•June 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

If Twitter tracked trending topics in Northeast Indiana, I am certain that #beoutrageous would have trended Wednesday evening.

The Regional Economic Summit, the culmination of the Vision 2020 process (http://www.northeastindianavision.com/) and kickoff to its implementation, was held June 23 and a firestorm of #beoutrageous tweets were logged. Over 400 in the few hours the event took place.  See the conversation here: http://wthashtag.com/transcript.php?page_id=14986&start_date=2010-06-22&end_date=2010-06-24&export_type=HTML

The Summit’s purpose was to get public support for goals and strategies that were developed during a six-month visioning process. The term “be outrageous” became the motto for the project–Northeast Indiana has to make its thinking outrageous and out of the box if we want to change the economic vitality in our corner of the heartland.

So, while 1,040 people used wireless keypad technology to vote on the goals and strategies, 62 of those people dug deeper into conversation on Twitter. Table discussions were encouraged, but because we used http://www.TwitterFall.com in presentation mode on massive screens, everyone in the room could be part of the second conversation–Twitter. With the hashtag, people sitting on opposite sides of the room were answering each other’s questions, meeting each other and encouraging each other to think a little more outrageously. Those who weren’t tweeting, were reading.

Some wondered if the second conversation would be a detriment to the first. I think it only added the first. I’ve heard that social media should facilitate, not replace, face-to-face contact. Using Twitter at a conference with over a 1,000 people who were all interacting through voting and talking at each table only helped to push conversation and bring up new points to the entire group. It was a truly interactive evening and conversation is what it will take to move the region forward. Creating more conversations–and a hashtag that can be used whenever anyone wants to be outrageous–enabled the evening to be more productive.

What it will take for the Vision 2020 process to succeed is an overall attitude shift–working together as a region, actually believing our region can do what it takes to improve, and pushing the limits of what we can do. What we saw on Twitter was the embracing of this attitude by younger-ish people who cared enough to tweet.

The Journal Gazette wrote this morning:

In addition to maintaining its regional flavor, the process also has to keep young residents engaged. The high-charged multimedia event last week drew an encouraging number of 20- and 30-something professionals, but the opportunity to weigh in on Twitter has to be backed with evidence that their ideas are valued.


Not only do those who twittered have to have brave, bold ideas, but they have to have the gumption needed to step up to conversations that are a little less accessible than Twitter. One can tweet to his heart’s content, but nothing will change here if he doesn’t take what he’s gleaned from Twitter conversations and be outrageous in his actions.

On a streetcar named success

•April 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“security is a kind of death, i think”

-tenneesee williams

On Brand ‘Bowl Ads

•February 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

Days later, what is the Superbowl ad that is sticking with you? What are you still laughing at? Thinking about? Wondering about? Dismayed at? Disturbed by?

For me, the one ad I can still remember so clearly, is Google.

And I think that is because it was most “on brand.” The Google I saw on TV for 30 seconds–it is the same Google I use every day. The commercial allowed me to interact with the brand as I do in real life; it reinforced my ideas of the brand, of the product, of the promise.

Google searches for answers for you. It helps you. It guides you. It delivers what you need and what you need to know. And it performed precisely as one would expect (even if the Colts didn’t).

We don’t often think of Google as emotional, and yet it is. There is a definite emotional connection, a bond, a trust that internet users have with google. This was illustrated as the anonymous Superbowl searcher Googled his way through a love story. How often has google helped someone learn how to kiss, tie a tie for a date, write a love poem–and build a baby crib? These are all things that Google does on a daily, if not hourly basis. It is inherent in Google’s behavior and brand promise: it will, simply and easily, guide you to the answer.

Google’s ad men did a beautiful job with the story–a real story. How many other ads had such direct character and plot development? Most others were just short pokes hoping for a laugh, a quick laugh, some youtube hits later. Oh, but Google–it’s aims were higher.

It will be hard to say that this ad changed Google’s market, or gave them a larger market share. It is already a company with huge awareness and use. It’s aims were not to sell searches. It does not need to do that. It aimed to build the brand. The stark landing page has billions of emotional connections with which users can relate to and increase loyalty to. Sales may not be up, but my, oh, my, the love of Google has surely increased.

I don’t really remember any other ads. The story Google decided to tell gave me more than the etrade babies or Betty White. That more is brand identification and promise. Google promises to be with me as I travel down my own road and tell my own story. Google proves it can help me along the way. No one else did that for me Sunday night. No one.

