UFOs: Abduction by the marketing hype cycle


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Brands use UFO gimmicks trying to look trendy. On this talk given at UploadLisboa.com, i discuss the subject of social media being turned into another UFO.

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  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulgi/280789933/ ]
  • It doesn’t get more 2.0 than this:

    A new media talk by a portuguese, written in English, with Flickr images from all over the world, published as an ebook in Denmark by Toothless Tiger Press, that publishes ebooks from new media talks.
  • [Source: Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut, By Kurt Vonnegut, William Rodney Allen)]
    The idea of this talk came about when reading a short story by the american author Kurt Vonnegut.
    On his book “Breakfast of Champions”, he refers to ...

    The moral of the story: failure in communication.

    As you’re about to see for the rest of the talk, this idea of disconnected language between aliens and humans, makes also sense when applied to marketing. Specially interactive marketing.
  • This subject of UFOs is always a matter of great passion, with many people questioning the existence of aliens.

    These sightings when under the critic eye of science fail to prove valid, and yet, initiatives like SETI try to make sense out of it.
  • I feel the same way about brands and consumers.

    Brands keep pushing Unidentified Flashy Objects that Consumers find a hard time to believe.

    But what are these Flashy objects. Well, Flashy from the old Flash intros would be a good start.
    Flash intros were nothing but animation gimmicks that served no purpose.
  • But nowadays we’re having a new kind of UFO sightings.

    You probably know some of these.
  • Brands love this one. Let’s do a User Generated Contest.
    We don’t have to pay the agency and we’ll get a lot of buzz.

    Well ... maybe.
  • The trouble is that passion isn’t for sale.
    The best amateur content is spontaneous, the other one is just rubbish.

    And most of all, it isn’t really user generated when brands try to exercise control.
    From draconian terms of service, platform lock-in or removal of appropriate content, it’s nothing like you see on the wild, where the real user generated content has everything one can think of.

    Only brand managers think someone would care enough for their brand to invest time and passion on creating the content that is worth sharing. And they mask that lack of passion by buying people with incentives.

    It’s like making your ex-girl friend love you back by giving her in coupons.
  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/demonbaby/2336645588/]

    It feels like Second Life all over again. The media love by AR is getting so loud that i’m afraid that will do more damage before we start seeing real useful uses of augmented reality.

    Oh, sorry, perhaps some of you don’t know what Augmented Reality is.
    It’s when “live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery creating a mixed reality”.

    That’s the wikipedia line. But i get a small, but very appropriate demo for you.
  • **
    See. UFOs.

    They did it just they could. Which is probably the reason many brands are doing it now.
    Not because it serves a purpose or anyhow they help the user, but because they can show off.

    Any high expectation we might have for the future of this technology, is being sucked in by flamboyant marketeers who need to prove they have a augmented marker bigger than their competition.
  • --
    Viral does not help your business if you have a product that sucks. Because when you put a video on YouTube, it’s just that: a message on another channel.
    But if you have a great product, service or brand, it spontaneously generates word of mouth. Period. And than it ceases to be just another message on another channel and becomes something worth talking about.

    It gets worse though. Brands get into online video hopping that somehow people find it funny. And then they shoot the video like it’s a fucking infomercial. And brands expect consumers to find value in that.
    Well, duhh ...
    People like LOLcats, not your sales pitch. Or maybe intersting stuff like TEDtalks. You never know if they will love the train wreck or the documentary, because "viral" is, believe it or not, un-fucking-predictable.
  • On top of this fallacy, comes the idea of using influentials to make something “go viral”. Whatever that is.

    As if people were always paying attention to what influentials are doing.
    But they do pay attention to what their peers are doing. Like sharing LOLcats pictures.

    As Duncan Watts, a social dynamics researcher, says:
    “we find that large cascades of influence are driven not by influentials but by a critical mass of easily influenced individuals. ”

    (though influentials can be in some degree important. Particulary on the early seeding stages)
  • So, instead of influencers, we should be looking for emulation.
    Instead of influential minority, we should be looking for easily influenced masses, that can make anything go viral if they like it (usually quick, fun and easy to share).

    By not pushing, but by lighting a lot of small fires, the pull mechanism of an interseting message will act by itself and spread.
  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/obscuranet/2119207689/]

    Last UFO example, but not the least, the mobile apps candy.

    Another severe case of : “Get me one of those shiny new stuff”.
    It doesn’t seem to matter if it doesn’t fit the brand, if it’s expensive to produce and distribute, if there’s already a free, non-branded, and bu the way better app out there doing the same thing ...

