Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Eddie:  Say, was you ever bit by a dead bee?… I bet I been bit a hundred times that way.
Slim: You have? Why don’t you bite them back?

In the light of recent events, I can’t help but thinking that this exchange between Eddie, played by Walter Brennan, and Slim, played by Lauren Bacall, in the classic film “To Have and Have Not”*, casts an interesting light on the litigious society in which we live. Permit me to explain…

You see, a couple of weeks ago, I was bitten by a dog.

Yes, me. Someone who had never met a dog that didn’t like me, and has had a couple of my own. Someone who has been referred to by my wife as big old shaggy dog as she has watched me happily roll around on the ground with slobbery newfound friends.

In this instance, my wife and I were walking in NYC and met a dog owner with a beautiful 2-year old female Newfoundland (my favorite breed). We did the standard NY thing, and asked if it was okay to pet the dog. The owner said, “Yes, she’s friendly and she loves being petted.” As I reached down to pet the dog, she lunged, tearing open my lip and my hand in an instant.

After much shock, blood, and a couple of cab rides we ended up at Beth Israel’s emergency room, where the staff and an on-call plastic surgeon did an amazing job of repair. (Even with 20 stitches, you can barely see the scar, although the shock of being bitten by a dog is still resonating through my soul, as I give dogs on the street a wide berth and contemplate a shift in my own personal alignment with the universe.)

Before we headed off to the emergency room, though, we reassured the owner, who was shocked at her dog’s unprecedented actions, and no doubt terrified that we would report the dog, that we would not in fact report the dog. My wife and I are both animal lovers, as well as vegetarians (okay, pescatarians), and wouldn’t want our actions to cause a dog to be put to sleep. And yes, if the dog ends up attacking someone else, we know we bear some responsibility for that.

But in my mind, had we not stopped to pet the dog, the attack would never have happened. Who knows why it decided to attack me when it had never attacked anyone else? Maybe it thought it was protecting her. The owner is covering all medical expenses, bought a muzzle for her dog the next morning, and is getting the dog behavioral training. There was no chance of rabies or other complications, as the dog had had its shots literally less than 2 weeks earlier, which she proved by emailing us copies of the records that weekend.

Other than the attack itself, what surprised me most was the response from my friends and business associates, who overwhelmingly thought we should not only have reported the dog, but sued the owner. And while only a few of them brought up the notion of future victims, most felt it was a lost financial opportunity.

I’m not knocking them, by the way. We hear it all the time, that we live in a litigious society. People have the right to use a system the way it advertises it should be used.

In an interesting, coincidental confluence of legal events, I also recently had the chance to opt out of signing a contract which might have cost me the ownership of a book I’ve written. Thanks to the advice of a close friend, combined with the opinion of an Intellectual Property attorney, I chose not to sign the contract.

But what stuck with me most was something the IP attorney said. He said that many contracts are just as bad, and that frequently the creator has no leg to stand on in negotiating a better contract, because the people on the other side of the equation have the power. As he said, if you have another option, take it.

Thankfully, these days, the little guy has many other options.

First of all, self-publishing is a much more valid solution than ever before. From Radiohead’s self-released, pay-what-you-want album In Rainbows, which changed the music paradigm and still made money, to self-published authors like Amanda Hocking, who made over two million dollars on her own before eventually being picked up by a major publishing house, the keys to the kingdom are no longer exclusively held in the hands of the self-proclaimed kings.

Second of all, social media is coming into its own in a big way in terms of raising public awareness. And if you don’t think so, look at the impact of social media from Twitter to YouTube to Facebook in three stories currently in the news:

  • The 85 million plus views of KONY 2012, the YouTube video about indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony, where according to CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, mainstream media’s coverage of Kony over the years was unable to gain any traction at all.
  • The shooting death of Trayvon Martin, whose family, along with their supporters, used social media to fan the otherwise dying flames of attention into a Federal Justice Department investigation and nationwide coverage.
  • The “Etch-a-Sketch comment by Mitt Romney’s campaign staffer, which only really became an issue for the mainstream media after rising as a trending topic on Twitter, according to CNN’s Howard Kurtz, host of the CNN program Reliable Sources, which focuses on the news media.

