Cannibalistic Cereal Ads

At first I thought it was a fluke, but then I realized that it was a trend in breakfast food advertising.

Namely, cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Krave and toaster pastries like Pop Tarts were being portrayed in a violent and, frankly, sinister manner.

Pop Tarts were being hunted by the people who would eat them. Unsuspecting dupes, meandering along their fruit-filling filled lives, conned into a terrifying end of consumption. Krave cereal pieces stalk their chocolate prey in a sinister manner, sometimes with poorly doffed disguises, before launching in a vicious attack. Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares practice cannibalism. They “crave those crazy squares” as the voice over in the commercial tells us. And who hasn’t come across the BBQ sign where the pig, with a big ol’ grin, invites us to come inside and try some of its succulence. 

The more I dug into my need to understand this trend, I found that anthropomorphism of food in advertising is actually not new. In fact, In Japan the kyara characters that adorn foodstuffs are the norm and ubiquitous to society and have been part of food advertising for years. In a recent dissertation from the London School of Economic’s Department of Media and Communications, it is noted that “beneath the humour and visual appeal of anthropomorphic advertising, there exist discourses that relate to dominant ideologies.” 

Anthropomorphism in advertising allows for a softer sell of a message - it’s cartoon-y and friendly (and sometimes creepy, but what modern cartoon isn’t these days) - makes it easier to ignore any potential negative associations with the brand. Not to mention, it cuts across cultures and countries - a symbol is a lot easier to translate than an actual human being or even language. 

As people tend to look less at words and more at images as the primary delivery-system for messages, it stands to reason that anthropomorphism in advertising and communications will become more and more prevalent. Cannibalistic or not.

And the same goes for personal posts as well - all my Thanksgiving meal pics got a lot more attention than my “what am I giving thanks for” copy-only post. 

7 Powerful Facebook Statistics You Should Know About 

1. Photo posts get 39% more interaction
Not only do photo posts get more engagement than links, videos or text-based updates, they actually account for 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook. According to Kissmetrics, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts. And as we’ve mentioned before, self-explanatory photos seem to perform best.

And the same goes for personal posts as well - all my Thanksgiving meal pics got a lot more attention than my “what am I giving thanks for” copy-only post. 


7 Powerful Facebook Statistics You Should Know About

1. Photo posts get 39% more interaction

Not only do photo posts get more engagement than links, videos or text-based updates, they actually account for 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook. According to Kissmetrics, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts. And as we’ve mentioned before, self-explanatory photos seem to perform best.


Bringing the Virtual to Literal


If Instagram were to add a print button, allowing its massive community of shutterbugs to order physical copies of their photos right from the app, how much revenue could that drive? According to CanvasPop cofounder Adrian Salamunovic, a conservative estimate would peg that number at around $720 million annually.


#hashtag and then what?


Today I had the opportunity to participate in a Powered by Pro-Bono seminar/workshop - the first of it’s kind and a different way for people interested in sharing their skill set and experience to organizations that need them. I came in as a pro-bono consultant, ready to provide in-depth knowledge to non-profits with little to no marketing staff on how to pitch a pro-bono project.

The workshop was held at a sponsor’s HQ, and one of the things I noticed immediately were the suggestions for the participants to engage on social media, namely Twitter, about the event. Post a tweet or a comment or something, with a #hashtag that did not necessarily link back to the pro-bono organizers message, but rather the hosts. 

It was a little confusing. 

Naturally, I went and tweeted away (earning myself a Top Tweet no less) and kept tabs on the conversation to see if anyone else was joining in. It was pretty much crickets.

There was a missed opportunity here, I think, to engage digitally on what was being discussed in person. I’m not being critical, but I do think that some critical thinking should take place before including a hashtag at a conference or seminar.

