Wednesday, April 22, 2015

About Facebook, Hyves and Burble, the New Kid on the Block

Dutch social media platform Hyves is an excellent lesson in social media. The Dutch competitor of Facebook was highly popular. At its heyday a few years ago, its revenues reached close to Euro 20 million and it boasted over 10 million profiles. To put it in perspective, the total Dutch population reached close to 17 million in April 2015.

That’s why the Dutch media group Telegraaf Media Groep (TMG) decided to purchase 100 percent of all the Hyves shares. The idea behind the takeover was, that Dutch newspaper “De Telegraaf” would become the biggest player in the market reaching 62 percent of the Dutch readers online. TMG purchased Hyves at end 2010 for a whopping Euro 43 million.

But TMG underestimated that Hyves was already under pressure from global competitor Facebook having a similar target audience. During 2011, users left Hyves in droves in favor of Facebook. Page visits declined from 200 million in January to 150 million in October the same year. Also the number of unique visits per day and the amount of minutes that visitors stayed on Hyves declined sharply.

In 2013, TMG gave up hope that Hyves would remain a relevant social network site. Hyves wa kept alive as an online gaming platform. The group wrote off Euro 36.5 million in booking value.

But when one market player leaves, it creates an opportunity for a new one. Enter Burble, the brainchild of programmer Marlon Barth who owns a small IT company in Rotterdam. He envisions Burble as a modern kind of Facebook where users can create their own profile, communicate with each other en discuss issues. He claims that the environment is safe with data protection, It is free for everybody and is in Dutch.

Will Burble be the next Facebook success or Hyves failure? Let’s wait and see!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Five Great Applications for Drones

Drones are on the rise, drones in the US but also in Europe. Drones are becoming cheaper, able to lift more weight and also get easier to control. It’s only a matter of time before the drone will become part of your daily life – one way or the other.

1. Sales Promotion

The drone will become one of the tools in marketing & PR. Real estate agents can use it to show property for sale, and tourist agencies for showcasing destinations. Event planners and exhibition organizers can use it as a powerful tool to drum up business. Universities can show potential students what they will enjoy. Let’s face it - what is more powerful than an ascending drone shooting a professional video with paparazzi effect? Huge number of viewers guaranteed!

2. Home Delivery

Let’s face it – schlepping to the super can be so annoying when you find out you run out of e.g., milk. Supermarket s will offer an “instant drone service” to deliver to your doorstep. It so fits into our digital lifestyle.

More importantly, drone delivery will also become standard for reaching remote locations with essential and even lifesaving supplies. That future is already here, DHL already delivers medical supplies by drone the remote German island Juist.

3. Agriculture

Agriculture is the lifeline of our existing, so it only makes sense that drones will contribute. A drone can assist farmers to monitor their crops from above. This would allow them to take immediate measures, such as irrigation. The drone would be a small investment for a great ROI since higher yields would achieved.

4. First Aid

Just consider the scenario of a cardiac arrest in a public place or at home and no defibrillator is available. Sending a drone is faster than dispatching an ambulance and could therefore save lives. The Dutch Delft University of Technology demonstrated that the survival change after a cardiac arrest jump from 8% to 80% after using a so-called ambudrone.

5. Inspection

Inspecting property will be easy with a drone. This could range from homeowners checking out their gutters or solar panels to governmental agencies checking illegal structures.

These are all great applications of drones. However, there is a major problem – in most cases, it’s not allowed. Legislation is lacking behind. Even innocent use of drones will result in legal action.

In the Netherlands, Mr. Jelte Keur was fined 350 euro for shooting drone images of a landmark, the Domtoren.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Artist Gets The Upper Hand Against Fast-food Giant Chik-fil-A – With Kale

Who knew that kale could trigger legal action? It all started way back in 2000. Bo Muller-Moore is an artist located in Montpelier, Vermont. One of his farmer friend (who grows the leafy vegetable aka as kale known for its nutritional value) asked him to make three T-shirts for his family for $10 each. He did and the “eat more kale” caught on.

With approval of the farmer friend, Muller-Moore began putting it on clothing and bumper stickers. He has been using the phrase ever since to promote local agriculture. He prints the phrase in silk-screen on T-shirts and sweatshirts and also prints it on bumper stickers that are used all around Vermont and even in other states. In the summer of 2011, Muller-Moore decided to trademark the phrase.

