This is what happens when Barbie joins Twitter

This week Mattel announced a new video Barbie that has a tiny camera embedded in her chest (YouBoob?).  The iconic doll has fully joined the social media movement by leading her fans through a Foursquare scavenger hunt, Facebook puzzles and YouTube adventures.  She even has a Twitter account. Check out her tweet stream:

So here I am laying in a pile of naked Barbies again.  Feeling a strange tingly sensation. : p

@Skipper Of course I’m bitchy.  My boyfriend’s a eunuch.

Have you heard about new Blogger Barbie?  Sits at the computer all day. WTF?

Just got back from set of  Toy Story 3.  Potato Head was wasted again. #douchebag

@Ken No, no honey. Eunuch is Spanish word for HOT!  Luv U baby!

Let’s dress up!  I want to be Lady Gaga and shoot fire from my boobs!

Sitting at the Dream House watching #OldSpice on YouTube.  Yeah, well my man smells like polychlorates.

I would give anything to be able to take a good crap.

@mattel  So sick of pink I could hurl. Am I being sponsored by Pepto Bismol or what? #newcontract

Head just popped off again.  Not easy texting with nose.

@Ken LOL!  Polychlorates is the Spanish word for cinnamon silly!  Luv U baby!

I have now been under this damn couch for a week.  Need to get my drink on.

Being chewed up by the dog. Later!

For my friends around the world who are unfamiliar with Barbie, this was not real. It is supposed to be funny.

Can The Shirtless Old Spice Guy pull off a marketing miracle?

Unless you’ve been in a cave this week, it would have been hard to avoid the splendid, amazing and entertaining Old Spice media blitz, which includes brilliant ads and one of the best social media campaigns in the young history of the channel.

“Hello Ladies,” says the oh-so-manly Old Spice guy. “Does your man look like me?  No.  Can he smell like me? Yes.”

While the hilarious Old Spice ads have been an Internet hit on their own for months (5.5 million views), everything changed this week.

As TNW reports, the Old Spice social media team had secretly been collecting people’s – and especially celebrity – questions and responses across Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo Answers, and were preparing for this week’s all-day-video-shoot where Shirtless Old Spice Guy (Isaiah Mustafa) would provide video responses. This included providing a proxy wedding proposal (that was accepted!).

Literally, an over-night marketing legend was created (here’s a link to some of the stats).

I don’t need to re-hash the details of the campaign.  Instead I’d like to point out that this is an extremely rare example of a brand attempting to entirely re-invent itself.  To accomplish that, you need it all — vision, guts, brilliance, execution, and a lot of advertising money.

There have been plenty of others who have tried to go down this perilous path and failed (remember “it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile?”).  This drive to resuscitate Old Spice may go down as one of the most ballsy moves in marketing history.

Despite numerous attempts at an updated image, OldSpice was still languishing behind edgier brands like Axe. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been a fly on the wall when the ad agency (Wieden+Kennedy) made this pitch: “While the  historical Old Spice customer is an ulta-conservative white male in his mid-50s, we would like our new spokesperson to be a half-naked black man flaunting his manliness to women under 40.”  Sure, the social media is genius. But what I admire most is that they may have finally taken a quantum-leap toward achieving this:
Old Spice … the pungent, stinging stuff my DAD used to splash on his face each morning, is now a trending topic on Twitter, not to mention riding the top of Digg, Reddit and a ton of mainstream news stories. The story is all the more remarkable because of how awful Old Spice ads have been in recent years. Remember the “centaur” ad during the Super Bowl?

Another break-through aspect of this campaign is how a blue-chip brand truly integrated a multi-million-dollar mainstream advertising campaign with the social web.  Even recent successes like the wildly-successful Nike World Cup mini-movie seemed to occupy a special niche as a pure social media play.  Can you think of another high-profile example where the TV spokesperson is really interacting and responding to people on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube? This may be the start of real integration.

This social media campaign has built tremendous momentum in just a few days. Will this actually sell body wash?  What will happen to the brand’s core demographic?  Will we witness a true marketing miracle? Will the Old Spice Guy suffer from (ahem) over-exposure?

And now it appears that the social media onslaught has just as quickly some to an end. Today, the “Guy,” chainsaw in hand, says in a final tweet and video “like all great things this too must end.”  And then he catches a giant fish that falls from nowhere.

