Will Social Media Redefine Nostalgia for Future Generations?

I find myself lost in my childhood, caught up in the preparation for an upcoming Trendstalks presentation on Nostalgia Marketing.  This flood of past memories and brands has left me with an interesting question: What will nostalgia mean to this generation of social media ingrained children? Will their concept of nostalgia be different for mine?

Since Friendster (the precursor to Facebook) came into existence back in 2002, quickly followed by Facebook and Twitter, there are a significant portion of first year college students who have spent the majority of their lives active on social media.

The concept of being able to backtrack your digital footprint and view their entire social media history opens up a new avenue of nostalgia marketing: micro-nostalgia.  Facebook and Twitter have already tapped into this new form of micro-nostalgia by launching birthday campaigns where users could watch and share a short video showing their Facebook memories; or their their tweet.  Making your personal nostalgia associated with their brand, a vice-versa to how normal brand nostalgia operates.

Family Circus created by Bill Keane.

An example of a ‘Billy Path’ made famous in ‘The Family Circus’ by Bill Keane.

Imagine having the ability to relive high school memories by backtracking your online behaviour, like a Billy path in The Family Circus, visiting past conversations with friends, laughing (or groaning) at the inside jokes you shared when you were younger.  You could view your life when things were simple.  At the press of a button you could instantly watch an Instagram or Vine video that you and your friends recorded while having the greatest snowball fight of your lives; or see who is the current mayor of the tree fort you built in the woods near your old house and turned into a Foursquare location.  Will the novelty of traditional nostalgia fade with our growing ability to access historical content at a moments notice, will micro-nostalgia of our own online pasts become the future standard of marketing?  Would you share your happiest childhood moment with the world in support of a favourite brand?



Google’s Answer to Game of Thrones

The leaves have fallen from the trees and winter is on the way and here I sit at my computer with chills running down my spine.  Not from the cold but from the possibilities that one of Google’s latest announcements could have on the field of marketing and public relations.

Endgame: The Calling is a series of sci-fi novels being written by author James Frey and a project that he has challenged Google’s off-shoot company, Niantic Labs to help turn into a marketing juggernaut.  Their goal is to turn this story about 12 teenagers that compete from around the globe in a high-stakes competition; into the starting point for something amazing.  John Hanke, the head of Niantic Labs, goes on to explain:

Frey’s vision was to do this as a book and game and a movie all together, and to use social media as a way to extend the universe and make it a place where people could really live within the game universe.  He had this whole thing conceived of as a never-before-done experience across all these media.

4-PortalKey-225x400Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 6.22.49 PMTo understand how they could accomplish this we have to look back a few years to Niantic Labs last project, Ingress.  Ingress was created as a real world battle between factions to control portals in cities across the globe.  People chose their faction, met their new community and worked together to go out into the real world to participate in a giant global game unlike any other before it.

So imagine this global game structure used for other marketing campaigns.  Suddenly, CNN could have a real-life political map where voters showed their political pride in real-time during election campaigns; or if this were indeed Game of Thrones, each viewer could participate and claim global territory in the name of the Starks, the Lannisters or even in the name of Hodor himself.

Now we up the ante and take that to the next level.  This is where Endgame comes in, incorporating a physical product (the series of novels or their Lost-inspired website) into the mix.  Suddenly, your participation in the real world event takes on a whole new meaning.  You could influence the future of the stories themselves.  A few flash mobs of support and through community participation an army rises up to support someone the author never intended to be popular and change the lore of the brands universe and story.

Popularity wins and now Hodor takes his place on the Iron Throne in a live performance streamed across the game in real-time; only to have another faction assemble en-masse to try to ruin the event with a  spur of the moment community planned and funded Red Wedding event.  Reality and fiction finally blend together with paid and organic promotional marketing.

And behind the scenes the marketing team watches it all in real time.  They can visually see the communities within their brand, how those communities have formed over time and where they’ll be in the near future.  They can tailor the brands message, create new products that cater to the popular communities and their victories while adjusting future campaigns and plans in real-time.

This is what Endgame and Google hope to accomplish; with movies, novellas and the trilogy of books all working together to give its players competitions for cash prizes of real gold.  A game that could connect billions of potential players with their high-tech devices, allowing them to shape the global game.

So can you see the possibilities that it can be used for in the field of marketing?  I can.  Who needs to wait for Khaleesi’s dragons when you have the strength of Hodor’s community that can band together and take the Iron Throne before she crosses the ocean.  Let your voice be heard and comment below on how you’d use this technology!