Once fast-food giant Chik-fil-A learned about the filing, it sent Muller-Moore a letter telling him to stop using the phrase, claiming that it would confuse the public since the Chik-fil-A slogan is "eat mor chikin." The fast food giant cited 30 examples of other companies and individuals who wanted to the "eat more" phrase and withdrew it after Chik-fil-A objected.

In contrast to other before him, Muller-Moore did not cave in. He stated "In our case, we said we're not going to cease and desist until a federal judge tells us to and as far as the trademark goes, I never wavered from the idea that I deserved protection from copycat artists."

His public fight drew the support of Shumlin as well as a team of pro-bono lawyers, including law students from the University of New Hampshire legal clinic.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Muller-Moore his application to trademark "eat more kale".

Needless to say, the artist was over the moon, stating "I'd like to think that maybe some persistence and polite defiance, you know, and proving to them [the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] that we were in it for the long haul. If it took us a decade, we're going to fight for a decade."

Muller-Moore is not alone in relishing his David vs. Goliath victory. Governor Peter Shumlin for one applauds the decision. He stated: "The message is out: Don't mess with Vermont. And don't mess with Bo. This isn't just a win for the little guy who stands up to a corporate bully; it's a win for our state. In Vermont, we care about what's in our food, who grows it, and where it comes from."

(Image courtesy of Bo Muller Moore)

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Funny Marketing and PR of The Interview

Sometimes you get an unexpected marketing and PR boost. Just look at The Interview, a comedy that made the headlines for unexpected reasons.

The Interview is a comedy about talk show host and producer finding out that their show is a favorite of Kim Jong-un of North Korea. Once they land a live interview with him, the CIA recruits them to take him out.

Although the movie is mediocre to say the least (movie critics panned it), it got an unexpected boost from an unexpected source - hackers! They hacked Sony (the producer of The Interview) demanding to stop the release and threatened with violence if their demand was not met.

Needless to say, this put Sony in an awkward position. The movie studio decided to pull the release. MoviestarClooney and President Obama reacted, crying wolf.

In the end, Sony decided to release the movie online, with great success. The Interview is a bestseller on YouTube and Google Play. With more than 2M downloads, it generated $15M before Christmas 2014. The movie was also made available on Xbox Live and PlayStation.

According to the latest reports, the hackers do not hail from North Korea. It seems that it was an inside job.

No matter where the hackers are located, they did the movie a huge favor. They gave The Interview some serious marketing and PR that is worth its weight in gold!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Koons Designed the Cover of Grazer’s Book – Clever PR for All Involved

Jeff Koons designed the jacket for producer Brian Grazer’s upcoming book “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.”

Superproducer Brian Grazer has written a book about…curiosity. Pegged as “non-fiction”, publisher Simon & Schuster signed six-figure deal to publish it. The book will examine how curiosity and the endless search for knowledge drive creativity.

Grazer knows a thing or two about creativity. He has for decades conducted weekly “curiosity conversations” with accomplished strangers. Those conversations inspired Grazer to produce movies and TV shows such as “Splash” and “Arrested Development”.

The book, co-written with business journalist Charles Fishman, will be launched on April 7, 2015. For the book cover, Grazer came up with a brilliant (PR) idea – enlisting the services of artist Jeff Koons for the design. A win-win situation – great PR for Grazer and Koons, as well as free pre-publishing hype which will boost (pre)sales.

Why did Grazer turn to Koons? “When we began discussing a design for the jacket of my book, Jeff Koons was the first person I thought of. His pieces have always spoken to me — they are suffused with positivity. My curiosity conversation with him was one of the earliest and most memorable I’ve had, and I remember being especially struck by how generous and genuinely interested he was, in everything. Curiosity is a very natural thing for him – it is the foundation of his work, and his energy as a human being.”

As for the book cover design itself, Grazer stated: “When you look at the simple sketch he came up with, it has so much life and personality, and there is a celebratory quality to it.”

Whether you like the design or not, you have to agree: it’s a great way to get free publicity.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Secret Sauce for Working from Home Successfully

No matter if you are a freelancer or a remote worker - there are some steps you have to take to be productive!

