BLACK MATCH

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Trends, commentary, and insightful rants from the bleeding edge of advertising, content & branding.

FARMVILLE MUST DIE

crop blight has destroyed everything, time to sell your children

Farmville had over 70 million daily users as of last December.  70 million. That, as famously noted, was (at the time) bigger than Twitter.  Yep, over 70 million folks doing some fake farming And yet, it must die.  Why is the rise of ham fisted social gaming going to end in flames?  Is it the insufferable, overly cute Tokyo-pop graphic style? Is it the inherently limited appeal of a “game” about “farming”? Is it the Second Life style dead end of virtuality? Yes to all of the above.  I suppose Farmville is fine in a web 1.0 kind of way but it falls into an uncanny valley of being both TOO social and NOT social enough. No I don’t care about the sad-eyed Piglet you just found on your farm.  Yes I think a fake farm is a disconnect in a social network based on real world connections (yeah it’s diverging some now that it’s huge but we’re not interacting in some SIM land with purple skin avatars).

My grandfather was a farmer (sharecropper). He got up at the crack of butt every day of his life to wrestle a living out of a hundred acres of crops and two  hundred head of cattle.  Hey, there’s an idea, we’ll launch a competing social game called “Sharecropper” or “Dustbowl!”, with more realistic game play.  Sample updates would include: “Three of your fifteen children just got the bloody flux,” or “Your wife’s foot was just crushed by a plow.” Of course, this wouldn’t solve the real problem with these games (yes I realize they are hugely popular), which is how fundamentally anti-social they actually are.  The facebook platform manager posted recently about how the killer social game app has yet to be launched.  He’s right and whatever kind of game that turns out to be (that gets everyone playing) it will probably involve more real world engagement. Think Fourssquare or Groupon.  The opportunity is for what you do in the world of the game to have an “entertaining” or “meaningful” or “valuable” implication outside of the network. Kind of the Wii-fit premise.

Here’s where I’d bet my money. That the first person/organization to figure out social gaming 3.0 will either be a small fry app-style developer or a big brand (entertainment or product).  A brand could add the kind of value to the interaction that takes social gaming beyond an exchange of cartoon animals. “Rise Humans! Rise!”

UPDATE! Just watched a purposely provocative TED talk on social gaming and how it might be harnessed to address real world issues (hunger, homelessness etc.), and thought it worth an add to  this post.  At a minimum this TED talk tackles the idea of “how do we grow beyond” the sort of dumb and narcissistic type of social gameplay popular now?  Can a social game be about something bigger than just “hey look! I have a new cow!” Is her suggestion that we dramatically increase the amount of online gameplay (oooh! counterintuitive) reek of TED talk point scoring? Yep. But social gaming 2.0 is going to be about exactly this kind of linkage.

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Filed under: brands, facebook, supergenius llc, Trend Spotting, Uncategorized, , , , , ,

DEEP BLUE BRANDING

Or what can Avatar tell us about effective advertising?

1)   Don’t Suck.

 Seems obvious, and it is, but this rule is broken all the time.  Let’s just start from a place of doing something well. Mmm’kay! It’s a good life lesson really not just for an Avatar listicle.  Hey, if you say you’re going to re-invent film-making then you need to actually go ahead and re-invent film-making.  Box. Checked.

 2)   I.T.S.S.  (It’s the story stupid)

 Yeah, bad acronym, but the point is that people still care about a simple story well told.  We can quibble over a few things (dialogue?) here and there but Avatar is your classic hero’s journey, your basic quest and growth story.  And you know what? People love that! They still do…maybe they just needed to see it with fresh eyes.  The authenticity of that simple Aristotelian good/bad, 3 act, sword in the stone story still sings with audiences.

