantees that I will spend time getting to know your product/company, and then… I’ll blog about it. I’ll Tweet about it. I’ll share it with my friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I might even send out a good ole fashioned email, if that sort of ‘old school’ communication is warranted.

In other words, $100 ensures that conversations will be started. They’ll travel. And in the meantime, you’ll be making a tax-deductible contribution to an extremely worthy cause.

Geez, when I put it that way, $100 seems like a go**amn bargain! Sign me up >>

A Few Words of Warning & One Disclaimer
Sorry, the lawyers insisted.

1. Lest there be any concerns about my profiting from this activity, I’ve set up the whole ‘donation thing’ via Firstgiving.com. The money you donate goes straight from your bank account to theirs. At the conclusion of this program, Firstgiving will send a check for 100% of the proceeds minus a nominal transaction processing fee, directly to each organization. Read more about Firstgiving here.

2. Lest there be any concerns about my objectivity in reviewing your product/service etc, allow me to assure you: I WON’T BE. This aint Consumer Reports, people, this is The Secret Diary of a Bonafide Marketing Genius. I tell it like I see it. If your product sucks, I’ll say so. Which leads me to my next point…

3. If your product sucks, I suggest you improve it before sending it my way. I will be merciless. I will poke fun. I promise. On the other hand, if your product kicks a**, I will sing its praises. Either way, the only thing I can promise you for sure is that I. Will. Be. Relentless. Either way, you will SO get your money’s worth.

4. The opinions expressed on this blog are SOLELY THE GENIUS’. They do not reflect those of my clients, colleagues, employers, relatives, friends, neighbors, or state/federal representatives. At least not as far as I know.

And now… let the whoring begin!

Why Traditional Advertising is Kinda F**ked (and what we should do about it!)

Attention brands, business owners, advertising agencies, and media peeps!!!!

I have some bad news. And it’s not about the financial markets, the election, or your expanding waistline. Nope—it’s far, far worse.

Are you sitting down? Good. Here it comes…

TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING IS IN A DEATH SPIRAL.

That’s right. DEATH SPIRAL.

Now before you freak and jump out a window (or worse—post nasty anonymous comments in reply to this statement), allow me to explain. And yes, to propose a solution… I am a Genius, after all.

Traditional Advertising’s “Death Spiral” can be attributed to 3 recent phenomena:
1.    Clutter
2.    Trust
3.    Social media

Let’s talk.

Clutter
I don’t know about you, but I hate clutter.

A little bit of nice, clean white space feels so much better.

If traditional ads were spaced like these last few paragraphs, they might actually WORK.

We might actually even ENJOY them.

But instead… most ads are more like this:
piledandsquishedrightontopofoneanothersothatwehardlyhaveachancetotakeabreath
letaloneprocessanyinformationordecodeanyoftheproductmysteriesorevaluatewhat
makesthembetterfastermoreeasiernewerDIFFERENTERorinanywaynecessarytoour
existenceonthisincreasinglyoverpopulatedplanet
GASPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!

Clear as mud? ☺

The worst part is that the Clutter Problem is escalating at a DEATH-SPIRAL-INDUCING rate.

Consider this:
In 1998 Google had an index of 25M pages. As of this summer, its index had hit the mind-blowing milestone of 1 TRILLION UNIQUE URLs.

A F**KING TRILLION!!!!!

Still more to consider:

There are >100,000,000 videos on YouTube.com—with >65k new ones being added DAILY.

In 2005 (most recent data I could find), there were roughly 40 BILLION product catalogs published. That’s equal to 134 catalogs for every man, woman & child in the US.

Yes, folks, the average person is exposed to some 3000 marketing messages per day… but the American Association of Advertising Agencies says we’re only able to absorb (at most!) 100.

And let’s face it, that’s probably an inflated number.

PS. 90% of people who can skip ads, do.

Yes, but most of those messages are crap. What matters is good creative. Killer copy. Pretty women with big boobs wiggling around to a HAWT soundtrack.

Ok… NO. Neither creative nor copy nor boobs—nor any combination of the three—are likely to solve the clutter problem. Besides… you’ve got 2 more hefty problems to solve.

Trust
“Lets talk about trust baby, let’s talk about you & me…”

People don’t trust advertisers. Period.

You know it. I know it. Let’s call a spade a spade and move on. But in case you’re still skeptical (or just plain crazy), here’s proof:

“In a 1998 Gallup poll rating honesty and ethical standards across a range of professions, advertising people ended up near the bottom, sandwiched between lawyers and car salesmen.”

SANDWICHED BETWEEN LAWYERS AND CAR SALESMEN, people!!!!! And perhaps, if we were to redo this poll today, they might change those to “Politicians and Pimps” (both of whom are better-dressed, frankly-speaking).

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the trust that most consumers have in the opinions of other consumers.

“‘Word-of-mouth’ the most powerful selling tool…78% of consumers say they trust the recommendation of other consumers.” – Nielsen, Trust in Advertising, 2007 Global Consumer Survey Report.

And the trend is particularly true among younger consumers—namely, the ¼ of the US population (ONE F**KING FOURTH!) who are 14-24yo and were born wired.

Raised in a time where “SPAM” and “COOKIE” don’t automatically conjure images of food, today’s youth LIVES and BREATHES online:

  • They spend >16 hours online/week (online > TV)
  • 56% spend >1 hour daily sending instant messages
  • ¼ prefer social networks to F2F time with friends
  • Have an average of 53 online friends (vs. 11 “close” friends)
  • 96% use a social network DAILY

And they don’t care about your ad, people. They care what their friends think.

Trust me. 😉

Social media
Ah… every traditional advertiser’s favorite topic! YAY! Let’s hug.

Seriously, now—it’s common knowledge that people don’t like intrusive, one-way conversations. What is traditional advertising but an intrusive, one-way conversation?

The paradigm is shifting. Fast. Hard.

Ahh… The Solution!

Should we make the logo bigger?

Craft a catchy new tag line?

More girls? Bigger boobs?

No, no, no, no, NO!

Traditional Advertising’s Terminal Illness (aka Death Spiral) shall not be cured by a larger helping of the Same Old Shi*t. You’re going to have think different. Act different. BE DIFFERENT.

REALLY DIFFERENT.

Start by shifting your focus more on branding and less on advertising. Yes, branding. That magical je ne sais quoi that ultimately results in the feelings/thoughts/attitudes that people have about your product/service/company.

You mean our tagline?
No.
Our logo?
No.
The killer copy on our website?
No.
…..Our tagline?
No.
Are you sure?
Yes.

Your brand isn’t what you say your company/product/service is. It’s what THEY say it is.

Branding isn’t advertising.

In fact, it’s more like… your child. You can’t control it (though it’s natural to want to try)… but you can [and should] certainly influence it, enable it, embrace it, and inspire it.

Start by listening. Really listening. No, REALLY listening.

There. Doesn’t that feel better already?