Digital Strategy

Strategy quick-take: How Pawngo misplaced its Butterfingers

This past Tuesday, Pawngo, a Denver-based online pawn shop, bought more than 7,000 Butterfinger candy bars (pictured) and left them in Boston’s Copley Square, along with a sarcastic thank-you note to the Patriots’ Wes Welker. (You may remember Welker as the Pats player who dropped a key fourth-quarter pass.)

Now I’m a big Giants fan. I enjoy when Boston teams get made fun of, especially on their home turf. But there are two main reasons why Pawngo’s marketing stunt didn’t work for me:

  • It was timely, but overwhelmingly negative. Rubbing salt in an open wound is not the way to win over new customers, period, especially angry Bostonians.
  • Welker isn’t the only player to blame for the loss; Tom Brady and the Pats only scored seven second-half points. Not to mention there were a few other dropped passes.

Here’s the thing: I actually like the idea, which came courtesy of 5W Public Relations. I just would’ve done one thing differently: instead of dropping the Butterfinger bars in Boston, put ’em in New York by the “Canyon of Heroes” during the Giants Super Bowl parade.

Why? The buzz would’ve been much more positive, and Pawngo could’ve won over more than a few New York-area customers, instead of potentially alienating all of Boston. This could’ve driven plenty of buzz for Butterfinger as well, which vehemently denied any involvement in the stunt. Heck, if it were done in New York, Butterfinger could’ve even owned it, instead of Pawngo. (Or at least they may have given Pawngo the candy bars, free of charge.)

What would YOU have done differently?

Digital Strategy

Some quick thoughts on the new Twitter brand pages

A couple of months ago, Twitter announced some changes to its brand pages, the biggest of which, I believe, are an expanded header area (fig. 1 below), and a “promoted,” or featured tweet at the top of the page (fig. 2):

These changes — especially the latter — can be critical in attracting new followers during what I call the Twitter “discovery” process for brands. This is when users explore the site to see if a certain brand is active on Twitter, and what its profile looks like. (I’ll often just type a brand name into search, or just type “[Brand name here]”.) This can also happen if someone clicks on a Twitter link promoted elsewhere — a brand’s website, for instance — or through a promoted trend.

Twitter is a conversation-based platform; turning the brand pages into expanded destinations may be helpful during the “discovery” process. Overall, I think the updates miss the mark for brands a bit, especially when a vast majority of the Twitter experience is stream-based.

Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a brand based on how its profile looks. I look at the quality of its tweets (more on that below), its tweet frequency and maybe its follow/follower ratio. Usually, I’ll only follow a brand if it tweets me, which brings me to my point:

None of the aforementioned Twitter brand page changes make me more likely to follow a brand on Twitter. To me, it comes down to what the brand actually says and does:

  • Is the brand listening to the conversation (using a tool like Radian6) and responding accordingly?
  • What is the brand actually doing to get its followers involved and acting on its behalf?
  • Are its posts (and responses) relevant, timely and helpful?
  • When customer service issues happen, are its tweets tied to real actions?

This is what it comes down to for me — how about you? What are your thoughts on Twitter’s brand page updates? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

Digital Strategy

Adventures on Tumblr: Creating a single-topic Tumblr blog

I’ve been a Posterous user and supporter for several years now, both personally and professionally (the3six5 and General Motors are two examples), but I’ve always kept a Tumblr blog on the side, just to have it. (More here on how to use Posterous.)

I made the switch to Google Chrome as my primary browser a few months ago, which resulted in some issues with the Posterous bookmarklet, the most convenient way to snag content from around the web and post it on your Posterous. So I switched my personal lifestream platform over to to Tumblr. (NOTE: You can read more on creating a lifestream flow in this white paper I wrote)

Tumblr’s always been the home of single-topic humor blogs, such as the infamous Look At This F*cking Hipster and the lesser-known Kim Jong-Il Dropping the Bass. I’ve always kept my Tumblr pretty vanilla, but last week, I decided to take a shot at creating a separate, single-topic Tumblr blog. (I won’t share its name; if you really want to know, ask me offline!)

I learned a few things along the way, the biggest of which is this: if you want to create an instant following think about starting with Tumblr. Now, this following may not necessarily be the most “influential,” (as digital marketers, we all love our influencers) but it will certainly get you noticed, and fast. In fact, the day after my Tumblr blog went live, it was mentioned and linked to in a Wired article.

Here are a few additional tidbits:

– Give your Tumblr blog a laser-focused, timely theme that people can relate to in some real way. This could be either a news-related peg (e.g. Kim Jong-Il), or something that people see every day (e.g. ironically dressed hipsters). Unless you already have a rabid community of followers on, say, Twitter, your general-themed Tumblr blog just might not get noticed. (On a side note, I think it’s interesting that several traditional news organizations have created general-themed Tumblr blogs as ways of flexing their social media muscles. I might write an Old Media, New Tricks post on this later.)

Once it’s up and running, your Tumblr should be a mix of original, aggregated and community-submitted content.. If it’s aggregated (either a repost or a link), always cite the source. If a reader sent it in, thank them in the body of the post.

Always post photo/video content with a caption. This is really a no-brainer, and it especially holds true if you’re syndicating your posts on Twitter and Facebook.

– If you can, find creative ways to translate your topic to other niches (“geek”-type examples include Star Trek, LOLcats) or culturally relevant subjects, objects or people. Your content will spread like wildfire. On day one, my blog started in a vacuum; by the end of the day a few of my posts got 500-plus “notes,” or re-blogs, and in addition to Wired, content from my site was featured in several topic-related roundups around the Web.

