Problems Outweigh Potential For Now with Wearables

TheJerkGoogleGlassIf you have $1,500 burning a hole in your pocket or are simply an early adopter who isn’t part of Google’s Explorer program, today’s your day. Google Glasses are available for purchase in limited numbers to anyone.

Wearables like Google Glass and the Pebble Smartwatch are gaining attention and have potential, but they’re not quite ready for primetime. I received a Pebble as a holiday gift last year and had the opportunity to test drive Google Glass thanks to the guys at Social Driver a few weeks ago, and neither have blown me away.

As someone who took notes freshman year on a first-generation Macintosh PowerBook 170 and bought a first-generation iPod back before anyone knew what an iPod was, I’m all for early adoption. Those products however were serviceable right off the bat. Sure, their technology improved and prices dropped, but for the most part they were fully functional at launch.

Pebble and Google Glass on the other hand are not only making users serve as guinea pigs, they’re making them pay for the privilege. My Pebble watch was purchased as part of a Kickstarter campaign, was delivered months late and within six months had to be replaced fro a screen glitch. During the Q&A of the Google Glass demonstration, Explorers spoke of poor battery life and the glasses get hot to the touch. Because Google Glass can’t differentiate voices, anyone hijack your glasses with the “Okay Glass” command even if they’re not the ones wearing them.

The potential for these wearables providing timely information and recording biometrics can also be a pitfall. Retailers like Nordstrom’s are already tracking their customers’ mobile phones to gather data about shopping habits. Customers may be okay with this if coupons pop up on their devices for ice cream when in the frozen section of the grocery store, but the invasion of privacy can be scary to some. Sites like Facebook and Amazon track our every click in order to better market to us, what if businesses could literally track your every movement? Wearables could easily record where you go, what gets your heart rate pumping, where you look, etc.

With many restaurants banning food photos with smartphones, what limitations will others want to impose on wearable users? The law always has trouble keeping pace with technology and there has already been one case of a motorist being ticketed for distracted driving for wearing Google Glasses. There are privacy concerns for those around wearable users given how easy it is to photograph or video record others. Some see users as pretentious “Glassholes”, others take real offense to the devices, leading to assaults over fears of being recorded.

Bottom Line

While some may be willing to shell out money to help Google test a product with a long way to go, I agree with Forbes’ Tony Bradley that there are better ways to spend my $1,500. The bugs will be worked out, the prices will come down and acceptance will increase, but for now companies have convinced their customers to pay way too much for products with way too many limitations.

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Anyone Who Says “I’m a Guru” is No True Guru

HBO’s Game of Thrones is great storytelling because it works on many levels. Beyond its entertainment value, it is a collection of case studies on why leaders earn or lose loyalty.

The Season Three marathon leading up to last night’s premiere provided one such lesson. After his uncle Tyrion shows him disrespect, Joffrey shouts “I am the king!” to which his grandfather Tywin reminds him: “Any man who says ‘I am king’ is no true king.”

AnyManWhoSaysThis simple reminder that loyalty and respect must be earned by actions rather than demanded has application across everything we do as communicators.

Companies proclaim themselves the “worldwide leader” on their web page and press release boilerplates, but that doesn’t mean they are. They must have thought leadership, innovation and sales to back it up. Reporters aren’t swayed by chest thumping or credentials, they want tangible examples of why someone or something is newsworthy. Customers are influenced by how our message or product benefits them, not how great we think we are.

Agencies and consultants often try to convince clients to trust their better judgement because they’re “the experts.” According to AdAge, there Are 181,000 social media “gurus,” “ninjas,” “masters,” and “mavens” on Twitter. In the country of self-proclaimed greatest, the one who actually demonstrates it is king.

When pitching new business, convincing clients or the C-suite on a strategy, you must have a “heart of a teacher” and explain the reasoning behind your approach. Simon Sinek points out in his book “Start With Why“: “It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it.” The key to being influential is constantly demonstrating you add value and have the key insights others will rely on.

As a manager, a boss will drive employees whereas a leader will coach. Prussian officer Frederick Stueben trained Washington’s army during the American Revolution, noting that with European soldiers it was enough to say “‘Do this,’ and he does it,” but to American soldiers he was “obliged to say, ‘This is the reason why you ought to do that,’ and then he does it.” You will be far more effective as a team leader if you pull people along rather than push.

