Saturday, 14 January 2012

Krampus: An Interactive Mobile Comic

Well well. It's been some 18 months since I updated this blog and I wish I could give some sort of profound reason for such a level of gross negligence. The fact is I can't. If I was pushed I guess my explanation would be closely related to the category of excuses generally centred around the use of the word 'busy'. Truthfully it's probably a mixture of this and general apathy toward spending so much time online. And if you really wanted to pry I'd probably let you have that I can be somewhat'aloof' but that would be downright rude wouldn't it you intrusive douche. Hmmmmm. Anyway here we are.

So, last month me and some nice chaps that I work with (@frasiocht - who knows his onions about all things mobile web / - a fantastic designer) published an Xmas themed interactive comic centred around a hardboiled detective and an evil present stealing mythical character named The Krampus. The comic was several frames in length and its intention simple; demonstrate what's possible using the mobile web and the advanced capabilities of HTML5 and CSS3. No app, no download, everything is handled within the browser itself.

Now obviously interaction with content on the web is now new thing, nor is by using a native app on mobile, but it is relitively new terrain when considering the mobile web and how limited this was 3 or so years ago. This is an rich, untapped area that offers many creative possibilites when you consider that it negates the need for the brand to build and ultimately pay for several different apps, go through the app store approval process (iOS) meaning things can go to market quicker, and prevents the need for the consumer to download a branded app in the first place.

HTML5 is bringing mobile site functionality much closer to what's possible in native apps. The fact that you can store content locally (i.e download the content to your device from the web-app) so that you can use the site offline is a huge bonus and the way in which you can display content and transition from pages just makes the whole thing more sexy and appealing. This area is already growing rapidly and will continue to do so as the the capabilities of devices and their operating systems increase.

Check out the comic by popping this into the browser on your mobile:

Friday, 23 July 2010

UNICEF - Dirty Water

Love this camapign by Casanova for UNICEF.

As an awareness piece, it's great. As a PR piece, it's great. The fact that it allows you to donate in the moment, either via the vending machine itself or by sms, makes it great. In terms of ROI, its great. The fact that it's in New York makes it cool. Poverty, on the other hand, is not.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Character Reference

So I’ve been thinking about brands creating and associating themselves with fictional characters. The cereal sector is a prime example of character use in marketing. The majority of cereal brands aimed at children use characters as a way crafting some point of differentiation within what is a relatively homogenous product category. Utter the name Frosties and you’d be hard pushed to find many people that don’t have a ginger feline muscling his way into their psyche. Obviously characters within this sector are created primarily to prompt interest from children and form some sort of ongoing bond, but what about those used by brands in which children do not represent the core target audience?

Although I’ve never found the use of a Meerkat within advertising remotely amusing or endearing, its unquestionable success in terms of consumer recognition, media coverage and spurning of ‘me-too’ attempts from competitors suggests there is still a strong case for associating characters with products that are difficult to differentiate on their actual features alone. Over the past few months Movement have been working on a campaign to bring ring back tones to life. Ring back tones are a product type that hasn’t enjoyed much success in the UK to date despite triumphing in other parts of the globe. So what do you do when you have a product that has features that are hard to convey? I'm stumped. Oh no wait.

I’ve also been lucky enough to work with some very talented individuals over the last few months that have created some other characters that I’m particularly fond of. Check these out.

Leigh Pearce

Monday, 3 May 2010

Anyone for karaoke?

So I’ve been meaning to start a blog for ages and luckily for me, the good folk who employ me at Movement Digital have kindly put me on ‘A Rising Voice in Social Media’, a course ran by the Interactive Advertising Bureau aimed at helping those working within the broad realms of advertising, marketing and media to become more skilled in facilitating and participating in online interaction. Starting a blog was a pre-requisite to starting the course and has served as the long overdue kick up the arse I have needed to create an online vault of sorts containing things that get me off, piss me off or anything that I feel warrants passing on. As listed in my blog description, this is likely to broadly consist of innovative forms of communication (probably with an emphasis on mobile), electronic music (probably with an emphasis on the constantly evolving musical landscape that is dubstep) and a few other bits and bobs in between. However, it seems somewhat apt to kick off with what I learnt on my first day at social media school.

The first session of the course started with a walkthrough of where social media is currently at, looking at its’ incremental growth over the past couple of years and the level of importance marketers are now denoting to it, both in terms of budget allocation and where it sits within their overall communications plan. It was at this point the cynic inside me couldn’t help but think that some of those interviewed were probably responsible for those horribly forced and awkward brand initiated Facebook conversations reminiscent of a 40-something scouse women bellowing out Celine Dion renditions in a dilapidated karaoke bar on the Costa Del Sol.

The main thing I took out of this session (along with the Where’s Wally style handout and the much needed Monday morning caffeine injection) was that the boundaries between search and social media are becoming increasingly blurred. Hearing that Twitter essentially now views itself as a search engine struck me as somewhat of a revelation, which is quite embarrassing really as it now seems pretty obvious when I think about it. Think I’ll blame the 9.00 am for this one.

I guess in its most basic format, Twitter provides people with a snapshot of what’s going on in the world at a specific point in time. I really hope that as Twitter starts to generate its own revenue, it doesn’t lose sight of how the end users’ experience of social media is significantly enhanced by the absence of page clutter. It will be interesting to see the success rate of the first few brands that have dipped their respective toes into the unchartered ocean that is sponsored tweets, and how this area will evolve over the coming months. As a little task, we have been encouraged to write two reviews of corporate Twitter accounts, one good, one bad. So, I'm doing just that.

The Good -

So, a brand I feel has it bang on point when it comes to Twitter is American Apparel. A key point made frequently at the IAB session was that in order for a brand to have a meaningful existence within the social media landscape, it is essential that they commit a suitable level of resource; otherwise it ends up feeling horribly forced and awkward, that is to say, it ends up feeling like karaoke. And we don’t want that now do we.

For me brands that use Twitter as a customer service tool need to strike a healthy balance between appearing accessible, personable and ultimately down-right helpful opposed to just occupying a social space for the sake of it. Oh, and they shouldn’t appear too desperate. Remember, nobody likes a try-hard so play it cool, yeah. Those neon spandex-wearing scamps at American Apparel have got it right.

American Apparel uses Twitter as a hub for its customer interaction. It addresses complaints, tweets job vacancies and product updates, runs competitions and giveaways, creates vouchers to be redeemed online and in store, promotes sales running in different areas and prompts ideaation for new product development. Also when something goes wrong, like the police closing down their London stores during their 25% off rummage sale (man how a bit of police intervention can add an air of chic) they offer their a sincere apology and the equivalent sale online. That’s how it’s done.

On their Twitter page, they ooze authenticity and personality. They’re not doing anything revolutionary, in fact far from it, they’re just using the space to communicate effectively about everything that they think their followers will enjoy. Shucks any brand that can get around 1500 people to send in pictures of their posteriors are doing something right. As the age old saying goes; Bum UGC is the best UGC.

The Bad -

This is a classic example of the all to commonplace ‘let’s just have a bash and see what happens’ social media strategy that ends up with both the brand and the reader feeling like a tit for giving up their precious time.

David Lloyd does have a Twitter presence, but they just don’t quite get what operating in the social space means. I guess over and above anything else, brands using social media should aim to use a conversational tone if they want to engage in online dialogue. Instead, David Lloyd opts for a ‘straight from the brochure/website’ approach to responding to comments from its followers, or failing that, just aimlessly plugging itself. Now this isn’t a small enterprise with few resources at its disposal. Quite the opposite, as its page explicitly reminds me at every given opportunity: ‘with 78 clubs in the UK there’s bound to be a David Lloyd near you’.

Now I searched for David Lloyd’s twitter page because I wanted to post a few suggestions on how my local club could be significantly improved, mainly by just making sure there is hot water in the showers and the exercise machines actually work. Not much to ask for £42 a month eh? I’m thinking that my suggestions might go unnoticed due to the page not being updated since the 29th January, and the more worrying abundance of conflicting and pointless tweets illustrated below:

Hi NickyT, we have 12,500 exercise machines and offer over 10,000 exercise classes per week 10:40 AM Jan 20th via reallyworried

Um, remind me again why I need to know the cumulative total of exercise machines and weekly classes in the UK? Surely if you employed a location-specific approach whereby each club had its own page and had a dedicated member of staff to respond to queries from its members (both existing and speculative), you would be far more effective at achieving a more satisfied and ultimately larger customer base?

@martinwaring Hi Martin, we have 150 swimming pools (half are indoor) all with dedicated lanes 9:57 AM Jan 23rd via reallyworried

@Beffneyy Hi Beth, we have over 100 swimming pools, more than any other health club in the UK. 9:56 AM Jan 23rd via reallyworried

Err wait, how many swimming pools did you say you had again?

Maybe this last jibe is a little perdantic, but if your're going to make two contradicting statements immediately after each other, at least clarify which one is correct.

So my take on brands using Twitter effectively is essentially this:

Rule 1: Don’t use twitter as a glorified corporate RSS feed. Be personal. Be relevant.

Rule 2: Don’t bombard your followers with an abundance of overt promotional material.

Rule 3: If using the micro-blog as a customer service tool, employ a conversational approach, DO NOT than just copy and paste material from your website/brochure.

Rule 4: Update your feed regularly or your page starts to feel like barren wasteland.

Rule 5: If you make a mistake, just hold your hands up, apologise and move on.

Rinse and repeat.