  • Set goals - know what your purpose is before setting a hashtag to your event. Are you trying to increase interest in future events? Are you trying to raise visibility about the event’s topics? Are you trying to engage people who could not make it, but could provide valuable feedback or conversation?
  • Promote - try and get that hashtag out there! Providing this information to attendees prior to the event and encouraging them to use the hashtag can lead to good buzz about the conference even before it starts. Not to mention, it makes the presence of the hashtag and social more relevant when presented at the event.
  • Reiterate and engage - say you’ve already shared the one or more hashtags before your conference, seminar, workshop, etc. - simply posting it on a slide or putting it on a table top display won’t cut the mustard. Remind attendees throughout the event that they have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas about the content of the event with more than just those around them. One way to keep attendees engaged is by providing an incentive to encourage them to tweet - whether it’s a prize for the top tweeters at the event or even showcasing the most innovative or relevant tweet at the event. A little incentive can go a long way.
  • Tell the story - a great way to curate and showcase content from a live event when incorporating a hashtag is via Storify, not only does it promote those Tweeting, but it preserves the conversation in its entirety and is a great way to supplement the content of an event.

Bringing digital to in-person social events is just one more way to bring important content and conversations to a wider audience. Especially when the audience can really benefit from integrating social into their conversations.

If you want to share your thoughts, feedback or just want to comment - please do!

Is crowdsourcing the best way to fund your dreams?

Is crowdsourcing the best way to fund your dreams?


Going Viral

It’s fascinating to me what types of media goes viral and what stays firmly ensconced in obscurity. It makes me wonder at the development of social interaction, the path it’s taking and what it means when it comes to creating content.

As much as it seems that viral content is random as heck-all, there is a theme in what goes viral and what doesn’t. I recently watched a TED Talk titled “Why Videos Go Viral” (see below) where the head of Culture and Trends at YouTube, Kevin Allocca, explains in a fascinating talk that there are some key themes behind videos going viral:

  1. Tastemakers
  2. Creative Participation
  3. Unexpectedness

And it makes total sense - I mean, as consumers, we rely on the authority of people “in the know” or experts in their field to give us guidance on whether or not something is worth paying attention to. Tastemakers in media help provide a shortcut, if you will, to decision-making about content. 

What struck me the most about the talk was the idea of “unexpectedness”. I mean, we all talk about cutting through the clutter, targeting out audiences, social listening and engagement, but in the end, it’s a strong emotive response that is what catches the eye (or mind) of the audience.

It makes me think about fear appeals in advertising - something that has been utilized for many a year now, and still is strong in the PSA world. (think NYC Anti-Smoking Campaign). Evoking a visceral emotion - fear being a strong emotion we tend to try and escape. Which is why fear appeal messaging still is so prevalent and still works - we react to fear by pursuing behavior that gets us out of the fear state, whether it’s changing the channel when an uncomfortable PSA comes on or changing our behavior to avoid turning into the subject matter. Why am I bringing this up after mentioning unexpectedness? It’s because being faced with the unexpected also evokes a strong emotion, one that we will react to and one that we want to understand. Hence sharing this reaction, or trying to see if other people react the same way to what we were feeling. 

This emotional response is linked to content going viral - it’s either a strong negative or strong positive reaction to something. I’m not alone in thinking this - according to a blog post on Moz.com, where they say that “content that inspires low-energy emotions like sadness is less likely to be shared, where content that inspires high-energy emotions like awe, anger, and anxiety is far more likely to be shared.” 

I guess what started me thinking about what goes viral and what doesn’t are the latest additions to pop culture, Miley Cyrus twerking (a gag effect for me), the racist responses to Miss America being of Indian-origin (disbelief and anger for many), the video advertisement by a telecommunications conglomerate in Thailand (sadness, empathy, joy)- each of these evoke strong, basic emotions. With the latter example, I don’t think that the final message really tied back well to the product, but it did people talking, and sharing the content. 

It’s worth keeping in mind that seemingly nonsensical memes and themes that catch like wildfire have emotional responses at the core. Being able to identify the next spark, now that would be an idea worth patenting.

If you agree, disagree have any additional feedback – please do share.  


Mobile Madness

This morning, after blearily checking my phone for news updates, I saw that most of the news on the feeds that I most read were dedicated to mobile devices. Irony is delicious on a Monday morning.

However, mobile devices are where it’s at, so to speak, and to ignore optimization for mobile devices is a sure way to take oneself out of the running when it comes to branding, marketing, communications - you name it.

One of the first things you should do when presented with the challenge to mobile-optimize your website is run your site URL through the W3C Mobile OK Check. This site is a great tool to help determine how wonky your website will appear on various mobile or tablet devices and can then help inform next steps in what you can do to help alleviate said wonkiness.

Some other best practices that might be right for a website are:

Liquid Layouts: most websites are built on the concept of “fixed-width”, meaning the width of the site is determined by a fixed number of pixels based on general website guidelines or best practices. The most common width a standard website bases itself on is 960px (pixels). This is based on the idea that most browser screens will be of the widescreen variety and as such would need a larger website base. However, a user is no longer limited to a desktop screen - they have laptops, tablets, smartphones to contend with as well. And you want to make sure that your website looks respectable on each device. Cue liquid layouts. Sitepoint provides a fantastic series of articles on responsive web design, but in a nutshell a liquid layout is essentially your webpage auto-sizing itself to match the browser width that it is viewed on. Your developer can update the HTML or CSS code on your website to add this functionality and you’re one step closer to optimizing your website to “look” better on different screens. Caveat: just because your website fits the width of the screen that it is being viewed on, doesn’t mean you are enhancing the user’s experience. If you have a content-heavy website with lots of drop-down menu’s and links to multiple pages, simple resizing might actually hurt your end-user experience.

Redirecting to a Mobile site: a simple solution that allows a company to dive into mobile optimization without necessarily breaking the bank. Working with your IT team or web developer, you can determine what kind of redirect you should incorporate (plugin, javascript, htaccess, etc.) and also it’s a great exercise in determining what exactly you want a user/consumer to do once they land on this page. Since a mobile site needs to keep simplicity in mind when it comes to content, you now have the exciting task to really think about what you want your user to read, learn and do when they visit. For examples and ideas, maybe check out Mobile Site Awesomeness - a site that ranks mobile sites for their creativity, user-friendliness and design. 

One Column Layouts: if you have the budget and the time to overhaul your website and make it a wonderful user experience on websites, mobile devices and tablets - revising your branding a layout to a one-column format is a great solution. What this means is that instead of multiple pages, drop-down menus and sites-within-a-site, your page is now just one long scrolling column with links to different sections either on the top of the page or throughout. I personally love this format because it’s simple, clear and it forces company’s to think about a story-arc within their site, i.e. why should a user keep scrolling? What’s the story here that they will be engaged with? What content is really relevant? And finally - humans are visual creatures, a scrolling one-column layout allows you to play more with design and visuals versus lots of links and drop-downs - it actually promotes engagement, which in the end is what you want your website to do.

Responsive Design versus App: let’s face it, apps are sexy and exciting. They allow for a richer user experience on mobile devices and allow to really focus content and direction versus a regular website. There is also a stronger “call to action” when it comes to apps - most users know that once on an app, they will be expected to do something whether it’s checking the weather or paying a bill or buying that perfect ceramic baking dish on an ecommerce site. Here’s a neat infographic from BiznessApps that speaks to this particular decision:

Mashable also has a great article that speaks to this particular decision. The one major factor that every company needs to keep in mind when thinking about developing an app is cost. Apps are not cheap, but if the financial investment is outweighed by potential consumer interest and engagement, not to mention conversion to actual dollars it is definitely a route worth exploring.

And who says that irony only needs to be tongue in cheek?


To me, it just looked like a corporate rebranding exercise. From a branding perspective, her team probably saw no place in pop culture for a 20-year-old Disneyesque character. Good, bad, or indifferent – the Cyrus team decided to take matters into their own hands and radically rebrand.


Common Good with a side of Potential Profit

When I was living in
Mauritius way back in the late 90s, it was astounding how advanced mobile technology was there (and the rest of the region) when compared to the US. I mean, I had a cellphone (as did many of the middle-class and above in the country) while a tricked out beeper was all the rage back home in NYC.

When reading NPR’s article, “Tech Giants Launch Internet.org, A Global Plan To Widen Access,” the idea that internet access should be available across all socio-economic demographics is an idea worth standing behind. Information is power, and the Internet houses all that information. Imagine the amount of good (and bad) that can happen when people in areas otherwise isolated from the rest of the world suddenly become connected? The potential for greatness is, well, great.

Bringing the internet to developing areas around the globe is not a new concept. In 2000, Bill Clinton challenged the APEC forum to turn the digital divide among nations into digital opportunities.* Organizations such as One Laptop Per Child have been bringing low-cost technology to community centers and educational facilities to developing African countries. Google’s Internet Bus Program brings education and the internet to rural areas in India – raising awareness and bringing the opportunity to test drive the WWW. An initiative called Green WiFi started back in 2009, where they focus on using solar-powered technology to bring internet access to areas challenged by lack of infrastructure. Right now they are working in Haiti, where challenges about not only because of political instability but also nature’s habit to shake the country about ever so often.

Facebook and its partners are looking to address infrastructure issues by basing web-access via a mobile platform. Brilliant. And overdue, I might add. According to Mobithinking.com (an excellent resource on all things mobile when it comes to just the stats, ma’am), mobile internet usage on average doubled worldwide from 2011 to 2012, with the greatest up tick in Africa and Asia compared to the US and Europe, which had the slowest growth. Land lines and hard-wiring limit the spread of internet access, with mobile, wherever you get a strong connection, you can connect to the internet. I remember when I was travelling in Laos, relying on my mobile device as a hot spot versus the local WiFi, held captive by the regularly scheduled blackouts throughout the day. My battery only held me captive, which in a pinch did a lot better than rolling the dice on local access.

Facebook stresses on both the NYTimes and NPR articles that profit was not a motivating factor here, but rather bringing a service that should be available to everyone without the barriers of social and economic factors. And this might be the case for Facebook, where their advertising profits won’t mean much in countries where local advertisers would probably not rely on mobile apps/advertising (in the near future) as methods of reach. The true profit potential lies with the technology providers, i.e. the cell phone companies. They have a market of billions waiting eagerly to jump into the internet super-highway and while right now they are driven by altruism, there will come a time where profit will become a major impetus to keep expanding the reach of mobile internet-access.

If you agree, disagree have any additional feedback – please do share. 


Some key points from the article are:

1. Know your audience: you have to know who’s listening before you say something about your company/organization/mission/product.

2. Use listening tools: the article mentions Spredfast and Hootsuite. Here’s a handy-dandy list of 50 top tools for social listening.

3. Stand on the shoulders of giants: OK, that might seem like a cop-out, but connecting with influencers by sharing content that they might find relevant or by sharing their content is one way to build credibility on social networks. It shows that you are listening as well.

4. Share more than straight content: events, promotions, pictures and even videos - this is content worth sharing and a picture sometimes speaks more than a 1000 words.

5. Make it part of your marketing strategy: you shouldn’t think of social as just a channel for distribution, but one of the cornerstones of your content marketing strategy. Social is no longer a nice to have, but rather a must have. Build it into your plan.

One thing that the article did not mention, but that I think is incredibly important is internal engagement. Make sure that your employees and thought-leaders are aware of your company’s social presence and use them as brand advocates. Have social media guidelines in place and encourage education about having a social voice as both an employee and on a personal level.

Social is not going anywhere - being informed is the best way to get comfortable. 

Monday’s are made better with a few tips!