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New Google CSR Initiative Extends Sight for Non-Profits

This week, at its Geo For Good Summit, Google announced the Skybox For Good Program, a program that will provide non-profit and public benefit companies with real-time satellite imagery so they can tell their story and visualize their cause as it happens.

The Program, currently in its beta version with a handful of non-profits, seeks to make global causes more data-rich and more accessible to consumers than ever possible before.

Google purchased SkyBox back in August for $500 Million, or about one third the price Facebook paid for Whatsapp.

SkyBox uses small camera satellites 185 miles above the surface of the Earth with the ability to capture still images and live video of any point on Earth with up to sub-meter magnification, two to three times per day. And by 2018, once all 24 of SkyBox’s satellites are launched, Google will have the ability to broadcast such rich data as real time traffic video in real time.

For such a relatively small investment, Google may have acquired one of its most valuable services to date. Think Google Earth in motion.

SkySat-1 & SkySat-2 in the Clean Room

SkyBox satellites are the smallest and nimblest of their kind.









What are the implications of real-time satellite data?

Although from a consumer viewpoint we have grown accustomed to live weather maps and Google Earth, real time satellite data is something that, until recently, has been largely unobtainable and technologically impossible. Even some of the satellite data from the current iteration of Google Earth could be several years old.

But if that information were up-to the-minute, Google could see and track anything. And by choosing to freely provide such powerful backing to humanitarian and environmental causes, Google is certainly setting an example for corporate behavior.

The implications of this technology are incredibly substantial for non-profits and public service organizations. Imagine, for instance, if the Red Cross and other rescue organizations immediately had access to full scale satellite imagery in the wake of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane or tsunami.

Or imagine firefighters being able to pinpoint and track the spread of wildfires and environmental watchdog groups being able to track deforestation as it happens in real time. Such world-shrinking technology could have the power to provide salience and immediacy of important issues to those living in unaffected areas.

The technology is already being used in interesting ways. Two watchdog groups in the SkyBox for Good program, Sky Truth and Appalachian Voices, are using the technology to raise awareness against mountaintop removal mining. The WWF is using it to protect tiger habitats in Sumatra. And HALO has been using the technology to clear landmines and ensure the wellbeing of refugees.

Sri Lanka

SkyBox being used to clear landmines in Sri Lanka.

SkyBox monitoring destructive mining practices in Appalachia.

SkyBox monitors a displaced persons camp in Sudan

But When you get down to it, this isn’t just about capturing images. It’s also about analytics.

When raw image feeds are coupled with the right software, the results can be astounding. Imaging can predict crop yields and oil production and track commerce and shipping at all major seaports. And nobody but Google would ever know.

That’s a considerable amount of power for one company. The same way SkyBox is currently being used in the private sector to track and analyze Apple’s factory shipments in Taiwan, Google could use this tech to track individual consumers down to how many cars they drive and even assess individuals’ typical out of home schedules and behaviors.

In the future, the technology behind SkyBox will inevitably lead to the creation of new apps and technologies based on simply analyzing what Google can see from the sky. Google’s example of empowering non-profits with this technology from the beginning is a noble, authentic initiative, but we must also consider the value of consumer privacy in its implementation.

What do you think? Will Google be able to handle this tremendous power on its own? Does the potential good that SkyBox could bring to the world mitigate the bad?

Categories : General Virtues
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City of Sugar

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It’s obvious that water is better for you than soda but are you actually going to choose the healthier option? Brita is trying to help you decide by not only telling you but showing you why you should #ChooseWater instead.

Brita launched the #ChooseWater campaign using an approach that engages consumers through Twitter, award winning bloggers, a celebrity endorsement, an art exhibit, and Brita’s YouTube channel.

The campaign started with a “Twitter Party” where participants could win Visa gift cards.

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The blog Modern Day Moms hosted the event for Brita on their Twitter page, which has over 250,000 followers! @ModernDayDads, another parent blogger, co-hosted the event by retweeting and responding to participants’ tweets. The Twitter Party questions were:

Q1 Tell us how much soda your family consumes on average: one a day? one a month? one a year? Never?

Q2 How much sugar do you think one soda a day is over the average adult lifetime? We’d love to hear your guesses! Use hashtag

Q3 Tell us how much sugar you think a family of four consumes over a lifetime for the chance to win prizes!

