Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Fractal Pattern of the Web

Much has been written about the "Long Tail" concept in connection with audience interest in materials placed on the Web. The long tail is sometimes modeled with the Poisson or Pareto distributions.

Here's a look at about 10 months of viewership data for a short video that I posted on YouTube and then left for observation.

Notice the long tail pattern for the entire time period. After a period of initial interest the pattern settles down to a lower level. Notice also the Pareto distributions in the fashion of fractals (self-similar patterns).

The onset of each fractal was occasioned by different blogs that briefly featured the video. In many ways bloggers can be viewed as gate-keepers taking us back to Katz and Lazarsfeld's "two-step model of mass communication."

The "Theory of Least Effort" provides one psychological explanation for the fractal pattern. "Marketing influentals" are willing to expend more effort and are more motivated to share what they have found. In the early phase, they make finding a source easier for those who are unwilling to expend the same levels of effort in seeking and sharing.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

High Definition and High Elaboration

A Samsung viral is challenging YouTube viewers to figure out how they made the viral with no edits using the latest Samsung High Definition camera phone.

To meet the challenge, of course you have to closely examine the high definition picture.

As of today, over 630,000 have viewed this viral, with 1,500 making comments on how it was done.

Great advertising should make you think. That's an important lesson shared by the Elaboration Likelihood Model of attitude change and advertising professionals.

This work was done by the:viral:factory, the agency based in London and Santa Monica.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Eighmey's Viral Sharing Index

Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent has become a viral video phenomenon. It is by far the most viewed video this year.

As of today, the Viral Video Chart reports over 88 million views and 8,500 blog postings of this video.

Why have so many sought and shared this video? What conceptual lessons can be learned about public response to viral communication?

Clearly there is a reversal of expectations. An unknown person stands alone and vulnerable on the great stage. The audience takes her measure, and then she takes them away.

Therein lies the basis for sharing. People want others to have that same feeling of unexpected joy.

A combination of psychological responses underlies the desire to share. The figure below identifies six factors commonly associated with how we respond to what we see in media.

Susan Boyle's viral video exemplifies high performance on all six factors in my Viral Sharing Index.

For further reading, see my article "Profiling User Responses to Commercial Websites" published in the May-June, 1997 issue of the Journal of Advertising Research. It has been cited by 230 articles and books about Internet advertising and provides the conceptual basis for thinking about information distributed on the Internet, whether by websites or viral sharing.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's off to work we go!

Walt Disney saw how new communication technologies could be used to share simple human truths more widely and more deeply.

One of those basic truths is enthusiasm for work. Nothing expresses this better than the classic work song of the Seven Dwarfs in the animated movie Snow White. "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go!"

This joy is brought to life in the latest commercial for Hershey's Kisses. They've named the commercial "Off to work we go!"

One would hope that people might see more than a joyful commercial about an enjoyable product. It is a charming commercial, but it is also the needed outlook of our times.

When I worked in New York City, there was a New Jersey Transit conductor who whistled this tune as he walked up the aisle taking tickets. I am sure his sense of humor was noticed by more than a few, and the lesson was not lost as they went off to work in the Big Apple.

And, let's be sure we remember the lesson of Walt Disney. The media business is always about human truths, successfully communicated with the latest technology.

That is exactly what Walt Disney did. And there is a future in it.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Energy to Remember

Idyllic romance is always a charming setting for advertising. It can help reinforce a brand's core value relationship with its followers.

But, what might bring energy and memorability to such advertising?
I wonder.

Boursin comes to us from Normandy. The work was done by the London agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe / Y&R.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Crisis Communication and the Domino's Incident

For consumers, brands serve as risk reducers. They help simplify decisions in a world of complex choices and increasingly busy lives. Consumers depend on brands to deliver on their promises.

For companies, the brand itself can become the most valuable asset. The number of “brand followers” and the strength of their loyalty is where wealth resides.

