Archive for February, 2012

Guest Post by Adam Paul: Simple Is As Simple Does

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I’m delighted to introduce my first guest post, written by Adam Paul. Adam is the executive producer of The Steps, a web drama that has recently started its second season. (Disclosure: One of the creators, Dylan Kussman, is a close friend, and I am a contributor to the Kickstarter campaign that funded this season.)

In addition to creative work on the (very) small screen, The Steps has showcased innovative and integrated marketing through myriad social media channels, using a variety of tactics based on larger strategic goals, as Adam explains:

As an independent producer of web and television filmed content, I should be much more savvy about marketing via social media than I am. Working with lower budgets just to get the story told, never mind marketed to the public, you’d think I’d have a firm grip on the ins and outs of using Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about my product.

But I don’t. It seems I’m always learning about some new way to cleverly reach out to an audience. A contest or survey or targeted ad or email campaign. But I’ve come to accept recently that that’s the nature of the beast. If new content is the fuel on which the internet runs, then social networking is the Internet’s true combustion engine. And there will always be a myriad of ways to fill the engine’s tank.

My current series, ‘The Steps’, is now in its second season. During the first season, we gave away a Dell netbook via a Twitter hashtag campaign and premiered the series at a ‘Device Party’ which encouraged participants to bring their own connected platform – be it smartphone or laptop or tablet – to our party event, join the wifi network there and simultaneously view the first episode together. We took out Facebook ads, rigorously administered our pages and found multiple distribution partners to screen our series to the widest possible audience.

The Steps

While our budget was raised entirely via Kickstarter.com’s brilliant site and a strong outreach to our production team’s networks, this year we’re utilizing far fewer event-based methods to actually promote the series. Aside from a weekly new episode release (Thursdays at www.WatchTheSteps.com), we’re letting the show gain traction through the simplest of marketing techniques: word of mouth.

Despite a compelling premise and world class production values, ‘The Steps’ is a unique animal in the world of web series –

  • It’s a drama (a noir thriller, to be exact)
  • It takes its time – far from boring, our series is a particular type of tale, with richly textured characters, strong imagery, and an overarching story that requires some investment from the viewer.
  • Like life, it’s complicated – the story’s hero, Charlie Madison, is a private eye with a habit of getting into trouble. He gets in his own way. He may have even killed his last girlfriend. He’s a human being who’s made mistakes, can’t forgive himself, but trudges on and tries to do the right thing.

That’s a lot to pitch to a new audience in a blurb or even a press release.

And so, our most recent revelation in the world of social media marketing has been this:

That’s right. A badge. We’ve asked our followers on Facebook and Twitter to use it as their profile picture for a week. Then we’ll change it up with another image from the show each week as we roll episodes out.

Simple, no? But very effective. No one has to beg their friends to check it out. Those who like the show just change their profile picture. Yes, we seed our social network pages with behind the scenes stills and notes from the creator of the show during the week between episodes. We keep topping off the tank of that engine so it can run loud and strong. But this little badge has proven to be the best way to get our name in front of the maximum number of eyeballs. Our followers wear it with pride, their followers see the bold url, and hopefully, just hopefully, we’ve penetrated their subconscious with our three-word call to action.

Adam Paul is the founder of Giantleap Industries, a digital studio that develops multi-platform content to bridge the divide between television, the web and wherever else you’re watching. ‘The Steps’ is currently rolling out new episodes of its second season at www.WatchTheSteps.com, Youtube.com/TheStepsWebSeries, Koldcast.tv and Blip.tv

All images provided by Adam Paul.

This Is What Happens When You Lose Perspective About Your Brand

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It’s also why you shouldn’t distribute your internal documents too broadly. They might sound a wee bit silly. To everyone.*

Who else now wants to see Stephen Colbert invite The Bloggess on his show to compare techniques?

*Crazy idea: Maybe if it sounds silly when you read it aloud, you shouldn’t proceed with it.

Ask Better Questions to Accomplish Organizational Goals

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Tricks are easy. They’re also transient. Good work is hard, and requires serious thought and preparation to succeed. Take a look at these links to see some things you should be thinking about, and extrapolate.

Start of a Horse Race

Are you too focused on “likes”?
Social Business: Far Beyond The Like at Brass Tack Thinking.

Should you be on Pinterest? Well, what do you do?
The 10 Most-Followed Brands on Pinterest at Mashable.

Are you trying to sell when you should be listening?
Why Are Retailers Shutting Their Facebook Stores? at Mashable

So, what questions should you be asking? And are you asking them?

Photo by Rennett Stowe, via Flickr.

Marketing Challenge: Valentine’s Day

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Stewie and Steve Exchange Hearts for Valentine's Day

How do you take something insanely familiar and make it feel somehow new? Is there anything to do with Valentine’s Day that hasn’t already been done? And isn’t that guy on the right a little short for a Stormtrooper?