But back to the issue at hand.

The current personal crisis of faith I’m going through as a result of both being bitten in the face by a dog that loved people and narrowly missing being bitten in the ass by people I thought had my best interests at heart is more about my own complacency than anything else.

My favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson is, “Our own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable for, not the rightness, but the uprightness of the decision.”

We are the only ones responsible for our own lives and our own actions. The day we entrust that responsibility only to contracts and laws and those who manipulate them, the day we decide to play along and get what we can rather than what we should, is the day we cede control of our lives, our Fortunes and our sacred honor to systems that not only have no honor, but shouldn’t be expected to.

I know why those systems want to obscure that fact and encourage us to play along. But can somebody please explain to me why we silence our inner voices when they try to remind us of the truth we know in our hearts?

* If you’ve never seen To Have and Have Not, you’re really missing a great movie. It’s based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway, with a script by William Faulkner, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Walter Brennan, and the dialogue is some of the best ever. Here’s the full exchange:

Eddie: Say, was you ever bit by a dead bee?

Beauclerc: I have no memory of ever being bit by any kind of bee.

Slim: (interjecting) Were you?

Eddie: You’re alright, lady. You and Harry’s the only one that ever…

Morgan: Don’t forget Frenchie.

Eddie: That’s right. You and Harry and Frenchie. You know, you got to be careful of dead bees if you’re goin’ around barefooted, ’cause if you step on them they can sting you just as bad as if they was alive, especially if they was kind of mad when they got killed. I bet I been bit a hundred times that way.

Slim: You have? Why don’t you bite them back?

Eddie: That’s what Harry always says. But I ain’t got no stinger.

I was at SMX East Tuesday and attended a session on Facebook advertising. The experts on the panel were talking about how, in order to actually get useful results out of advertising on the world’s largest social network, they had to change their Facebook creative as often as 4-5 times a day to combat blindness, fatigue and annoyance.

Swapping out ads every few hours? Optimizing banner campaigns and paid search and websites on the fly? Managing brand reputations that can change in hours thanks to a viral video or a negative blog post?

When did advertising get so hard?

It used to be, you ran a TV spot on Must See TV and the whole world knew about your product.

It used to be, you rented a great mailing list, sent out a juicy catalog half the size of a phonebook, and watched the orders come rolling in over the phone or in the mail.

It used to be, you did your keyword research, put up a bunch of paid search ads in Google AdWords, and watched people come to your site and buy things.

It’s not like it used to be.

Advertising has gotten really tough. And it’s gotten tough because our target audiences stopped being targets and started being participants.

Now, you have to listen to them – but if you do, you can learn what you need to succeed.

Now you have to engage them – and when you do, they’ll reward you with the real version of the brand loyalty you thought you had before.

Now, you have to treat your customers like a Facebook Friend, a Twitter Follower, an engaged stakeholder – and if you don’t, they’ll find a company who does, but only after they tell everyone how shabbily you treated them. (5 years ago, if you said this to a client, they would have called you crazy and shown you the door.)

The bad news is that there are more channels, more touchpoints, and more tools than ever before, and they’re labor intensive, difficult to quantify, and constantly changing. (Just keeping up with the changes to Google is a full time job!)

The good news is that there are more channels, more touchpoints, and more tools than ever before at our disposal to change the way we relate to our customers.

So can someone please explain to me why, rather than change their methods to get the most advantage out of these newly engaged and empowered customers, so many advertisers are just trying to find a way to make the new mediums work like the old ones?

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I just saw “The Social Network” and I loved it. Aaron Sorkin proved once again that he is the best dialogue writer in Hollywood (followed closely by Quentin Tarantino and Diablo Cody, IMHO). His words, and director David Fincher’s skill, kept the movie flowing and riveting, never once sounding anything but utterly real and believable.

And Jesse Eisenberg made Mark Zuckerberg into an everyman for our generation.

In the first scene, Zuckerberg tells his girlfriend that there are more geniuses in China than there are people in the US. We begin to see Zuckerberg as an everyman: even though he’s a genius, and knows it, that doesn’t guarantee entry into the members-only clubs where the cool people hang out.

