It All Started with an Oreo Cookie

It all started with an Oreo cookie.

This week the Kraft Oreo brand sparked a flurry of news media coverage and public discussion by posting a powerful Facebook image supporting Gay Pride Day. Now that Oreo has made a statement, will Kraft join the conversation?

The ad itself was simple, clever, and perfect for the Pinterest age: a gay-pride themed Oreo cookie accompanied by a post, “Proudly support love!”

Within days, the ad accumulated more than 280,000 Likes and 55,000 comments, ranging from supportive to critical — and the comments keep pouring in. For instance, on Friday afternoon as I wrote this post, Facebook member Jake Pisano commented on the Oreo wall, “I have a question. . .if being gay is so natural then why can’t 2 gays have a baby together hmmm i mean if it was something natural then shouldn’t they be able to have a baby.” Meantime, Facebooker Jocelyn Battisti wrote, “Oreo I bought some of your product yesterday just in sheer respect for your open support of equal love! I am a straight female who also supports equal love and I also am a huge fan of PROGRESS. KEEP IT UP!”

The comments exploded across the digital world, creating a firestorm of media coverage from publications such as ABC News, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. According to Radian6, as of June 27, the ad had sparked 11,600 mentions of the topic across the web (and no doubt the figure is hire by now.) For instance, Music Mogul (who is also my friend and business partner) Jermaine Dupri triggered a passionate conversation on his own Global 14 social community when he posted an image of the cookie and asked, “How do you feel about this? Some Global 14 members asked whether the ad might unwittingly segregate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. On the other hand, a Global 14 member nicknamed Crush wrote, “Why is this even news? It’s not that serious! I respect everyone’s opinion but I will be who the hell I want to . . .OREO COOKIE OR NOT! I am VERY GAY and VERY normal…”)

And in the grand spirit of user-generated content, consumers created their own images inspired by the ad:

Interestingly, Radian6 also reported that eight out of 10 of the comments made about the ad are positive with a disproportionate share of virulent remarks posted on the Oreo Facebook page — and suggesting that the media coverage overstates the controversy.

A Kraft spokesperson responded to the controversy by saying, “As a company, Kraft Foods has a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness. We feel the Oreo ad is a fun reflection of our values.”

I would like to see Kraft do more than make a statement. This kind of advertisement can do something very important, which is to invite people to take a closer look at how corporations like Kraft can enact change to make society more tolerant. Big brands can act as powerful agents of change through their statements and more importantly through their actions. AT&T and Disney are among the companies receiving perfect marks by the Human Rights Campaign for being LGBT-friendly based on a number of factors ranging from the nature of their domestic partner benefits to resources they provide for LGBT employees. (Kraft scores well but lacks a perfect score.) I see an opportunity for Kraft to lead a conversation now the ad has caught our attention.

A Slice of Hip-Hop: “Hotel x Music” by BruthaZ-N-ArmZ

The song “Hotel x Music” by BruthaZ-N-ArmZ has been going through my head for a few months now, which is a good sign that I should highlight it on Superhype.

The video for “Hotel x Music” seems prosaic on first viewing: a bunch of slow-mo shots of guys hanging around in a hotel not doing much of anything. But in fact there’s more going on: a group of hip-hop artists holed up in a hotel take a hard look at their lives (“”The fans . . . consider us popular/we ain’t goin’ nowhere/It’s safe to admit that”) while appreciating for the moment (“Cool life I’m livin’/Hotel lifestyle”).

My favorite moment occurs about 27 seconds into the song, after the band quietly watches the lights of the city outside the hotel, before an infectious  horn and percussion sample straight out of James Brown kicks in — a recurring riff that carries the song.

I first heard about “Hotel x Music” on Global 14, which is a social site run by Jermaine Dupri and source of vibrant communities who share lifestyle interests ranging from hip hop to relationships. Check out BruthaZ-N-ArmZ here.

Social Business for the CEO

How do you talk with CEOs about social media? Speak the language of social business.  A new book by Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim, Social Business by Design: Transformative Social Business Strategies for the Connected Company, will teach you how.

Social Business by Design shows how social media can have far-reaching impacts beyond its commonly known applications for marketing and customer service. The book makes a bold assertion that companies can transform all aspects of their business through social media, including HR, Operations, and R&D. For instance, Kim and Hinchcliffe, both Dachis Group executives, discuss how organizations have successfully used social for product co-creation through a network of crowd-sourcing partners.

“Until quite recently, social media were viewed either as a consumer activity, with marketing as the most useful activity for a business to be engaged in, or something workers used inside the company to collaborate, and occasionally for product innovation or customer care,” they write. “However, social media have now infiltrated every aspect of business operations, and perspectives have expanded to consider four major and interrelated activities: customers, the marketplace, workers, and trading partners.”

