Saturday, August 29, 2009

short attention span theater

a while back, i blogged about my obsession with dave carroll and united breaks guitars. to date, the original video has racked up more than 5 million views inside of a month. it's really pretty amazing. even dave didn't expect nearly that much attention, having set a goal of a million views over the course of the year. the more interesting thing is that this vid drew nearly 2 million views in about 5 days, no doubt propelled by mainstream media coverage on CNN and other broadcast and print outlets.

in the accompanying story on his site, dave talks about how he promised united he was going to make a series of 3 videos about this incident. i thought that was the wrong approach when i read about it, and now that i've seen "song 2," (check out the second window in the right hand column) i'm even more convinced.

as rajesh setty points out in his excellent post on what makes viral videos take off, "second acts are not easy....if the followup isn't 10x better than the original, it won't fly."

he's right, of course. but that's not why dave's second vid isn't pulling eyeballs (so far, only about 250,000 views in its first week). the song 2 vid is, in a certain way, better. it's got more action, more people, an equally hooky tune. what it doesn't have, though -- and rajesh leaves this element out of his list -- is what i'd call "audience care-about." all those people who hate united for its poor service (disclosure: i'm in that group) spent their care-about capital on the first vid, so now there's really nothing left for the follow-up.

this was not true, say, for "where the hell is matt #2," the viral sensation that actually pulled more viewers than the first video which showed matt dancing all by himself. our care-about capital in the first instance is invested in the idea that this crazy soul has traveled all over the world and danced in some pretty interesting places; in the follow-up, we're even more taken with the idea that he can, and does, get everyone from aboriginal people to young children to nursing home residents to join him in the dance.

(there's something about dancing, as well, that grabs peoples' attention. you have to look no further than the assortment of reality shows on network tv to see proof of that. perhaps it's because most of us can't do it? even the vids of people dancing in train stations, etc. are highly viewed, i think, because they're about dancing, not about interrupting public life).

seth godin's comments on the nature of viral are also pretty interesting, but even they don't really address this idea of "short attention span theater," which i think characterizes how most people deal with most things. we have long, sustained attention for the few things we love that hold us relentlessly in their grasp -- our kids, our pets, our gardens, our favorite tom clancy novel. oh, and sometimes our spouses, especially when they're pissed off about something.

but for pretty much everything else, we have only small, fragmented bits of attention, and most of these are divested on the things that wish they had (and claim to deserve) our long, sustained attention -- say, our bosses, our colleagues, our friends and family whom we say we'll call but rarely do, our gardens, our cars, the laundry that's been piled up for weeks now.

so how're we to make time for viral video or ideas? i think to succeed, such material has to be a combination of what rajesh and seth posit -- compelling and interesting, easy to send and worthwhile to share, etc. -- plus something else: the ability to sneak in the short attention span theatre by being something we truly care about and are willing to entertain.

what's your favorite viral vid, and why? how many people did you pass it along to? when people send you links to viral vids, what determines whether or not you watch them and pass them along?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

remember me?

ok... am i the only one who has this problem?

you know what i'm talking about. you go to a website -- pick one, any one -- that you've been to about a thousand times, and every time where it's supposed to say, "welcome,(your name)," it says:

Remember me.

I've come to hate the stupid little check box. it's like there's some vast conspiracy out there that is purposely not remembering me. which wouldn't be so bad, if they hadn't led me to believe that they WOULD remember me, if i checked the little box.

from my perspective, this is one part IT ineptitude, one part poor web manners, and one part ineffective user interface all rolled into one giant nightmare of bad online brand experience.

it's made all the more annoying because, when i in fact can't remember my username or which of the 25 email addresses i might have used, let alone the same number of passwords, i take advantage of their kind offer to email me that info. and they do....and so then i KNOW they DO know who i am. i guess it's comforting, in a way, that they're not going to let me log in if they're not sure i'm me, but couldn't they do this in a way that's somehow more user-friendly?

reason i'm asking if i'm the only one with the problem is that a google
search on "remember me" turns up plenty of serps, but none related to this topic. there are the movies, the song lyrics, even the jewelry, but you gotta go to halfway down page 2 before you find this utility from cappware. but the thing is, the look and feel of this page doesn't give me that snuggly secure feeling about what they're offering. i don't like the idea of storing my passwords all in one place no matter how safe they tell me it is. and the fact that they're asking for donations makes me wonder whether or not this stuff is actually any good at all.