Snapchat Scares Up Some Paid Advertisers

Did you get your Ouija board out after watching Snapchat’s Inaugural ad?  Or did you miss it and have no clue what i’m talking about?  If it’s the latter then have no fear, the second part of my Halloween series of posts covers this spooky tale from the Snapkeeper.

This week the many millennials on Snapchat could be heard screaming, their terror heralding the dawn of a new domain of online advertising, as Snapchat opened its gates and allowed its first paid advertisement to its American users.  The 20-second trailer for the horror film Ouija appeared in everyones “Recent Updates” section, daring everyone to hold their finger to watch the entire ad without having to restart the timer over again.  With a lifespan of 24 hours, before it disappeared from the system as eerily as it arrived, the ad, according to Universal Studios, received millions of views but reserve final judgement on its success until all the analytics are in.


While this is the first paid advertisement in the app, it isn’t the first time advertisers have promoted their products to Snapchats millennial audience.  Taco Bell, an early adopter to Snapchat, has gained a strong following on Snapchat with more than 200,000 friends.  Considering their Snapchat followers as “crazy engaged,” Nicholas Tran, Taco Bell’s official storyteller, considers Snapchat “one of the most engaging places for us to play“and each Snap it sends receives an estimated 80% engagement rate (with 90% viewing the entire Snap).

The important question is, if Snapchat continues to open the doors to paid ads, can brands continue to achieve these levels of engagement?  Or will the flood of ads start to ruin the goodwill earned by brands like Taco Bell and Doritos who have spent the time to earn the trust of its millennial audience?

So Snapchatters, were you scared by Snapchat’s first advertisement this week? Or just annoyed that ads have made it into your favourite social media app?  Raise your pitchforks, light your jack-o’-lanterns and storm the castle of my comments section below.

Trick or Treat? Pinterest Knocks on YouTube’s Door Searching for a New Audience

Have you ever used Pinterest to find your ideal Halloween costume?  If not, Pinterest is hoping that this year you’ll change your mind.

With over 176 million Halloween-related pins they have packed up their pins and embarked on a massive Halloween campaign to show the users of YouTube the treasure trove that lurks at Pinterest.   Partnering with Funny or Die, Cracked, eHow to YouTube’s Michelle Phan, Pinterest’s Head of Brand, David Rubin, believes that YouTube is a healthy platform to recruit a bigger audience.

What we’re finding is not only that the content [media companies] create is helpful to us, but Pinterest has grown into being a place where we’re driving lots of traffic and interest back to them.

What makes this interesting is that Pinterest isn’t relying on an outside agency for this campaign.  With minimal spending on paid ads they’re relying on a grassroots-style campaign and the word of mouth garnered by their online partners to spread the word for this campaign.  Now, I love Halloween – it truly is my favourite day of the year.  That is why this campaign piques my interest.  It might be a chance to head back online and add some spookiness to my barren boards.  Plus it has a series of new features that I’d love to check out.

So with Pinterest now standing as the second largest driver of traffic on the internet, will this campaign earn them tricks or will they find the audience to push past Facebook and become #1?  At the very least, you’ll be able to find a great costume to win this years inner-office costume party.  So follow me on Pinterest and share some of your spookiest Halloween pins.


Did Reddit Investors Just Make History by Placing Its Community First?

Reddit made the news this week with the announcement that Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto were part of the group that invested $50 million into the coffers of Reddit.  But did the medias love of celebrity news blind them, and the public, to the important facts behind this story?  Is Reddit about to make history and only the Reddit community will know it?

Snoop Dogg’s investment is not much of a surprise to anyone in the Reddit community since he is an active member and moderator on the site.  The real surprises are the other important names that never made it into the official headlines with investors like Everbrite‘s CEO’s Kevin and Julia Hartz, and Minted CEO Miriam Naficy.  This influx of cash is going to have a great impact on Reddit, laying out the groundwork for some serious upgrades to the Reddit brand:

  • Hiring third-party companies to expand our mobile offerings (like their new AMA app)
  • To improve their self-serve ad product
  • Helping build up the redditgifts marketplace
  • Pay for their growing technical infrastructure
  • To create a cryptocurrency to give 10% of the investors shares beck to the Reddit community.

These improvements could have a great impact on other social media apps and sites, with AMA Reddit events possibly being part of Eventbrite or other affiliated marketing opportunities.  However, the biggest item on that list was ignored by the mainstream media; that Snoop and the other investors promised to give 10% of their shares back to the Reddit community in the form of a cryptocurrency.  In the sites comments section, Reddit CEO Yishan Wong went into greater detail about how this would work.

We are thinking about creating a cryptocurrency and making it exchangeable (backed) by those shares of reddit, and then distributing the currency to the community. The investors have explicitly agreed to this in their investment terms. Nothing like this has ever been done before.”

