Share ideas that inspire. FALLON PLANNERS (and co-conspirators) are freely invited to post trends, commentary, obscure ephemera and insightful rants regarding the experience of branding.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Guilty Pleasure: Art of the Title

Art of the Title is the most thorough (as far as I know) high quality online catalogue of one of our most underrated art forms: The Movie Titles. Check out titles from Vertigo to Alien to Iron Man and more.

The movie titles try to make do in the difficult space between what you really want (the movie) and the penance of reading the names of the behind-the-scenes players. Over time designers have evolved its purpose to explain the movie's essence and sell you what you're gonna get for the next 2 hours, while quickly getting the hell out of the way of the show.

Give a round of applause to these real american heroes, the movie title makers.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fallon Brainfood: Communicators Forum @ University of Minnesota

I presented a keynote at last week's Communicators Forum and I ran over time before I could answer many of the Question Cards from the audience. Let's keep the dialogue going. Here are some answers to one of the cards (expect a few more posts in coming days):

Q: Give an example of how you control/mitigate negative feedback in social media on behalf of a client.
A: Control is an interesting word. I don't think you can control negative feedback in social media - or rather, you control negative feedback mostly at the service and/or product touchpoint. I.E. Make good products/services, you control most negative feedback. But I am being coy, I guess.

Lemme reframe the question: 'the villagers are angry, they're outside our gates with blog torches, now what the heck do we do?'

Well, negative feedback seeks a response. And the internal audit that should be had in face of any critique is: 'are they right?' If they are right, um, do something about it. If they are wrong, well do something about that. The tension that often sparks a groundswell of negative sentiment across the web is often the fact that absolutely nothing is done (no repair, no acknowledgment) in face of a critique. This lack of any response fuels a revenge mentality.

In my opinion, many negative feedback crises snowball from 2 faults: 1) not responding properly when the problem was small and indeed "controllable" (think Kryptonite Bic Pen Gate), and 2) not making real change or repairs when/if the negative feedback was made (think airlines still haven't changed the system even after years of us complaining).

This quandry always existed (customers complaining and speaking negatively) - the only difference today: customers can make a blog post and expose you to the world and incite a million-man groundswell against you (though really they are only aggregating a million people that already agreed with the negative sentiment). Let's be real, this isn't the complaining customers' fault (control people's sentiment? no.)- it may be the fault of a problem that actually needs to be addressed and/or changed (control your own organization? yes.).

Strategies for managing negative feedback:

-Take It Seriously. Address the negative feedback when it is just one lone caller/blogger/commenter - try to solve his single problem and turn frowns to smiles (a single change just may help you head off millions of the same latent complaint waiting to bubble up). Today, you never know if that lone complainer has a million followers to his blog.

-Use the blogosphere (or any consumer feedback touchpoint) as your early warning system. Track sentiment. Measurement tools abound (see some of my presentations for dozens of examples).

-Talk back. Directly. Blogs have "comments", make yours. Tweet back. YouTube response video back. Email back. yLive back. IM back. Call back. And it won't hurt you to bring some tidy reparation gifts in exchange, but a clear resolve to the problem is probably gift enough for most.

-Consider inviting critics in - stock your advisory panels with haters/lovers who are likely complaining 'cause they actually care deeply about your brand (funny how that works).

-Adopt a process for personal consumer touch that is proactive (think Comcastcares on Twitter). Phone banks wait for complaints to come, can we meet problems earlier up the stream?

-Enable change agents, not just complaint takers. That means the complaint hotline team needs to be reframed. Organize the negative sentiment into monthly reports, DEFINE THE MOB'S PROBLEM, and have MIB agents who can tap the right officer in the company to deal with these problems. And then hold those departments accountable - think Internal Affairs at the Police Department, somebody complains, somebody gets suspended (or at least investigated). If departments are held accountable to complaints, well, they tend to work harder to prevent the problems. Everybody wins.

I won't pretend these are solely "social media" strategies, as they probably make sense in whatever media your customer touches - its simply called listening and responding (or good business, maybe). There may be some efficiencies to doing these via Facebook, or not.

