Monthly Archives: November 2007

Social networking vs. social computing.


Here’s the difference between social networking and social computing: The underlying premise of social networking is “help people make, keep and grow their circle of friends.” It enables the like-minded to find one another.   The whole Facebook Beacon thing, where users are alerted to the purchases of friends, is the latest example of an application built to keep friends networked.  Social computing, on the other hand, is less invasive.  Its reason for being is to assist users in the creation and posting of content, commerce, and art to the web.  It’s not about the “share” or the size of one’s friends list. 


I work for Zude, a social computing platform, so I’m biased.  But we provide tools – both advanced and rudimentary — that give people unprecedented freedom to be Web authors.  We don’t tell them what to post or with whom to share.  That’s up to them.  (You can certainly add contacts and doing messaging on Zude, but that’s not what keeps us up at night.)  


Developers of social networks spend their time trying to figure out ways to insinuate their products into users’ lives so they spend more time on the property.  Developers of social computing applications spend their time thinking up ways to make users more powerful Web authors.


Kindling of a sort.




You don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to believe that one day the majority of books will be distributed digitally and read on non-paper devices.   Amazon believes this and spent a good deal of money developing the Kindle in an effort to get out in front of this market. The kindle allows owners to download books wirelessly to the device for $9-12 dollars each then read them one page at a time with a battery powered flat panel tablet. The product costs about $400.
It sounds like a good first start, but has been panned by some pretty smart people. Robert Scoble did a vlog screed on the design here .
The Journal’s Walter Mossberg was nicer but echoed Robert’s points about button position and clunky usability. I have yet to touch one and being a tree-hugger wannabe applaud the effort, but must agree that Amazon may have been long on vision but short on execution. They should have done a lot more usability testing on the Kindle before finalizing design and rushing it to market.  (Hear that Microsoft Zune marketers?)  People read books everywhere. With feet up, down, tucked. Standing in subways.  Slouched in beach chairs. Not just in Seattle test kitchens.

i lazy

I think it’s time for AT&T’s iPhone print ads to lose the big and tall picture of the unit with its 17-function button display screen. We get it. It sends pictures, searches the Internet, has a camera, email, text, and makes phone calls. Whenever I look at an iPhone in person, I’m certainly not awed by the start page menu. My jaw drops, though, when I a see something “real” and “surprising” on it.  Often that’s a picture. Now I’m not going all Canon on you, but right now all I see in these ads is a sea of orange (hold-over color from the Cingular days), a cute headline and some retail store location.
This is lazy, retail advertising at its worst. The type of effort where the agency counts how many pages from the front of the paper they are and compares it to Verizon. These are expensive ads. This is a cool product. Bring it to life.

The ad danger forgot.

There is a beautiful ad in today’s New York Times promoting Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic conservation tours. Linblad Expeiditons has a long, wonderful history of running for-profit expeditions and National Geographic has partnered with them to reap some of the financial benefits. This particular ad touts a conservation donation of $250 for trips taken to certain locations before June 30th.  Exploration and Conservation are central to both headline and copy.
The problem with the ad is that the two pictures used to promote the expedition convey what are clearly dangerous situations. In one, a rubber raft filled with smiling, though concerned people sits in calm waters a few feet from a huge swimming whale.   In the other picture, a young lad poses a la Ralph Lauren bathing suit ad next to a huge mature sea lion. This ad, running a few days after the much publicized and headlined story of the capsized Expedition ship Antarctica, is not a good branding building move. 
To see the pictures from the ad check out the website
The art directors and designers have done a good job trying to make the pictures look lush and exciting, but don’t expect any mothers or grandmothers to be booking these trips any time soon. Hee hee.

Social Cookie Net

Pepperidge Farms part of the Campbell Soup family is pushing cookies today using social networking ( They are not buying ads on Facebook or Mypace (I love calling them that,) but creating a social network through which woman can meet other women, connect and – get this—improve their social lives. They have a connection curator by the name of Sally Horchow who wrote a book on the subject offering up lots of connection-related content.
This shit kills me. It is a classic example of the marketing tactic de jour. In the yearly planning meeting someone senior says “We need something new this year. What’s hot? Social networking? Let’s do it.”
Do you remember way back when and some unknown kid would come up to you and say “Wanna be my friend?”   Dohhhh!   
Marketers who set up social networks to sell product and veil it with an objective of “improving lives” are destined to fail. People are social. Networks are technical. Cookies are cookies. 
Sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year and constantly remind your guests and friends what brands they are eating.  “Butterball is the best. Pepperidge Farm stuffing is so moist. Mrs. Smith’s Pies are the sweetest. Love that Land O Lakes Butter? Isn’t Gravy Master grand? Pass the Jolly Green Giant Beans. Just watch the improvements to your guests social lives and count how many come back next year. Listening Facebook?