    No we need to have an iPhone / Android / Alien app.

    If you could actually build something together with the phone brand (do i really need to say Nike + again) , why insisting on having an app?

    Nevermind the only thing your target consumers want in a phone is actually ... make some calls.
  • http://www.quapps.co.uk/blog/2009/11/05/magicam-augmented-reality-photographs-with-props/

    Oh, btw, since we’re speaking of UFOs ... there’s an app for that.
  • --
    Now that I’ve showed you some UFO sightings, we start to detect some patterns.
    Back to our Zog story, we see that it’s a basic failure to communicate. Brands are just speaking a different language: they’re farting gimmicks.

    The regular earthling, aka The Consumer, is finding that is being bombarded with stimulae and dealing with multiple platforms, new technologies, it’s a lot of fires to deal with.

    So the question here is really how do all the UFOs, these gimmicks, help each consumer on their lifes ? Brands should be concerned on explaining all this stuff and making it easy to consumers, instead of pushing more and more of the old stuff.
    These are just tactics, when marketeers should be putting their effort on strategy.
  • [ Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightmatter/95600250/sizes/o/ ]

    Isn’t this all a bunch of covered up nepotism? That we’re trying to validate so desperately this new reality to fit our world views, that we forget to think critically and start to polarize our opinions.

    As with UFO’s, it’s a battle between sceptics and believers.
  • Social media would be almost irrelevant when trying to do build a brand like Luis Vutton. Especially considering that the people buying these products aren’t into social media.

    Or picking another example: when standing in front of a supermarket aisle, with dozens of different toilet paper to choose from, do you actually think what the companies producing that stuff tweeted last night ?
    Unless your target consumer really cares about what your brand has to say, maybe social media isn’t right for your brand after all.
  • [Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2009: http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1124212]
    Just don’t let your company be abducted by the marketing hype cycle. Picking up the latest marketing gimmick and pretend we’re innovative. In the hopes that UFOs bring us that glow of “awareness” to our brands.

    Many companies are just being copycats. The true innovators understand early what’s ahead of that curve and look for the insights that are valuable and purposeful to their products and services and how to best communicate them to their consumers.
  • There’s a fundamental truth behind Gartner’s Hype cycle, as Clay Shirky says:
    “When everybody takes it for granted that’s when it becomes socially interesting.”

    And i believe the Social Web (not media) is getting pretty darn interesting.
  • Problem is, we’re all still figuring out how it works as we go.

    And what are we using to figure out how it works?
    Well, aliens have been using abduction and probes to understand how we humans work, so it probably applies the same in regards to digital marketing.
  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulgi/290927743 ]

    First, abduction. To kidnap a few selected people.

    And then when they are returned, their perception of reality is so changed, that they become obsessed with the need to prove the existence of UFOs.
  • [ Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arbaa/2211985339/ ]

    And start talking the weirdest language to those who haven’t experienced the same.
    A bit like Zog the alien, farting to express himself.

    Or with aliens inside the UFO, by talking bullshit.
  • http://gapingvoid.com/2006/05/09/if-you-talked-to-people/

    Or adapting the cartoon by Hugh McLeod.
  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedromourapinheiro/2492085628/]
    So pay attention to fakes.

    From the first days of desktop publishing, we heard the stories of the neighbour’s son being prolific with Pagemaker, so he could well do that flyer i need for tomorrow for 1/10 of the price i pay my agency. Then came the web, with script kiddies that polluted the web with blink tags and animated gifs.

    It’s not new that amateurs appear whenever there’s a new technology, with low thresholds enabling a much wider participation. But what’s also not new is the fact that if a technology is serious enough to have business impact, a company shouldn’t leave it carelessly in the hands of those not mature or professional enough to make the best out of it.

    The social web isn’t just playing Farmville. And just because someone is a journalist who uses Twitter, that doesn’t immediately qualifies him as a social media expert.
  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedromourapinheiro/3419556254/]

    Social web is much more serious.
    It involves reputation, share-of-mind, recommendation, authority, things important enough not to be left on the hands of occasional enthusiast or the intern who knows how to use Facebook.

    If they screw up, you loose money, reputation, earned media. That’s not something to gamble with.
  • **
    On the other hand, just because someone has a Consultant title on the business card, doesn’t make him right away the right person, just because you’re paying him a hefty fee.
  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedromourapinheiro/3748918986/ ]
    You then have to find the real value these abductors bring to your business.