Yeah, I admit that all these suggestions are not easy. But it ain't easy stomping out a raging groundswell of negative sentiment about your brands, either.

BONUS CASE STUDY: Offer your customers the "Marvel No-Prize"! Marvel Comics has the unique problem of juggling multiple comic characters, with multiple writers and complicated story planes. Over the years mistakes happen in the comic character continuum. Fans are avid and engaged keepers of the brand truth and they will write and call Marvel out on any and all story mistakes. In response to every geek writing in to tell Marvel what idiots they are for missing a story mistake, they introduced the Marvel No-Prize. Marvel No-Prize is the award given to the keen fan who not only points out a mistake BUT ALSO SOLVES HOW THIS IS NOT A MISTAKE AFTERALL (thru some mental jujitsu and back issue research).

A couple things are happening in this model: a) hater energy is converted into solver energy, b) only solvers are recognized in the letters pages of the comics and complaints are "controlled", c) the crowd is tapped on behalf of the brands to co-create and look for holes then patch them up. If you buy my assertion that most haters are secretly your lovers who care deeply about your brand, then the Marvel No-Prize metaphor may work for you, give the haters a paddle in the boat and a way to contribute answers for you, put 'em to work! *The actual Marvel No-Prize that you receive is a heavily branded empty envelope, and your feature in the comic book letters page. Which further proves the point: recognition and credit is half their goal.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Guilty Pleasure: Big Ideas, Don't Get Any/Radiohead "Nude"

Radiohead held an online contest to remix "Nude" from their album - "In Rainbows". I found this (late) entry to be particularly fascinating and breakout. It takes a bit to get to the "beat" but well worth it as it builds and mashes the music utilizing Sinclair ZX Spectrum Guitars, Epson LX-81 Dot Matrix Printer, HP Scanjet 3c, and Hard Drive arrays. Of particular note is his savvy working of the social net touchpoints to get the work slippy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Politics 2.0: Babies for Obama Meme

1500 vids on YouTube for Obama Babies

mini green ideas

Due to society's elevated green awareness as of late, I've been noticing more and more small changes that could really help in everyone's ability to reduce waste.

For instance, piggybacking off of my shoebox post earlier, another thing I often find myself throwing away is receipts. Think about how many small or insignificant purchases are made every day at retailers and how many receipts get quickly tossed into the trashcan near the front door. That's a lot of wasted paper. What if the little credit card scanner next to the cashier gave you the option, like at gas stations, "Need a receipt? YES or NO." I would be inclined from my own shopping experiences to just say no.

Last weekend, I attended the Rock the Garden event at the Walker Art Center which was fantastic. But in addition to the great bands and music, I was really impressed with how they handled the trash situation. The concert called itself a "zero waste event" which obviously wasn't true, but it was the first time that I had seen multiple recycling bins set up for different types of waste. Not only that, but the event had volunteers stationed at every trash outpost to make sure people didn't get lazy and just throw everything into one bin: trash gatekeepers if you will.

Anyway, I like it. And I think some programmer should just write the 10 lines of code it takes to ask "yes or no" for the receipt.

2008 AAAA Account Planning Conference Prep Rally and Post Show

AAAA Account Planning Conference

Paul Isakson and Kelly Thompson have created a Facebook group so we can all see who will be attending and better connect/make plans beforehand. We can also use this as a place to discuss expectations, recap thoughts/takeaways afterward, etc.

Additionally, they've proposed a cocktail gathering on Tuesday night at Shore Club's Skybar for people to meet, connect and unwind on the last night of the conference. The details and RSVP can be found here.

Pass along the links/info to others who might be interested.

**STANDBY FOR UPDATES SOON re: PLANNING FOR GOOD (PfG) 24 Hour Challenge @ AAAA Planning Conference.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Planner Survey Results

For those who haven't seen it yet, Heather LeFevre has posted results from the 2008 Planner Survey.

Check them out and post comments on Heather's blog. There were an amazing 798 completes and loads of great data points, as always. Plus, a quick thanks to the 80 people who mentioned that they read the Fallon Planning/Trendpoint blog ... second in total mentions only to Russell!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fallon Brainfood: (Teaser Excerpts) from UofM Communicators Forum

I am presenting the keynote at tomorrows' Communicator's Forum at University of Minnesota.