Bank of What?

Bank of America has been in the marketing news more for the way they bundle  their advertising and marketing agencies than for the branding itself. Not too many years ago, BofA made news by hiring a holding company — Interpublic Group of Companies – to do its bidding. Not long after Bruce Nelson, an IPG officer, moved to Omnicom and the BofA account followed. Yesterday, it was reported the CMO of Bank of America has decided that the bundled approach is a mistake, not allowing for best-of-breed marketing solutions. 
Okay, so what’s the idea?
If you must know, the branding idea for BofA is “Bank of Opportunity.” You’ve seen the TV ads where people are daydreaming about their future and it comes to them through some sort of almost rainbow-like logo’ed window? Say what? Bank of huh?  
Bank advertising today is so bad and so lacking in ideas that the only thing left to talk about is the arrangement of the agencies.  This category has to change.   

The King

Even though it markets the number one selling beer in America, Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch is in a slump. Craft beers aside, the problem with the portfolio is that the flagship beer, Budweiser, is not being consumed by 20-somethings. It has lost relevance. AB is pushing Bud Light and it’s working. Women like Bud Light because it’s low in calories and allows them to keep their wits about them (versus spirits). Guys like it because girls do.  If you go to an arena concert today the line for the Budweiser is non-existent, while those for Bud Light, Coors, Miller and Guinness wind around the bathroom.
Augie needs to stay the course with Bud Light, but dial up the volume and relevance of Bud. Push the ingredients, trot out the Clydesdales, target 25-34 males, promote Americana, tight blue jeans, hard work and white teeth. And find a great song. Double ad spending, advertise in the right places and bring back the share. It’s the King of Beers for God’s sake.

HyperTargeting by myspace.

MySpace last week announced a new advertising service called “HyperTargeting.”  Product benefits discussed in the ad include: “connect with your desired audience on a massive scale” and “achieve significant performance increases vs. traditional targeting campaigns.” 
What I loved about this announcement is that I had to read about it in an ad in the Wall Street Journal. The paper version. How “old school?”  Using an expensive business newspaper to promote the world’s most efficient targeting service?   You gotta love it. Hee hee. 

Breaking the hotel chains?

Have you ever stayed in a hotel that is just very, very cool? Not opulent. Those are nice, but I always find myself checking my jeans for spots and feeling a little violated reviewing the bill.  Not corporate. Those are clean and crisp, offering starched white sheets at turn down with semi-firm, enveloping mattresses.  They tend to blend into one another and have names like Sheraton, Embassy, Marriott.   But in the cool ones?  In those you feel like you’re on a movie set. The design is beautiful. The art ravishing and inspiring. In the cool hotels the people are more interesting than the hotel, but it’s hard to keep your eyes off both. The Mondrian in Los Angeles is one such hotel.
Le Meridien is a hotel chain on a mission to deliver “cool.”  They are doing all the right things, starting with hiring a cultural curator.  Le Meridian is also working with Jean-Georges Vongerichten the world-class chef, and Andrea Illy a famous coffee purveyor. In addition, Le Meridien is hiring designers of every art discipline to help fill their buildings with candy for the eyes.
This approach will work. There will be some bumps in the road, but should the company not fall prey to favoring opulence over style, they will differentiate themselves.  And will never be called a chain again. Uncool.



Kids and adults (I leave anyone out?) adorn themselves with brands that show who they are and what they like. Some adorn themselves with anti-brands, e.g., nondescript trucker hats (sorry truckers) to show who they are. But one thing they rarely do is sell ads on themselves. That’s the line Facebook seems to have crossing yesterday.  Mark Zuckerberg (age deleted for the first time,) Facebook’s CEO has listened to the “man” and swallowed the commerce pill that will begin to bring him down.
Mr Zuckerburg thinks that because some of the ad messages will appear to be referrals from friends, they will be more welcome. (Ever see a friend come down the street with an order form and a box of oranges?)
Until today, Facebook’s reason for being has been its users. As users now allow Coke, Sprite and Bertolli Spaghetti Sauce to muck up the experience, Facebook’s coolness will begin to wane. It will bell curve up for a while, since the social ad thing is new, but start to slow down as users decides to regain control. And to those people in search of more control I say “Feel Free.”
Social Computing, not social networking or social media is the next thing.   Key word “social.” For MySpace and Facebook the keyword is “Networking” and that’s a word that draws advertisers from miles away.