1. Be Connected

You need a computer (desktop and/or laptop) with a fast Internet connection. You also need a smartphone to be able to receive and sent text messages and to get alerts. Make sure you have a professional background when you are skyping. (Hint: a bookcase is always appropriate)

2. Create a Pleasant Environment

Make sure you have a quiet and pleasant environment for working. The less distractions, the better you can focus on the job to be done. Sounds, smells and objects create the optimal atmosphere for you to be productive. If you are more productive without music, make sure you have peace and quiet. If you are a fan of feng sui, organize your workspace accordingly.

3. Stick To Your Schedule

Being boss of your own time also means that you have to set your own schedule and time manage yourself. Plan your day ahead, including your activities, deadlines and breaks. As a remote worker, you need to work as if you were in-house.

4. Your Home Office

Your home office is a place of work, so you need to stock it with office equipment (printer, copier) and office supplies (toners, cartridges, paper, pens, paperclips, notepads, envelopes, stamps, etc.). Don’t forget coffee and mineral water!

5. Dress for Success

Even when working from home, dress for success. You can dress casually, but make the effort that your outfit will not be embarrassing when a business acquaintance will visit you unannounced or your boss contacts you via Skype. It will make you feel more business-like and in control.

6. The Human Factor

It is important that freelancers and remote workers meet their clients and coworkers once in a while. Although a lot can be done remotely and in the cloud, there is still no alternative for making a personal (face-to-face) connection.

6. Be Your Own Manager/Boss

To be truly effective and successful, you need to be your own manger and boss yourself around. This might sound funny, but it’s the secret ingredient for success. If you are not tough with yourself, you will be distracted; only do fun stuff and basically waste time. Needless to say, you will pay for that down the road.

7. Keep in Shape
Being glued to your computer screen comes with a price. For many reasons, it’s important that you keep your health (and posture). Allocate time to do sports – walking the dog, working out in a fitness center, running or swimming…whatever fits your lifestyle! Remember: the Romans made a valid point with their “mens sana in corpore sano”!

Do you have more tips and tricks for freelancers and remote workers? Please share them!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New Dutch Brand 'Peut' Challenges the Iron Grip of the Ruling Oil Companies

Fed up with the iron grip that the multinational oil companies hold on local petrol stations, Dutch petrol station owners joined forces and established “The Free Pump” (de vrije pomp).

Peut is the brain child of The Free Pump, the Rotterdam-based cooperative that declared war on Shell, Esso en BP. Peut is an Dutch slang for petrol, so it’s a great brand name. The logo however resembles the Pinterest one with an additional petrol drop. That might get them into hot (legal) water!

The petrol station owners that joined Peut are quite verbal about why they made their move: “We are not into air miles, tiger jumps or whatever else. We as petrol station owners want to be entrepreneurs again and be able to be more economic", said Ewout Klok one of the independent petrol station owners.

Peut might come across as a free and independent rebel, but it is still connected to the big brands. The sad truth is that there are only a few companies in the world that trade in fossil fuels. Private label Peut is therefore supplied by multinationals such as Shell, Esso or (in this case) Argos.

"The multinationals produce so much that they have to trade excess supply in the free market. Independent petrol stations utilize that free market for buying fuel. The independent petrol stations therefore profit from this," explained Aad Correljé, energy specialist at the Clingendael Institute and the Delft University of Technology. "One could compare it with a major brand vs. private label."

The Independent Petrol Station Owners want to conquer the Netherlands. Under the Peut brand, they are planning to operate 300 pump stations nationwide within 5 years. The Peut crowd plans to jointly purchase fuel via the cooperative The Free Pump.

All in all, 100 entrepreneurs and 200 petrol stations are planning to join Peut as soon as their current contracts with the major oil companies expire. Not a bad start! Let’s see how it will pan out…

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How Paper Magazine Used Kim Kardashian and Social Media To Promote Its Printed Issue

Paper Magazine used a clever strategy to promote its printed magazine - social media!

Founded and launched in 1984, Paper magazine is a New York City-based independent magazine focusing on fashion, pop-culture, nightlife, music, art and film. Its readership is around 155,000 with 70% of its readers located in New York and Los Angeles. The Paper Magazine’s website has around 500,000 unique visitors per month.