“The Social Network” is about us, all of us, trying to fit in, looking for a place to belong, and finding our voice: collectively and individually. It’s a messy process, and there will be sins of commission and omission along the way.

I heard a reviewer on whatever cable channel was on at the time saying that this movie isn’t just the movie of a decade, it’s the movie of the generation, and that got me thinking.

We live in a time that future generations will look back on as revolutionary. And it’s not revolutionary because men like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg built products and companies that changed everything: it’s revolutionary because society was ready to embrace the new world their creations helped birth.

That new world is the world of virtually simultaneous, planet-wide shared awareness, perception and discussion.

Think about it. How do you get your information now? How do you experience the world? And most importantly, how do you share it, and what’s the lag time between discovery and dissemination?

I used to be a newspaper junkie. Then a Google News Junkie. Now, I have a News list on Twitter that gets the latest updates from the WSJ, The NY Times, Huffington Post, CNN, Mashable, Techcrunch and more. (The WSJ alone has dozens of Twitter feeds.) Now I can finally scan the news quickly and easily and know what’s going on everywhere instantly.

A few days ago, the shooting at the University of Texas was first reported on Twitter by students on campus. And as the situation developed, the local police were sending out their “official updates” to the news networks via Twitter.

The implications for Marketing and Advertising are sweeping. Because in the new era, ideas don’t spread because you throw money into spreading them. An idea spreads now because the wired-together world likes it and tells itself about it. The internet is littered with the corpses of bad ideas drenched in the blood of wasted marketing dollars.

Yes, getting heard among the rising background noise is hard. And at its most basic level, if you don’t know how to use the tools of social media, or don’t have the time, then marketers and advertisers can help.

But make no mistake: the ultimate success or failure of an idea, a product or a service is now dependent upon the quality of the idea, the product or the service. If people like it, they tell others. If they don’t, they don’t. And the way people find out about things these days is through a connected, always-on social network that exists online and off, via text and email and word of mouth across mobile phones and smart phones and laptops and computers, via Facebook and Twitter and Google.

It didn’t used to be that way, and that is sad for the good ideas that died stillborn and unheard, for lack of money or wherewithal. But I say, good riddance to the old world, and welcome to the new.

And yet, there are still those who resist the tide and cling to the ways they’ve always known, who look at multiple channels and only see fragmentation, who look at millions of people talking about what’s important to them and only perceive self-indulgent and distracting noise.

Can someone please explain to me how anyone can look at this time as anything less than a revolution, as the dawn of an era where a world of billions of individuals finally came together to know itself as a whole community greater than the sum of its parts?

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I can’t remember the last time I got a personal letter. Even my birthday and anniversary cards are likely to come via email these days. But my daughter got a postcard yesterday from her soon-to-be First Grade teacher telling her how excited she was to meet her when school starts in a few days. Not only was it totally unexpected, but the look on my daughter’s face has already sent the teacher’s Brand Perception through the roof in our family.

My daughter is not alone in responding favorably to Direct Mail. According to the August, 2010 Consumer Channel Preference Study by Epsilon Targeting, 18-34 year-olds overwhelmingly prefer to receive information via postal mail compared to any other medium across a wide variety of categories, with one exception (Travel). (You can download the full study here. And thanks to the TM Tipline newsletter for tipping me off to the new study.)

As you can see from the following sample of products and services, the preference for direct mail over email is staggering. In no case is it less than 2 to 1, and in one case, direct mail beats email by nearly 6 to 1.

Product/Service Mail Email
Sensitive Health 43% 9%
Prescription 41% 11%
General Health 37% 11%
Personal Care 37% 10%
Food Product 36% 11%
Cleaning Product 34% 9%
Financial Services 40% 7%
Insurance 38% 8%
Travel 28% 13%

There’s more in the survey. For instance, when it comes to household products, Newspaper Inserts are in second place, preferred 2 to 3 times more than email. For health related products, information from friends, family and doctors is more desirable than email, although still not as desirable as direct mail. (Maybe that’s because direct mail can be more private and less confrontational than asking your best friend, lover or doctor about a medical need?)