Q4 If you aren’t a soda drinker: tell us what types of alternative beverages your family consumes for the chance to win!

After question #1, Jesse Ferguson of ABC’s Modern Family tweeted an image of him standing next to a small city made of sugar created by Brita.

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Brita built the sugar city, with the help of Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Jesse Ferguson as promoters, showing how much sugar a family of four consumes in a lifetime! The exhibit was featured in the Chelsea Market in New York City with about 7,000 pounds of sugar in 28 buildings ranging from 2 to 7 feet in height, which is nearly one million sugar cubes.

But no worries, if you aren’t a NYC resident and can’t visit the exhibit, Brita released a video after question #2 of the Twitter Party of a similar sugar city they created. Only this city represented the amount of sugar one person consumes in their lifetime if they only drink one soda a day.

Brita’s #ChooseWater campaign is a brilliant way to show families they care about their health. They could have approached this campaign in a different, less effective way, by delivering their message through a typical print ad, for example.

Instead, they showed them and engaged some of their most important consumers using people they already listened to: Mom and dad bloggers.

The use of a Twitter contest in this campaign was highly engaging because the consumers they targeted, families, already aim to save money. This generally means the smaller the effort, the better. Visa gift cards allow parents to purchase what they want whether it is diapers, groceries, or even splurge on themselves. So Brita chose a smart promotional tactic to represent this by offering the opportunity to win these gift cards by just answering simple questions.

The decision to display their creation in an art exhibit promoted by a celebrity, Jesse Ferguson, was a great way for Brita to turn owned and paid media into earned media. Ad Week and PR Newswire picked up the #ChooseWater campaign because of this stunt, which featured Brita’s new video in their articles. The video engaged 12,000 viewers in just one week.

Brita chose an impactful, engaging, and tasteful (pun intended) way to market themselves against their competition and to show their concern about obesity in our nation.

The #ChooseWater campaign was a sweet idea for the product Brita offers, a water filter, that also encourages consumers to be healthier by living in a world with less sugar.


The blogosphere abounds with thoughts and messages from the most diverse individuals, representing – theoretically – all the possible voices of the world. For some people it’s just a way to share their everyday reflections. For others it’s about diffusing their opinions on relevant topics related to their job and interests. And for still others, it represents the actual source of their livelihood.

Professional bloggers exist in several disciplines, from cooking to technology to cinema and fashion. And they’re able to live upon this form of expression. Read More→

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Content is the king of websites. It’s a point every company should understand. Most of the time, corporate websites are full of animations and cool software plug-ins, but they forget what consumers really want to see is content.

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Coca-Cola is probably the first brand to move in this direction. Last year it declared the death of its corporate website. The new website is called “Coca-Cola Journey”, and it looks more like an online news channel than a website of a company that makes soft drinks.

This “Journey” started three years ago, when the company, realizing the media landscape was changing very quickly, launched “Coca-Cola Content 2020”. The aim was to understand how to leverage the opportunities of the new landscape by exploiting the power of dynamic storytelling.

According to Ashley Brown, Group Director of Digital Communications and Social Media for Coke, this change happened because they looked at their data and realized that what they thought was good content wasn’t necessarily considered good by their customers. They looked at customer feedback to shape the creativity of the business. The needs and the will of the buyers became priority in the new scenario. Coca-Cola understood that social media and online engagement was too important a tool to be neglected.

This new approach is the new way to engage with the customer. And mentioning the brand is not the top priority. They realized the main goal is to build relationship and trust, not promote their products; what they share on this platform is usable, fun and emotional content. It’s often said that “content is social at the core, digital by design, and emotional”.

Coke’s content talks about a variety of topics, from food to sports, from jobs to innovation. The articles are not written only by the company, but also from a group of bloggers who are part of “The Opener”, an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that brings the best food, travel culture, and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey. Every article can be shared through various social networks.

Everything published on Journey is data driven. The website attracts an average of 1.1 million visitors each month; they drive the future content of the platform. In some cases, a topic that is highly appreciated evolves into a dedicated channel. The amount of content to be published is also determined by data; the first year they published more than 1,200 pieces of content. Surprisingly enough, even if the focus is not on the product, articles about Coke do incredibly well.

Coca-Cola is one of the most well known brands in the world. Therefore, it was obvious that their corporate website, even in this new innovative form, was going to require a focus on different countries, their issues and their will. Today, there are seven local Journey websites: Australia, Deutschland, Japan, Morocco (in France and in Arab), New Zealand, Russia and Ukraine. More countries should be introduced soon.