    The real value is in the creative and/or strategic combination and deployment of resources to solve a business problem.

    Eventually, as supply and demand kicks in, we’ll start to see those who distinguish those who talk from those who walk.
  • Another way to figure out UFOs is avoiding the babble an intrusion on people’s lives, and use a more scientific approach: probes.

    What i mean by this, is that interactive marketing needs to take more advantage of data gathered.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/sybreon/467281644/

    As Tim O’Reilly — the father of the term Web 2.0 — said: Data is the next Intel Inside.

    But the hard part of solving marketing problems is not getting more information — it’s figuring out the meaning of the information we already have.
  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/auntiep/348343494/]
    But first, we need to know why we’re collecting data.

    With the social web, false goals are created to satisfy our need for control: number of followers, engagement, everything but never what really matters to our business objectives.

    On this more scientific approach to the social web, we also need to understand how humans work, extending our research beyond the usual metrics and consider other fileds like behavioral economics or sociology.

    Just don’t fool yourself that because you think you have all this data, you can actually figure out the ROI of social media.

    But you should always be accountable. And translate your efforts on the social web to business results.
  • And believe it or not, that’s when the much hated advertising business can teach you a thing or 2.

    You create a campaign, measure the sales and other metrics before it starts, and let it roll.
    Then you analyze it as it goes, with peaks and prime times and all the consumer trends, taking into account the several components of the marketing mix.

    Yes, if it can de done in advertising, than you can do it to social media as well.
  • Another thing to learn from advertising is that it excels at changing behavior, in giving you reason to do something different.

    And that’s basically how social media achieves the highest relevance to brands.

    And you can only change people’s behavior by being distinct, authentic, relevant and deliver your promise. Sounds like social media to me.
  • But please let’s not make another UFO out of the social web.

    Social Web is about conversation. Is about empowering users.
    Yet, many companies are using it as a quick fix, a way to seem cool and broadcast for free their commercial messages.

    [Whuffie is the ephemeral, reputation-based currency of Cory Doctorow's science fiction novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. ]

    Brands need to start creating trust, need to start focusing on earning social capital — whuffie — and not only on their direct and immediate ROI. These social bonds created will later be translated across marketing operations, from sales to customer service and are real business value.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/luc/1659321885/in/set-72157605210232207/

    We’re still pushing UFOs as something that people look with awe, when instead we should be trying to collaborate with consumers and make ourselves understood by learning their language (remember Zog?).
  • http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Social-Networking-Websites-and-Teens.aspx

    Yes, because people are talking to each other, not to your alien brand.
  • http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/01/work-on-stuff-that-matters-fir.html

    Above all, brands should be working on stuff that matters: the value offered should be at first more than what is brands try to capture.

    And just stop focusing on the tools (should i be on Facebook, on Twitter): it’s just a band aid.
  • So, forget about the what.

    It’s no longer a question if the social web is a UFO or not.
    The problem here is more about what Zog had in the beginning of our talk.

    It’s a fundamental failure in communication.
  • [Bad news / good news]
  • http://deus-ex-machinima.net/pics/fullsize/i%20want%20to%20believe.jpg
  • http://www.guzzlingcakes.com/images/gw/believe.jpg
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/balakov/2574116800/

    I believe in companies creating reasons for consumers to be together with brands and understand their language.

    Branded experiences, photos, meetups. In being present on the things people care about.

    And those aren’t certainly UFOs.
  • When aliens decided to visit Earth, they probably analysed where to go, how to get there, and why bother to land on Earth.

    So brands should stop for a second. And know they still have a long way to go until they reach consumers in a language they understand. And they have to figure out a way to first get there, by learning and asking the right questions about consumers.

    Focus on long term objectives and imagine how a brand or company will look like in the future social web version. What will be important. What value was created. Be specific.

    Instead of showing UFOs to consumers, send clear messages of what your brand stands for.

    As for the social web, and the fact that many marketeers still live in denial about the importance of it, that’s probably because you never looked to other galaxies.
  • [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/croma/557971148/]
    [Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackbeltjones/3365682994/ ]
    I know it’s hard in times of change, but do avoid being fooled by fakes or those who polarize the speech on their herd mentality.

