Why Your Brand Needs to Be a Youtility

Ellen DeGeneres crashed Twitter with her Oscars selfie, but your business does not need access to Hollywood A-listers to make your own mark. On March 25, author Jay Baer and Anna Hrach of digital agency ethology showed how simply providing useful content can make your brand more valuable to your audience.

In their webinar “Help Not Hype: How to Create Content Your Customers Actually Want,” Baer and Hrach asserted that the key to creating customer relationships in the digital world is providing content that is inherently useful to people instead of pushing self-promotional advertising that might capture interest for a moment but fails to create long-term engagement. According to Hrach, formulating a strategy that balances the goals of your brand with the needs of your audience is essential to understanding how to support your business by providing content that your customers actually want and need.

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Source: ethology

Baer drew upon his book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype to state the case for why brands need to focus more on the unsexy attribute of being useful to hold the attention of your audience. Because both consumers and businesses are flooding the digital world with their own content, ironically businesses are competing with their own customers for attention. The solution for businesses is to avoid the temptation to simply stand out for a few seconds with marketing stunts and hype-filled headlines but rather become trusted utilities that people will want to come back to time and again for useful information that enriches our lives.

Baer

Source: ethology

“You must do more than create content,” he asserted. “You have to make youtility, or content so useful that people would pay for it. Youtility is marketing that people cherish, not tolerate.”

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For instance, through its @HiltonSuggests Twitter account, Hilton Worldwide provides helpful tips to travelers such as the best places to enjoy afternoon tea in London. The account responds to Continue reading

Can Wu-Tang Clan Save the Record Album with “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin”?

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When I first heard that trailblazing rap collective Wu-Tang Clan intends to release just one copy of its new album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, I stopped what I was doing and had to learn more. And therein lies the point of  Wu-Tang Clan’s strategy: create intrigue for a fading art form, the record album.

The album has become practically an anachronism in the era of digital disposable content. Listening to an album all the way through requires focused attention. But consumers like to stream our music in small morsels while we’re shopping, exercising, gaming, and generally doing anything but focusing our attention on music. It’s no wonder that album sales continue to decline, decreasing by 8.4 percent in 2013, including a downturn for digital albums.

Enter Wu-Tang Clan, which made one of the most influential rap albums of all time, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), in 1993 (long before album sales started their decline).

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The strategy behind Enter the Wu-Tang — the group’s first album — was as inventive as its sound. The group wanted Enter the Wu-Tang to be a launching pad for the careers of its individual members (not just Wu-Tang Clan, per se) and the approach worked: Method Man, RZA, Raekwon, Continue reading

“Out Among the Stars”: The Return of the Man in Black

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In the entertainment industry, your brand endures after you die. Tupac Shakur released seven record albums after his death and appeared via hologram at Coachella in 2012. Michael Jackson earned $160 million in 2013 despite being dead since 2009. And now Johnny Cash has released Out Among the Stars. The recording falls into the category of “lost” album — which is often a lofty code word for bad material that has been collecting dust in a vault for a good reason. And Out Among the Stars is a flawed effort.  But for Cash fans, the album is a useful artifact, like discovering a diary of a famous historical figure, and the songs show different dimensions Cash and the music brand we know as the Man in Black.

The material on the album is culled from a difficult period on Johnny Cash’s life, 1981 to 1984. The Nashville establishment ignored him, Columbia Records dropped him from the label, and he relapsed into an addiction to pills. But as Out Among the Stars demonstrates, he didn’t stop recording. The material, resulting from a collaboration with producer Billy Sherrill, offers a glimpse at different sides of the Man in Black brand and Continue reading

Introducing “20/20,” a Film Shot with Google Glass by Clark Kokich

Clark Kokich has built a career helping brands master digital technology. So it’s only fitting that Kokich, the chief strategy officer at Marchex, former Razorfish CEO, and author of Do or Die, has created 20/20, the world’s first narrative live-action short film shot with Google Glass. The five-minute movie, which follows a day in the life of a young man through his Google Glass, makes a powerful statement about personal privacy and the power that technology assumes in our everyday lives. For as long as I’ve known him, Clark Kokich has always been fascinated with the way that digital technology can both disrupt and shape the way we live and do business.

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20/20: romance competes with technology. Which will win?

In the following interview, he discusses the themes of 20/20 (a product of his film company, Perché No?) what it was like to make a movie with Google Glass, and his views on technology and privacy (including his opinion of Edward Snowden). Check out what’s on his mind — but more importantly, take five minutes to watch the provocative 20/20. This movie will make you think.

What inspired you to make this movie?

Last spring I was having coffee with Margaret Czeisler, global vice president of the Razorfish xLab. She pulled out a Google Glass for me to try. It was the first time I fully understood the power of the technology. Then, as I was driving home, the idea for the film just popped into my head. I more or less wrote it in my mind in the car and typed it up when I got home.

In the movie, Google Glass is omnipresent, and not always for the best. Where do you think Google Glass is headed in the next few years?

It’s hard to say. I used to work at Code-A-Phone, a company that made telephone answering machines. Remember those? Our biggest issue was confronting the backlash from people who became pissed off when they had to leave a recorded message.