Photo by ShellyS, via Flickr.

Get Pinned!

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Still interested in that Pinterest thing you’ve been hearing so much about? Here are some more places to find ideas about making it work for your brand.

“Pinterest Rivals Twitter in Referral Traffic”
If you’re wondering if there’s a point to all of this, check out Brian Solis’s post about Pinterest’s success in driving traffic and engagement.

“How Brands Can Get Involved on Pinterest”
Social Media Group has a few how-to tips that may come in handy, as well as methods worth exploring.

“Pinterest drives enormous blog and business success”
On {Grow}, Lauren Schaefer provides a case study of Pinterest success, including that careful balance of self-promotion, how-to, and outside ideas that fit the brand.

And a worthy repeat:
“Pinterest for Brands: 5 Hot Tips”
Mashable has some more suggestions: promote a lifestyle, use it like a focus group, crowdsource, run contests, and inspire your team. All of these have potential–but I’m repeating this one for #5, because all too often, that end of the equation is ignored.

My Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

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So what’s my favorite Super Bowl commercial? It didn’t air this year. And it isn’t Apple’s “1984″ commercial, which has never really grabbed me (in spite of my long-standing appreciation for their products). No, it’s something that talked about solving a problem, and did it with the kind of dry humor I like. If you remove the irony, the message could speak to Gen Y today. But the irony is what makes the spot work. And that’s very Gen X, which was definitely the audience they were trying to reach:

Name That Audience: Super Bowl Commercials

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Here’s how this works: a company buys ad time and hires an agency to create a commercial worthy of airing in the Super Bowl. And based on the results, I try to figure out who they think their audience is. Let’s proceed:

Verizon Droid
For the people who miss their childhood Spirographs.

Old Navy

For people who mock Corporate Cowboys. Is that a thing?

Hyundai
For people who love the Rocky theme song, fear not living up to it, and are susceptible to peer pressure.

Bud Light Platinum Lager
For people who want to pretend they’re not drinking Bud Light.

Audi
For vampires who love cookouts, and inadvertent murder-suicides. Possibly for Van Helsing.

Pepsi
For people who see Elton John as a dictator, and do not remember that Aretha Franklin is still with us.

Hyundai Veloster Turbo

For cheetahs who have had enough of that nonsense.

Chevy trucks
For men who love Barry Manilow, surviving the apocalypse, and Twinkies.

TaxACT.com
For people who pee in the pool.

Volkswagen
For people who like dogs, but miss that Vader kid.

Chevy Sonic
For people who want a car name that uses the same letters as Scion.

Doritos
For people who like to see babies and grandmas get revenge on chip-hoarding brats.

Star Wars in 3D
For people who want to ride “Star Tours,” but can’t afford a ticket to Disneyland. (Put that way, this may actually be a valid reason to see “The Phantom Menace” again.)

BMW
For people who don’t realize that you can hear the car from inside the house.

Oikos Yogurt
For people who want to head-butt John Stamos.

Century 21
For Century 21 agents.

Jack in the Box
For people who love bacon so much they want to marry it. And are creepy.

Bud Light
For people who feel good about adopting rescue dogs. As they should.

And as a final note, there’s “Battleship.” Liam Neeson, what on earth did you buy?

Why We Should Require More When We Donate

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Do you care about women’s health issues? In a case like this, how do you choose?

The Susan G. Komen Foundation raises money–lots of money–for breast cancer research. Planned Parenthood provides health services across the country. For years, Planned Parenthood has received grant money from the Komen Foundation, which has funded 170,000 breast exams over the past five years.

This week, the Komen Foundation eliminated its financial support Planned Parenthood, citing a regulation that prohibits funding organizations that are under Congressional investigation. Criticism was immediate and ferocious, claiming that the change was political in nature and pointing out the Komen Foundation’s ties to political parties.

Today, the Komen Foundation reversed that decision, saying that a new policy would mean that only criminal investigations would result in a loss of funding:

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

–Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen Foundation

But the statement does not address the influence of politics on the organization. Their own Senior VP of Public Policy, Karen Handel, identifies herself as a pro-life Christian and has publicly shared her opposition to Planned Parenthood. While there’s no evidence that Handel played a role in this process, people “with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process” have said that the regulation connecting funding decisions and Congressional investigations was designed specifically to exclude Planned Parenthood. Certainly other organizations have not been subject to the regulation.

What was the immediate result of the Komen actions? In one day, Planned Parenthood received direct donations totaling $650,000–replacing nearly all of the money that Komen decided not to give them.

Longer term, though, this is a reminder to take a hard look at the organizations to which you give your time and money–no matter where you stand on this particular issue. What do you know about them and how they make decisions? Who determines their priorities? And when they have a crisis–as many organizations will–how transparent are their communications? We all need to ask more questions and insist on real answers. That is our responsibility.

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