Call a (virtual) Friend, Creating Confidence and Nick Offerman

nick offerman
Photo via AdWeek

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Minecraft Cellphone: Verizon teamed up with ad agency Wieden + Kennedy and the Minecraft design agency Blockworks to build a functioning cellphone within the game. This cellphone connects the virtual world of Minecraft with the real world, meaning players’ avatars can make phone calls to actual people outside the game. Players can surf the web, take selfies and even make video calls where they’ll appear as an avatar on a friend’s real life screen and their friend will appear in pixelated blocks on the game screen. This is insanely cool. Check out the YouTube video for a demo. 

Creating Customer Confidence: According to PSFK’s Future of Retail 2016 Report, one of the biggest trends of the year is “inspiring and empowering customers by providing access to tools that help plan, design and expedite their shopping experience.” This article details a few brands who are killing it right now. Home goods retailer Pirch completes their showrooms of high-end appliances with full-time chefs and a home spa. Following in the footsteps of brands like Warby Parker, expands the home try-on experience to clothes. Lululemon now categorizes their line of yoga pants by how they’ll make you feel, as opposed to style. All these brands are doing simple, yet innovative things to help the consumer get a better picture of how these products will fit into their actual lives. 

45 Minutes of Nick Offerman: Lagavulin whisky recruited longtime fan of the brand Nick Offerman for a Yule Log video. The video consists of the Parks and Rec star sitting in a leather armchair by the fire, drinking whisky, in silence, for 45 minutes straight. As AdWeek notes, “it’s delightful.” What I love is how on point the video is for the brand of Nick Offerman the man. While I’m admittedly not too familiar with Lagavulin’s ads, this doesn’t feel like it’s consistent for them, it feels consistent for Nick Offerman.

Stay classy, nerds.


Podcast Edition

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This American Life: Host Ira Glass is the king of podcasts. Serial, that true crime podcast you all binge-listened to last year, is a spin-off of This American Life. In the recent episode “Put a Bow on It,” Ira ponders the phenomenon of weird food mashups, like the Hardee’s burger with a cheesesteak as a topping and Pizza Hut’s pizza with hot dogs in the crust. Ira believes there must be a room where people actually sit around and decide what food to mashup next. He takes us inside that room. Later, producer Zoe Chace talks to the guy who was in charge of marketing when Jack in the Box went through an E. Coli crisis to learn how he saved the company and what he makes of Volkswagen’s current massive PR crisis. This episode is full of valuable marketing nuggets, from getting your tastebuds in the mindset of the target to saving face after a huge mistake.

Freakonomics Radio: Economists and authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner explore “the hidden side of everything” in their weekly podcast. The recent episode “How Did the Belt Win?” wrestles with objects that are both ubiquitous and dysfunctional. Case in point: the belt. Belts have been proven to have poor health effects on the back and internal organs, yet we continue to wear them every day. Suspenders work much better. Think about it. If you want your pants to stay up, why wouldn’t you use a product that actually pulls them up (suspenders) versus a product that squeezes your pants to your side (belt)? Levitt and Dubner conclude that the dork factor of wearing suspenders is just too high to overcome their functionality. This episode is really interesting when thinking of ways to market a product. Sometimes the most practical thing is the least practiced.

Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything: ToE is a part of the podcasting network, Radiotopia, which was created by Roman Mars. If Ira Glass is the king of podcasting, then Roman Mars is the rising young prince. I’m not even going to include an episode of his podcast, 99% Invisible, in this newsletter because you should listen to EVERY single episode. It’s that good. I digress. Benjamen Walker’s podcast is also amazing. If I could marry a voice it would be his. I don’t even want to know what the face behind his voice looks like because it will ruin it. In the recent episode “Enchanting by Numbers,” Walker explores the use of algorithms in marketing. We learn how Uber uses algorithms to generate phantom cars and marketplace mirages, how Facebook users react to the realization that Facebook controls everything they see in their feed and how Ada Lovelace authored the first algorithm, which she wrote in 1843 because she’s a baller and women rule.