The survey also assessed trust, and found, as expected, that for health care, medical professionals are most trusted. For everything else, friends and family are at the top. The next most trusted source is newspapers, followed by company websites. Social Media like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are in the basement at 7-8%.

Source Trust
Doctor/Nurse 80%
Friends or Family 57%
Newspaper 26%
Company Websites 22%
Television 20%
Direct Mail Brochures or Flyers 18%
Radio 16%
Email 12%
Other Online Sites 11%
Cell Phone 9%
Blogs 8%
Facebook 8%
Online Forums 8%
YouTube 7%
Twitter 7%
Other Social Media 7%

So what are we to derive from this survey? Well, aside from the premise that more people prefer and trust dead tree communications (direct mail, newspapers) over electronic ones, I think the big lesson here is that you can’t put all of your communications in one basket. At its best, direct mail only reached a 43% preference. That means that 57% of potential customers want to be communicated with through a different medium.

As the Director of Integrated Marketing at Tanen Directed Advertising, a channel-neutral direct marketing agency, this is good news to me. It supports what I’ve always believed: combined arms tactics beat single tactic strategies every time.

It also means you can never stop testing. What works today may not work tomorrow. Just a few years ago, email was outperforming direct mail. Adults 18-34 may prefer direct mail now, but what will that cohort prefer when it’s made up of today’s tweens and teens? Will people who’ve never even read a newspaper trust one?

Media channels may rise and fall in popularity and effectiveness, but I think it’s safe to say that in the rapidly changing world of advertising, there are no silver bullets, no perfect answers. A multi-channel strategy gives you the best chance of success. More importantly, communications across each channel often reinforce each other, creating synergies you can’t get with a single communication.

Even some of the most successful “social media” campaigns in recent memory have been multi-channel. As Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media has said,  “If your customers are there, you need to be there too… You need to listen… see how they behave and act similarly.” He was talking about social media, but I say his insight applies to all forms of marketing and advertising.

People live multi-channel lives. They want some information one way, and other information a different way, sometimes at the same time. So can someone please explain to me why there are still some advertisers who operate with a one-channel-fits-all mindset?

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Have you seen the recent Hyundai commercials? The friendly announcer says that recently, Hyundai put cameras into vehicles at dealerships and, according to the company’s press release, “captured the unscripted, unedited remarks of drivers as they tested various Hyundai models.”

Do you believe them?

I don’t.

Over time, anyone who’s ever shopped online and read the customer testimonials has learned how to tell fake reviews from real ones. The fake ones are usually really good or excusably bad (or really bad if they’re fakes created by competitors). Some sites don’t even bother sprinkling in a few negative reviews with the positives, but all positives are a sure sign the reviews are faked, or at least, selectively edited.

Enter Hyundai, with their “Uncensored” commercials. Not a negative comment to be heard. Well, except about Honda, Toyota and other cars. And of course, from people posting comments on their YouTube channel, such as:

laughingcrows (1 week ago)
Give us a break, your “hidden” camera commercials are really insulting.
Don’t lie to us. The American public isn’t that stupid. Or are we?

Censorship isn’t merely a sin of commission. It can be a sin of omission, too. So even if you equate uncensored to unedited, which would be a mistake because the commercials are clearly edited, the choice of only showing positive experiences and comments is in itself an act of censorship, where the negative ads are merely not shown at all.

Uncensored? Hardly.

I can’t help comparing this to the Ford Fiesta Movement, where Ford gave 100 social media storytellers Fiestas to talk about, however they wanted, on their own blogs, YouTube, Twitter, etc. Their campaign was also met with skepticism on blogs, but to his credit, Scott Monty, head of Social Media for Ford, engaged with the negative comments and addressed them head on. So did some of the Fiesta “agents” who defended their abilities to give honest reviews, good or bad, and the freedom Ford gave them to do it.

The recent Ford Fiesta movement is considered a watershed in automobile marketing. With $0 in traditional advertising, the Fiesta, a car available only in Europe, with no history in the US, and Ford’s first subcompact car in over a decade, achieved a stellar a 58% awareness pre-release (exceeding the Ford Fusion after 2 years and hundreds of millions in traditional marketing). It garnered:

  • 11 million social networking impressions
  • 11,000 videos on YouTube
  • 6,000 reservations 4 months before the car was even available
  • 10,000 units sold in the first 6 days of sales.

