60 posts categorized "viral"

November 13, 2009

What is "The Fun Theory" really worth?

A couple of people took note of VW's campaign "The Fun Theory." Most recently Corley suggested it "further's VW's corporate social responsibility." Ultimately, I believe she is correct in saying that, but it's a broad statement begging to be unpacked.

To be sure, this campaign isn't about VW being socially responsible. It's about VW wanting others to associate the word "Fun" with VW.

The campaign is simple, unexpected, concrete, and each of the demonstrations have the trappings of a story, and presumably the effort is designed to get people excited about the possibilities (emotion). Together, all of these are components of a sticky message (PDF).

But is it credible?

Let's take a look at some of the videos that are currently on their website.

One is the piano. The question is "How do we get more people to take the stairs instead of the escalator." According to VW, the answer is to make the stairs FUN, of course.

I guess that's one way to do it, if you have $40K (or whatever) to spend on labor and materials. The problem, in this case, is that the owners of the stairs get no benefit from such an investment.

Additionally, their efforts may actually lead to injuries due to people trying to play a song on the stairs. There's no fun in that. I'll bet VW won't post any videos of anyone falling down the stairs.

The other, more cost-effective way to do it, without unnecessarily increasing the temptation to be careless on the stairs, is to turn off the escalator. It doesn't cost a thing (it actually saves electricity), and the number of people who use the stairs instead of the escalator increases to 100%.

It reminds me of something I read from Roger von Oech. I'll do my best to not butcher it in my retelling.

Villagers of a certain town were horrified to discover evidence that they had been burying people alive. Exhuming a coffin, they found that the lid had been clawed by the (currently) deceased. Upon this discovery, they exhumed a few more graves and found many others with these same characteristics, letting them know that it was a normative problem.

The elders were gathered together to figure out how to deal with this. They came up with two ideas.

One idea was to run a string into the grave with the person believed to be deceased. One end of the string would be tied to the hand of the one they buried. The other would be tied to a bell in the graveyard. If the grave keeper heard the bell, he'd discover its source and save the person buried alive. The focus of this effort was to ensure no one was buried alive.

The other idea was to build a large spike into the coffin top, so that when it was closed, it pierced the heart of the body in it. The focus of this effort was to ensure that everyone buried was dead.

As I mentioned to Corley, the issue I have with the effort is that some of them are impractical, and I suspect VW knows that. What they're trying to do is give people a reason to think of "fun" when they think of VW. Regardless of whether the association has validity with respect to their automobile choices, if people believe it to be true, it may as well be.

However, if this effort gets people thinking about the ways they can increase the "fun quotient" in their user experience, they can increase adoption rates. This is laudable not only from a social standpoint, but also from a business standpoint.

Notably, it doesn't have to be an investment of tens of thousands of dollars unless there is a corresponding financial benefit for making the investment.

Whatever the case, I'm interested in seeing other entries in this campaign. Keep track with me at TheFunTheory.com, or enter one yourself. - Cam Beck

March 16, 2009

The Ostrich Approach to Interface Design


I saw this Dilbert comic over the weekend. I looked it up today to print it out and hang at my desk and noticed that dilbert.com actually allows people to embed the image in their websites.

I was so impressed by this venture into distributable content when others seem to be looking for ways to lock down their content or charge for it, I thought I'd share it here.

Way to go, Dilbert! - Cam Beck

January 30, 2009

Ambivalence is the price of innovation

At a recent professional gathering, our speaker disparaged the "best practices" argument because, as professionals, we should advise to aim for something better than what everyone else is doing. "Best practices" is the entry fee. Innovation is the goal. I understand her point, but there are instances (particularly amidst the group of interface and application designers and developers she was speaking to), when "best practices" do indeed have an important role in building a company's brand.

When a Best Practice Isn't Enough

(Excerpted from an email to Cece Solomon-Lee)
In the late 19th century, Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell his telephone patent to Western Union for $100,000. They refused, believing the telephone to be a novelty — a kids toy — and focused on more "practical" pursuits such as multiplexing telegraph lines. Two  years later, they would have paid $25 million for Bell’s patent.