On brand=in memory. What a success.

Museum 2.0

•January 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Smithsonian Castle on the Mall

I just had the privilege of helping Nina K. Simon copyedit her book, The Participatory Museum. The book will be available in March 2010 and will be found here: http://www.participatorymuseum.org/.

I first heard of Ms. Simon when I saw one of presentations on the Smithsonian on Slideshare. I was interested, started following her on twitter ( @ninaksimon ).  One day on twitter, she announced her need for copyeditors, and I immediately DMed a “pick me!” Luckily, I and several others were given the opportunity on a really cool project.

I won’t give anything away–but Nina really gets how museums need to change and how they can change to engage a public that is used to doing more than reading descriptions next to paintings. She has some wonderful ideas on how to enhance experiences at museums and get participants–not visitors–to learn and grow with the institutions.

Read Nina’s blog here: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/

Spades Park Library

•January 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment
Spades Park Library

Spades Park Library, IMCPL

a bad brand promise is like a crazy bachelorette

•January 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m a little hesitant to write this, knowing that it will prove that I’ve watched multiple episodes of the newest installation of “the Bachelor.” But let’s use it as a teachable moment in brand promises. Bear with me.

Two weeks ago, contestant Elizabeth told Jake (the bachelor), that she didn’t want him to kiss her until she was the final girl left on the show. It was a bold move, and made Jake and all of the at-home viewers remember her. People thought she was sweet and genuine–dedicated to finding love and not just giving those at-home viewers a show. It seemed like she had integrity.

And yet, there she went and teased the hell out of Jake this week. (His words on the matter here: http://tvwatch.people.com/2010/01/19/the-bachelor-blog-jake-takes-the-plunge/ )

She went all, “oh, Jake, I really want to kiss you. Don’t you want to kiss me? Wouldn’t it be great if we could kiss? I’m a really good kisser.” And Jake is thinking: “I’m not supposed to kiss you, right?”

Well–and here is the teachable moment–a brand promise can, but should never, act the same way as Elzabeth.

When a brand makes a promise, it tells consumers what to expect from the brand over and over and over again. Nike gives you what you need to just do it. Starbucks gives you the ultimate experience in coffee drinking. Volvo gives you safety. Elizabeth said she would give one thing, but acted differently. Her brand promise was just a tease.

A tease is not enough in branding. What you promise to give needs to be delivered over and over, or the brand promise fails and the customers leave unhappy. Or, you don’t get a rose.

emotional branding

•January 11, 2010 • 4 Comments

I’ve been working on a project and thinking about how to use emotions in a brand. It makes me think about how I tie emotions to certain brands:


My dad loves Pepsi. Always has. Now, when I’m doing my own grocery shopping I’ll buy Pepsi before Coke, because it reminds me of my dad. There is nothing about Pepsi or Coke’s marketing plan that causes me to feel that way, it is just my own emotional connections to the Pepsi brand.

Is there a way to build on this in a company’s branding?  Of course, there are the brands like Aunt Millie’s bread that call on you to imagine yourself eating bread straight from your aunt’s oven. But what about other brands? Branding for institutions or companies that don’t sell specific products? Is there a way to make someone emotionally bonded to a brand through marketing alone–or must there be a built in emotional connection to the brand on the part of the user?

Pepsi Refresh

•December 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Cause-related marketing is making a buzz with the news that Pepsi is foregoing the Superbowl.


“Under the program, Pepsi will award grant money for community projects proposed and selected by consumers, such as helping high-school students publish books to develop their writing skills.” -wsj


This is how marketing and corporate social responsibility combine to create profit–or at least, positive word-of-mouth.

It is also a bang-for-your-buck situation that directly improves quality of life.

In this economy, this move is sparklingly brilliant: Coke is spending millions and millions on an ad that might entertain an audience for a few minutes.

Pepsi, on the other hand, is spending that money to help people, people in need, people who aren’t watching the superbowl for entertainment, maybe people who can’t even afford to buy pepsi. But now, don’t you feel better as a consumer buying Pepsi? A move that will support a company that supports the public–not the NFL and CBS?

That is how Pepsi wants you to think.

The social-responsibility model of marketing allows companies to show that they have more concerns than profits. Particularly in a financial environment where Americans are wary of trusting big corporations that need bailed out, this strategy shows that Pepsi is monitoring the pulse of its audience–and its potential audience.