Today’s Domino’s incident is a powerful demonstration of the importance of these principles and the risks to both consumers and companies. Two Domino’s employees made and posted on YouTube a video of themselves nastily contaminating what appear to be two sandwiches being prepared for a customer.

What will happen to public perceptions of the Domino’s brand? Indeed, what will happen to public perceptions of all organizations that provide prepared food to the public?

Domino’s has moved swiftly to bring charges against the two people involved. But, this incident is now about crisis communication with proactive action to restore consumer confidence. The restoration of trust involves material actions that consumers will see as an effective response to their risks so vividly demonstrated in the employee video.

Twenty-five years ago, the OTC drug industry took a substantial proactive step in response to a series of product tampering incidents. The packaging was improved to remove the tampering risk and restore public confidence.

Accordingly, going forward, the Domino’s incident points to the vulnerability of both food service practices and the public communication environment. Food preparation can be trusted to the extent that it is transparent. Therein lies the long-term solution, for consumer trust in brands and protection of brand value.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Inspired Work

Jotun is a world-wide manufacturer of paints and coatings based in Sandefjord, Norway. The company's latest advertising for washable interior paint will "take you away."

It's so easy even her significant other could do it. But it took the family dog to call attention to the goings on.

My students know this genre of advertising as what I have named "When in doubt, rock it out." Popular music provides a vast realm of what I call "emotive narratives," many quite germane to positioning the core values and selling propositions of brands all over the world.

In this case the band was a-ha (from Norway of course) and the song was "Take on Me." Here's an "a-ha moment" for those who recall the highly popular 1984 video for this song.

The Jotun advertising was done by Try Reklamebyrå, an Oslo agency.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 13, 2009

FTC and Blogger Remarks about Brands and Products

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently moved to up-date its Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (16 CFR Part 255).

Advertising regulation is always a challenge for the FTC. There is a lot of advertising, and the technology of advertising always moves forward.

Not surprisingly, one part of the proposed up-date addresses the growing range of product and brand commentary on blogs, bulletin boards, and non-electronic communication such as "street teams."

It is important to recognize that the FTC regulates only actions that are "in commerce." This means a blogger or ordinary citizen with no material commercial connection to a brand or product does not fall under the law enforcement umbrella of the FTC.

Here is the link to download the pdf of the FTC proposal published in the Federal Register on Friday, November 28, 2008.

The proposal process is important. Congress established the FTC as an agency of experts on commercial practices responsible for maintaining a fair and efficient marketplace and for protecting consumers. The proposal, public comments, and subsequent hearings by the FTC are all part of a review and discovery process leading to regulatory policies that keep pace with the times.

In advertising and consumer research, we have long known that consumers give first priority to interpersonal information, especially from friends or others perceived to be as friends. This points to the importance of regulation concerning the presence and possible effects of material commercial relationships in what otherwise might be perceived to be unbiased interpersonal communication.

It is all about maintaining an effective marketplace for discerning consumers and scrupulous businesses. We even look to the needs of the foolish consumer as well.

Deceptive or untrue information has no value in the marketplace. It hurts consumers, businesses and undermines advertising credibility.

And... a disclosure of my own... I once served as Deputy Assistant Director for National Advertising at the FTC.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Viral Distribution Patterns

The Viral Video Chart provides a picture of the attention being given to the top 20 virals. This organization scans "several million blogs a day." They count the number of times each video is linked and the number of times each is embedded.

Here's their current chart on Samsung's "Extreme Sheep" viral video.

The chart shows the classic "long tail" Pareto distribution pattern. There is a rapid rise, momentary peak, and then a somewhat rapid decline leading to continuing interest at a lower level. See video @ my March 30 post "Motivation to Share."

This is the current chart for vtm's "Search for Maria" viral video.

You can see interest develop a bit more slowly for this viral. Perhaps this is due to a different strategy in seeding the viral. And of course the content of the two videos is different leading to differences in the "seek and share" process. The decline appears to be rapid, and it will be interesting to follow the pattern over the next few weeks. See video @ my April 6 post "The Search for Oneness."