TED Radio Hour: Did you guys know TED has a podcast? I can’t pick just one episode to share because they’re all equally inspiring. Recent favorites include: The Meaning of Work (speakers explore how to make work more meaningful), The Source of Creativity (speakers examine the mystery of creativity), Screen Time (speakers explore our relationships with screens), Open Source World (speakers examine how open source has changed the way we innovate) and Simply Happy (speakers tell us the secret to finding happiness).

Other Podcasts of Note: Radiolab, Radio Diaries, Stuff You Should Know, Criminal, Invisibiliathe AllusionistHow to Be Amazing

Need more podcast suggestions? Hit me up.

Breakfast with a Side of Social, Facebook Notes, BuzzSumo and Immortality

Photo via PSFK

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Social Media Breakfast: I attended a social media breakfast at the Union last week with speaker Nate Moll, UW-Madison’s social media specialist. One thing I found really interesting was UW’s use of Periscope, an app that lets you broadcast live video to the world. UW uses it for #TourTuesday, in which they give virtual tours of different parts of campus each week. Through Periscope, UW is able to both attract potential students and play up the nostalgia factor with alumni, two of the ways the university makes money. After Nicole’s inspiring “Wish I Did That” last week, this has me wondering about unique ways we could use this platform to tell a story.

Big Brother Strikes Again: Our favorite harbinger of dystopia is bringing notes back. You may recall the early days of Facebook, when status updates were restricted to a character limit (YES I do remember these days, cough, Sara). Notes were a way to share more in depth thoughts with friends, like “25 Random Things You Didn’t Know About Me,” lists of your favorite songs of the year or Oscar predictions. Notes never went anywhere, they’ve just been gathering dust on the lefthand bar of your profile page, where, in my case, details from a Brewers game in 2010 sit idly by. Now, Facebook is releasing completely re-designed Notes that looks very similar to the popular blog platform Medium (because they were built by the same team). This isn’t that surprising as blogging has made a comeback among teenagers and other age groups. Yet it is slightly terrifying, as it signals yet another way the Book is attempting to rein in content by eliminating the need for people to use outside websites or services. Facebook’s notes bring all the bloggers to the yard.

Twitter Tools for Bloggers: This article lists some helpful tools for bloggers to capitalize on trending content to create relevant, useful blog posts. I’ve used Topsy to compare hashtags to see which perform better, but I haven’t tried BuzzSumo yet. BuzzSumo is a search engine that allows you to view the top content for a particular keyword phrase and filters it by its performance on different social media platforms. Unlike tools like SEM Rush that just tell you what keywords are performing best, this allows you to see which content with those keywords are performing the best. That means you can discover competitors’ posts that are doing well and write similar pieces or new perspectives on those topics.

Here’s How to Live Forever: Donate to the crowd funded project for human longevity.

Stay classy, nerds.

Instagram Ads, Cyclist Apps, Parody Tweeters and Today’s Education

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Instgram Ads Coming to a Screen Near You: Ok so this isn’t exactly news, but I did listen in on a webinar yesterday so I thought I would share some key takeaways:

  • Campaign specific hashtags lack the value of evergreen brand hashtags – Due to the short nature of a promotion, these hashtags rarely catch on
  • 65% of top performing posts prominently feature products – I’ve found this recently to be the case on Facebook as well. Basically, fans are following you because they like your product. So, simply put, show them your product.
  • Similarly, Instagram contests and sales events were among the lowest categories for engagement
  • UGC still ranking high
  • Aside from the Carousel Ad you’ve probably already seen in your feeds, Instagram ads will also be available as:
    • Link Ads – Standard static photo with a CTA and a “learn more” button that will take you to an external link
    • Video Ads – Same, but with video
    • App Install Ads – Photo or video with “install now” button to install the app on your phone

Google Glass for Cyclists: SENTH IN1 has introduced augmented reality glasses for bikers. These glasses sync with your phone via Bluetooth or wifi to provide users an interface that allows them to see their speed, track distance and get a heads up display for safer riding while out on the road. They can pick up third-party signals from other fitness devices to track even more stuff, like heart rate, weather and elevation, all in the same place.