All for a fraction of what a typical national TV campaign would have cost. I wonder what Hyundai spent on theirs?

Taking another play from the Ford Fiesta Movement playbook, for what they’re calling the “experiential” component of their campaign Hyundai is giving 100 cars out to people who will then discuss their experiences via social media, again ostensibly “uncensored.”

Social Media marketing is about engaging in the conversation, not editing it. It’s about being honest and earning trust. And above all, it’s about disclosing your relationships, so even if you have a bias or financial relationship, you’re not hiding it and people can judge for themselves. (Full Disclosure: I have never owned either a Hyundai or a Ford, although my parents love their Hyundai and in college I made out with a girl in a Ford Mustang.)

The Social Media marketing landscape is littered with the corpses of  unsuccessful campaigns. In the end, many of them failed because they were disingenuous, misleading or downright dishonest.

I found this interesting post on the Dennis Hyundai blog for a Hyundai dealer in Ohio.  It says:

Have you seen the new Hyundais? Come to http://www.dennisimports.com and click on our Hyundai Uncensored Logo, tell us what you think about the new hyundais! If we choose your comments to use in our advertising, we will pay you $1,000!

The post was dated July 9, 2010, about a week after the corporate commercials began running. I’m not implying the original Hyundai Uncensored commercials were “incentivized,” but I’m willing to bet that for $1,000, Dennis Hyundai isn’t going to be using very many negative comments in their ads.

If you’re going to pursue a social media strategy, you have to be authentic.  In discussing social media, business and authenticity in this Wisdom 2.o interview, Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.com, said:

“I think that is the only way you are going to succeed. Transparency is going to happen whether you embrace it or not, so you might as well embrace it. I think that is one way to develop a personal and emotional connection.”

So can someone please explain to me what kind of connection Hyundai thinks they’re making with consumers with their Uncensored campaign? Feel free to respond honestly… I promise I won’t censor your comments.

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In social media, it’s not the size that matters.

Here it is, June 2010, and I’m still hearing things like this:

“We’re not one of your big clients. We have to focus on the basics:  direct marketing, email blasts, you know. We don’t have the time or the people for social media.”

And…

“It’s not like we’re a local mom and pop business,  we need scale. Sure, we like the idea of Facebook fans, but really, how much can we move the needle on Facebook?”

Can a company really be too small or too big to benefit from a social media strategy?

David and Goliath comparisons don’t get any clearer than Pizza Hut vs. Naked Pizza. Big vs. small.  Old vs. new. Mass produced, pre-made, highly processed fast food vs. healthy, natural, hand-made fast food.

And yet there’s something both of them can agree on.  One of the biggest ingredients to their recipe for growth is social media. Social media, with its low cost of entry both in terms of cost and required skills (anyone can have a free Facebook page, and with nearly 400 million active Facebook users, nearly everyone does) works especially well for really small, local companies, so let’s start with David:  Naked Pizza.

Naked Pizza, a franchise started in post-Katrina New Orleans in 2006, has embraced Twitter fully, down to putting a huge Twitter sign outside their store. Last year, they ran a Twitter-only promotion they credited with 15% of their day’s sales. A month later, nearly 70% of the customers calling in for orders were Twitter followers. They’ve got 5 new locations opening soon, and another 17 franchises awarded across the country, with reports of 40 new locations planned in Florida alone.

So what about Goliath?

This year Pizza Hut expects to hit $2 billion in online orders this year, according to a recent article in Chief Marketer. Papa Johns did that much in 2009, comprising 25% of their global business. 30% of Domino’s sales are online.

Fueling much of Pizza Hut’s growth is due their social media strategy. As of today, Pizza Hut has 1,393,776 million fans on Facebook. Last year they ran a national campaign to hire a Twintern, a summer Twitter Intern, whose job was to promote the company on Twitter and Facebook and handle online reputation monitoring. The winner, Alexa Robinson (@pizzahut), has been credited with helping grow Pizza Hut’s Twitter followers from 3,000 to 30,000. Robinson was so successful she was hired as Pizza Hut’s Tweetologist, a full time job that has expanded to include public appearances at events in New York City, Philadelphia, Little Rock, Richmond, Va., Columbia, S.C., and Des Moines, Iowa. — all tracked on Foursquare, of course, with pictures on Flickr.