Despite all this good news, there are a few people who are not convinced of this new scenario for corporate websites. Mark Higginson, Social Media Manager at the University of Brighton, reviewed a sample of 87 posts on Journey to understand the real social interaction with customers. His results were not positive: “the average number of shares from a post to Facebook was 238, to LinkedIn, 103 and to Twitter, 42. Each post averaged eight comments and two-thirds of posts received no comments at all.” Of course this number of shares seems very weak since we are talking about Coca-Cola, one of the most well known companies in the world.

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There is no doubt that the direction of Coca-Cola has introduced a change to the role of the corporate website. Of course, a social media approach is not suitable for every kind of business, but everyone must understand that what is important is the customer and what kind of content they want to know.

And the promotion of the product must not dominate.



Categories : Engagement, Internet
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If you live on the planet Earth and have access to the internet, then you’ve probably heard about #Bendgate, Apple’s latest PR fiasco, which even T-Mobile CEO John Legere is vehemently dismissing as “Horse dung.”

#Bendgate arose from allegations that Apple’s new iPhone 6 Plus has the tendency to bend in its users’ pockets. And while Apple has been quick to deny this unintended hardware capability, thousands of photos and videos shared on social media seem to suggest otherwise.

Brands were exceptionally quick about trying to cash in on the scandal on social media, and the results were record-setting. The most notable gain from bendgate was Kit-Kat whose image of a Kit-Kat bar being broken at a 45-degree angle topped Oreo’s now infamous “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” from the Super Bowl in 2013. Kit-Kat’s was retweeted over 23,000 times, amassed a whopping 10,000 favorites.

Does it bend?

Does it bend?


Samsung’s Tongue-in-cheek Response


Even Pringles had something to say.

Rival Samsung was also quick to capitalize off of Apple’s unfortunate bend by releasing a video, which depicts their Galaxy Note 4 undergoing a series of stress tests simulating a Galaxy Note 4 being sat on by a mechanical posterior.

While the internet’s hilarious reaction to bending iPhones allowed a multitude of brands to gain social media cred at Apple’s expense, one thing remains clear: In the world of technology, there is shockingly little transparency about how the devices we live so connected to in our daily lives are manufactured.

So much is at stake to tech behemoths like Apple and Samsung: Their stocks are made and broken on the heels of a new product release. One weakness exposed, and quarterly profits might be doomed to collapse. Case in point: Apple has yet to make an on-camera rebuttal demonstration, or even acknowledge that more than nine cases of phone bending have been reported.

Frankly, the most worrisome thing about “bendgate” is that corporations have become so big that they can no longer admit when they are doing wrong.

But there’s a dirty secret that the other tech companies have tried to keep under wraps for quite some time. Does anybody remember when Apple announced that they were banning the use of industrial Benzene and N-Hexane from its iPhone post-production process, chemicals which effectively endangered Apple’s 500,000 factory workers? Not many.

Benzene and N-Hexane are Category 1 carcinogens which are banned in most Western countries for industrial use. They are known to cause leukemia as well as nerve damage, paralysis and reproductive abnormalities. In the consumer electronics industry, benzene is used as a cleaning agent for electronic parts in the post-production process. And because it costs about $1 more per device on average to not use benzene in the manufacturing process, cell phone manufacturers are essentially putting their employees’ lives at risk to cut costs.And the use of benzene isn’t just isolated to the tech sector. Its use spans a wide variety of product categories from athletic shoes to hardware to toys.

Watch: The Human Cost of Electronics

In October 2013, Samsung was slapped with lawsuits after former factory workers were found to have contracted terminal illnesses from contact with the chemicals in the workplace. Apple had its own share of problems in 2011. And these are not isolated incidents between these two companies. Other major electronics manufacturers, including HP, Dell and LG, have still yet to pledge against the use of toxic chemicals like benzene and n-hexane.

Apple’s announcement to discontinue the chemicals was made public in August through a press release on Apple’s Environmental Responsibility blog. In addition to the announcement, Apple released, for the first time, a Regulated Substances Specification, which dictates how chemicals should be handled by their suppliers. However, apart from a few cover articles on social media, little has been done on Apple’s part to further champion against the use of these chemicals.