A Lesson from Nihilist Arby’s: Brendan Kelly, blogger, punk rocker and copywriter, is the creator of the Nihilist Arby’s twitter account, a darkly humorous parody account Kelly created to combat “dumb corporations that just don’t get it, you know?” Kelly says “fast-food brands unbelievably perpetuate the most terrible of ideas.” This parody account suggests that Nihilist Arby’s may be better at speaking to today’s satirical and irreverent generation than actual Arby’s. Kelly’s account, not even a year old, already has more followers and fan engagement than the official Arby’s account.

The Coddling of the American Mind: Disclaimer – this doesn’t really have anything to do with advertising or PR, but it was a really interesting read on today’s college students (and I think it applies beyond just students) demanding protection from ideas they don’t like, which is detrimental to both education and mental health. Basically, we’ve begun to restrict speech as a society in the name of political correctness and to avoid possible mental trauma, when maybe the best thing to do is just talk it out. This one’s pretty long, but worth a read. I’d love to know your thoughts if you do take a look, as I didn’t wholeheartedly agree with everything that was said.

Sincerely Yours,

Homeless Holly

A Checklist, Packaging, Video and Sound

Gif via Wired

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The Social Media Checklist: This checklist from TIME includes 12 items to consider before publishing every post on social media. The article offers the items both as a quick checklist and goes into depth on each consideration. I like the short checklist because it’s an easy tool for anyone who posts content to social channels to glance at. The checklist may seem obvious, but there are definitely times when posts have been published for clients with inaccurate URLs, misspelled words or missed opportunities for hashtags. This checklist could act as a final reminder to double-check all content before pushing live.

Packaging Concepts for Adults: Graphic designer Mun Joo Jane designed a packaging concept for Kellogg’s Cereal that appeals to adult cereal consumers. Cereal boxes generally tend to all look the same—boxy, with cartoonish brand logos and childish bright colors. Jane literally thinks outside the box with 2 designs—a play on the look of a milk carton and futuristic cylindrical container. The cylinder is as functional as it is sleek, with the lid acting as a measuring cup for adults conscientious of what they consume.

Sixfold, a New York design collective, launched the first designs specifically for the craft beer market with a clever carrier that is shipped flat and then assembled at home using a fold and notch system. The carriers are made of attractive leather and walnut, appealing to craft beer drinkers.

McDonald’s recently launched a campaign featuring a burger bike tote for cyclists in Denmark. The innovative design can carry a burger, fries and a drink in packaging that hooks over the handlebars of a bike and then unfolds when you reach your destination.

The Book: Facebook’s news feed now ranks videos based on your volume levels and HD preferences. The Book will take into account how long you look at videos, whether you turned up your volume, made it full screen or enabled HD playback, which will factor into whether or not to show you similar videos.

Researchers found several psychological reasons behind why users like, share and comment on Facebook, which have been turned into a convenient infographic. Nothing too surprising here, but it’s interesting to see the numbers.

Ambience through Sound: Hey, you guys remember how I like podcasts? Here’s an interesting ad campaign based on the audio experience. A French train company has set up billboards of maps throughout European cities with audio jacks placed in different areas and neighborhoods for passerby to plugin and listen. Each jack holds a different sound for users to experience the ambience of various places throughout a particular city. The article notes that 83% of all advertising we’re exposed to focuses on sight, but sound goes underutilized. Studies show that audio influences how people experience their environments, so this is a unique sensory approach to pull audiences in and encourage them to travel (by train) to these cities to get the full experience.

That is all.

Who to Know, Podcasts, Cheese and Historical Optimization

the truth
Photo via Google Images

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Creatives You Should Know in 2015: If this morning’s Wish I Did That got you in the mood to feel inspired, check out this annual roundup of creatives behind some of the world’s most innovative campaigns. The list features A.J. Hassan (Always, “Like a Girl”), Tim Vance and Paul Knott (Honda, “The Other Side”), Marcela Angeles and Grace Espejel (Honda, “Mas que un Auto”), Takahiro Hosoda (Suntory, “On the Rocks”), Matilda Kahl and Viktor Angwald (Cheerios), Rajeev Basu (Gap). I highly recommend reading through all the bios, which contain fantastic work and creative advice.