Bottom Line

Proclaiming yourself with a title is not enough. You cannot simply say you’re great at something, you must show it everyday and in everything you do.

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Don’t Act Like You’re Not Impressed: Promoting Anchorman 2 with Integration

Ron BurgundyAnchorman 2: The Legend Continues comes out on DVD and Blu-ray today, closing the books on the integrated marketing campaign promoting the film.

For more than a year leading to its release, Paramount Pictures used a barrage of appearances by actor Will Ferrell in the character of Ron Burgundy, marketing partnerships and social media contests to produce audience engagement.

But did it work?


The campaign began with Ferrell’s appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show as Burgundy in March 2012 to officially announce the film, followed by teaser trailers two months later. Full trailers were released in June and October 2013 in theaters and online through YouTube and

Appearances as Burgundy continued with numerous media stunts including: presenting at MTV’s Europe Music Awards, anchoring an actual newscast on Bismarck’s KXMB-TV, providing curling trials commentary on Canada’s TSN sports channel and an interview with Peyton Manning for ESPN. Emerson College went so far as to rename their school the Ron Burgundy School of Communication for a day, complete with a press event.


Marketing partnerships provided more ways to get in front of audiences, sell products and promote the film. The Newseum in Washington D.C. hosted a special exhibit, Chrysler produced over 70 commercials for its Dodge Durango starring Burgundy, Ben & Jerry’s released a limited-edition “Scotchy Scotch Scotch” ice cream and Jockey wrapped a line of tight briefs in Anchorman 2 themed packaging.

The onslaught extended online with an audition contest on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest. Fans could tag videos to be considered for best anchor, meteorologist and live reporter, voted on through the web with no reward other than recognition.


Initial results pointed to an unsuccessful campaign. Despite generating over 3.5 million likes on Facebook, 170,000 followers on Twitter, and 60,000 subscribers on YouTube, moviegoers were slow to the box office. The film opened at #2 with $26.8 million, lower than the inflation-adjusted $35 million of the original, and dropped to #10 by its fourth weekend.

This may have been a result of forgetting to “always leaving them wanting more.” Promotion should have been selective, tantalizing audiences to go out to the movies. Bombarding fans with promotional appearances and reruns of the original on cable likely satisfied any longing to see the character and produced audience fatigue.

In the end, Burgundy stayed classy. The film’s eventual $172.7 million gross revenue exceeded the inflation-adjusted $110.4 million of the first. Word-of-mouth and reviews probably account for ultimately being profitable, reinforcing quality content as a key component to successful communication strategies. Paramount’s partners also monetized their marketing partnerships. Chrysler saw Durango spike 59% in October 2013 and up 50% for the year.


Making efficient use of a comparatively small $50 million budget, the stunts produced earned media coverage and social media discussion, demonstrating the power of an integrated approach. Not only did audiences see the stunts themselves, news coverage and online conversation achieved more than paid placements could have alone.

The Bottom Line

Profitable film, ROI for partners and extended earned media reach? In the words of Burgundy, “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Marketing, Pinterest, Public Relations, Social Media, Strategy, Twitter, YouTube | Leave a comment

Publicity Stunts That Take Off CEO Jeff Bezos channeled Evel Knievel in his December 2013 interview on “60 Minutes” announcing Amazon Prime Air, a “new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Bezos insists Amazon’s drones are not science fiction. A recent Federal Aviation Adminstration ruling however grounded Lakemaid Beer’s delivery drones serving ice fishermen, showing Bezos was potentially full of hot air. If beer delivery drones can’t operate on remote, flat frozen lakes of Minnesota, it’s improbable that Amazon’s drones will take to the skies any time soon. That doesn’t matter. If Amazon Air Prime was merely a publicity stunt, it was a brilliant one.

Bezos had impeccable timing as the interview aired the evening before Cyber Monday. Amazon made itself the topic of conversation on the news, online and at the water cooler on what is considered “one of the biggest online shopping days of the year” according to

While Apple is struggling to maintain its innovative reputation without Steve Jobs, Amazon positioned itself as a pioneer. Six weeks after the drones, it announced patenting “anticipatory shipping”, predicting and expediting customer’s orders through Amazon’s shipping process. There is no implementation immediate plans, but it sustained the conversation framing Amazon as a trailblazer.