This is less, or should be less, about the Superbowl ads than it is about an entirely different strategy toward reaching and engaging consumers. Pepsi is moving beyond the somewhat juvenile advertising world of Superbowl ads and creating a relationship with a valued segment of its audience.

Its warm and fuzzy and socially responsibly. Maybe not as funny–but it’s going to last longer than the water cooler talks Monday morning


•December 11, 2009 • 1 Comment

Well hello there, Google Zeitgeist. Nice to see you again:


Every year, Google releases data on the most popular searches of the year. It shouldn’t be surprising that terms like aig and michael jackson and swine flu topped the list in various categories.

What might be surprising–it surprised me–are the results for the local searches. Google also broke down the top ten popular searches in a given geographical area, like major U.S. cities. The break out shows what is important in a particular city.

In Indianapolis to top search was msdwt. Msdwt? You would think it would be the colts, or peyton manning. But no–msdwt won out. Metropolitan School District of Washington Township. A school system. Second place? iarbed. Hm? It’s an intranet for IU School of Medicine faculty, students and staff. Coming in third? epike. Metropolitan School District of Pike Township.

The top three searches went to public school entities. And then, No. 6 went to Ivy tech. Four of the top ten searches in Indianapolis directed people to schools.

And yet, it is the schools that often see fewer followers on twitter and facebook (see previous post, please).

Clearly, Google is pointing out that schools have an audience on the internet. This is the perfect situation to attempt to capture that audience while they are on the computer, in front of the glowing screen, and create a following–not just a search term. If people are searching for these school systems, they are most likely visiting the site for the school or school system. The school system must ensure that it is allowing that visitor to engage with the content.

Most people are looking for information about the school–maybe it is lunch menus, or homework assignments. Schools can then take this information and create interactive sites that continually lead people back to it, which will in turn create an online community for a physical place that already has a real community established.

Schools can start with buttons to offer visitors the opportunity to make the site their home page. nytimes.com does it. So can epike. As a home page, the visitors are given the opportunity to check out any news about the school or school system every time a window is opened. No more searching–it’s instant information.

Aside from home page buttons, schools can offer twitter and facebook connections from the home site. Students and their parents can engage with the school in yet another way. It is obvious that the audience is connected. The schools just need to keep them connected, keep them coming back, make them feel welcome, and provide a gathering place for an exchange of information that is not only the carpool pickup line or the PTA meeting.

It must be observed that msdwt and pike are more suburban townships. IPS–Indianapolis Public Schools–is not listed in the top 10 and it would be interesting to see why. As the largest school district in the state, and located in Indianapolis, why is IPS not drawing the same crowds? Is the homepage already bookmarked? Or do students not have computers at home? Many aspects of public education and home life combine to create this difficult problem.

Zeitgeist gives an interesting, inside look at what people care about the most, and I consider it a wonderful thing that education tops that list.

Bookface, plus tweets.

•November 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment


“Government tweets, but few care”


Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette recently reported that local government in Fort Wayne has done what many have already–joined social networking sites to reach audiences and publics.

But the article seems to come to the conclusion that not many of those social networks are very big, or very influential. To piggy back on the last post, to be successful with social media, an organization must interact with its audience and with the public.

For example, Fort Wayne Community Schools had 141 people following it on Twitter and 679 on Facebook as of Wednesday. The district serves more than 30,000 students. Allen County government had 418 followers on Twitter and 159 on Facebook despite serving a population of more than 340,000 people. The Journal Gazette had 439 followers on Twitter and 516 on Facebook.

The numbers look abysmal. Some may wonder why the organizations even bother to talk to such an insignificant percent of their overall public. The Journal Gazette only really touches on three reasons why the audiences may be so small: competition, niche markets, and a city not on twitter.

But one of the most significant reasons for audience growth is interaction. Has FWCS been searching its mentions and following those who comment on the school system, or education in general? Has Allen County government reached out to similar organizations to share best practices? Does the Journal Gazette only serve the public by blasting out updates?

Social networks–twitter and facebook–exist because there are conversations. Traditional media is floundering because the method of telling the story is just not all the people want anymore. They are used to interacting and creating–and sustaining–a relationship with someone else. Twitter and FAcebook are dynamic. Content changes, unlike information set out in the newspaper, the school newsletter, or a press release.

Organizations can’t just be present. They can’t just tweet a lot. They have to make sure they connect to the audience, and create a reason for the audience to want to get information from them and have a conversation with them.