Podcasts Trudge Onward: Hey, did you guys know I like podcasts? Well apparently, so do other people. This article mentions advertising within podcasts, which many marketers have found to be incredibly effective. An interesting theory on this is because podcast hosts have to read advertisements aloud during their shows, which feels more authentic to the listener. Hosts often get creative with the products they speak about or offer personal anecdotes about them, making it more fun for the listener. Want to know how effective podcast advertising is? I bought myself a men’s razor to shave my legs after listening to the host of the Truth talk about Harry’s razors.

Move Aside Tacos: Everyone and their mother is freaking because the taco emoji is finally here. But I’ve got better news, my friend. THE CHEESE EMOJI IS HERE.

Reblogging Isn’t Just for Tumblr: This is one of those things I read that was so simple, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. Yet, the truth is, most people haven’t thought of it. This article goes in depth on historical optimization—re-publishing your best performing blog posts from the past. There are some excellent numbers to support this practice and I think it’s something everyone working on a client’s blog should think about.

Happy weekend, all! Who’s craving cheese now? Anyone?

Jonah Peretti’s Lab, White Space, Fooji and IKEA Meatballs

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BuzzFeed Founder Continues to Amaze Me: Jonah Peretti, featured in many an email authored by me of late for his innovative views on bringing the content to the people (via Facebook), is launching a new lab for open-source invention. This lab is basically a playroom for adults where people will do “undirected work as part of an organization.” The goal is to advance journalism by giving consumers better information. Any discoveries will be released under open licenses, so anyone can access and share it. The lab will be a place to play, experiment and let your imagination roam free. “The logic of this new lab is: screw it. Let’s fly drones. Drones with lasers. And more to the point: let’s build drones with lasers and show everyone how to make them, too.”

The Importance of White Space in Web Design: This excerpt from Interaction Design Best Practices: Mastering the Tangibles is a really nice read, especially for those not on the create team who don’t regularly do design work. Basically, white space isn’t just about aesthetics, it serves 3 key functions in the user interface experience: 1. Improving comprehension 2. Clarifying relationships and 3. Attracting attention. They used a great analogy about a website being a TV show with the white space functioning as the supporting actors whose role it is to make the main actors (copy and images) shine.

Invasion of the Facebook Bots: This is an interesting piece that imagines the future of Facebook based off the announcement that the social media magnate is rolling out a new feature that uses bots to wish your friends a happy birthday for you. It’s part silly satire and part Orwellian dystopia.

Fooji: Remember when I told you guys how you can now order Dominos by tweeting a pizza emoji at their handle? Well now there’s an entire company based on that premise. Fooji will deliver you any food emoji you tweet at them, from burger, to Chinese, to cookies. The catch? You pay a flat rate of $15 each time and there’s no customization. So this service is not recommended for picky eaters. I think it’s pretty genius, though.

Become an IKEA Meatball Taster: For the IKEA Australia store launch, the home design company is going all out with a killer PR stunt inviting customers to help “build” the space. They created a series of video promos detailing the various “jobs” customers can apply for, which include Ball Pit Tester and Meatball Taster.

Happy weekend!

Stripped Down Ads, Instant Articles and More Not-So-Subtle Rants About Facebook Being Big Brother

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 10.02.45 AM
Art by Hank Willis Thomas

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Unbranded Images of Women: Artist Hank Willis Thomas looks at how “advertising can function as a mirror for the hopes and dreams — or the anxiety — of a society at a period of time.” Thomas stripped away the copy from ads through the past century, letting the images speak volumes for themselves. “I think what happens with ads — when we put text and logos on them, we do all the heavy lifting of making them make sense to us,” he says. “But when you see the image naked, or unbranded, you start to really ask questions.” I found this work fascinating and it made me wonder, especially with the shift we’re seeing in create to bold, expansive images with clean, subtle copy, what can we say without saying anything?

