Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coca-Cola Aims to Find Worldwide Happiness, with Help from New Media

Let me take a moment to give Coca-Cola some free advertising here...but only because they're setting an example in new media. Coke has recently come up with what they're calling Expedition 206, a plan to send three twenty-somethings around the world to find out what makes people happy.

The travelers, called "Team The Mix," were voted into the position by Coca-Cola fans after going through an extensive application process. Starting in January, the team will travel to 206 countries around the world (where Coca-Cola is sold), documenting their journeys with blog posts, videos, etc. The site is already chock full of media and the journey hasn't even begun.

Props to Coke for engaging consumers. They have a special twitter account for the project where followers can find updates and they've been pushing it on facebook as well. Thus far, Coke has done a nice job of engaging fans and followers, not trying to buy their fan page from the guys who created it but actually working with them to build a community. This attitude is reflected in Expedition 206 by sending "real people" (ie: not Coke Execs) around the world and inviting their followers to enjoy the journey along with their peers. Documentation of the entire process is promised and they're setting themselves up nicely for follow-up media, as team members are sure to gain the affections of consumers as more personality traits are revealed and life lessons are learned.

For more information and updates, visit

Image Source: Dominic's pics

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Are You Getting the Most out of Advertising?

In a recent post on's blog, Dan Rayburn mentioned coverage of MJ's memorial service: the fact that everyone is "caught up in the traffic numbers and the many ways they can turn those numbers into nothing more than a headline." He makes a good point in suggesting more coverage on the business side of webcasts. "Are they trying to sell sponsorships during the event...Are they seeing any success at all when it comes to covering their costs?"

This is a big question when it comes to live events, especially trade shows. Based on my research of two major virtual conference providers, the average cost of a 2-day virtual conference is upwards of $70,000. Most offer up to 5 major sponsors for the event so if you can get each of them to dish out $14,000, you may be in the black - as long as you're willing to work for free to put the whole thing together.

Let's say you can find 5 sponsors who will keep you afloat. How do they then get their message out in a way that stands out from the rest? You'll find them competing for the most flashy ads, the biggest virtual billboard, the most free downloads, etc. But does that really work? I've become somewhat immune to advertisements as we know them and I suspect the same is true for most of America (at least the ones who've learned that it's impossible to lose 30 pounds in one week, short of liposuction and extreme dehydration).

So how do you get your message across in a way that relates to the audience you're trying to reach? Someone who does this particularly well is Peter Shankman. In his email query service for journalists, Help A Reporter Out or HARO, you'll find a written ad with a link at the beginning of each email. This may sound like a common sense thing to do - put an ad in an email - but HARO ads have a more personal touch. The reader sees that businesses are represented in a genuine recommendation, rather than flashy marketing speak.

That said, screening advertisers carefully will surely be of great benefit. When asked about a policy to "keep it real" in advertising, Shankman replied that they "reject about 10% of want-to-be advertisers." It may seem obsurd to turn down advertisers but the idea of casting a net will only get you so far. When I see a website with ads that seem like scams, the site immediately loses credibility in my mind. Fair or not, that's just how it is.

P.S. This blog post is brought to you by RGA, Rick Grant & Associates ;) and the letter Q.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

New Media: Not Just for College Kids Anymore.

Every day people are discovering more ways to use new media - and the possibilities are endless! Recently, many government agencies began using social media to communicate with the masses and employees. According to, "The Columbus, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce worked with students at Ohio State University to use Facebook to announce the opening event of a new restaurant, leading to...the biggest opening day ever for the restaurant chain." Social media sites are becoming a hot ticket for company promos (in fact, before going to dinner a couple weeks ago, I downloaded a coupon from twitter posted by a restaurant). Do a twitter search for "coupon" and see what comes up.

The public is becoming more aware of their favorite brands and people on social networking sites and many organizations are reporting success stories in this area. Anderson County, SC, has decided to take informing the public one step further. The county is looking to increase public safety measures using new media. According to, "The system would use Facebook, Twitter, text messages and other forms of new media to get the word out." Residents would be able to sign up to receive new media alerts whenever something of importance happens. The plan is to "add new media methods and coordinate all of the platforms so that one message is sent out through cell phones, radio, television, social Web sites and more."

We live in an age where convenience is key. With new gadgets abounding, we can have information at our fingertips any time. It's great that folks are taking the initiative to use these resources to help maintain awareness and I look forward to seeing more of this in the future.

Image via Joi

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Long Arm of the Wall

Social networking sites have been all the rage as of late. We've got an abundance of companies encouraging their employees to leverage these tools to further the business, and just as many businesses are banning them for fear of decreased productivity. It's not new for a company to prohibit the use of such sites, but what about a government?

Recently, the Chinese government has blocked access to many social networking sites, via what citizens call the "Great Firewall."
The Chinese government has been blocking and filtering internet content for quite some time, but the social media site ban was in response to the fear of a digital uprising on the 20th anniversary of the 1989 democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. In an interview with Danwei, Michael Anti reported in regards to twitter that "a Chinese tweet can have three times the volume of an English tweet, thanks to the high information intensity of the Chinese language. 140 Chinese characters can make up all the full elements of a news piece..."

