They say dog is man’s best friend. Sure, Fido can fetch your slippers and lick your face in the morning, but so could many of the Kardashian sisters. Even Lassie can’t find Justin Beiber’s favorite color, your weight on Mars, and the best mochachino in Islamabad. For the truly inane and random, you turn to that faithful Google search box. Like a forlorn lover, Google feels you’ve taken this relationship for granted long enough. Instead of taking a fistful of pills to get your attention, Google’s search got a sexy makeover. You’ve probably noticed this new coat of mascara in the form of ‘Google Instant’. ‘Instant’ pre-loads your search results as you type. It’s a neat trick that’s just sexy enough to re-ignite the flames of passion. That is, until you discover its dark, manipulative soul. Google Instant is the Russian mail-order bride of search, a brilliant business move steeped in ulterior motives and glorious lessons.
Why am I writing about Twitter at midnight? Even Ashton Kutcher is icing his iThumb at this hour. I’m chasing a brainstorm for my keynote at New Media Expo/Blogworld on Sunday. My talk is about the future of social currencies and the new economics of work. Since launching several successful loyalty services at MasterCard and American Express, I’ve been obsessed with deconstructing what motivates us. That’s why social media and gamification are so amusing to me. They’re a shiny new set of controls that can change – or exploit human behavior. But before drunkenly commandeering The USS Twitter, it’s best to first meet its passengers. Like my 15 Faces of Facebook article last year, here is a deconstruction of Twitter – what it is, who uses it, and what motivates them. In future articles, I’ll go deeper into tools to change both customer and employee behavior.
Registered users will get the detailed infographic here (to be posted on 1/11)
Yesterday, I had the displeasure of meeting someone at Pret-a-Manger, a thriving chain featuring something resembling food – from the 1950′s. I live in New York, which offers an astounding number of food options from McDonald’s to fresh bagels to pizza to Mexican. So I was shocked that this Frankenrestaurant was not a laundromat or a hospice by now. As I negotiated peace with my furious stomach, I came to some surprising conclusions about local marketing…and life.
So what’s my problem with Pret-a-Manger? The food isn’t even remotely fresh. They don’t even try to fake a culinary orgasm. Let’s start by introducing you to their chef: the refrigerator. I call him Fridgy. Fridgy makes every sandwich cold, pre-packaged and hours (months?) in advance from some undisclosed military installation. Prisons…and 7/11…have fresher-looking food. Have you ever bitten into a cold baguette? I hope you have amazing dental work. All the flavors blend into one meta-flavor – cold. The only thing left is texture – hard…soft…mushy…and, ouch!
Just got this confidentially from a friend working on this project for the US Post Office… Unreal!
—– Forwarded Message —–
Sent: Wednesday, Jan 15, 2012 4:54 PM
Subject: Proposal: New Post Office Business Model – Go Postal!
As I baked muffins to celebrate Facebook’s IPO, it occurred to me that there’s one HUGE, unspoken difference between the data people reveal to Facebook and what Google collects through search and other tools. It’s this: Facebook knows the image you want to project to the world – your “social resume”. Beautiful vacation photos; that perfect profile photo you Photoshopped so much that your nose is part puma, part Joan Rivers; and those photos of you surrounded by hot girls that lets the world (and Facebook) know that your party never stops.
Well, Google knows your dark, ugly, dirty truths. Your transcribed Google Voice messages reveal you argued nonstop on that island vacation as your kids yelled, “I hate you!” in the background. Your search history shows all your liposuction research, as your Photoshop bills skyrocket. Several of your eHarmony dates have jumped through glass storefronts to escape your shocking, incongruous looks. Google also knows where you’ve been – HOME!!! Your Android phone tattles like a four year old bribed with brownies. It reports your every move and it knows you’ve barely moved. You haven’t been invited to a hot party since October ’09, when you made your one friend wait two hours as you caked on makeup, trying to look your very beast…I mean ‘best’, before leaving the house.
What I’m saying is – you have two lives. The pretty, inauthentic one you construct on Facebook and the one where Mistress Sally from Craigslist walks on your face with stilettos wrapped in bacon. (Don’t ask…I just write whatever my imagination conjures.) Point is, that disparity creates a very different value proposition for the two companies. As Google mines your dark side, Facebook scrapes away at your veneer to get to it.
I recently saw a post on the TED web site posing the question, “Can advertising be a force for good?” Here’s my response:
What a nonsensical question! Advertising is a vehicle for transporting messages. It’s not inherently good or evil. It conveys the desires, values and motivations of the payer (client). Is every client good? I’m always amused when people try to spin their chosen professions as altruistic. Advertising is what it is – something you do for client money. (It’s no different than consulting, something I’m all too familiar with.)
One thing to keep in mind – advertising produces nothing. It is the means, not the end, so it has no intrinsic demand, like Kit Kats or even Sea Monkeys. It exists to create demand and awareness for something else. If someone truly creative didn’t produce the products themselves, no one would be rioting on Madison Avenue demanding advertising – or even know they were missing it.