Facebook Continues World Domination: Instant articles, a trend I’ve been writing about for the past couple months, after the CEO of BuzzFeed announced plans to bring the content to the people at SXSW, are now being tested on the Facebook newsfeed. Facebook began testing Wednesday, with one item each published directly to the social platform from BuzzFeed, National Geographic, the Atlantic, NBC News, the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC News, Bild and Spiegel Online. The number one advantage, hands down, is speed. Instant articles will load up to 10 times faster on mobile because users do not need to leave the app. We know, especially after this week’s lunch and learn, that not only is mobile the future, mobile is now. And currently, we’re not creating content that will load fast enough for impatient users. This means that “publishers have little choice but to cooperate with Facebook.” A big fear is that publishers will lose audiences on their own sites to the instant content on Facebook. Could the future be one super-website, a network of homogeneous blue and white thumbs up symbols? For me, the bigger fear is not that all this content will available in one place, but that Facebook gets to choose what content we see. “Last year, Facebook decided to downgrade the prominence of viral content like cat videos and promote ‘high quality’ news content. A month ago, it changed course again to highlight personal posts by users’ friends and family.” What if I like cat videos, Facebook!? I do what what I want!

Meanwhile Tumblr and Pinterest Quietly Lay Siege: According to a recent study by GlobalWebIndex, Facebook is the only major social platform to see a decline in growth of active users this year, down 8%, whereas newer platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr have seen explosive growth, 97% and 94% respectively. I, for one, am not surprised. Facebook is like the World State in Brave New World, where critical thinking and individual action are discouraged; everyone fits neatly into little boxes where they tick off their interests, meticulously crafting their image. Tumblr, on the other had, is like the wild west. Rules? Who needs ‘em, man? (There are actually rules). You post what you want, you see what you want, you can even design your page appearance. Have you guys picked up that I like Tumblr? Now, who’s with me? Let’s figure out how to optimize this space for our brands. Down with Facebook!

That’s all folks.

BAMFs, Mind Readers and Mayo

Photo by Mike Belleme for the New York Times

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TIME’s 100 Most Influential People: SO many fantastic human beings are honored in this annual piece. Highlights include: Emma Watson (feminist superstar) Laverne Cox (transgender LGBT advocate & beautiful human), Jill Soloway (Transparent creator & fellow UW Comm Arts Radio/TV/Film alum), Ruth Bader Ginsberg (haters be tellin her to retire and she straight chillin), Bjork (enough said), Emmanuelle Charpentier & Jennifer Doudna (umm these badass women created gene-editing technology), Malala Yousafzai (champion for women & children’s rights), some men and so many more wonderful people.

Big Brother Foursquare and Spotify Know What You Want: Foursquare plans to launch Pinpoint, which uses geolocation data to target relevant ads to people. Do you check-in at dive bars a lot? You’ll likely see ads from Wild Turkey, an official partner. Spotify plans to target ads to users’ moods and activities. Spotify’s latest research attempts infer what you’re doing based on what you’re listening to. Activity categories include workout, commute and party. If you’re listening to a party playlist, you might hear a Wild Turkey ad too. Basically, Foursquare and Spotify just want you to get drunk.

Hellman’s vs. Duke’s?: Interesting piece on the brand loyalty of mayonnaise consumers. Why is it that people are so incredibly loyal to their favorite mayo? It may be because of tradition. Most of the big brands were created in the early 1900s, so maybe we just stick to what we know and what our families use. Duke’s, for example, is very popular in the south. It might be because, surprising as it sounds, mayo is a staple condiment. You can eat a hot dog or a hamburger without ketchup, but you can’t eat tuna salad. egg salad or pimento cheese sandwiches without mayonnaise. I don’t think there’s really any one reason why such fierce devotion has developed around mayo, but I do know that if you like Miracle Whip you can see yourself out.

Happy weekend!

P.S. Saturday, April 18th is Record Store Day! Support your local record shop (my fave in Madison is Strictly Discs) by swinging by to enjoy free beer, food and live DJ sets. You can even pick up some rare vinyl released specifically for the occasion.