– Your following will come and go quickly. Before starting my experiment, I thought that any idiot with a Tumblr account could create a LATFH-type blog. Keeping LATFH going for as long as it was took a ton of work; its success can easily be attributed to two things: it was about a topic that everyone related to and felt passionate about. (After all, who doesn’t make fun of hipsters?) The pictures and captions were also damn funny, which kept people reading.

Overall, creating a single-topic, humor-based Tumblr blog was a fantastic creative exercise, one that definitely gave me a few laughs along the way. (On a related note, if you’d like to read about brands using Tumblr, try this.)


Have you created a single-topic Tumblr blog? Please share any additional tips as comments below!

Digital Strategy

Random Acts of Subversion, continued

On Flagged For Follow-Up, Ian Sohn posted some thoughts about brands sponsoring not random acts of kindness, but acts of subversion. These acts are not malicious in nature, but small, fun and disruptive in some way. For instance, photo-bombing someone. (See above picture.)

I’m all for subversive behavior. It takes a little bit of effort and ultimately feels pretty darn good. But can brands really own it?

In some cases, yes, but I think subversion must be defined. Photo bombing is one example, but finding a clever way to hack an archaic system is another. Take, for instance, Nate Silver’s method of ‘hacking’ his local salad bar. This will ultimately help people get more bang for their buck. Mint could own this; so could Lifehacker.

Photobombing? That’s easy: a social media-savvy company that makes primarily point-and-shoot cameras (e.g. Kodak) could own that.

Southwest Airlines is deliciously subversive in its feigned disbelief of – and action against – high baggage and transfer fees. In its commercials, handlers are seen “flagging” these injustices:

Southwest could create some sort of “flag kit” in which people are encouraged to “flag” everyday injustices, even minor ones.

Brands that enable this type of subversive behavior, however, must do two things:

1. Have a clear stance for or against something. A personality, even. Southwest isn’t short on personality. PETA, of course, has mastered the naked protest. Nike stands for performance athletics; one idea, for instance, is to sponsor flash mob-type workout activities, or office basketball. Maybe even a spontaneous mid-day runs through office building.

2. Document these subversive activities to create a sense of community. Let these subversive acts live on in infamy! Two quick ways of doing this are through Pinterest collections or Tumblr blogs. Either way, voila – instant community!

What do you think? Which brands are well-positioned to sponsor subversive activities? What could they do? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

Chicago Video of the Day

Looking at the Macy’s Chicago 2011 Holiday Windows

Two years ago, I posted this video about the Macy’s Chicago 2009 Holiday Windows. Several people told me they liked it, so I figured I’d do it again.

Here’s a quick video shot on Black Friday featuring this year’s windows. Enjoy:


Separated at birth: Scott Murphy and Eric Ries?

What do you think?

Eric Ries
Scott Murphy

Cigar of the Week

Cigar (cartoon) of the Week: Cigar Aficionado

For your cigar viewing pleasure. Courtesy of David T. Jones.


Portland Dispatch #2: Portland Timbers game

I’m really starting to dig the Rose City the longer I’m here, I think. I was lucky enough to attend yesterday’s Portland Timbers game, thanks to my new friend Ben.

Not only did we attend the game, but we sat in the first row of Section 102, right in the midst of Timbers Army, probably the most rabid, fanatical supporters in all of Major League Soccer. For my first MLS game, I’d have to say that it was a ton of fun, for sure, in large part to the Army — a real legion of fans.

I capture some photos and video of the event, but of some of my PIE cohorts, with whom I also attended. Here’s one of the funniest — and nerdiest — sports chants I’ve seen, the Portland Timbers “Tetris” chant:

A few of the photos from the game:

I wonder if Chicago Fire’s Section 8 is this big, or this rowdy. Anyone?


Portland Dispatch #1: Wieden + Kennedy Tour

Greetings from Portland!

As you know, I’ve been accepted to the Portland Incubator Experiment, a startup accelerator based in the Rose City, out of the Wieden + Kennedy space.

If you’ve seen “Portlandia,” you know the building itself has an interesting layout. Check out this clip:

The folks here took us on a great little tour of the facilities yesterday. Here are some pictures from that tour. Enjoy!


Accepted to the Portland Incubator Experiment!

In the last few days, I’ve been posting all sorts of photos, updates and tweets from Portland. Why, you might ask? It’s simple: the super-secret, early-stage stealth startup I’ve been working on has been accepted to the Portland Incubator Experiment, or PIE.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll post more on my experiences in Cascadia. (In fact, I’m kind of hoping it’s similar to this “Portlandia” portrayal:

I’m kidding, of course, to an extent. We’ll be working our butts off out there, but we’re excited about the opportunity to work with the PIE mentors, as well as the brands (Coke, Nike, Target, Google) and the agency (Wieden + Kennedy) supporting PIE. The folks here have done a bang-up job bringing together a lot of smart people!

If you’re wondering about just what it is that I’m working on, sit tight. You’ll hear about it on here soon enough! In the meantime, if you’d like to recommend any sights, attractions, events, restaurants or bars that I should check out, please let me know by commenting below. Some places I’ve been so far:

Voodoo Doughnuts: I tried the famous maple bacon bar and the chocolate/Oreo/peanut butter donut. (Click for photos.)
Rogue Distillery and Public House
Deschutes Brewery
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
– The Art in the Pearl festival
– The Portland Saturday Market

There’s more to come, so stay tuned!