At the time, Western Union — and everyone else for that matter — knew so completely that the infrastructure did not support everyone having a telephone line run to their home, that they could not imagine the potential for Bell's device.

Buying into such unproven technology was not a "best practice," and as a result, they missed out on a huge opportunity -- perhaps THE opportunity of the century.

When a Best Practice Is a Best Practice

Graphical user interfaces built for the public — in websites or applications — present a challenge not unlike Western Union's, because of the need for differentiation, each one has unique properties.

Since normally the user is seeking the content he hopes to get on your site and because he visits a lot of sites, he doesn't want to learn a brand new interface each time. That would take too long to be useful.

The challenge, then, is to give each user something that is familiar without being ordinary. That is where "best practices" prove their utility and how good interface designers earn their money.

Many times decision-makers at companies charged with shepherding the website redesign process favor glitz and pizazz in the interface in order to differentiate themselves from their competitors. However, their efforts would often be better spent developing either a useful, usable utility or unique and useful content within an interface that makes the content easy to access, transport, and share. - Cam Beck

January 29, 2009

What's Your Blog's Personality?

I heard on the radio that there was a site out there that analyzed the text on blogs and determined from your writing style what your personality is.

A short Google search later, I found Typealyzer, which had this to say about the writing style of ChaosScenario:

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work in their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

To help give the analysis context, the site gives a "scan" of the brain parts presumably most heavily used. Here's what ours looks like:
The site doesn't claim to test the actual personality of the site author, but rather the personality of the role that person assumes when writing the blog. Hence, on another blog I author, though my brain diagram was similar, my analysis seemed much different:

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it - often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communicating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples. Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

It's an interesting exercise and you should really try it out, but without a clear view of "the man behind the curtain," I'd admonish you to take Typealyzer's advice and "don't take it too seriously."

It doesn't measure the quality of a blog; it just gives you something to think about. - Cam Beck

P.S. Typealyzer would do well to turn its results into distributable content. I'm sure a lot of bloggers would be glad to spread the word if it were easy to do so -- even if, like me, they don't completely understand it.

October 29, 2008

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August 18, 2008

Why Share on YouTube?

"The inventor of the system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not the greatest benefactors of mankind." - Josiah F. Bumstead (1841) ... on the benefits of the chalkboard.

Will we be saying something similar 167 years from now on the benefits of YouTube and other video sharing tools? Not if we don't wake up. Watch this video (Feed readers click through).

Do yourself a favor and subscribe to this anthropologist's YouTube updates. Watch a few of his videos. You won't regret it. - Cam Beck

July 31, 2008

Gary Busey on business??

I love it when scrappy companies come up with great campaign ideas, especially when they're not using traditional approaches.

If you haven't seen it already, check out gotvmail's campaign featuring Gary Busey ideas on business:

Add Gary Busey on Business - Featured to your page

I think these are hilarious but of course, it's my kind of humor. It also mocks all those business/change/new media experts who can't really point to anything tangible they've done but spout meaningless nonsense anyways. 

The campaign wasn't just about producing the video and putting it out on the internet. They also had an aggressive blog outreach campaign that even garnered interest from John Mayer who called the campaign "brilliant and creative". The campaign garnered 100,000 impressions it's first week.

Will it be effective in increasing sales? Only time will tell. It's not a direct method so it's hard to measure. You gotta believe, however, it will be a lot more effective relative to the costs than a typical 30-second spot.

(Discovered via MarketingVox)

- Paul Herring

July 17, 2008

How to Do Viral the Right Way

After seeing this excellent JibJab video, I knew it would be an big hit. With the YouTube version being viewed over 100,000 times in a day, I'm pretty sure it satisfactorily meets the definition of "viral."


Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!

When we encounter brilliance, it is commonly useful to examine the elements of it that make it successful, so that we can also duplicate it.