 3)   Immersive story-telling equals Brand Immersion

 “This 3D stuff is gold, Jerry! Its gold!” Used to be that a great performance was enough to suck you so deeply into the story you didn’t want to leave.  Or the writing was so vivid and provocative you couldn’t put the book down.  Looks like Cameron has raised the bar just a wee bit in that regard.  Lots of online buzz about Avatars viewers who have sunk into depression because they can’t actually “live” in the world of Avatar.  The sense memory of that world (Pandora) is so real you desperately want to return.  Could the same soon be said of a branded experience? Well…its just content.  Well crafted content with a story people care about (see above).  So, you might laugh at world centered around Tide w/Bleach but if the story and the brand come together to create something really experiential people will pay attention.

Think about it this way, Avatar is essentially a 2.5 hour commercial for Greenpeace and people walk out “loving it.”

 4)   Community. Community. Community.

 We might be sick of hearing about brand communities. But damned if it doesn’t still work.  When passions are ignited people come together if whatever forums are available to discuss and extend and deepen their relationship with that “idea” or “story” or “product.”  Why does creating an outlet for brand communities still work? Essentially because its not a gimmick. It certainly can be in the wrong hands but if you make something good (see rule #1) and then provide clever and provocative ways for folks to share about that good thing connections are going to happen.  People will find a way to do it themselves (I’m sure there are Avatar meet-ups happening) so you might as well benefit from it in some way.

 5)   Three D – Schmeee D.

The technology is just the tool. The Idea is the Engine.  Cameron had apparently been dreaming about the idea of this world and this story for years. And then developed the technology to bring it to life.  This is the proper order of things, not “hey, what do I do with this cool 3D camera?” You start at the molecular level with a creative idea that’s powerful and then realize it in the best way possible.

Filed under: advertising, avatar, brands, consumer choice, online advertising, social media

Five Questions for Zappos CEO: Tony Hsieh

Zappos CatalogTony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos.com was kind enough to debut a new feature on Black Match. Five questions for a CEO. For those under rocks, they sell shoes.

1)   What advantages for the Zappos brand come from being so accessible and  transparent across social/digital platforms?

At Zappos, our #1 priority is our company culture. Our belief is that if
we get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like delivering great
customer service or building a long term enduring brand, will happen
naturally on its own. We’ve formalized the definition of our culture into
10 core values:

Being transparent isn’t really something that’s specific to social/digital
platforms. Core value #6 is “Build Open and Honest Relationships With
Communication”… It’s just part of who we are.

2)   As a company that has famously avoided broadcast advertising in favor
of “actions” that advertise (i.e. free shipping) what was the trigger point for your recent ad campaign? How are you/will you measure success (i.e. sales only)?

We take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and
invest it into the customer experience instead.  However, we do spend as
much money on direct marketing as possible when it pays for itself.
Using hypothetical numbers, this means that if we spend $1 on paid
advertising, if we get back $10 in sales, then we will spend as much money
as possible as long as we continue to hit that ratio. The problem is that
there isn’t enough advertising inventory out there that meets that ratio.
What we found was that if we invest some money in offline brand
advertising such as magazine ads or TV ads, then that improves the ROI of
our online campaigns, so that altogether we are still hitting the ratio
that makes sense for us.

3)   Is there an overall strategy for your participation in digital/social media or has it come about organically?

It’s really been organic. We aren’t really about “digital/social media” (a
term which I personally dislike). We’re really just about figuring out
ways where we can best express our core values (our culture) and our
commitment to great customer service. We’ve found that Twitter has been
great for that, but so has the telephone, which is why we put our 1-800
number at the top of every page of our web site. The telephone isn’t very
newsworthy, but it’s one of our best branding devices.

4)   Has/How has the Zappos brand been challenged over the past 12 months?

I think the biggest challenge with building our brand is that Zappos is an
experiential brand. Anyone can start another web site tomorrow and make
the same claims that we do about delivering great customer service, but
it’s not until you actually purchase something from us, or call our 1-800
number, or visit our offices, that you can start to tell the difference
between another company and the Zappos brand and culture.

5)   There are obviously tricks that traditional retailers are stealing from you (I’m looking at you piperlime.com); are there dance moves you’re borrowing from traditional/brick and mortar retailers?

We really don’t focus very much on what other retailers are doing. We just
focus on what our customers and employees tell us and then try to deliver
the best customer experience possible while still meeting our financial
goals.