Two companies, one big, one small, both benefiting from social media. It seems pretty clear to me, at least in this case, that it’s not the size that matters in social media, it’s what you do with it.

Does your company have a social media strategy? If not, can someone in your organization give me a call and please explain to me why you don’t?

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Forgive me friends, for I have sinned… it’s been over a month since my last news update on Facebook.

How did it happen? Why did I lapse? Where did my Facebook faith go?

I remember those first zealous days of discovery. The joy of reconnecting with old friends… and co-workers and high school classmates and college buds… and ex-girlfriends, in-laws, business associates, guys I played D&D with while Reagan was still president, friends of friends I met at a party once, and even the siblings of  schoolmates from elementary school.

I proselytized, I evangelized, I got my friends and family to join.

I spent lunchtime on Facebook. I went on at night after my wife went to bed.

And then something happened.

I discovered Twitter.

I didn’t intend to convert. I avoided Twitter as long as possible. Josef Katz (@directmaestro)  said I should tweet, and I resisted. Eleanor Haas (@EleanorHaas), one of the most forward thinking marketing professionals I know, started tweeting and still, I resisted. But then Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) tweeted while interviewing Twitter founder Biz Stone and I was hooked. It was all just so meta.

So I started tweeting.

For a while I did both. I even thought about connecting my Twitter (@jlsimons) to my Facebook.

But my Tweets tended to be about marketing and advertising, and that wasn’t really what Facebook was all about for me. Facebook was about reconnecting with friends, and Twitter was about business.

At least, that’s what I told myself.

But that wasn’t the truth.

It’s time to face the truth.

Twitter is just plain easier. Twitter doesn’t miss me when I don’t tweet, or at least, I don’t feel guilty about not commenting on every tweet I read. Twitter rewards me when I’m relevant… and challenges me to stay relevant.  Some of the most interesting articles I’ve read recently I found because someone I follow tweeted them.

I’m not the most prolific tweeter. The total of my tweets wouldn’t add up to a single week of Kevin Smith‘s tweets (@ThatKevinSmith). Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) gets more followers in an hour than I’ve gotten in almost a year.

And still, I tweet. When I find something I think people will appreciate, I tweet it and I feel like I’ve added something useful to a conversation I want to be part of.

When I post a new post on my blog, I usually tweet it. Heck, I might even tweet this.

I almost never tweet about where I’m going or what I’m doing. I never tweet about what I’m eating. I know some people do, and I respect their right to do it. Tweet and let tweet, I always say. (Well, actually, that was the first time. But I’ll probably say it more often now.)

Sure, sometimes I still go to Facebook, but it’s not the same for me anymore. I can’t tell you why, or maybe I just don’t want to know, but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Facebook is now the most popular site on the web and gets more visits than Google.

That would be silly, right, avoiding something just because everyone is doing it? Because then, someday, I’d have to give up tweeting for the same reason.

I’m not the kind of person who does things just because they’re new and shiny. Really I’m not.

But just in case I’m wrong, can someone please explain Foursquare to me?

“Just the facts, M’am.”

Pepsi, who has advertised in every Super Bowl for 23 years, is shifting its entire Super Bowl budget into social media via its charitable crowdsourcing community called The Pepsi Refresh Project.

According to a UMass Dartmouth Study released this month, 80% of the Inc 500 use social networking as a marketing tool. And 89% of them say it was successful, “using hits, comments, leads or sales as primary indicators of success.”

The Mobile Internet Report by Morgan Stanley, released in December, says,

“Regarding the pace of change, we believe more users will likely connect to the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within five years.”

Okay, that wasn’t a fact. That was a prediction. But it’s a conviction backed up by a 424 page research report.

But this is: as of today, the Red Cross had raised $22 million for Haiti relief thru text donations alone. And I don’t know about you, but I first found out about the effort on Twitter.