1. Create compelling content
There are many ways to create content that is likely to be widely distributed. Content is compelling to mass audiences if it contains at least one, but preferably two of the following elements:

  • It is unexpected
  • It strokes the egos of the intended audience (Case in point)
  • It is considerably funny

2. Make it easy to consume the content
Be platform and website agnostic. Commit to go wherever your consumers are. That means, as in the above example, if your audience is on YouTube, if the content is video, post it on YouTube. The chances of your content being consumed decreases proportionally to how difficult it is to consume. Typically (but not always), this forbids requiring users download extra software to make it work.

3. Make it easy to distribute the content
This is where a lot of efforts fall short. It isn't necessarily because they are overlooking the step, but that they don't recognize the viral potential of it. Maybe they'll even spend the money to point a few ads at it and miss a great opportunity to help others pass it along. (Related post: Missed Opportunities and Distributable Content)

As a viral campaign, even ElfYourself would have died in its tracks had users not found a ready link to participate.

4. Plant the Seeds
It's tempting to overdo this. If your content truly is remarkable and compelling, it will spread organically pretty quickly. However, don't underestimate the time it will take to plant the seeds right.

It is critical to first identify the brand or category-specific (or even just the brand or category-friendly) conversations already taking place. Even if it doesn't fit your predefined notion of who your audience is.

For instance, you may be in the underwear category, but if your approach to marketing your underwear really is compelling, let the marketers know about it. Chances are, someone will want to talk about it.

I don't know how they did it, but the above video (minus my head) made one of the morning talk shows, and I have little doubt radio DJs across the country have been touting it, too. Part of this is seeding it where it will be seen, but even that would have been impossible but for the nearly universally compelling content.

What makes something viral?
The term "viral" was not selected by accident. A viral video or campaign, like a virus, is communicable. It infects our consciousness to the point that we feel compelled to pass it on to someone else.

JibJab's effort with Time for Some Campaignin' here was successful because they incorporated all of the essential principles of making content viral." It wasn't easy, and it certainly can't be considered "free advertising." However, it's funny and relevant, but most of all, it's communicable.

July 15, 2008

Paul Herring for President*

I hear his unofficial-official campaign slogan is, "Not Nearly as Repulsive as the Other Candidates. Unless You Like That Sort of Thing."

As this is a grassroots effort and he does not have any lawyers on staff to navigate the muddy waters of political donations, Paul's campaign is not accepting contributions. However, you're encouraged as always to donate to your favorite charity. - Cam Beck

Hat tip to Drew McLellan.

*Related Post: John and Cam Exposed.

July 03, 2008

Missed Opportunities and Distributable Content


Every year around Independence Day some news websites like MSNBC.com create mini-citizenship tests  -- almost as if to prove how dumb we all are with respect to our own laws and history. Perhaps because journalists are in the habit of conducting idiotic and meaningless polls to develop news out of nothing (Such as "Which Presidential candidate would you rather invite to a barbeque?"), they consider polls such as this one to be satisfactory in the fulfillment of their public service. This particular execution, however, practically screamed for an opportunity for the online community to share their results with others. Sadly, it isn't something MSNBC seemed to consider worthwhile.

Undoubtedly, this poll is being passed around. The fact that I'm writing about it talking proves that, and I'd wager that at least some of the people who read this will likely take the test to see how they fare.

But then what?

MSNBC, like a lot of companies when given the opportunity, don't make it easy to share the results in a way that would entice people to share it.

Conceptually, the idea isn't that difficult. It's been done before (See "What's Your Blog's Reading Level?" or "How Many 5 Year Olds Can You Take in a Fight?"). The design can be mediocre (such as this hack-job I threw together), and people would still have fun with it.

Distributable content

As you can see, it can even be branded to serve as a sort of "product placement" within the content of someone's blog or MySpace page, which is more likely to be seen and used than if it were simply a display ad.

The execution of it just requires technical skill that the folks at MSNBC.com surely have at their disposal.

What's more, the results aren't exactly useless. Something like this can be fun and still inform people about some things that they didn't (but probably should) know. People don't get -- and many of them resist it anyway -- all of their education from a stale textbook. 

Don't know the term of a U.S. Senator? You will after you take the test.

Why aren't more companies (and schools) taking advantage of this powerful tool? - Cam Beck