It’s no wonder that Social Business by Design advocates for the development of multiple community managers – and not an overworked marketer to manage your Facebook account, but seasoned executives who understand the nuances of knowledge management (for internal community management) and relationship building (for public facing community management).

To get a better sense of why Kim and Hincliffe wrote Social Business by Design and to delve into the ideas behind the book, I asked Peter Kim to discuss the book in the interview published here. Check out what he has to say – and then get ready to embrace social business.

What inspired you and Dion Hinchcliffe to write this book? 

Dion and I have been thinking about the concepts in the book for years. He comes from a technology background, I have a marketing background, and we’re both business strategists. The world has seen the rise of all things “social” over the past decade and brands are just now going on the record to report measurable outcomes as a result of participation. Now that external social media and internal collaboration technology have matured, we felt that it was time to crystallize our thinking and experience to the world in a framework of ten fundamental principles of social business for beginners and experts alike.

Social Business by Design urges companies to act as social businesses. What is a social business? What are your one or two favorite examples right now?

This is an important question, David. Many attempts to define social business are recursive and/or focus on an activity, not an entity. An effective definition needs to describe what something is, then what it does. We believe that a social business harnesses fundamental tendencies in human behavior via emerging technology to improve strategic and tactical outcomes. From that starting point, you can then consider implications on business activities like consumer engagement, employee collaboration, and supply chain management. A great example of a social business in action is IBM; among the multitude of proof points they offer, their developerWorks community saves $100 million annually in support cost deflection.

What’s the difference between acting as a social business and adding social media features to your company’s activities such as sales and marketing?

Social media are tools that offer new approaches to sales and marketing. In isolation, use of social media doesn’t constitute social business – for example, anyone can add a Facebook page or Twitter account to a campaign. Acting as a social business requires a change in the way companies operate, including designing programs so that anyone can participate and integrating social tools and techniques deeply into the flow of work. Process and culture change are key.

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The Making of a Star: Jermaine Dupri, Leah LaBelle, and “Sexify”

Being sexy ain’t the same as being skanky. Just ask Leah LaBelle, who sings about all the ways she turns on a guy in her hook-filled song, “Sexify.”

This song really moves with a hard beat, and the word play lives up to the title. “I just want some hanky-panky,” she sings, “Sexy vs Skanky/Dancing in my bra and panties/Instincts to master/Thank me, thank me.”

LaBelle is emerging jointly from Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Recordings and Pharrell’s i am Other labels. Dupri is using a combination of social media and traditional PR to introduce her to the world. For instance, in March, Dupri started sharing the song to his 36,000-strong Global 14 community, and he’s also been giving her plenty of notice to his 477,000 Twitter followers, along with outreach to news media ranging from Billboard to Vibe (as he has documented on his own YouTube channel)

I happened to witness the star-making process through a Billboard meeting that I attended on April. LaBelle did an impromptu concert in a conference room, singing bits of songs like “Sexify” and discussing her creative inspirations. She explained that the playful lyrics for “Sexify” were actually inspired by Cosmopolitan magazine cover titles. But whereas Cosmo title lines often throw sexuality in your face (like “Sizzling Sex Positions That Won’t Give you Boob Sweat”) LaBelle’s lyrics are more suggestive and sensual.

From left to right: Pharrell, Leah LaBelle, Joe Levy of Billboard, and Jermaine Dupri

And the playful video features cameos from Jermaine and Pharrell, who have both joined forces to develop her musical career. Dupri took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions about “Sexify” and Leah LaBelle:

How did you discover Leah LaBelle?

Pharrell showed me a video of her sing someone else’s material on YouTube. We noticed her swag and style. The way she sang the song gave us the idea we could make her something special. You could see it in her eyes and demeanor. She looked like someone to be reckoned with.

The voice you hear on “Sexify” is not the same I heard on YouTube. When we first started working together, I thought, “Wow her voice is much, much better than what she’s got on YouTube.” You just could not appreciate her voice from YouTube.

What was it like being in the video?

It was easy! I liked my role playing a landlord of the apartment where the video is set. You know, in a way, I do feel like I am her landlord, big brother, and protector – so me being a landlord in the video was a natural for me. [For more insight, check out this video Dupri shot on the set of the video.]

Leah LaBelle and Jermaine Dupri in “Sexify”

Do you consider “Sexify” to be hip-hop?

I don’t label the song at all. You can call it pop, hip-hop, or R&B if you like. But the moment you call it pop, someone else is going to come along and call it R&B. It crosses all lines of music.

What’s next for Leah LaBelle?

Right now we are focused on taking her record as far as we can.

“Sexify” is currently charting in the Billboard Hot 100 for R&B/Hip-Hop