Many lessons can be garnered from the information provided by the Viral Video Chart.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Early Light Breaks Through

Something caught my ear this morning while sipping coffee, reading the NY Times, and sort of listening to the CBS Early News on television.

This commercial is about 10 years old, yet it is timeless in the way it joyfully captures the centering benefit of it's product category. It was good to see it again.

It reminded me of another classic Folgers commercial. The sense of category joy is extended with "Everyday I wake up, pour myself a cup, of that rich Folgers aroma, the best part of waking up."

This commercial, also close to 10 years old, has struck such a resonant cord that people now make personal video homages and release them as virals. These virals extend the brand community in a spontaneous, self-generating way.

Here is one released on YouTube in 2006 by four college students in Seattle.

The students express and extend the brand personality in their joyful performance. As of today, this video has only 19,840 views on YouTube, yet it powerfully demonstrates the resonance of the Folgers advertising.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Brand DNA

A brand's DNA is rooted in the core values of the frequent users of the brand. It is a cultivation process, and the brand grows to the extent it reflects the values of the leadership group among its consumers.

The latest work for Timberland romanticizes nature as a benevolent force toward those who follow the path of the "Earthkeeper." As such, the commercial reflects the values of many who use the brand's more environmentally friendly products.

An earlier commercial in this series employed a humorous approach demonstrating that the forces of nature can sometimes be less than helpful as well.

It all depends on core values.

The work was done by Leagas Delany, the London agency.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Search for Oneness

Last Tuesday, a television network in Belgium released a viral mirroring the T-Mobile flash mob dance videos that gained world-wide attention earlier this year.

The television network, vtm, used the evident viral attractiveness of flash mob dancing to promote their fall television program "The Search for Maria." On Wednesday, they began a television program about the search for the actress who will play the role of Maria in the fall.

The vtm flash mob dance was staged in an Antwerp train station with 200 dancers and 10 camera people. The station sound system was filled with the cheery perfection of Julie Andrews singing "Do Re Me."

The dancers and bystanders clearly enjoyed the event, and the video is rapidly gaining an audience now on the Web.

Why is it these flash mob dances garner such attention? I think it is because the videos are such a clear demonstration of the sheer joy of community. The pace of life can act so as to keep people apart. Hence, there is joy in spontaneous cooperation. The virals extend this joy to those who watch them. And, we share the joy by telling others.

Dramatist Gene Roddenberry once spoke about the significance of music and the human spirit. He noted the importance of moments when people "combine into symphonic oneness."

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Evaluation of Viral Messaging

Much attention is being paid to which viral is getting the most attention and for how long each viral continues to play out on the Web.

But, ultimately virals must be evaluated in terms of their individual strategic purposes. What is the target market? What is the competitive frame? What is the strategic message argument?

This point is well demonstrated by a new viral for Samsung computer drives. The viral shows how to make "the world's most powerful consumer computer."

The Web is of course rich with the members of the target market for the featured Samsung computer drive. And, the narrative of this viral exudes the core values and outlook of the target group.

Storytelling, actors, setting, and music, all are presented in a manner that draws us in and holds our continuing interest. We concentrate our attention and "elaborate" the message argument in the classic terms of the Elaboration Likelihood Model of attitude formation.

Viewers are also placed in a good mood, activating "attitude toward the ad" as well as our receptiveness to new information.

Students in the auditorium for my Psychology of Advertising class let out a bit of a gasp when they saw the computer load all the MS Office programs in a half a second. "Wows"were heard when the computer quickly loaded over 50 programs. There were whoops when the computer transferred a huge DVD file faster than the DVD could be tossed out the window.

I think there is a way to evaluate virals: Ask who the viral is intended for, and did the viral engage that audience in "active processing" concerning a strategic message argument? That's the way to do it.

Aggregate reach is interesting, but in the end it comes down to "engaging the relevant audience in active processing of a strategic message argument."

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.