a couple of entries later, i see something about , the open source content management provider, that's interesting because they're apparently offering the ability for sites to tailor the length of sessions stored on their servers. so i'm now wondering if the reason i'm not being remembered is that i simply didn't visit the sites in question frequently enough... although i have a hard time believing that, perhaps it's so. i don't think of myself as an i'net noob (proven here by my use of the term "noob") but i just didn't realize that mr. checkbox's promise of remembering me would last only so long.

perhaps we're all meant to simply go along with the flow, being ok with not being remembered, all in the interest of protecting our online identity and security of our personal info. i guess that's what i've been doing (all the while being annoyed, but not annoyed enough to actually do anything about it), and i guess most others have been doing the same thing. it's a tradeoff, like so many others -- except here the websites are making the trade on our behalf without telling us.

what do you think? are you annoyed at not being remembered? should sites tell you how long they plan to remember you? or should i just go on to blathering about other, more important stuff?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

community: a slingshot for little brands

a few days ago, the lead story on Yahoo was about some big brands like Starbucks, Apple and BP and how they've changed their logos to increase their appeal to their audiences, or change audience perceptions. i've spent a fair portion of my career working on corporate identity issues, and so i was interested to read the opinions of some of the experts quoted in the story. in particular, one guy, asked about the IBM logo-- you know, the 3 blue letters with all the lines going through them -- said "because of its simplicity and originality, 'you have a hard time desiring to mess with it.'"

seriously? i've been wanting to mess with that thing since it came out in 1972. of course, i was a child at the time, so they didn't take me up on it. (note to IBM: i'm sometimes an adult now. call me, we'll talk.)

i raise this story on big brands to get to the point of this post, which is how little brands with logos that are perhaps recognized by those companies' employees and few others, can use community as a lever to propel their brands. community is, of course, much discussed in the social media universe as a way of creating engagement between brands and their customers, and while i've appreciated that intellectually as a marketer i didn't really appreciate it fully as a target until i saw this.

that's right, it's the "cutest dog competition," sponsored by All-American Pet Brands, which is a company i've never heard of, and, which is a website i've never been to. yet, when a colleague (thanks, D) sent a link to the competition website, it took only one click to hook me. here's why:

1) it's emotional. they are talking about the "cutest dog." show me a dog-mama who doesn't think her dogs are the cutest, and i'll show you a woman with no soul. even the mothers of ugly dogs are mistakenly under the impression that their dogs are cute.

2) it has scale. with nearly 75 million owned dogs in the US, that's a helluva community. more than 32,000 people have posted photos of their dogs on the site ... and with some dogs getting thousands of votes from site visitors who are not the owners, i'm guessing that site traffic is pretty extraordinary. and with a one-vote-per-day max, they've automatically ensured return traffic from at least some of those motivated-to-vote visitors.

3) it's easy. whoever thought this up deserves kudos for complying with KISS (keep it simple, stupid) criteria. click on "upload your photo," enter a few pieces of basic info, and get people to vote for your dog(s). there's a million bucks in it for the winner, with smaller prizes for the runner-ups.

4) it's not overly hard-sell. let's not kid ourselves -- this is about community, yes, but it's also ultimately about selling some chow. the market for pet food and supplies in north america is about $25 billion annually, and All American is clearly interested in taking some share from better-known brands. but they're not forcing the brand on site visitors. it really is mostly about the competition, with some corollary, relatively unobtrusive graphics and messaging about All American's products. i like and respect them more for this, and that feeling will manifest itself positively, i think, the next time i'm in the pet store looking for food and treats.

this is really just another david-and-goliath story, where a small brand takes on big brands, armed only with a slingshot and the idea that size is not necessarily a precursor for success. in skillfully targeting the community of dog owners and lovers, and making it fun and easy for them to engage, All-American is showing us a great example we'd do well to emulate.

p.s. willy and hoover, in a shameless ploy for votes, are insisting that i publish their respective photo urls, along with a request to please vote for them early and often.