So what will happen next in this campaign? Some guesses:

  • Customer contributions to their own home-made shower commercials
  • Shirtless guy cameo appearances in real TV shows
  • Humorous , longer YouTube productions with how-to tips on how to be manly

What do you think?  I hope you’ll join me in appreciating this really special marketing campaign and tell me what you think about it in the comment section.

By the way, this blog post is dedicated to Arminda Lindsay (@AllArminda). Why?  Because she asked me to. You should know by now that I am basically the {grow} community’s personal blogger … kind of your word valet.   And Arminda wanted me to write about a half-naked black man.  So I did.

The best creativity technique known to mankind

OK, so my headlines tend to be a little sensational sometimes.  Not this one.

I want to share with you the absolute best, can’t-miss technique for truly breakthrough thinking I have ever used.  That sounds like a cheesy affiliate ad or something, but there’s no catch here. I am simply giving you one of my best leadership ideas.

But it gets better. This is also the best documented business case for workplace diversity I have ever seen.

Here we go …

First, you need to plan a brain-storming session with at least 10 diverse people.  Really shake up the diversity in every way you can. And the more people involved, the better. I’ve done this technique successfully with a room of 75 people. Be sure to tell them what the purpose of the meeting is and that they should come prepared with at least a few ideas.

Early in your meeting, have everybody rip off a big piece of easel paper and write their very best idea for the brainstorming topic at the top.  Make sure there is plenty of room below their idea to write additional ideas.

Now, have them go to the walls around the room, tape their idea to the wall and stand in front of it.

Have everybody slide over one space to their right so that they are standing in front of the idea next to them.  Ask the participants to read the idea written at the top carefully and then add to, or improve, the original idea and write their contribution below the first entry.

Now have everybody slide over TWO spaces — not just one!  The reason I do this is because you don’t want the same person continually following the thought process of the person in front of them. You are trying to mix up the mental frameworks.

Write a better idea based on what is on the page so far and then have everybody slide again. This time count off three spaces. Read what has been written so far and add to it or improve it once again.

Do this one more time. Slide over just one space and ask them to come up with a better idea than what has been written so far.

Now introduce a random prompt. Have everybody slide over two spaces and ask them something like:

  • How could this idea be illegal?
  • What would happen if this idea was invisible?
  • What would you do to this idea to have people pay a hundred dollars for it?
  • What would happen if this idea was in the dark, or under water?

The reason for these strange questions is to try to get your participants to look at the idea in a totally new perspective. One time I was leading a creativity session to come up with ways that consumers could interact with packaging in a new way. Once when I gave the “invisible” prompt, a housewife came up with an idea for an instant win game that made people a winner if they had the right barcode at a check-out scanner.

OK, now shift one more time. Two spaces. Ask them to read everything on the page and write one more great idea based on everything that is on the page so far.

Then have them go back to their original idea, read the entire page and circle the best idea on the page.

This is when the magic happens.  About 95% of the time, the idea they circle is NOT their original idea! In less than 15 minutes you can turn all of your good ideas into great, perhaps even break-through, ideas.

The theory behind this technique

When I was in grad school studying organizational development, I learned that our basic mental framework — how we process information — is basically complete by the time we are 15 years old.  So literally, it is impossible for you to think “out of the box” because you are permanently hard-wired.

For true break-through thinking to occur on a team, we must combine the boxes we have available. This is why the diversity of the participants is so important. You don’t want to do this where everybody is a numbers-type or creative-type or even all of a certain age or culture heritage. The more boxes you can combine and complement each other, the better the results.  Always!

Even if you are trying to solve a technical problem, invite people from marketing, accounting, HR … maybe even from another division or company all together. I’ve even conducted creativity sessions like this on behalf of a Fortune 100 company with a fifth-grade class just to see what they could come up with.

There is a tremendous secondary benefit to this technique. Notice I said it was important to do this early in your meeting. Typically, when people see the amazing work they’ve done in just 15 minutes, they are energized, engaged and confident in your process. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Applying this to the web

I’ve tried to apply this technique to an online setting by shuffling ideas between far-flung participants. It has not worked very well. There is something about the interaction of a boisterous group, a shared experience, the physical movement and the sense of momentum and accomplishment from the live exercise that can’t be duplicated when folks are behind computers in cubicles.

Are you ready to give it a try? I’d love to hear about it. If you have a question, feel free to call me or drop me a line. Happy brainstorming!

Why your company may not need social media

Let’s have some fun with my buns.  Cinnamon buns, that is.

