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Culture in a 24 / 7 world

Menth Lab; $1 million Kickstarter Projects; Ellen and JCP tell protestors where to stick it

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The Big Idea:

Taking a stand. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement we’ve seen the power of people banding together, so it was no surprise that when the Susan G. Komen foundation denied funding to Planned Parenthood, they heard it from the public loud and clear. Cue backpedaling and half-hearted apologies. The message has been delivered – don’t underestimate the power of the people.

Brands often become their own worst enemy, fanning the flames of dissent with ill-conceived social media strategies (see McDonalds). Brands now seem to be in constant need of  crisis plans, if they aren’t simply retreating from consumer engagement of any kind. But apparently JC Penney didn’t get that memo.

The retailer was recently threatened with a boycott by OneMillionMoms for their use of Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. Rather than cave, JCP told this group to buzz off. Soon it was the Onemillionmoms who were on the back foot as fans of Ellen rallied in support. The OneMillionsMoms Facebook page is currently being dominated by Ellen fans

In our current Us v. Y’all society, it won’t be possible for brands to please everyone, only to be true to their brand DNA. Doing so creates brand loyalists that are crucial to surviving the inevitable challenges.

 

Menth Lab

 

Breaking Rad

Terrific piece in the February issue of Fast Company on a Detroit program aimed at keeping kids from smoking, specifically targeting menthol cigarettes that are favored by African-American youth. The program brought together a diverse group of professionals – designers, health experts, entrepreneurs, entertainers and community leaders – under the auspices of Legacy, the group behind the “Truth” ad campaign. The results included a unique collection of cultural artifacts – basketballs, backpacks, New Era caps – that reclaimed the mint green color associated with menthol cigarettes.

Super Bowl Post-Mortem

This year’s Super Bowl featured the Patriots (Clint Eastwood, Bud’s American chronology ad, Battleship movie) and the Giants (Coke, Chevy, Madonna), and while New York won the game, it seemed like Madison Avenue lost. In general the critics, pundits and experts seemed to think that the spots were underwhelming, and while a lot was made of brands using hashtags and other social media tools, plenty of opportunities were missed there too.

The big surprises were the success of the H&M spot that featured a different kind of footballer, David Beckham; and the halftime performance of Madonna. Yes, these are two very popular individuals (and brands in their own rights), but not necessarily two names you’d associate with American football. Yes, soccer has made great strides in this country, but the stigma as a game for ‘softer’ athletes and little girls still lingers. As for the halftime show, this is a spot that in recent years has featured The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and The Rolling Stones – acts that are squarely directed at the white, male 45-60 demographic.

While Madge and Becks certainly appeal to a broad audience, a large portion of  that audience includes women and gays. And while their inclusion in the Super Bowl festivities is certainly warranted due to their broad appeal, one wonders what role their appeal to women and gays played in their success. By several measures, H&M’s ad was hailed as the winner, and Madonna’s performance paradoxically saw a huge spike in social comments, but also a huge drop in app usage providing interesting data for both traditional Super Bowl advertisers, but also for brands who never previously thought their consumers were watching the Big Game.

On a related note, you can check out my thoughts on how brands leveraged the Super Bowl via social media in my 2nd Screen Super Bowl executive summary. Look for the full report on the Super Bowl, Social TV and culture at the end of the month.

Social Media Week NYC

Next week is Social Media Week in New York, with more events than you could possibly attend. The event, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years received an official proclamation from Mayor Bloomberg to kick off this year’s event. I’m planning on attending the following panels and presentations:

How to Embrace the Metagame to Produce Long-Term Social Engagement

Dave Gray & The Connected Company: An Inventory of the Possible followed by Panel: Social Business by Design

AgencyWare: Agency as maker

Elisa Camahort Page on Rewriting Keystroke by Keystroke followed by Panel: The Dawn of Companion TV

Collaborative Storytelling: Transmedia and Social Media

Some of the most important cultural and industry trends will be discussed during Social Media Week, I’ll look to have a wrap up report on this later this month as well.

Kickstarter Project of the Week: On Your Mark, Get Set, Mow!

As you may know, each week I back a Kickstarter project that I find innovative, creative or in someway highlighting an interesting part of culture. This week I’ve chosen to back On Your Mark, Get Set, Mow!, a film about the world of lawn mower racing. The U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association has numerous sponsors, a 19-race season and has been broadcast nationally on FoxSportsNet. You can read more about this project here. In other Kickstarter news, a major milestone was reached this week for the platform. For the first time ever, a project received more than $1 million in funding. In fact, two projects reached that mark this week, the second did so in one day. That sounds like a possible tipping point for Kickstarter. It’s a platform to keep an eye on and one which might be interesting to utilize on behalf of a client.

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