When it comes down to it, companies need to be more accountable for the way that they operate, not just the effectiveness of their product designs. Until then, the companies we are relying on to provide us with the technology of the future are effectively the ones working hard to endanger it. Tech brands should be required to be more transparent about their environmental and human impact, and they should seek safer ways to produce their products.

Apple was right to ban benzene and n-hexane from its post-production processes, but not enough was done to truly raise awareness about what is really going on behind factory doors. But don’t be so quick to judge Apple for #Bendgate, when they are the only ones to take measures against benzene. Instead of bludgeoning each other with the latest misstep, maybe tech manufacturers should take a step back to consider their fundamental duty to benefit not just the consumer, but their own employees. Brands need to stand up and speak up.

What do you think? Should brands be obligated to enter the conversation of how the production processes of their products affect their own employees and the environment as a whole?

Think about how often you receive a text while you’re driving. What’s your reaction: text back or ignore it?

The scary thing is almost half of teens and adult commuters admit to texting and driving. In 2011, 1.3 million car crashes involved cell phones. So whose job is it to stop you from texting and driving? Your parents?

AT&T took on this parental responsibility as a brand in 2010 telling teens “it can wait” using television ads that showed real stories of teens’ final texts before dying in a car accident. They were scary and impactful.

Their 10 minute PSA even won the Silver Integrated Lion at the Cannes advertising festival in 2011 (preview below).

As you may have seen for yourself, these ads were memorable. But the issue AT&T faced was if people actually listened and remembered in the moment while driving.

After this campaign ran for two years, 97% of teens said they knew texting and driving was dangerous, but 77% remained confident they could still text and drive safely. Do scare tactics really work?

The campaign attempted to take the advertising further by encouraging teens to take a pledge online to stop texting and driving and share their pledge via social media. AT&T was really trying to make a difference but it wasn’t until recently that they found a way teens could really take action.

Introducing: #X

If you receive a text with #X, don’t reply. Don’t get offended. The text conversation is just paused, thanks to AT&T.


AT&T added to their “It Can Wait” campaign by creating this shorthand for people to use before driving.

You simply send #X to a friend before getting into your car to drive to let them know you can’t talk until you’re done driving. AT&T used the Top-Down Influence approach Gini and Geoff talk about in Marketing in the Round (p. 61).

For the next phase of their “It Can Wait” campaign, they used influencers to accompany their ad campaign. AT&T posted on their consumer blog announcing what the new challenge was about and explaining how consumers can tell others they are not going to text and drive using the app or #X.

They used other influencers such as teen celebrities like singer, Demi Lavato, and James Maslow from Nickelodeon as spokes people. James tweeted to reach his over 3 million followers (@jamesmaslow) :

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AT&T also created a website,, where consumers can watch videos, see what celebrities are saying, make a Meme, read related buzz articles, see the live twitter feed, and even make the pledge themselves. The site is important because it is separate from the main AT&T site.

This site is not trying to sell you their products, but engage their consumers in the conversation around their positive initiative.

The recent change to the campaign moves away from scaring consumers and emphasizes the use of #X and targets teens heavily instead of just the general population. And they communicate the message through relevant social media and young celebrities.

Part of their social media campaign around “It Can Wait,” focuses on what is waiting for consumers at the end of their drive. They encourage consumers to take a picture and tweet what was waiting for them. This new approach engages teens much more than the “It Can Wait” campaign back in 2010, as evidenced by the over 5 million pledges now on

it can wait

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Ironic, isn’t it? One basic way marketers learn to engage consumers is to “start a conversation” with people. AT&T did just the opposite of that!

They essentially told their consumers (and even their competitors’ consumers) to stop using their service. That sounds ridiculous. They could potentially lose money due to their consumers not using their service.

But that is what makes this strategy effective. Consumers will most likely think AT&T cares about them and their well-being over their competition.

Either way, AT&T has been successful at reaching millions of teens in an effort to stop something that threatens our lives on the road every day.

Do you think AT&T customers even care about their positive initiatives when choosing a service provider? Is AT&T’s call to action, #X, a long-term solution to end texting while driving or just another way for the brand to be perceived in a positive light?

Get out a box of Kleenex, Budweiser has put another cute dog in their ad. After the overwhelming success of Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” spot during the 2014 Super Bowl, it’s no surprise they’ve once again harnessed the power of the puppy. But this time, it’s to send a very powerful and important message to consumers everywhere.