One of the myths we recently discussed on {grow} was the claim that every business needs to use social media in its marketing strategy.

So what determines if the social web can be used effectively in any company?  One key is industry structure.

Marketers are actually quite limited in the number of options they have based on the competitive structure of their industry.  Social media is just one marketing channel, and its opportunity for use will be determined by the marketplace, not the hype you read on the Internet!

To illustrate this concept, let’s look at how four companies — with four very different competitive structures — may or may not use the social web to sell the very same product: cinnamon rolls.

Flat Rock Village Bakery, Flat Rock N.C.

The Flat Rock Village Bakery is a small, family-owned cafe that serves its customers wood-fired pizzas and artisan pastries. They have a single location in a tiny mountain town. Why would somebody buy a cinnamon roll from this bakery?

  • Convenience of central location amid relatively little competition
  • Ambiance of tree-lined community setting
  • Community involvement and reputation of the company
  • Consistent quality of artisan products
  • Appeal of non-chain, local ownership
  • Attentive Service

As a marketer, we want to increase sales by promoting these points of differentiation.  The social web can certainly enhance the reputation of the bakery but probably won’t significantly drive more traffic to this store — They essentially already have a captive audience. Their focus should be on increasing sales per customer at the actual point of purchase. What is their risk of NOT participating in the social web?  Low.

McKee Foods, Chattanooga, TN

Now compare that to a national bakery like McKee Foods whose Little Debbie brand is found in grocery and convenience stores throughout the country. Little Debbie will sell you a cinnamon roll based on

  • Low price, which is enabled by efficient operations and distribution
  • Large selection of products in a grocery store aisle
  • Coupons and promotions
  • Brand awareness
  • Consistent, but low-quality, product with a relatively long shelf life

Unlike the cozy competitive climate of the Flat Rock Bakery, competition in the grocery aisle is fierce and Little Debbie would ignore the social web to its peril.  The bakery giant can certainly use social media to:

  • Monitor customer conversations about its products
  • Build brand awareness cost-effectively
  • Coupons and promotions
  • Involve consumers in its brand
  • Create new products
  • Facilitate customer service
  • Monitor competitor activities

Can you begin to see how these dramatically different competitive structures influence marketing strategy?

Panera Bread, everywhere

Panera has built its successful business by establishing clean, bright stores that serve as community meeting places. You might drive to Panera to buy a cinnamon roll because:

  • It’s a spacious, convenient place to meet colleagues and friends
  • They have bakery-quality food at reasonable prices
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • A recognizable national brand with predictable quality

Panera faces a host of competitors offering similar value.  Compared to the first two examples, its business model is more easily duplicated, so finding ways to connect to customers is key.

There are lots of opportunities to do this through the social web, especially if it could master location-based apps like Foursquare that reward frequent visitors.

Cinnabon, a mall near you

Although Cinnabon also serves up cinnamon rolls — in fact that is basically ALL it sells — it represents a radically different competitive dynamic.

Cinnabon bases their competitive advantage on one thing — location — and the opportunity to sell you through an impulse buy. They are usually located in malls and airports so if you are hungering for a fresh-baked goodie, you really have no choice.

Their price point is set high, and they don’t need to use coupons or other promotions because they’ve got you right where they want you – captive.

They have a Facebook page and a Twitter account but is this where they should spend their primary marketing effort?  No.  As a marketer I would probably spend money on fans to blow the heavenly cinnamon smell out onto the airport concourse!

Putting this to use for your business

Obviously in the space of a short blog post I had to do a simplistic comparison to make a point. I realize the industry structures are more complex than what I present here.  Still, I think it’s a useful example illustrating the widely different dynamics in selling even a simple product like a pastry.

Where do you go with this as you make your decisions about social media?

  1. Begin with the fundamentals including market research, customer interviews and competitor analysis before jumping into any marketing initiative.  Spending money without knowing the competitive structure of your industry will create disastrous results.
  2. Use clear-eyed intellectual honesty when assessing the social media opportunities for your company. There is a natural tendency to want to climb onboard Facebook or YouTube because everyone else is … but take a hard look at what effort is going to be the most effective use of your resources.
  3. Look for channels that allow you to emphasize your competitive advantages and how they match customer needs.
  4. Measure every effort to constantly adjust your efforts to the changing marketplace.

What is the competitive structure of your business?  How many “stars” would you give your social media opportunity and why?

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