The concept of creating a cryptocurrency to reward it’s own community is a great idea that should be heralded by the media, instead of ignored.  Companies often ignore their communities and the fact that Reddit, and it’s investors, see the value of setting aside millions to reward its consumer base instead of its shareholders.  So do you think made history today by deciding to try and put the community first?  Or is the media right? Is it all about Snoop Dogg and /r/trees?

Yinshan Wong - photo from http://i.imgur.com/wFVhIX2.jpg

“An investment like this doesn’t mean we’re rich or successful. Money can become worthless very quickly, value is something that is built over time through hard work.

Putting People First: Hit or MIXX?


There is one thing that is ingrained into you if you have ever driven in Toronto: expect gridlock on the Don Valley Parking Lot. It can be midnight on a Sunday and you’ll still hit stopped traffic somewhere on your trip. So how do we cope and move on from the negative experience you are hit with every time you drive? You prepare for the worst and hope for the best. After all, deep inside, you know it’s the only way to maintain a positive outlook on your day without losing personal momentum. So, as the bus left Kingston at 6 a.m., I knew that I was likely to end up missing a portion of the IAB Canada Fall MIXX Conference’s first speaker, and fellow creative, Charlene Li.

I arrived feeling like I was had slept in and was late for an important meeting, so without hesitation I grabbed my student scarlet letter from the registration desk and raced up to the second floor balcony. Taking the first seat I could find, I realized that the upper balcony of the Carlu was a buzz of excitement where many of the students already taken to the digital realm to engage the world, and their peers.  This was the first time I’ve been at a conference and torn between taking in the information in front of me and using my phone to check out the #MIXX2014 event feed to see what questions unfolded around me in real-time as everyone discussed the secrets to digital strategy success. After an all-to-brief round of post-presentation Q&A where we were able to electronically engage Charlene Li with questions on Twitter, it was time to move on.

Stoked, this was followed by interesting presentations on Profit-Driven Marketing by Marie Josée Lamothe and an excellent look at the Global Perspective on Content & Technology by Marta Martinez and AOL where they showed how quick a company can engage in two-way communications with their customer base. The weakest of the morning presentations would have to be the discussion on the End of Digital Media. When Annette Warring said that “content is NOT king, big data is NOT the savior, and the consumer is NOT in control.” It came off as an attention-grabbing headline whose purpose was to justify booking a presentation rather than use as a starting point for a serious discussion on the issue. If digital media was dead, then why were we trending online? Or celebrating the fact that online digital ad revenue had just surpassed 3.5 billion dollars a year in Canada?

Advertising Growth Trend 2004-13

During our lunch off-site, we discussed the lack of online engagement with the presenters post-Li; especially toward those of us in the balcony. There had been zero post-presentation Twitter discussions and we were starting to feel left out of the event. This abandonment was even more apparant in the lobby where we could only watch as marketing professionals mingled and chatted on the other side of the roped off “delegates-only” section; a section we students were forbidden to enter unless you really needed to use the facilities and dared run through the minefield of industry representatives. After all, we didn’t want to upset our schools reputation by crashing the scene, chatting with the wrong industry professional and have have our school not be invited back.  There was no attempt by anyone in the industry to cross that rope to our side to engage us, or open the barriers to invite us in.  Somewhere in that throng was a room of technology aimed at marketers to look at and no one gave permission, or directions, to the students to see the vendors or displays within that room. Which is a shame since some of them might have paid to be there in hopes of plying their wares on anyone eager to listen.

As I settled down to sit through the downward spiral of afternoon presentations, whose presenters lacked both crowd engagement and Twitter accounts, I was left with an old adage from my Public Relations education floating around in my head, “Get your inside onside before you go outside.” So when your key message is about the importance of engaging your customers, how can you achieve that goal if you’re unwilling to engage your future potential employees first?

I came engaged and prepared to see the best the world of marketing could offer, I just didn’t know I had to watch it from the other side of the ropes.

Whatever side of the ropes you were on, what would you change to help make the next IAB event more engaging for both sides?

The Soundtrack To Your Life

I’ve spoken before on how music and sound can affect the words you hear in casual conversations and about the power of the brain to fill in the gaps to those same conversations.  But it is also important to note how those same words and music can affect us emotionally and physically.

The soundtrack to our lives guide us through our days (or nights), they lift us up when we’re feeling down or motivate us to do foolish things and take chances.