The theme of the conference is "The Matrix," or Communicating in a Web 2.0 World

Here are some teaser excerpts from the upcoming presentation:

More of the presentation will discuss the impacts of social media on brands with some direction arrows to how Fallon is using web 2.0 tools on behalf of clients.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
8:00am - 12:00pm:
402 Walter Library, University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN
Registration 8:00 a.m.-8:30 a.m.

More info here

Monday, June 23, 2008

"ZAG" by Marty Neumeier

Just finished "ZAG: #1 strategy of high-performance brands" by Marty Neumeier and I have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. A relatively quick read thanks to a non-traditional format (lots of helpful graphics and larger text) ZAG addresses an issue that many marketers often discuss.... the need to zag when everybody else zigs.

Neumeier outlines a 17 step process by which a successful brand should be conceived or repositioned and while I'm not going to recount the entire process, I marked several quotes that really struck me. Most are pretty common sense, but I feel like sometimes we get caught up in the glamor and glitz of the biz and forget about the simple stuff.

"You can't be a leader by following the leader."
-- This struck me because a lot of times advertising turns into a reactive business. One brand does X and pretty soon everybody is chasing after X trying to catch up instead of trying to figure out how they can leap right over X to Z.

"True vision leads to commitment rather than compliance, confidence rather than caution."
-- Loved this because it has been involved in so many discussions I've had lately. At Likemind last Friday, FanChatter and I were talking about where does the agency influence stop? At communications? Or at biz recommendations? Do we have the authority to say "you need an internal overhaul?" Say that we design an award winning campaign that drives people to be interested in your brand. All of a sudden, the Google phenomenon hits. They google brand X and see that it has the worst rankings of all the brands! In this day, this should be expected. Commitment means not just yelling at people but backing it up. As ZJ says, "actions speak louder than words."

"...zaggning requires that a company define itself by what make it UNIQUE, not what makes it admirable," and on top of that, "Forget about best practices. Best practices are usually common practice. And common practices will never add up to a zag, no matter how many of them you apply.
-- It seems like "admirable" is the enemy of brave and courageous ideas. Admirable leads to the "best practices" which ultimately leads to a bland vision and loss of originality.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book. If for nothing else, it's a quick and motivating read doable on a few bus rides to and from the office.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Adding Value

During this time of economic downturn, I keep hearing the mantra we need to add value--to the lives of the consumer, to our products, to the world. Isn't adding value truly what our products should be doing anyway? Is it time for each of us and society to rethink what adds value and what doesn't add value to our lives and to the world? Maybe it's time to eliminate the nonvalue pieces and develop more of the value add pieces to the mix.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Green threat: shoeboxes

My second "first day" at Fallon was this past Monday and in preparing for a triumphant return, I felt like I needed some new clothes. In a moment of poor decision making, I drove to the MOA in order to make sure that I would have every option available.

During my shopping extravaganza, I purchased two pairs of shoes from Bostonian, and didn't think much about it until I got home and was unpacking. I took out the shoes, shoved all of the tissue papery stuff back into the two boxes, and brought them downstairs to our recycling center. As I was carrying them, I realized how wasteful shoeboxes are.

Everyday, thousands of pairs of shoes are purchased. As a runner, I have gone through literally dozens of pairs of running shoes over the last 9 years of my running career. Granted, some people save their shoeboxes for other uses (at least I have) but in my closet right now, I can think of only 3 shoeboxes.

Quick calculation:
5 pairs of training shoes/yr
2 pairs of racing shoes
2 pairs casual shoes
2 pairs dress shoes
At least 11 pairs of shoes per year x 4 years = 44 shoes boxes during college

41 of these boxes got thrown away/recycled.

I realize that as a runner myself, these numbers are skewed, but think about all of the collegiate/professional teams out there who go through multiple pairs of their own training shoes per year and how many boxes that adds up to. I know that on my team, after a new equipment issue there would be boxes upon boxes stacked next to trashcans (no recycling bins... too inconvenient)

It seems like shoe companies could stand to innovate their packaging from the perspective that boxes are a one time use item. Maybe a re-usable plastic box that consumers can choose to leave with the salesperson at the store to be sent back to company. I don't know enough about the material to know would could be done in terms of compostable material or something, but I see opportunity.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Friedlander Photography at MIA

How do you shape the way Americans see and understand their world?

Attend the Friedlander photography exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts June 29-September 14 to see how Lee Friedlander through his photography has shaped how Americans see and understand their world.

Then, take a step back in your world and look at how you shape it. Shift to a different lens and create new shapes. Do these shapes help others (not just Americans) see and understand their world?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Never Give Up

What you hear doesn't necessarily mean it's true. A couple weeks ago I attended the Obama event in St Paul, Minnesota. I arrived at 6:30 pm on the bus and was dropped off right in front of the Xcel Energy Center. From there I had to walk to the end of the line, which at that time was at least 15 blocks long. The doors opened early from their 7:00 pm start. Even though there was little likelihood that I would get in I stood in line along with the many, many people that arrived even later than I arrived. As 9 pm approached and I was still a good 7 blocks away, about four blocks of the line suddenly cleared. Apparently, the police had told the group that the doors had closed, so some people left. I wanted to at least watch the speech from the outside marquee so wandered over to Xcel. As my standing-in-line partner and I were observing all the umbrellas that had been left on the outside of the building, we walked around to the back of Xcel across from the Science Museum. And, guess what? The doors were still open. We added ourselves to the line, went through security, and two minutes into Barack's speech were sitting in Suite 8. Pay attention. Don't make assumptions. Never give up. Who knows where you'll end up sitting.

Virtuality: Postcards from Small Worlds

Small Worlds is in open beta, come check me out. I can say that the startup process is easier than Second Life...I created my avatar and dog avatar in mere minutes. The interface, so far, seems a bit more gamelike than 2L, so navigation and activities are just clearer and more accessible.

So far, the clubs seem less like sex dungeons, again with a key on accessibility Small Worlds is pool halls and game rooms that get you into traditional games mentality. And finding them and getting there is easier than 2L. Music soundtracks play in most spaces and the selections are actually not bad (ie, real tracks from artists you've heard of and like, from Aphex Twin to Michael Jackson - don't know how ASCAP rights play out in Small Worlds).

Burning Man

Received an invite this morning from the DaVinci Institute in Denver to attend Night with a Futurist on July 7. Sometimes I wish I lived in the Denver area as their events usually seem relevant and interesting. Anyway, this next event is called "The Transformative Nature of Burning Man" with Scott Perlman, Co-Founder and COO of Think Like a Genius who has participated in the Burning Man event five times as well as organized the Colorado regional burning man event.

Some time ago, a co-worker of mine shared photos of when she attended the Burning Man event, so this invite reminded me to find out more about it. Upon further exploration, it did get me thinking about some Burning Man questions that may be relevant to what you're doing.

What kind of temporary community would you create, what would you name it, and where would you locate it?
What if there were no selling, no transportation other than walking or biking, and no dogs?
Who would you invite to participate, who would want to participate, and who would just show up as members of your community?
What would it feel like to participate in a community that would totally disappear with no trace within a month's time?
How would you contribute to this year's Burning Man art theme "American Dream" or past themes like Hope & Fear or The Floating World?

Check out the Burning Man website. Review the frequently asked questions, the mission statement and principles, and images of the 30' to 80' past burning mans. One day, maybe I'll participate in the Burning Man event, but until I'm ready to live with wind and dust for a week, I'll continue to experience the event through other people's sharing and my own imagination.

25 Styles of Bloggery

Rohit Bhargava strikes again with this compilation of 25 basic styles of blogging including tips on how often to use each and potential to create buzz and blog traffic by using each.

Politics 2.0: OhBoyObama Think-tank

Oh Boy Obama is the unofficial campaign think-tank. Created by Obama supporters for the purpose of giving the Obama grassroots a platform to submit and vote on ideas to better the 2008 primary and general election campaign of Barack Obama. All supporters are welcome to contribute.

Social Wars

Current TV's amusing commentary on the state of social networks.