The ad was released in honor of Global Be(er) Responsible Day, which Budweiser created to talk to consumers about the dangers of drinking and driving. Their new ad features a golden lab waiting faithfully for his owner to come home after a night of drinking. Except his owner doesn’t return that night, causing the viewer’s heart to sink.

But fear not, he walks through the door the following morning after deciding to spend the night at a friend’s house instead of drinking and driving. Both dog and owner rejoice when he comes home safe and sound, ending with the copy: “Make a plan to make it home. Your friends are counting on you.”

Budweiser Tweet

This ad isn’t just a great example of corporate social responsibility, but it’s also a great tool to start a conversation with consumers. When Budweiser shared the link on their Twitter page, they invited consumers to the discussion about drinking and driving by including the Twitter hashtag #FriendsAreWaiting at the end of the commercial.

One look at this twitter feed and not only is it evident that people adored the conscientious ad, but that Budweiser is in fact accomplishing their goal of raising awareness about drinking and driving through their ad campaign. As of September 29, one week after the tweet was posted, it racked up 1,400 retweets and 940 favorites.

Fan Tweets

“Friendship, camaraderie and enjoying great times are at the heart of Budweiser’s most popular campaigns, and this video maintains that tradition but with an unexpected twist,” Brian Perkins, VP of marketing for Budwesier at Anheuser-Busch, told AdAge. “Budweiser is known for connecting with beer drinkers in memorable ways, and our efforts to promote responsible drinking through this video are no exception.”

The spot was released online prior to it being played on what is often considered the most popular media format: television. David Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, emphasizes the importance of companies telling their stories and sharing their ideas online.

He notes that while television advertising was once the dominating way to communicate with audiences, things like Facebook, blogs, and Twitter allow companies to talk directly with consumer. He believes that “strong social networking ties lead to stronger personal relationships,” because of this one-on-one connection over something both the company and the consumer care deeply about (Scott 2013, p. 259)

Scott goes on to explain “what also fails (online) is an egocentric display of your products and services,” and Budweiser was smart enough to do the opposite by crafting a socially conscious message that aligns with their product (Scott 2013, p. 46). What’s critical to being successful online is creating information that people will want to share, and Budweiser did precisely that: To the tune of over 15 million online views of the ad..

As people continue to share the video through social media, Budweiser hopes that next time you pick up a beer at the supermarket, you’ll think of that cute puppy waiting for his friend and want to support such a responsible and insightful company.

What do you think about Budweiser’s new ad? How much of a role does the puppy play in the ad? Would it have been as effective as another pet? And is social media the most appropriate place for this type of corporate responsibility message?

The month of September, 2014 has been quite problematic for the NFL and their sponsors. In a short span of two weeks, the internet has been covered by news about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out cold in the elevator and Adrian Peterson “disciplining” his son on the bare skin with tree branches. Ray McDonald, Greg Hardy, and Jonathan Dwyer were also subsequently reported by the media to have their own domestic abuse/violence cases.

Unlike the old days when news would take days to reach the nation, the proliferation of social media has enabled news to go viral within minutes. So far, the majority of public conversations have been focusing on the actual offenders, NFL policies, and domestic violence issues in general. However, as a few brands got involved and earned themselves a decent amount of public media attention, an interesting question has emerged: What should brands do about this NFL domestic abuse turmoil?

CoverGirl is an official NFL sponsor that got involved with this issue in an unfortunate manner. CoverGirl has a national NFL-themed “Get Your Game Face On” campaign, featuring models with makeup colors that coordinate with different NFL team colors.

After a few players’ domestic violence cases were reported, a group of activists then used the CoverGirl campaign photos and photo-shopped the models with the look of a domestic violence victim (See comparison photos below). These altered photos quickly grew into a social media campaign of #CoverGirlcott that calls on CoverGirl to terminate its sponsorship with the NFL so the NFL will be pressured to take a definite stance on combatting domestic violence among their football players.

Original CoverGirl

photo credit: CoverGirl

credit: covergirl

photo credit: #CoverGirlCott











The brand’s official response to the boycott campaign, however, is not satisfying to theactivists’ standards. Under much public pressure, CoverGirl issued a statement saying that the brand believes “domestic violence is completely unacceptable” and it “encourages the NFL to take swift action on their path forward to address the issue of domestic violence”. However, there has been no further announcement or action from CoverGirl and the brand remains the NFL’s national sponsor.