I could keep listing facts that prove the value of social media, but I’m lazy. Instead, I’m going to post this great video, Socialnomics, by Erik Qualman, that I found on Josef Katz’s Marketing Maestro blog that addresses the ROI of social media.

Pepsi. Ford. Gary Vinochuk. Zappos. Lenovo. Burger King. Blend Tec. Dell. Intuit. Volkswagen. Barak Obama. The Red Cross.

They all get it.

Can someone please explain to me why there are still people who don’t?

Lands’ End’s Big Warm Up: The best viral video I’ve ever missed

I saw a video the other day that was so good it brought tears to my eyes, which was, after all, its intention. It was so good that it powered Lands’ End customers to bring 33,267 “gently used coats” to Lands’ End shops at Sears to donate to the homeless. (If you haven’t seen it, you can see it here.)

It’s a good video. It’s powerful. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and makes you want to do something good for someone.

All of which is going to make me look even more curmudgeonly than normal, because I am not here to praise Lands’ End.

I think they screwed up.

I didn’t see the video until  Dec. 1, which was one day too late to actually join the Big Warm Up and donate a coat.

And that really bothered me. Because I have a gently used coat I would have gladly donated. And because I was actually in a mall with a Sears the last weekend of the promotion. And because I love good cause related marketing. I love it so much I actually co-wrote a book about it.

I wondered, how could I have missed out on this? I’m a good Lands’ End customer. I have 3-4 pairs of their pants and half a dozen of their shirts. More than that, I’m a fan. I blogged about them back in July and how they helped build direct response retail with their “Guaranteed. Period.” (R) guaranty.

So I went to my inbox (luckily, I try and keep my inbox at a lean, mean 300-400 emails) and sure enough, there it was. And it had company. Lots of company. The Lands’ End email barrage had started on Nov. 9th, and by the time it let up on November 20th I’d gotten 16 emails in 12 days.

But only 3 of those 16 emails were about the Big Warm Up. The rest were about clothes… and canvas.

The first email in the campaign, on Nov. 11, was actually the second Lands’ End email I received that day. It had the subject line, “Save 25% on a new coat & warm a heart!” Being that I’m not currently in the market for a coat, I didn’t notice that this was actually the announcement of a cause related marketing campaign at www.BigWarmUp.com.

In fact, that grand announcement was considerably quieter than the “Introducing Land’s End Canvas” email I’d gotten earlier the same day with a link to a video titled “What Will You Make of It” about the exciting, Ken Burns-ish history of Lands’ End Canvas.

The Lands’ End email tsunami continued. 4 days (and 5 emails) later I got an email with the subject line “What will you make of it?”

This was intriguing, so I opened it. It lead to an interactive site where I could “explore a unique interactive experience — then make and share my own canvas.” Wow. Canvas again.

So when I got the 15th email in 12 days, this one with the subject line, “Join us in making a difference,” I just assumed it was another email about the glories of canvas and ignored it. After all, it had the word “make” in subject line. What else could it have been?

This is a classic case that highlights the dangers of mailing too frequently. Your customers get so overwhelmed they tune out.

30,000 coats donated to the needy is a good thing by any standard, right? So do you think Lands’ End was happy with the results?

I’m not sure I would have been. Here’s why:

Way back in 2002 when Sears bought them, the NY Times reported that Lands’ End had a customer file of 30 million households. Now, not all of those households has email, and that number could be considerably smaller — or larger — by now.

30,000 coats is certainly a lot of warmth, but in terms of results, 30,000 is only 1/10th of a percent of 30 million.

On a more granular level, the email campaign was ignored by at least one ideal target: me,  a repeat customer, who makes buying decisions based on cause-related marketing and corporate philanthropy, who had a coat to donate, and who is clearly on their email list. And if they missed an easy target like me, how many others did they miss, too?

Maybe if the subject line of the first email in the campaign had led with the cause rather than a discount, I might have noticed it.

Maybe if they’d used some of their fancy personalization in the subject line instead of just in their video I might have noticed.

Maybe if they hadn’t bored me to death with their celebration of canvas and trained me to ignore their messages, I might have noticed their worthy campaign to spread the warmth.