Many people consider social networking sites a laughable waste of time for people who don't have "IRL" (in real life) friends. While that may be partially true (ooh, forgive me), it's proven to be useful in getting people organized as well as sharing news and ideas. In fact, twitter is becoming a successful, yet controversial, tool for the US forces in Afghanistan, providing a way to quickly transmit information including enemy body counts. We now have "experts" writing books on how to improve your business using social media. And hey, if the Chinese government is so concerned about it, there must be some relevance to its potential.

Every day I read of new networking sites popping up all over the place with the hopes of being the "next big thing." Where is the future of social networking going? The nay-sayers expect that it's just a fad, and it may be, but a myriad of innovations and the growing concern of businesses and government agencies alike offers a glimmer of "hope," if you will, especially to advertisers and business owners taking advantage of these growing audiences.

And for the Styx song that's probably stuck in your head, you're welcome.

photo credit:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Interthinx leverages edu-tainment....again!

Our friends at Agoura Hills, Calif.-based Interthinx are at it again. If you haven't seen the company's mortgage fraud-related webisodes but you know you need to know more about this important issue, you're in for a pleasant surprise. This company excels at turning material that many would consider complicated and confusing into truly entertaining training content.

In this case, the idea is just to bring some really important issues to the fore, but the way they do it is classic. Interthinx is on the cutting edge and performing well in an area that will be increasingly important in the future. Attracting an audience with engaging content is a prerequisite for the sale, but in the future companies will have to become expert at doing it all online. Interthinx is leading the pack here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Blogging is back in the spotlight

Category:Wikipedians who use WordPressImage via Wikipedia

The Orlando Business Journal has an interesting story up today about a blogger in South Florida who increased his business revenue by 20 percent just by writing a blog. I say "just," but it's not as simple for most executives as it should be to get into the blogging habit, for a number of reasons.

First, blogging is considered one of the New Media, and there are still plenty of executives out there who are not familiar with it. Many believe it to be complicated when it's really as simple as e-mail.

Secondly, there are some concerns about compliance, particularly for publicly traded companies. How can firms ensure that the information released through a blog does not expose the company's plan prematurely? The SEC is now allowing blog posts to be used as a method of releasing official company news, making it important to these firms that what is released there is carefully controlled.

Finally, many executives become very concerned when they are informed that the success of the blog depends, in part, upon allowing the conversation to get out of control. If the messages are too tightly controlled, no one will engage with the company through the blog. When the company loosens up, it becomes very difficult to ensure that all comments conform with the company's view of itself, it executives and brands.

During good times, these concerns are enough to stop new media efforts in their tracks. But when the economy is down severly, as it is now, a 20 percent increase in revenue suddenly makes the effort seem worthwhile.

But how can you make it easy? More on that in the next post.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Making financial services video easier

The Amazing Internet

One of the more exciting mediums captured under the umbrella of New Media is internet video. While it doesn't have to be expensive, it generally is, especially when companies are desperate to control every aspect of their messaging. When it comes to losing control of the conversation, banks, in particular, have not been eager to face those risks and turning their executives lose to talk freely on videotape is just pretty scary. Now, you can let someone else do it for you.

MindBlazer, Charlotte, N.C., says that demand for its interactive content has been high. The company is a marketing technology company that leverages interactive video and new media for the financial industry.

MindBlazer, says it experienced increased demand in 2008 for its educational, interactive content as more banks and credit unions recognized the need to leverage this emerging channel. We wrote about the company last October.

“It is exciting to see financial institutions empower their Web site media to reach beyond traditional communication, expanding the use and returns of the Internet channel,” Ryan Brown, MindBlazer president and CEO, said. “Financial institutions, like in other industries, are embracing new interactive Web media in a professional capacity as a business strategy to help companies stay abreast of consumer attitude and perceptions, as well as improve communication with the public. For the financial industry in particular, new media can be an educational resource for products and services and a driver to encourage adoption of these offerings.”

In 2008, MindBlazer grew to provide more than 140 financial institutions with a variety of interactive media tools, and introduced MoneyMinutesTV, a syndicated series of education-based interactive videos designed to inform the public about financial products and services, while helping banks and credit unions drive sales and service activations online.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You gotta get their attention

Some say that with the right marketing message, well targeted to the right market segment with the right value proposition, you can sell anything. Ice cubes to Eskimoes. That might have been true at one time. But that was a quieter time.

Today, there is so much noise in the marketplace, it's impossible to sell anything if you can't first find a way to get your target market's attention.

In the mortgage lending space, the loans are sold off from wholesale lender (who bought it from a broker) to Wall Street conduit to mortgage-backed securities investor. No one along that chain had ultimate responsibility for the value of that individual deal. At least that's the way the business was run until the subprime mortgage crisis melted down the industry.

Today, most loans are sold to the federal government, in one way or another. No investor wants to buy fraudulent loans, so it's important to screen all applications for fraudulent information. But getting lenders to buy the reports requires vendors to get their attention.

Enter Interthinx, Agoura Hills, Calif. To raise interest in the company's offerings, it recently launched a series of web-based video programs, or webisodes. Based loosely on the old Mystery Science Theater 3000 model, the videos are fun to watch, even if they do provide some real information lenders can use. Check out the first in the series here: