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Month: January 2008

Brand Thoughts: Social Objects, Markers vs. Using Media to Define Ourselves

1000+ is staring at me in my Google Reader from several labels, another new year’s resolution that didn’t make it past January. I really had planned on staying on top of my feeds this year. I had marked out time on my calendar, everyday, a couple of times a day, just to stay on top of my feeds. Oh well.

So I just got into digging  Social Objects and Markers idea from Hugh MacLeod. While I’m not sure the idea is new, I like his phrasing, context and language to describe the his thoughts/idea. In his post on Social Markers he ends with -“if the product your company makes is not a Social Marker, I guess the first question would be, “Why the hell not?” Quit your job and start over.”

Living in the world of working on brand communications, my first thought was, there it is again – “product“, not brand. Consumer talk “product” and the social marker/object is the context that creates intangible brand. That context helps people define and relate themselves to one another. For some, these ideas may not be new nor revolutionary. But as I sit around people (metaphorically, relax office mates) who talk about communicating “brand” all day, it is funny how we miss that “product” is the actual social marker/discussion point, not “brand”. Something we should keep in mind when creating brand messages. This is all pretty easy to understand with a niche brand like Harley Davidson. Talking, wearing, riding anything Harley – I have an idea of who you are. I struggle with it on larger brands, more commodity brand.  Valeria Maltoni referenced Coke in the comments on my last post, I’m not sure that Coke is a strong social marker because of the universal usage of Coke. I don’t have any idea who you are because you drink Coke. Everybody drinks Coke. Now Pepsi on the other hand…

Then started to think about, I wonder if media saturation is diluting the power of brands/physical goods? I recalled Johnnie Moore’s post of Mark Ramsey interviewing Watts Wacker. The idea that we are now defining ourselves by our media consumption, not physical goods. That media content makes a stronger social marker. In my mind, it makes since. For brands it is slightly disturbing. I personally (and I know I don’t represent the majority, or even more than 1 person) don’t completely judge a person on what he/she is owning. Because I know anybody can where a Polo shirt, buy a fancy handbag on credit or love Harley Davidson motorcycles in your spare time. But the product/brand social marker context is weak for me. I know more of who you are and the context of who you are as a liberal because you admit to reading Dailykos everyday.

So how can we make “product”/physical goods (and then a brand) relevant as a social marker again? Besides a time machine back to 1982? I think Rohit’s brand personality is going to be key. With brand personality, the brand is going to need to make some media content choices as social markers (I know, I’m starting to use brand pretty loosely). The media content the brand offers becomes a social marker  for consumers of the product and as a social object (if I’m understanding social objects/markers correctly).  I can see this effecting both placement and content of a brand message.

Not to end this abruptly, but it is lunch time and might need to sort this out a bit more.  Your ideas/comments/2 cents welcome.

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Twitte: whatever, trends of 2008 (pre-post), thoughts on branding

Wow, 2008 started out with a bang at work and the work load caught me by surprise.  I’m getting it sorted out, but my ’08 resolution to write/blog more has already fallen by the wayside. Besides the work load, a small trends project I was working on in my spare time has turned out to be anything but small. So the consequences of spending more time invested (those who know me, know the vest joke) in both work and this project has pulled me away from twittering and FB.

And you know what…it’s actually really nice. As much as I love twitter, I would just love a digest of it. I’m sure that is an idea for a start up. Plug your twitter friends list in to a website and get a weekly post of what they were talking about. I know, I am the poster child for the attention economy. And as far as I am concerned with Facebook, go poke yourself.

My personal project I have been working on is compiling all the trend posts I’ve found through Google Reader and developing my own presentation. I know, everyone does that. I’ve done it on a small scale in years past, but this time I’ve worked at pulling a larger cross-section of different disciplines and their 2008 prediction lists. I’ve found some of the cross-over themes really interesting.

One theme I’ve come across is ‘thoughts on branding’. Multiple disciplines seem to all have thoughts on brands…much more than years pass. General thoughts have kind of come down to the re-emergence (?) of product as the important cue for the brand, not the intangible idea the consumers create. Some general discourse points I’ve found along the way  –

  • Stop selling brand, start selling product
  • Products need to lead
  • Focus more on the effects and results of the product in relation to the consumer of the product, not big “B” brand
  • Brand is created by consumers who use the  product
  • Consumer and products are in a constant state of engagement, so context and relevance for you product message are more important than ever (notice, I didn’t say brand message)

Those are just some of the points I’ve slowly tied together. I’ll post a current version up here soon for anyone to comment on, help add to. If all goes well I will get the work load a bit more manageable and have the full trends post out before 2009… :)

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Getting content organized for ’08

I started to clean the small mess (normal living mess) my apartment today (working off post new years eve) I realized what mess really bothered me was the mess my social media, media, etc, content was in. My Google Reader was a mess, feeds were stored all over the place with barely any type of meaningful reasoning. Del.icio.us, the same way. On top of that I’ve always been bothered that I wasn’t being efficient in how I surfed and saved online content.

So I took some of Steve Rubel’s Become a Ninja with Google Reader post to heart and made some changes. I can already tell a difference. Here is a couple of clever things I figured out today.

  • Clipmarks is great for grabbing those interesting tidbits on the fly.
  • Tumblr is great for mashing all your interesting content (clips, flickr, del.icio.us) into one place…which then puts into one feed.
  • Shared feeds” Edited content choices…luv it. One thing though, beware the echo chamber…
  • Tagging in Reader is a must habit
  • Search in Reader is great

Here is how I tie it all together with Google Reader becoming the main nerve center. The key being that Google Reader is searchable. Because I will remember something about a certain post that mentioned something about measurement and engagement and ninjas…but have not idea where to start. Now I can search my feeds and usually find it in a couple of clicks. Using clips from Clipmarks I can grab interesting quickly. I then take my Clipmark feed and dump it into my tumblr. I guess I could just put the Clipmark feed into Google Reader as well, but dumping on tumblr lets me publish Clipmarks (along with other content mash) to my blog because tumblr has a javascript (right now its on the very bottom right…I’m still working on my blog theme/organization).

And not only is my content searchable in Google Reader but tagable as well. Lots of times I read things that sparks ideas for a project for a client but can’t act on it right away. So I will clip it, it will show up in my feeds, I can tag it ‘Subaru idea’. Now that there are RSS feeds for tags I can share my client ideas with different team members on my agencies internal blogs. You can see where I am going with this, automated publishing. Kind of sweet.

I still need to work on cleaning up my feed labels, but I’m already feeling pretty good about the setup. Hopefully this is just the beginning to positive habit changes in 2008.

Update: Tasks in Gmail from Remember The Milk is a nice add on. 

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