This decision might not be as problematic if CoverGirl had not tried to position itself as a pro-women brand. Consumers might still remember CoverGirl’s #GirlCan: Women Empowerment campaign launched during the 2014 Winter Sochi Olympics. In that campaign, CoverGirl took the role of a women-empowerment ambassador and a women-rights advocate. In sync with last year’s pro-women movement, the winter campaign won CoverGirl good publicity from media and support from consumers.

Now, because of the #CoverGirlcott campaign and the company’s unsatisfying response to the situation, CoverGirl is in a big dilemma. Although there are practical financial concerns regarding withdrawing the contract with the NFL, the negative buzz on social media about CoverGirl has made the company’s effort in women empowerment look insincere and inauthentic.

A company’s success lies in the consistent, authentic, and trustworthy image that they build and maintain in the mind of their target audience. CoverGirl’s image is probably somewhat hypocritical to the public now when it chose to remain a sponsor even after being called on to take other action.

Hotel chain Radisson, in contrast, appears to have done the right thing, at least in the opinion of women rights advocates. After Adrian Peterson was charged with his child abuse case, Radisson suspended its sponsorship deal with the Minnesota Vikings to show how serious and committed the brand is to this particular matter. It can be argued that Raddisson has a smaller stake in the NFL compared to CoverGirl since the company is not a league sponsor. However, critics only find Radisson’s decision to be another piece of support to urge CoverGirl to terminate its sponsorship with the NFL.

Realistically speaking, CoverGirl shouldn’t rush into ending its contract with the NFL given the NFL is a multi-billion entertainment business and most people are still going to watch football games regardless of the scandals. However, as a brand with a unique position to maintain, CoverGirl could have definitely done more than a mere public statement. They could have taken down the photos on their website temporarily. Or, they could have donated to women protection nonprofits to win some hearts back. They might not be able to mute criticisms completely, but taking actual actions will certainly give the brand more redeeming value than a public statement.

Categories : General Virtues
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       There’s a local business in town asking their fellow neighbors to share the sexiest, most mouth-watering pictures that they can conjure up on a moments notice. Who is this local collector of erotic imagery? Applebee’s, of course. That’s right, Applebee’s has just recently rolled out a new campaign that encourages customers to snap sexy, food porn worthy photos of the meals that they receive at their favorite neighborhood restaurant and then post them to their Twitter account accompanied by the “Fantographer” hashtag. Applebee’s is then taking this stockpile of delectable fan food photos and using them to fill their company Instagram feed for an entire year. It’s a strategy that has already produced a fair amount of buzz within the Twittersphere and seems to be a step in the right direction for a company that desperately needs to improve its brand to consumer relationship. The most interesting part of this increasingly popular approach is that brands like Applebee’s are realizing the potential of using channels like Twitter in such a way that allows them to say quite a lot without actually saying very much at all.


       In an age where a simple 140-character post can pose the risk of making or breaking a brand’s reputation, maybe staying relatively quiet and letting the consumers have a chance to do the talking isn’t such a bad idea. As David Scott put it in The New Rules of Marketing & PR, “we should rethink our notions about who can best spread our ideas and tell our stories” when considering the potential reach that social networking sites provide.

       The Applebee’s campaign, which has been running for nearly two and a half months and  has already increased their Instagram following by 32%, is based off of an insight centered around the idea that their customers are often much more interested in content that they create than content that’s created by the actual Applebee’s marketing department. Rather than viewing this revelation as negative, Applebee’s saw it as an opportunity to improve their social media presence by playing off of a popular social media trend that consists of people sharing photos of their meals to social media for their followers to then view and salivate over. Through this approach, Applebee’s has been able to gain a new perspective on how their daily customer views the company and has also helped to add a more human element to their social media presence.

       This new campaign is a prime example of how brands are effectively using social media as a channel in which to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with some of their most loyal customers. Other brands, like Miller Lite and DoubleTree Hotels, have also taken advantage of social media and the creativity of their customers to create genuine content that serves as a more accurate reflection of how the public views each brand.