To take it a step further, most people expend a good amount of effort avoiding advertising – throwing out magazine inserts, skipping DVR ads, using browser ad blockers. So by definition, if most see blocking as good, then is the thing you’re trying to block “bad”?
As a journalism student at NYU, I remember my immigrant dad interrogating me suspiciously about a profession he couldn’t possibly understand. He asked me the kinds of questions you’d expect from an engineer who just risked everything to drag his family out of the Soviet Union. “How will you make money?” he’d ask in his thick Russian accent. “What kind of (stupid) job is writing?” He would have been more proud if I majored in mink skinning or Zamboni maintenance. Slowly, he chipped away at me until I gave up my journalistic dream. For the past 10 years, it seemed like my dad’s fresh-off-the-boat wisdom paid off. I was having a successful career in business while the field of paid journalism looked like Courtney Love circa 5 a.m. – a hot mess.
- Define yourself. What are you? Are you Mexican, American, Middle Eastern, sandwiches? No one knows. You’re trying to be all things to all people. Stop.
- You have too many menu items. It’s impossible to do 90% of them well. Pick a cuisine, then get rid of everything that doesn’t fit. Have you seen a Chipotle menu? Simple.
- Your prices are too high, lower them. You’re a tiny take-out joint. Act like one.
- Change your name. There is no such thing as a blue food and no one describes food as “cool”. Fresh, delicious, spicy, savory, not “cool” and definitely not “blue”. Plus your awful premise for a restaurant badly needs to be forgotten as quickly as possible.
I’ve had a Facebook account since early 2007, but resisted its advances like catcalls from drunken sailors. My first few friend requests didn’t exactly inspire hope – random co-workers, curious exes, and forgotten classmates . What kind of voyeuristic, Orwellian nightmare was this?? And, why were my ‘friends’ so damn old and frumpy?!? Where were the celebrities, billionaires, and supermodels? Was I not the youthful, gregarious intellectual I thought I was? Surely, this was a mistake… Despite years of self-delusion and indifference, I finally consummated my cold, distant relationship with Facebook by uploading my contacts in October 2010. This was no selfless act of love. Like many corporations and fellow narcissists, I salivated at the chance to use it to promote my “brand” –blog, book, appearance on Ellen. The last year of this reluctant romance taught me that Facebook is no easy prey. It’s an amazing social experiment that can be trivial, passionate, funny, and deeply personal – all at the same time. It’s an addictive, evolving organism with a rhythm and personality of its own – one that can be prickly and unkind to marketing and self-promotion. This fact is often lost on businesses. If, like me, you’ve ever tried to claw your way out of a mind-numbing meeting on how to “market on Facebook”, salvation is here. “The 15 Faces of Facebook” will be my ever-evolving analysis of who dwells on Facebook, what motivates them, and whether they’ll hear your Twilight howls of commerce. Ideafaktory is about to save you hundreds of thousands of dollars on behavioral psychologists and social media research. Then again, like any good drug dealer, the first hit is always free.
It wasn’t long ago that bashing Microsoft was as cool as Hootie and the Blowfish and Blossom. There was no shortage of material – mangled pasting in Office, hideous mobile apps, and spooky Windows error messages that made you build a panic room. Even governments got in on it. The EU forced Microsoft to remove anti-competitive features from Windows. I think they even made Bill Gates perform The Nutcracker at a Belgian waffle house. Things have changed. Google and Apple now make Microsoft seem downright cuddly and lovable. Rather than send CEO Steve Ballmer a teddy bear to celebrate this budding bromance, I thought I’d give him something far more practical – an iPhone. I’m joking. I’d like to propose a way to revive Windows Phone 7, the company’s creative, but struggling new mobile operating system. Sadly, these advanced phones are already sharing a discount rack with rotary dial Nokias and the Motorola RAZR MC Hammer Edition.
A few years ago, the New York subway system was plastered with ads for a drug called Claritin. Mostly, these were photos of lush, green landscapes and pretty models having some kind of ‘moment of clarity’. I had no idea what Claritin did, but I’d never seen a woman that full of clarity before. Too bad Claritin was hardly more effective than a sugar pill at treating allergies. You could have poured honey in your underwear and gotten the same results. Demand creation is not new, but it’s proven its resilience in a society flush with borrowed cash and surplus leisure time.
When you think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there’s little ambiguity at the bottom. Food, clothing, shelter. Without these, you are probably cold, naked, and cranky. Everything else is based on feelings and perceptions. Even safety is just a feeling that an invading army of Persians can’t take away your favorite skinny jeans and Weaver Chicken Nuggets. In markets where even the homeless have iPods (in France, they also have chambermaids), the challenge is to make you want things just because you can afford them.
Here is my list of the top ten triumphs of demand generation and why they worked: