Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy holidays and a merry new year

I'm taking a blogging break through the end of the year. Hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A sad goodbye to flip.com

Conde Nast is, sadly, shutting down Flip.com today. Back in 2006, some of my former favorite colleagues worked with Conde Nast to develop and launch Flip.com, a social networking site targeting the YM and Teen Vogue set.

I always loved Flip. The strategy behind it was ahead of its time. The focus was on allowing teen girls to create their own "flip books" which were collections of poems, artwork, and other creations that they could share, rate and comment on.

In addition to online scrapbooking, the site delivered three content areas and also delivered an innovative approach to advertising: users could actually choose what advertisers they wanted to see on their pages. Flip eventually became a Facebook app as well.

But with financial strains on traditional media, the site's 300,000 users apparently did not justify the expense. Conde Nast also shut down the forums on YM.com and are directing users to TeenVogue.com.

What I don't understand is why Conde Nast didn't choose to keep Flip instead TeenVogue.com or didn't integrate the feature set, at the very least. I mean, 300,00 users is, well, 300,000 users. From what I've read and heard, Conde Nast was not satisfied with the growth. No, this was not MySpace or Facebook, but for a niche social networking site, 300,000 users is substantial.

It truly is unfortunate. Not only did a great site die today, but Conde Nast failed to recognize the significance of this audience because they were comparing it to print. But Flip.com is web native, it's the long tail. It's not about subscribers, it's about engaged users--300,000 of them. They failed to see that, and now they are back where they started, with a print magazine, online.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Social media for orange juice's sake

Florida's Natural -- yes an orange juice company -- is using social media to engage users and to encourage them to "get on your orange box." Promoted via a TV commercial, the website takes a fairly brand savvy approach via two key features.

The first is a simple avatar creator that allows the user to choose a voice, write some text about "what you believe" and then have the avatar "speak" what they wrote. The user can then send to a friend, post on their Facebook or MySpace page or embed the file on a page of their choice.

I know what you're thinking: Really, orange juice? But the brand campaign centers around the idea of a soap box, and this feature delivers on that brand attribute. It also allows the user to type in whatever they like, enabling them to take the brand and make it theirs.

The second feature allows the user to "post an orange" in a grove with their name, location and a their "belief," chosen from a drop down list of very brand specific choices. There is a strong social responsibility message associated with this feature, and many studies have shown that social responsibility is a brand consideration for consumers. Unfortunately, other than sending to a friend, users can't post their orange outside of the grove, which doesn't take full advantage of the social web.

Still, overall this social media campaign makes sense from a brand perspective. For orange juice, mind you. Who knew?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Making stealth brand connections

The connection between biology and media is one that fascinates me. It's a relic from grad school where I had a prof who expounded upon the topic often. It's also a core component of the philosophies of (Saint) Marshall McLuhan (you know, the "electronic media is an extension of our nervous system" McLuhan). So it's always interesting to see this connection embodied in real life.

Enter Fanta. Yes Fanta, the orange soda owned by Coca-Cola. They will be introducing two mobile applications, developed by Ogilvy Advertising and The Hyperfactory, and based on the Mosquito Teen Repellent technology, which emits an ultrasonic sound only audible by folks in their early 20s and younger.

The first is Fanta Virtual Tennis which is a game that is played between two phones via Bluetooth. Gamers can print out a mini tennis court to play on and games sounds are ultrasonic. The second app is called the Stealth Sound System. It enables communication via high-pitched sounds such as wolf whistles and sound tags such as "cool" (do kids still say that?).

The concept is not new, however. In 2006, Teen Buzz appropriated the technology by developing a ringtone audible only to the younger set. You can download the tone from their site. (By the way, I tried it and was only able to hear it for a fraction of a second--probably only because I was listening for it, or maybe I just have young ears).

In any case, it's a cool concept and a stealth (no pun intended), creative way to connect with people using technology.