But one thing is definite: if they hadn’t sent me 16 emails in 12 days I would have actually read the really important one.  (I’ve asked around, and I’m not the only one who missed this needle in the haystack of Lands’ End emails… or who regretted missing the opportunity to join the Big Warm Up.)

Good cause related marketing is a win-win for everyone. In this case, more coats donated to help the homeless would most likely equate to more coats sold.

This was an important campaign. So can someone please explain to me why Lands’ End quietly buried it under a pile of canvas instead of shouting it from the highest mountaintops?

And while you’re at it, can you direct me to the nearest Goodwill Donation Center? I have a coat I want to donate.

Have you heard the one about the beautiful blonde Danish woman named Karen who went on YouTube in search of her baby’s father, a tourist with whom she had a one night stand a year and a half ago? Turns out it was all a hoax, courtesy of the Danish government tourism bureau, VisitDenmark.

I found out about this on Mashable, perhaps the greatest blog covering all things Web 2.0 and Social Media. According to Mashable, the video got over 800,000 views on YouTube before it was taken down. If you hurry, you can still see it here on this Australian 9 News site.

More from Mashable, “…by her own admission, the woman in the video is an actress named Ditte Arnth Jorgensen and the baby is not hers. According to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, it’s a hoax created by the Danish government’s tourism agency… It seems that the Danish government opted for quite a radical approach in luring tourist to the country; as they say, any publicity is good publicity.”

Now, it’s easy to get outraged by the hoax, as comments on the YouTube video proved. There were people who felt sorry for Karen, and then felt abused when they found out it was a hoax.

Setting aside the moral issue, I’d like to look at it from purely a marketing point of view.

I’m not against hoax marketing, if it’s done right and delivers a high degree of value to the people being hoaxed. Sega’s Beta-7 is a classic of the genre. FastCompany did a great post-mortem article about the campaign and Campfire, the viral agency that created Beta-7, and before that, the Blair Witch Project, reporting that:

“Beta-7” ultimately clocked some 2.2 million followers and, for $300,000 (excluding TV spots), helped Sega top sales projections by 25% in a category overwhelmingly dominated by Madden. Along the way, however, Campfire had done something else: It proved that a young, cynical, media-saturated audience just might be willing to listen to marketers as long as they showed some respect. “The virtue of their work,” says ESPN’s Daly, “is that if you’re on the side of the equation that believes [the hoax], then it’s fascinating, and if you’re on the side that gets that it’s not real, then it’s just great entertainment.”

I think the key to successful hoax marketing is best summed up by Harry Anderson, the actor/magician who played lovable con artist Harry the Hat on Cheers and Judge Harry T. Stone on Night Court. Back in the 80’s I saw his live act at Caroline’s, basically a celebration of misdirection and the con. In bit after bit, as he tricked us while blatantly telling us he was tricking us and still got away with it, he made the point that you can take a victim’s money as long as you entertain him for it.

The Danish video certainly delivered entertainment value. It was compelling and engaging. It might deliver a great ROI and boost Danish tourism. (It even had a bit of mischief of which Harry the Hat might have approved: the word “Ad” is in the background as part of an innocuous piece of art.)

But the message it delivered was that the Danish Board of Tourism is willing to dupe you into visiting their country. If they’re willing to do that, what other practices may they condone? Bait and switch hotel packages? Cab drivers who overcharge tourists for trips to the airport? “Official” currency exchanges with rip-off rates?

And how’s this for a mixed message? In the video, Karen says that it was a discussion of “hygge” — the Danish word for a warm, fuzzy, cozy, comfortable feeling of well being (according to Wikipedia) — that led to the one night stand. (Don’t you feel warm and fuzzy knowing that the Danish government is willing to lie to you to get you into bed with them?)

What kind of tourist do you think an advertising message like this will attract to Denmark? If I were a Danish woman (or the father of one) I’d be appalled at my government right about now.

In the end, just because you can use an advertising tactic doesn’t mean you should.

So can someone please explain to me why VisitDenmark chose to advertise the warm and fuzzy nature of their culture with a hoax that is exactly the opposite of the brand character they were hoping to portray?