       Much like Applebee’s, Miller Lite recently reached out to its Twitter followers asking that they send in photos of them enjoying a Miller Lite with friends during the summer months for a chance to be included in a TV spot that ran back in August for their “ShowUsYourMiller” campaign. DoubleTree also took advantage of the availability and ease of consumer-generated content by reaching out to its customers and encouraging past users of their hotel service to share videos, pictures, and travel tips from previous vacations on each of DoubleTree’s social networking platforms. Rather than use their own voice to express to potential users the many of advantages of traveling with DoubleTree, the company decided that it was best to let their past customers do some of the talking. They shared a stockpile of unbiased content that helped to show potential future customers the many things that they could see and do in the DoubleTree locations.


       It has become clear that the adoption of user-generated content is a growing trend among brands looking to stay relevant in an age driven by social media. To further increase the brand to consumer relationship, companies must test new avenues in which to engage with their audience. Although it is a great way to better humanize a brand, companies still need to stay alert and closely monitor the content that is being shared via their social media pages. Brands that have the intention of using user-generated content to fuel long-lasting campaigns, like that of Applebee’s, run a greater risk of accidently allowing a negative consumer response to slip through the filter, and therefore need to realize that, it’s critical to respond quickly to negative web posts that may ruin a brand’s reputation situations.

       It will be interesting to monitor the Applebee’s new campaign over the next year to see if it manages to continue to increase their followers on their social networking sites and help to improve their brand to consumer relationship.

       Do you think that using social media to encourage the production of user-generated content is an effective approach for brands looking to engage with an increasingly skeptical consumer base?


Categories : General Virtues
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This last Thursday marked the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Everyone wanted to show their patriotism, and so people turned to one of the most popular communication avenues: Social Media. Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with posts from friends with images of the twin towers, American flags, and personal stories in an effort to commemorate the lives that were lost.

But what happens when a company tries to be a part of that conversation?

Countless brands headed to Twitter in an effort to join consumers across the country in showing their patriotism and support. Or at least… that was their intention. While some brands managed to demonstrate pride in their country, the majority of these “good intentioned” tweets came off as opportunistic – as if the anniversary of 9/11 was their chance to make an impression on consumers and boost their brand’s revenue.

CVS 9-11 TweetThe tweets that were well-received by consumers were from brands that left their logo and personal selling out of the message, such as a simple tweet from WalMart of the New York skyline with the caption “Always Remember.” Unfortunately, some brands went beyond the simple, humble message and tied their product into the 9/11 tragedy or even offered discounts in honor of the anniversary. For instance, CVS pharmacy posted a #neverforget tweet with an image of the New York skyline, which would have likely been much more acceptable had they not stuck their CVS logo on the bottom right hand corner. And then some companies were just straight up insensitive. For example, a southern tie company called Tied to the South asked users to retweet their 9/11 image for every death that occurred during the 9/11 attacks.

Why such a negative response from consumers? After all, in today’s market brands are a living, breathing entity with their own unique personality, shouldn’t they get a say? Apparently, according to influential Internet blogger Sean Bonner, the answer is no: “Brands are not people. Brands do not have emotions or memories or condolences or heartbreak. People have those things, and when a brand tries to jump into that conversation, it’s marketing” (AdWeek 2014).

Build-a-Bear 9-11 TweetOne part of the problem may be with the fact that these messages do not always come off as genuine. Brands that connect best with their consumers are those that are authentic and transparent with their messaging. Forcing your brand to align with the anniversary of 9/11, like Build-a-Bear workshop did when they posted a photo of a bear in army fatigues, may not seem like the most honest of gestures. Thus leading consumers to the conclusion that these brands are simply taking advantage of a national tragedy to promote their own company.

Consumer engagement is a hot topic for marketers across the country. With the rise of social media, it is easier than ever before to interact one on one with the consumer. According to The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Scott, the days of one-way interruption are over, and web marketing is about delivering useful content at “just the precise moment a buyer needs it.” However, based off the vocal backlash against the companies whose tweets ultimately failed, it’s apparent that not all marketers understand the appropriate way to utilize these communication channels.

In today’s marketplace, it is imperative that marketers are responsible and respectful with their messaging. If brands were simply trying to show their respect, the best thing they could have done would be to take a step back, and let consumers reflect and heal together without the promise of 20% off Bikram Yoga classes.

Bikram Yoga 9-11 Tweet

What do you think? Is there a way for brands to talk about current events, national tragedies in particular? Or is it best for them, and their brand, to stay out of the conversation?

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