While in New York recently, Zeitgeist was privy to a few interesting examples of brand activation and digitally engaging experiences that it thought worth sharing.
While most of Manhattan’s citizens had sensibly fled the city’s dog days of summer, some were still caught in the rat race. It was good of HBO then to attempt to bring some enjoyment into the workers’ commute, in a stellar piece of brand activation that lasted for several days. The cable network HBO has had an astonishing run of successful series – recently noted in The Economist – popular with audiences and critics alike, from Sex and the City through the Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and now with Boardwalk Empire. According to the Gawker, the network had spent so much on advertising on the Metro over the years, “the MTA let them buy the entire car”. The Prohibition-era series came to life for several days with passengers able to ride an authentic 1920s traincar, replete with the odd advertisement promoting the upcoming new season of Boardwalk Empire. It’s a superb idea, something very engaging while at the same time actually serving a purpose (functioning as an otherwise normal subway train). It also fits in very well with a particular fascination New York seems to have currently with speakeasies, a number of which have popped up in midtown and lower Manhattan.
Similarly, BMW have also been taking over a space, this time in the East Village, promoting the automaker’s take on what sustainability means in the form of the BMW Guggenheim Lab. The Lab will include more than 100 free lectures, movie screenings and discussion, according to an article on Luxury Daily, which quotes Harald Krüger, BMW board of management member, as saying “premium is also defined by sustainability”. PSFK called it an “urban curiousity hub”. A picture of the Lab is below.
It was also interesting to wander through the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibition entitled ‘Talk to Me: Design and Communication between People and Objects’. As the website blurb says,
“The exhibition focuses on objects that involve a direct interaction, such as interfaces, information systems, visualization design, and communication devices, and on projects that establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.”
Running through November 7th, one of the more interesting practical things Zeitgeist noted about the show was the introduction of Augmented Reality as a way of enhancing some of the pieces exhibited. Also included were QR codes featuring more information for visitors, as well as hashtags for each object, to encourage people to talk about them and discuss them more easily via Twitter. Really interesting stuff.
So as you can see, there is an awful lot of interesting and relevant stuff going on in the city that never sleeps. FYI, Zeitgeist will be accepting commissions for future trips, especially ones that involve further investigation into the speakeasies mentioned earlier.
“Marriage, or any relationship for that matter, is a give and a take”. Zeitgeist has been prone to quoting various great men in its articles, from Horace to Obama. Tony Soprano makes a good point however. The quotation applies to the world of social media too. In fact, late last year, eConsultancy posted ‘The Tony Soprano guide to social media’. Mr. Soprano has a number of pithy insights that can be applied to the management of the social media sphere as easily as to that of the criminal underworld. Not that Zeitgeist is making a comparison between the two.
As eConsultancy says, “social media is not about sales: it’s about service. The sales that arise from social optimisation are a tangible bonus.” This is why some brands have a hard time knowing how to engage with social media. Is it about a quick ROI or a more long-term brand-building exercise, or both? “A wrong decision is better than indecision” is one of Tony’s quotations. Is that always the case though? If you whack some guy who you think is a rat and then turns out not to be, surely that is a bad turn of events? Last year, Toyota ran a competition for their Yaris model to create a short film with Saatchi & Saatchi. The competition was not terribly popular. Faced with the prospect of no entries, the agency emailed a production house asking for submissions, which obviously skewed the results. The result was awful.
Honda also had a social media fail last year when it set up a page on Facebook for a new model. Users were not very impressed with the car but then one person commented that they would “get this car in a heartbeat”. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a manager of product planning for Toyota… More recently, Vodafone’s Twitter account suffered from an offensive post by an employee. Bad as this was, the company tried to make amends by replying publicly to every single one their followers. eConsultancy noted, “Hundreds of retweets ensured that the company’s speedy deletion of the tweet was a redundant exercise”. Yet, another article talks about the opportunities such a fracas might now present.
In some cases of course, social media can save a brand. As noted already by Zeitgeist, cult film director Kevin Smith recently clashed with Southwest Airlines. Mr. Smith had booked two seats on a flight, but his plans changed and he joined the standby list for another flight. With only one seat, Smith’s gourmand-like person was apparently enough of a problem / eyesore to warrant the captain of the flight to ask him to disembark. The director voiced his outrage on Twitter, and was promptly apologised to by the airline’s Twitter account, offering him $100. Smith continued to rant, asking the airline to provide a seat for him on a talk show, as clearly the man thought he had not yet lost enough pride. A high proportion of followers interestingly sided with the airline, evincing that singular advocacy, albeit powerful, will not always win. Southwest though they may now have set a precedent (financial at least), for complaints of a rotund nature.
“Do we need to talk in private?” Tony suggests. Not all conversations between company and consumer can be solved in the open forum of social media. It is not for every brand, and even if it is compatible, you might still get burned.