Tag Archives: trends

This Week in Social Media

– Mobile marketing took a big step forward when American Express announced a new partnership with Foursquare. The social networking app allows cardholders to link their Foursquare profiles to their cards, giving them access to specials without the need for coupons. When a cardholder sees a special they want, they check in to the location and “load” the discount onto their card, and their credit card statement confirm it. While only available at three merchants so far, I predict this innovative partnership will spread to other credit card companies and to other social networks, including Facebook.

The takeaway: Mobile is the next great frontier in shopping, socializing, and job searching. Is it part of your social media strategy?



– UP2U, a new stick gum from the makers of Mentos, launched an aggressive social media campaign ahead of its product launch. Though the gum isn’t yet sold anywhere in the US, the UP2U Facebook page neared 100,000 likes this week. Mentos offered free gum to the first 1,000 people who liked the page, but even after that milestone was hit, the promotion continued to go viral. The campaign should hit a whole new level next month when Mentos asks its Facebook fans to provide the name of friends who would like free samples.

The takeaway: Even without a product, UP2U has created fun, opinionated community by asking questions on its Facebook wall, all of which include the phrase “it’s up to you.” Chew on this smart blend of branding and engagement.

– Jason Valdez, an ex-convict in Salt Lake City, found time during a 16-hour police standoff to update his Facebook status. Friends and family members responded to him in real time, offering everything from pleas to “do the right thing” to, in one case, alerting Valdez to a SWAT officer hiding in the bushes. The standoff is over and the hostage is safe, but SLC police are still trying to determine if anyone who commented on Valdez’s Facebook wall should be charged with obstruction of justice or hampering a police investigation. Authorities are also debating whether Valdez’s posts themselves are a crime.

The takeaway: Social media is changing every type of interaction, and no one is totally certain what the new rules are. We’re all pioneers, so don’t be afraid to try.



– Lastly, this week my company BRANDEMiX partnered with the US Open to promote their July 7 job fair, where the National Tennis Center and all its hiring partners will be accepting resumes and conducting interviews to fill thousands of positions at this year’s tennis tournament. For this project, we created a microsite, a Twitter account and a Facebook Page.

The takeaway: Check out our Team US Open sites and tell me what you think!

Social Media PR Disasters: “United Breaks Guitars”

Social media has given brands unprecedented access to its customers, but we may forget that the customers also have access to those same communication tools and are able to broadcast their messages to the world.

Sometimes those messages are critical of a company. How do brands respond? Over the next few months, I’ll look at the way brands have missed, or exploited, opportunities for good publicity. This week, we’ll see what happens when a little-known musician takes on a major airline.
The Brand
United Airlines
The Incident
In 2008, on a United Airlines flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the Sons of Maxwell, a rock group led by David Carroll, witnessed baggage handlers throwing their guitars on the tarmac. When Carroll arrived at his destination, he found that his $3,5000 Taylor guitar had been broken. Carroll pursued compensation from United for nine months, but the company never took responsibility and ultimately denied his claim.
The Problem
Carroll wrote a song about the incident and posted the music video on YouTube. After three days, it had received over 500,000 views. (It currently has over 10 million). The song became a hit on iTunes as well. Carroll promised that two more songs about United’s poor customer service were on the way.
The Response
After just 18 hours, United began offering apologies through Twitter. However, the airline’s Facebook Page made no mention of the incident, and the Page’s press release tab, an obvious platform for communicating the company’s official response, provided no additional information. The United Airlines YouTube channel quickly filled up with negative comments, which the airline neither replied to nor removed. Eventually, the airline made amends by donating $3,000 to the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute (at Carroll’s request), but that action didn’t indicate an improvement in baggage handling or a change of policies.
The Result
Carroll’s second song, a faux love ballad for a United customer service rep, was less successful but still a modest hit. His third song, in which Carroll describes being contact by other passengers who had had poor experiences with United, was more conciliatory. Carroll eventually began giving speeches on customer service to corporations around the country. He even flew United again – though on a flight to Denver to give a presentation, the airline lost his luggage. And Social Media Today, following an analysis of the story, concluded that “United Airlines did follow the first rule of crisis communications by apologizing and trying to make amends.  It’s their failure to leverage and integrate their online channels that is at issue.”
The Takeaway
So what are the lessons from “United Breaks Guitars”?
Drive people to your own turf. United had the platforms to control the flow of information, but neglected its own Facebook Page and YouTube channel, letting critics take over.
Respond immediately. How many views must a critical video get before a company responds? Carroll’s song became popular so quickly that many companies would have struggled to keep up. But United had at least some of response before two days had passed.
If necessary, make the change: Look at how Delta changed its baggage policy for military personnel after an Army reservist posted a video about having to pay a fee to check a fourth bag on a flight home from Afghanistan. Other airlines quickly eliminated their own fee. The entire story took only a few days to be resolved.
As “United Breaks Guitars” shows, while great customer service rarely stays with us, bad customer service drives people to vent their frustrations online. Some of the most vicious – and popular – content on the internet involves consumers taking their revenge against brands that have wronged them. But brands can swing public opinion back in their favor by acting with speed, grace, and humility.

The 4 Words You Want to Hear from your Agency Partner

It’s the most important words you can hear from your agency partner.

It has the power to change your company in ways you never realized.
It has nothing to do with money or deliverables or logistics.

Can you guess what it is?

“I have an idea.”

They may say other words to you, like “solutions.” That’s a good term, but it implies that you have “problems.” The branding world isn’t so binary. If there are only problems and solutions, then what are opportunities? What are experiments?

Did your agency partner mention a “plan”? Plans are fine, but they come after ideas. Planning too early can lead to rigidity. If circumstances change and the plan is no longer valid, do you change the plan, scrap the plan…or try to change the circumstances? Plans often mean a great deal of time and energy and shouldn’t be conceived without your input.

Your agency partner might say they have an “answer.” This can be useful, but the right answer requires the right question; are you sure they asked the right one? And what if the question has multiple answers?

Solutions, plans, and answers are all right, but nothing beats an idea.

An idea has the potential to change your entire company. Weren’t Google and Twitter founded on very simple ideas? Walt Disney’s idea was that an amusement park should entertain both children and adults. Ray Kroc’s idea was that a Big Mac should taste the same in New York as it did in Tokyo.

An idea shows that your agency partner has been thinking about your company. They’ve considered your strengths, your weaknesses, your needs, and your goals. And all those factors have coalesced into something that they’re excited to share with you. It may only be a spark, but it could light a wildfire. After all, single idea from your agency partner can open up new revenue streams, launch the creation of new products, or change your entire marketing strategy.

Ideas are powerful things. Arguably all of human progress has relied on one person creating a concept and then spreading it to others. Flight was once only an idea. So was the car, and the camera, and the computer. The light bulb was such a great invention that it now symbolizes all ideas. America is an idea; it reaches across borders and unites people from many different backgrounds.

So if your agency partner hasn’t said “I have an idea” in a while, here’s an idea:

Find a new agency!