There are a number of interesting widgets that Zappos has in play, including this great Google/Zappos sales mash-up.

Filed under: brands, ceo, consumer choice, online advertising, recession, social media, supergenius llc, twitter, zappos, , , , , , , , , ,

The Enduring Mythology of the “Name” Advertising Agency

death of the dinosaursThe Enduring Mythology of the “Name” Advertising Agency

Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. That’s the story. IBM was such an industry standard, and so widely perceived as being the best in the business, that no one could impugn you for making a decision based on that name alone.

Well, we all know that was a load of horse crap. Plenty of people got fired for buying IBM; IBM just had them quietly killed to preserve their word-of-mouth. But the temptation to buy something large, well-regarded, and safe is still with us. It’s how most of us buy (or bought, and will again) houses, cars, investment funds.

Oh, and by the way, advertising agencies.

That’s the funny part of this business. Agencies stake their name on their early campaigns that create edgy, breakthrough, back-of-a-napkin, two-guys-in-their-wetsuits campaigns that change a category and instantly make a name for themselves. Then those agencies get noticed, and get more business than the two guys in their wetsuits can handle. They get big. They hire people. They hire people to manage those people. And every level they add puts them further and further away from the ideas that made them great in the first place.

Here’s the ugly truth: big agencies get out of the idea business. They get into the selling-the-idea business. They stop feeling the idea and start thinking it to death. That’s why with every idea, you get a ream of paper explaining why the idea is not only good, it is also right. And they create an entire bureaucratic structure of planners, account service, creative and media to sell the idea to you, so you can sell it to your boss. Because nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.

Everyone who works at Super-Genius has worked at a big agency. We’ve made the sausage. We know what goes into one. And we were once seduced by the big names, too. We get it.

But we wanted to talk ideas without asking the admin assistant to schedule a pre-brief meeting in the staff room. We wanted to pick up the phone and talk to you. We wanted to be closer to the work and farther away from the smoke and mirrors we use to sell you the work.

Who knows? We might hire a bunch of people and sell out to Omnicom tomorrow.

But today? You’ve got two guys in wetsuits. Anything is possible.

Filed under: ad agency, advertising, brands, supergenius llc, , , , , ,

Do Brands Belong on Twitter?

Do Brands Belong on Twitter?

Thoughtful post via Mashable. Not sure I agree with the idea of banning brands – think it’s probably a case by case thing. But…do agree that forcing brands to put a human face on their Twitter interaction would better serve them in the long run.

twitter

Posted using ShareThis

Filed under: brands, social networking, supergenius llc, twitter, , ,

Have You Seen My Avatar?

Virtual AvatarsWe here at Black Match have long been citizens of the virtual universe, now it seems the rest of the marketing world is catching on. Whether it’s working within a pre-existing universe like Second Life or creating a custom universe like MTV’s Laguna Beach, what’s hot at the moment is virtuality. Second Life is up to 400,000 users and counting – exchanging real money – and savvy media properties are angling for awareness among this concentrated but highly influential population. Look no further than this New York Times article for a quick bit of insight on how some very youth oriented properties like MTV are pushing the envelope.

“At MTV, reality has always been a moving target. Sixteen years ago, the network heralded the era of reality television with “The Real World.” Three years ago, it pushed the genre further with “Laguna Beach: The Real OC,” in which the mundane lives of a clique of pretty teenagers were presented in a way that appeared scripted and dramatic.

Now the cable channel aims to push the boundaries of false reality one step further. This week, MTV will introduce Virtual Laguna Beach, an online service in which fans of the program can immerse themselves — or at least can immerse digitized, three-dimensional characters, called avatars, that they control — in virtual versions of the show’s familiar seaside hangouts(see article).”

Filed under: brands, online advertising, social networking, supergenius llc, Uncategorized, , , , ,

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Super Genius LLC is a digital media and creative incubator that excels at bringing fresh, new thinking to existing strategy as well as blank-page strategic development. Our mission is to open up unique and exciting ways of connecting brands and consumers.

"The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." William Gibson

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