For the majority of the 20th century it was the power of radio that provided that feeling of release.  It helped make time go faster while driving, to give us great songs to listen to that inspired us to keep on excelling.  Before television it gave us radio shows that inspired the brain with amazing stories that only our imaginations could visualize.  Without those radio shows we wouldn’t have had Star Wars or Indiana Jones.


Then it changed.  With the invention of a device that became known across the world as a “Walkman” and became the defacto slang name for every portable music device until the invention of the .mp3 player.  Suddenly there was a device that could actually give your life a walking soundtrack.  Music to pass the time while you took the subway to work, biked to school, or had that second input jack so that girl you admired could listen to your latest mix tape.

It altered how we used music in our lives.  It became more personal.  Playlists became our generations mood ring and we now use those songs and movie themes to emphasize our daily lives.  Ringtones that resonate with our inner being.

For me nothing gets the blood pumping more than going for a nightly run listening to the score to my favourite horror movie.  A flicker of shadow or rustle of a plant in a dark abandoned city path can get your heart racing as your imagination fuels your base fears.  It pushes you to go faster, the pulsing beat of electronic terror.

Music guides your life.  It makes us dance.  It makes us cry.  It holds us back ,lost in key moments of our past, but it also drives us forward to explore new frontiers.

So what is the soundtrack to your life?

Papilliographics: If you could taste the internet, would this post taste like irony?

It seems that technology is advancing to try and capitalize on all five of our senses.  In this article by Lauren O”Neil they talk about a new technological breakthrough that would allow you to taste flavours generated by the device.  While they talk about using this technology to benefit diabetics, by allowing them to taste sugar products, or for people undergoing chemotherapy, to make food taste better, it could have a much further reach into our lives.   By combining this technological advance with our online behaviour, social media experiences and love of brands and consumer goods it opens the door to a myriad of possibilities.

Would this create a new style of programming?  Would blog posts have the ability to add textures and taste to their subject line?  It would bring a whole new meaning to flavour text.  Now while that’s a pretty bad pun, it is also technically true since it would also create a whole new area of public relations study.  I like to call it papilliographics, a study of determining your target audience by their taste breakdowns (sweetness,sourness,saltiness,bitterness and umami).  It could theoretically be a database where computers would calculate the percentages of those five categories modified by the average number of taste bud receptors in a target demographics mouth.  While I won’t bore you with an in-depth analysis of papilliographics (although feel free to contact me), it’s just a taste of what would happen next.


Suddenly internet sites would be trying to lure people in by the added flavour factors.  Who wouldn’t make it part of their day to visit Cinnabon for that daily taste sensation, especially if you were on a diet.  Imagine the cornucopia of flavours your Twitter feed would become.  How would that change your following habits?  Would the new social mavens be revered for their taste palette as well as their unique style?

Of course the coin has two sides.  Imagine stumbling across new sites on the internet for that random flavour factor – a button clicking game of Russian roulette.  Or when hackers could change an unprotected sites flavour or when you accidentally step into a forum full of trolls and you get that sewer taste of hate and disrespect in your mouth.  How many synthesized coffees would that take to get out?

It would also be a challenge to match companies to the flavours that make them unique.  Especially with a limited palette, like all new technologies have.  Would internet search engines have to be vanilla or would they get daring and go outside the basics?  After all could you imagine the taste of Google Chrome?

It would also be great for companies looking for a cheaper source of brand market research.  Starbucks could field test new flavours and gauge their reaction without having to brew one single cup.  You could taste the menu of your favourite restaurant without leaving your home.  There’d be a whole new type of taste media devoted to this.  Tasteogram anyone?

Then again how long would it take to burn us out completely from wanting to taste things in the internet and in real life?  Make us reluctant to try the unknown, make a dinner that could be burnt or have soggy vegetables, without trying them on our computer first.  


Perhaps one day when they figure out texture and make it an exact science that might happen.  Companies could stop making real world products to save production costs and focus solely on the online experience.  They could also bring back items that haven’t existed in the marketplace for over fifty years.  Who wouldn’t want to taste that Malted Milk chocolate bar from their childhood.

It’s an interesting concept to think that one day we may be able to “taste” the internet.  It would be the next game changer for the marketing, public relations and advertising industries.  But like all new technology and how its perceived and accepted – until it happens it all comes down to word of mouth.  And with that bad pun I think i’ll end this on a sour note.  


Wish in Progress: How San Francisco made @Batkid Triumphant and Made a Nation and World Proud

The basic truth is this:  the Make-A-Wish Foundation has outdone itself once again.  Not just the scope of the event – which as you can see below was groundbreaking.  It is just the simple fact that through the power social media, they managed to create an inspiring campaign that gathered 10,000 volunteers to help make Miles dream come true, while also being watched by the entire world as it happened live.  After all, when the President of the United States takes time out of his day to send Miles a congratulatory video just to add to the glory he felt being Batkid, you know it is a job well done by everyone in San Francisco and at the Make-A-Wish Foundation.