In the 1990s, I worked for Cellular One. At that time, cell phones were regarded as a smug status symbol. “What kind of an asshole takes a call in their car?” We’re seeing that kind of backlash right now with Google Glass. And I suppose this film doesn’t help, does it? But who knows what will happen.

Becky

In the end, if the technology solves a real problem, people will get over it. Right now, I don’t think Google Glass solves an obvious problem in the same way answering machines and cell phones did.

The movie’s subtext about spying is obviously quite timely, with Edward Snowden recently speaking at the 2014 SXSW Interactive festival. What’s your view of Snowden? Hero or a traitor?

I do think he broke the law, and there should be consequences for that. But I don’t consider him a traitor. If I had to guess, 50 years from now he’ll be regarded as an important historical figure; someone who took a huge risk – and sacrificed everything – so that the rest of us could know what the hell is really going on.

I could relate to the scene where the protagonist is multi-tasking too much with technology at the expense of the people in the room with them. How do you avoid that happening in your own life?

I’m actually pretty good about that. I’ve never used technology just because it’s new and cool. I can admire it, and want to learn more, but I’m not an automatic adopter. I also think it’s important to be doing the things that are important to you, not that are important to others. For instance, if I’m on the road, I don’t answer emails on my phone just because they came in. My fingers are too big for that kind of nonsense. If something’s critically important, maybe. But for the most part, I decide what’s important to get done right now, and I only concentrate on that. Just ignore everything else.

What was it like shooting a movie in Google Glass? What did the experience teach you?

It was a pain in the ass. We tried to monitor the shooting in real time through an iPhone, but doing so was too clumsy. So we ended up shooting a scene with no idea what we were really getting. Then we had to wait to download the file and check it on the computer. If there was a problem, you had to start over. It took forever.

What’s next for your filmmaking?

We’re going to shoot another short this summer. This one is more serious. No more Google Glass fun and games.

The Collaborative Economy Goes Mainstream

Welcome to the age of sharing. Thanks to easy-to-use online markets like Airbnb and Uber, consumers are increasingly choosing to share goods and services with each other than buy from big brands. According to Fast Company, the so-called collaborative economy represents a $110 billion market. Now, for the first time, comes a report that helps marketers understand just who is doing the making and sharing of goods and services, and why they’re collaborating instead of buying. Sharing Is the New Buying, co-produced by Crowd Companies and VisionCritical, discusses the results of a survey of 90,112 people in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The report shatters a stereotype that participants in the collaborative economy consist of starving hipsters in Brooklyn or technology nerds in Silicon Valley. In fact, sharing has become mainstream. And brands that want to succeed in the sharing economy must tell stories around value and trust.

“Contrary to the image of sharers as tech-savvy urban hipsters, sharers are very much like the population as a whole: in other words, a lot like your customers,” write authors Jeremiah Owyang, Alexandra Samuel, and Andrew Grenville. “Sharers are part of the mainstream set of customers that businesses cannot ignore.”

Sharing Is the New Buying is an important read for any marketer who wishes to tap into the zeitgeist of the collaborative economy. After all, publications ranging from Forbes to The Guardian cite the sharing economy as an important trend affecting how business is conducted in 2014. So it’s no surprise that big brands such as Patagonia and BMW have been learning how to tap into sharing behaviors by offering ways to share goods instead of buying them outright. Sharing Is the New Buying offers a snapshot into who exactly is doing the sharing. Some key findings:

  • Sharers are mainstream, making up 40 percent of the general population, meaning 80 million Americans, 23 million Britons, and 10 million Canadians. People who rent and share from each other cut across a broad spectrum of demographics, with women comprising 55 percent of the sharing population.
  • Sharers are affluent: more than 27 percent of “neo-sharers” (users of emergent sharing services like Uber) have incomes between $50K-$100K, just like the overall population.
  • Sharers are young: about half of active participants in the sharing economy are between 18 and 34 years old.
  • Sharers are practical: most people share because of convenience and cost savings, as well as the desire for quality goods and services.

Savvy start-ups have already tapped into the wants and needs of sharing consumers, as have established brands. Airbnb has quickly challenged the hegemony of the larger hotel chains by making it possible for everyday people to Continue reading

Ellen DeGeneres, the Oscars, and the Era of the Visual Storyteller

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The defining moment of the 2014 Academy Awards happened in the audience and on Twitter. While the Oscars ceremony lumbered along with the usual moments of awkward onstage patter and stars showcasing their plastic surgery, Ellen DeGeneres snapped the selfie that was seen around the world: a joyous moment of herself surrounded by stars such as Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. According to The Washington Post, it took less than 45 minutes for DeGeneres to break President Barack Obama’s record for the content with the most retweets. Welcome to the Academy Awards in the era of the visual storyteller.

Thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, more than half of adult Internet users post photos online, and we post more than 300 million images a daily on Facebook alone. Pinterest is the third-most popular social network after Facebook and Twitter. Recently, Twitter paved the way for more visual tweets by making previews of Twitter photos and Vines more prominent in your content stream. With one selfie posted on her Twitter feed, Ellen DeGeneres tapped into our visual storytelling zeitgeist.

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The post went viral because so many viewers actively participated in the Oscars on their own social spaces in real time. The Academy itself posted selfies and show updates on Twitter — a smart move from Oscar that taps into natural human behaviors.

Continue reading