The Bottom Line

  • Be credible. Amazon got away with fantastical drones because they have credibility based on their innovation in product delivery services such as Amazon Prime shipping, Amazon Instant Video and Kindle Whispersync. Make sure that the conversation you want to start or jump into is one that you can legitimately contribute to.
  • Align to your values and brand. You can be irreverent, controversial, offensive, or even foolish as long as it is what your target audience expects. Red Bull positions itself as an extreme energy drink, so sponsoring Felix Baumgartner’s jump from 23 miles above the Earth and breaking the sound barrier fit their brand, with the video accounting for 1% of all online conversations at the time. If a stunt can be reasonably misconstrued of being out of character, you run the risk of alienating your audience.
  • Be relevant. To be worthy of attention, stunts need to relate to your audience. Adult Swim caused a Boston bomb scare in 2007 by placing LED placards around town that were misidentified as improvised explosive devices. It wasn’t until hours later that a young staffer in the mayor’s office recognized the cartoon characters because the wrong audience saw it first.
  • Make it shareable. Stunts may get traditional press, but they’re more likely to get major play online. Videos need to tell your story in under two minutes and descriptions need translate to a tweet, so keep it simple. Think visually to translate to Facebook or YouTube.
  • Achieve an objective. No matter how popular, stunts that fail to achieve tangible outcomes are failures. Canadian airline WestJet’s marketing elves crafted a Christmas miracle with video of passengers finding presents at luggage claim they told Santa they wanted before takeoff. Two months later, WestJet may have to raise fares and institute baggage and wifi fees due to a struggling Canadian dollar. Their holiday cheer may not translate into customers if they can’t compete on price.
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Influence Grows Like a Weed


The HBO series Game of Thrones (yes, I’m a nerd) episode “And Now His Watch Has Ended” provides a reminder of that fans, followers and Klout scores don’t matter:

“Influence grows like a weed.” — Varys

If all you want are followers, tech writer Lauren Hockenson explores how you can purchase fake Twitter followers and Nicole Perlroth highlights research speculating that brands, politicians and celebrities ranging from Pepsi to Newt Gingrich to 50 Cent may be doing just that. Artificially inflated follower counts further proves it to be a useless metric, beyond perhaps to boost Google search result rankings or to satisfy C-suite skepticism of social media ROI.

While we all want the perceived prestige from large numbers of fans or followers, it is a false measure without engagement. The ability to rouse people to action or change opinion makes influence paramount to numbers. Thousands of fans or followers who don’t use your product or support your cause are meaningless.

Influence like a weed starts small, spreads pervasively and is hard to uproot when established. Engage your audience with content that is significant to them and over time your influence will spread.

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Speculation Defeats Journalism: In Race to First, Truth Loses

Harry TrumanHarry Truman got a good laugh from the infamous and inaccurate Chicago Tribune headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” in 1948, but journalistic jumps to conclusions in the Digital Age are no laughing matter.

Twitter, Facebook and blogs have become useful breaking news and giving issues in-depth attention. The first image of the “Miracle on the Hudson” appeared on Twitter with a ferry passenger’s photo. Bloggers forced CBS to admit “substantial questions regarding the authenticity” of the 60 Minutes story questioning President George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service, ultimately ousting ending veteran newsman Dan Rather.

While the International News Service slogan used to be “Get It First, But First Get It Right”, several recent high-profile examples of sloppy reporting show this has gone by the wayside, showing that social media also has a downside:


These mistakes should have been a wakeup call, but the tragedy in Boston proves otherwise.

Rumors spread on Twitter and Reddit that a missing Brown University student was a suspect, further spread by Politico and Newsweek reporters. CNET’s Molly Wood cites many more examples of how the rush to be first outpaced the prudence of being right. While “circulating official ‘have you seen this person’ images…online is orders of magnitude more effective than the old days”, Wood asserts that currently social media is “making news worse”.