The entire event single-handedly raised the spirits of countless countries, wiping away some of the negativity in both U.S. Politics and up here in Canada.   But to talk about that Toronto topic takes away from the adventures of Miles, the caped kindergartener, so let’s continue on.

With Twitter feeds from the major villains leading up to and during the event, their jibes and banter with the world audience, and with Batkid, fleshed out a personality to equally match their comic book personas.  The world got villains they could despise and that added layer made it more realistic for all involved.

The crowds lined up to show their support while Batkid, escorted by Batman, rescued a damsel in distress.  Without fear he disarmed a Riddler trap to free her from certain doom, before racing away to capture the Riddler at the scene of the real crime.  Then in the afternoon chasing down The Penguin in the Batmobile to rescue Lou Seal, the San Francisco Giants mascot.  Topping it all off was a flash mob singing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing (sorry wish I had a video of the flash mob to attach) while Miles, ahem sorry, Batkid, ate lunch between caped crusades.


The resilience of this five-year old to accept the mantle of the bat and strive to live up to the ideals of his hero amazes me.

Just as it amazes me the turnout from the world to give one child the best memory of his life.  But in return that child returned the favour tenfold and gave the world an everlasting memory of its own.  That is the true magic of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the magic inside young Miles himself.

Which is why in the end he isn’t just the hero we need, he’s the hero we deserve.  If only more of us showed the stoic courage, spirit and determination to help others as Miles showed the world yesterday.

He deserves this and a lot more.


Should Social Media Have a Speed Limit?


In my recent discussions with a variety of PR professionals we have talked about the rise of social media and how it has revolutionized how public relations, media and global communications as a whole.  The speed from which a story can be witnessed, recorded, published online and watched by someone across the globe is spectacular.  Long gone is the 24-hour news cycle.

Just today I got a tweet on my feed from @NASA talking about a live spacewalk that was taking place 354 km above me.  So with a click of a button I was watching an astronaut, well technically a cosmonaut, perform repairs up in space live on my computer screen.  I could hear him communicating with mission control while a NASA announcer guided those listening to the feed through what was going on.  It was captivating that technology has jumped this far in such a short span of time to be able to see, and feel a part of, something like that.


But has it become too fast?  

With no controls the reputation of a person or business can be destroyed with false information, intentional or not, and a simple click of a button.  Within an hour that video, or mis-tweet,  can go viral and cause emotional, physical or financial damage before the truth can catch up.  

Using events that happened in the news today, I saw online debate on two separate companies who were fending off potential PR disasters due to bad tweets.  

After all, anything that you send out into the internet can never truly be erased.  Delete them all you want but somewhere, somehow, someone has a screenshot or backup of your professional or personal screw-up.  

That in my opinion is the reason why we need to accept a speed limit on social media.  An acceptable right lane where people can coast along in safety while those who dare race ahead and risk crashing in their own personal or corporate blaze of glory.  We, as a global society, need to make sure that speed isn’t of the essence, that patience will persevere and people will take that extra time to make sure accuracy overwhelms being first.

One can dream.

However, while social media is a great tool that can help those whose voices wouldn’t normally be heard, and whose causes need support, it will also attract those who seek to destroy things.  That is the double edged sword of human nature.  Again I have digressed a little from my original subject – it’s late so it tends to happen.

One of my biggest concerns of social media’s growing speed is the simple fact that it makes society more gullible and willing to accept what they read.  This goes hand-in-hand with the damage social media can cause to people and businesses.  We’re so used to breezing through fifty things flying at us through out phones that we latch onto the things that interest us and don’t give a second thought to whether they are true or not.  We’ve been trained to believe in the basic trust that what we’re being told is the truth.  Truth in what we learn in school.  Truth in what we’re told by our parents.  So naturally we see truth in what we read on the internet.

Now you can argue with me on this, that’s your right, but look at the simple fact that there are news organizations whom every day who reprint the faux stories posted on The Onion as real news solely because they see the words and trust them to be correct.  The fact they want to be first in reposting it to their audience overshadows the time they should be taking to make sure what they are printing is correct.  These are professionals who are forced to keep pace with and because of that they end up that driver in the SUV that just blitzed by you going 150 kph on your right side and almost taking off your mirror when they cut you off.

So should social media have a speed limit?  Slide into autopilot and chime into the debate.  After all it truly is an important issue that should be addressed before technology advances to the point where it’s beyond our control.