    Don’t get abducted by the marketing hype, but do experiment.
    Or quoting one of my favorite bloggers, Matt Jones: Get Excited and Make Things.
  • UFOs: Abduction by the marketing hype cycle

    1. UFOs Unidentified Flashy Objects Armando Alves, 2009
    2. Unidentified Flashy Objects Abduction by the marketing hype cycle Talk soon available as ebook at ToothlessTigerPress.com Web Strategist @armandoalves Blogger at asourceofinspiration.com Guest blogger at Osocio.org Co-host at Alt.Prt.Sc Guest blogger at TheTrendwatch.com #ufomkt
    3. THE DANCING FOOL — Kurt Vonnegut
    4. Unidentified Flying Objects Unidentified Flashy Objects HUMANS ALIENS
    5. Unidentified Flying Objects Unidentified Flashy Objects HUMANS ALIENS CONSUMERS BRANDS
    7. USER GENERATED CONTENT Passion isn’t for sale
    8. “I don’t have to control the conversation to benefit from their interest in my product. The key is to produce something that both pulls people together and gives them something to do.” — Henry Jenkins
    9. AUGMENTED REALITY Isn’t reality big (and complex) enough ?
    10. AR UFOs I kid you not ...
    11. VIRAL MARKETING So you think you can reach millions for free ?
    12. “We see influence (what folk do to each other on our behalf) where emulation (of what folks around us are doing) is the real mechanic behind the spread of human behavior.” — Marc Earls
    13. MOBILE APPS Does it make calls ?
    14. UFO Mobile App I kid you not II ...
    15. UFO features gimmickry lack of solid ideas weak execution tactics instead of strategy
    19. “When everybody takes technology for granted that’s when it becomes socially interesting.” — Clay Shirky
    20. TI UC ESON BD OB A R VS .P
    22. “A multimedia mix framed to spark conversations requires a compelling message concept that can work across a multimedia platform” Communications Strategy for a Conversation Model Advertising Age, October 27 2009
    23. SOCIAL BABBLE Jargon 2.0 and Social Media “Gurus”
    24. BEWARE OF THE FAKES From Pagemaker to animated GIFs
    25. BEWARE OF THE FAKES It’s serious. Don’t gamble with it.
    26. “SMO–social media optimization (...) (is) the worst thing I’ve ever heard of. Anyone who hires an SMO firm is an idiot. The whole point of social media is TO BE REAL NOT FAKE!!!” — Jason Calacanis
    27. BEWARE OF THE FAKES Where’s the real value?
    28. PROBES
    30. MEASURING IS IMPORTANT If you know why you’re measuring.
    31. “We don’t get them to try our product by convincing them to love our brand; we get them to love our brand by convincing them to try our product.” — Bob Hoffman
    33. “If i tell my Facebook friends about your brand, it is because i like my friends — not because i like your brand!” — Mike Aruz
    34. “How to get a million hits, followers, lists, comments, links, posts, friends, fans and re-tweets? Answer: Do something meaningful.” — Eoghan McCabe, Contrast
    35. IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU You don’t commit enough resources You forget about the social, and only broadcast You are concerned of not having enough control You look outside, but forget inside your company You look for numbers instead of relationships You don’t know where to go and how to get there You do it by imitation, not by purpose
    36. BAD NEWS GOOD NEWS • control and broadcasting is still • collaboration and content creation dominant is growing • corporations still don’t get it • SMBs are getting it • creative silos • Gen-Ys are the new workforce • fear of change • research is being done • interactive still speaks a weird • interactive is moving to different language screens
    42. Image credits to: Slide 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulgi/280789933/ Slide 9: http://www.flickr.com/photos/demonbaby/2336645588/ Slide 14: http://www.flickr.com/photos/obscuranet/2119207689/ Slide 15: http://www.quapps.co.uk/blog/2009/11/05/magicam-augmented-reality-photographs-with-props/ Slide 17: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightmatter/95600250/sizes/o/ Slide 23: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulgi/290927743 Slide 24: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arbaa/2211985339/ Slide 25: http://gapingvoid.com/2006/05/09/if-you-talked-to-people Slide 26: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedromourapinheiro/2492085628/ Slide 27: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedromourapinheiro/3419556254/] Slide 29: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedromourapinheiro/3748918986/ Slide 33: http://www.flickr.com/photos/auntiep/348343494/ Slide 36: http://www.flickr.com/photos/luc/1659321885 Slide 44: http://www.guzzlingcakes.com/images/gw/believe.jpg Slide 45: http://www.flickr.com/photos/balakov/2574116800/ Slide 47: http://www.flickr.com/photos/croma/557971148/ Slide 47: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackbeltjones/3365682994/ Charts Slide 19: http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1124212 Slide 37: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Social-Networking-Websites-and-Teens.aspx