We all share responsibility during breaking news to prevent the spread of bad information as well as an opportunity to help.

Take a break. Turn off scheduled Facebook posts and tweets, and restrain yourself from posting during a developing story. Emotions can make it hard to be an observer, but by doing nothing you’re actually doing something by preventing the spread of unverified information.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 2.02.36 AM“Just the facts ma’am”. Let those directly involved such as official feeds or actual eyewitnesses do the talking by sharing and retweeting. In the aftermath of the attack, Boston Police Department issued public safety warnings and details about the suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with thousands of retweets. When Hurricane Sandy made landfall, FEMA reached more than 300,000 people on Facebook (25 times their daily average) and 6 million with a single tweet thanks to retweets. More than 500,000 people visited and following the storm social media drove visitors to a Sandy-specific Facebook page, Twitter handle and landing page became a clearinghouse for recovery information.

Image Source: Photo by W. Eugene Smith, Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
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A Great Power Imposes Great Responsibility: Using Communication for Good

A few months ago, something curious caught my attention at our vet’s office. A small Holland lop rabbit named Arwen laid on a table. Her limp hind legs were spread out as two people who appeared to be volunteers attempted to fit a contraption to her.

Arwen broke her back while being spayed and was paralyzed. Two veterinarians recommended she be euthanized, that could be done for her and she was starting to experience complications.

Arwen's CartA local charity Friends of Rabbits refused to accept this advice and decided to fit Arwen with a cart to give her mobility again.

A few months later, my company announced its “Holiday Giving Program“: a $250 donation to a nonprofit organization specified by each employee and match any personal donations up to $250. Our rabbit recently passed away, so we made the sentimental choice of making our gift to the rescue group I saw in the vet’s office that day.

Arwen 11-7-12I recently got to see Arwen and was amazed at her progress. Several months in the cart, acupuncture and other treatments which would have cost thousands of dollars later, she had fully regained mobility.

Once faced with a death sentence, this rabbit is running around and darting through tunnels. This was only possible through the dedication of a nonprofit organization, vets who give of their time and experience and the charity of others.

We constantly sell our clients on the power of communication to drive sales or produce change. Voltaire (not Uncle Ben in Spiderman) first said “A great power imposes great responsibility.” We have amazing power as communicators to leverage our talents for the common good.

In the case of Arwen, my employer’s generosity of multiplied my donation to sustain the rescue organization which saved her. Volunteering our time can have just as powerful an impact, if not more.

Battle of Green Spring Press ConferenceI’m a history buff, so a few years I became involved with The Trust for Public Land‘s effort to preserve 202 acres of historically and ecologically significant land near Jamestown in Virginia, organizing a press conference and Revolutionary War re-enactment to highlight the Battle of Green Spring fought on part of this land in 1781.

Thousands of dollars were donated, hundreds of spectators learned the importance of the battlefield, and a video was produced further highlighting the cause, ultimately resulting with the purchase and preservation of the land.

My personal contribution was a drop in the bucket, but I can’t drive through Jamestown without feeling a slight amount of satisfaction knowing I had a hand in preserving that land.

Bottom Line

Whatever cause speaks to you personally, helping raise its voice can literally save a life or preserve something for generations to come.

In his book EntreLeadership, author Dave Ramsey says “Being generous is the hallmark of people who live successful lives and who operate business with soul…Some of the greatest joys of becoming successful are associated with acts of generosity to your team, your customers, and your community.”

Here are some easy “acts of generosity” you can use to support a cause:

  • Create a meme: How many Willy Wonka or Grumpy Cat memes have you seen? Memes can be extremely effective and online generators make them easy to create.
  • Write a blog post: A well written blog post can get a lot of traction and double as cause marketing. Advocates and volunteers will become evangelists with retweets and Facebook shares. The story of a rabbit-owning chocolate company owner inspired a blog post on the considerations behind Easter adoptions of rabbits, which went viral with animal rescue groups.
  • Make giving part of your culture: It can be as formal as a charitable matching program or taking on pro bono accounts, or as simple as allowing hours to volunteer or donating furniture or office supplies you don’t need.

Can you think of others?

Posted in Blogging, Cause Marketing, Facebook, Memes, Twitter | 2 Comments