To attract more readers, it came up with a clever strategy – use archenemy the Internet to make a splash. The mag hired Jean-Paul Goude, the French photographer famous for his iconic shots of Grace Jones for a provocative photo shoot. It also enlisted the services of KKW for two reasons: (1) her online presence includes 25 million twitter followers and roughly the same number on Instagram, (2) she has no problem at all baring it all for the camera.

Goude shot Kardashian in several stages of undress – starting with her being fully-dressed in exactly the same pose as Grace Jones in her famous champagne glass photo, and ending with a full frontal nude pic.

Paper Magazine published the shots as part of its “Break the Internet” campaign, stating: "For our winter issue, we gave ourselves one assignment: Break The Internet. There is no other person that we can think of who is up to the task than one Kim Kardashian West. A pop culture fascination able to generate headlines just by leaving her house, Kim is what makes the web tick."

The strategy worked, resulting in hundreds of thousands of tweets, global online coverage, and discussed on various morning shows on TV.

Paper Magazine knows its stuff. In order not to oversell, the mag limits its racy version of the issue (including all KKW"s pics) to just 10,000 copies. Retailers and subscribers who want to get their hands on it, must purchase it online (oh, the irony) via the Paper Magazine website.

The magazine also announced that it will be producing more "event" covers, so stay tuned! Ironically enough, online exposure has done wonders for Paper Magazine.

As Drew Elliott stated: "We wanted to use this [cover] to help establish ourselves digitally. We never could have imagined that it would be this successful."

The main question remains – will Paper Magazine be able to create more provoking campaigns? Now that they have built a worldwide audience, the powers at Paper Magazine need to remain creative to maintain its loyal audience and customer base. If not, it will remain an amusing footnote in online marketing history.

(Image courtesy of Kelkulus)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

About Fair Use of Text, Images and Photos for Websites and Blogs

As a web designer, blogger, content writer, journalist, teacher or comedian, you want to use stunning images, photos, quotes or statements that were created by others. When is it legal to use such content without asking permission or payment?

That is decided by “fair use”. In legal terms: “Fair use was created to allow use of copyright (sic) material for socially valuable purposes such as commentary, parody, news reporting, education and the like, without permission of the copyright holder.”

In plain English: “fair use” allows people or companies to use those materials (text, images, photos, etc.) without it being an infringement of copyright. In such cases, the owners of those copyrighted work must allow their work to be used by designers, bloggers, content writers, journalists, teachers, comedians, etc. without any legal or financial obligations. It must be noted that the burden of proof is the one using it; not the owner of the work. (In legalese: “affirmative defense”)

The reason for “fair use” is to allow reasonable and limited use of the copyrighted work. A journalist is allowed to quote from a newly published novel in the review it. A comedian can quote from copyrighted text, use a copyrighted picture or photo or directly quote a celebrity to make fun of them. Teachers and professors can use passages of copyrighted works to explain something to their students or to make a point.

As a rule of thumb, using text under “fair use” normally consists of using a small part of the copyrighted work and includes crediting the author (with a link to the source/author’s website). Fair use is for non–commercial purposes.

The criteria of what is “fair use” are defined in the opinion of the famous Joseph Story in Folsom v. Marsh, 9 F.Cas. 342 (1841). This so-called Four Factor test consist of:

1. the purpose and character of the use (non-commercial, educational, parody or non-profit)

2. the nature of the copyrighted work

3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used of the copyrighted work

4. the effect of the market use / market value of the copyrighted work

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Facebook conducted a controversial study that manipulated users’ news feeds. Facebook did not only got negative reactions from its users, it also got on the wrong side of Cornell University.

Cornell University’s ethics board made clear that it did not pre-approve the study. Hence, Facebook should not have had “implied” user permission to conduct the study as researchers previously claimed.

To recap: researchers at Facebook tweaked what hundreds of thousands of users saw in their news feeds. They manipulated content to be more positive or negative than normal in an attempt to manipulate the users’ mood. The users’ status updates were analyzed to detect if the content affected what those users wrote on Facebook.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that, Facebook users’ moods did indeed were affected by what they saw in their news feeds. Users who saw more negative posts would write more negative things on their own walls, and likewise for positive posts.

Enter Cornell. The University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) did approve the use of Facebook’s “pre-existing data set” for the experiment. The study was published in the June 17 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. So far, so good.

However, Cornell University issued a statement clarifying that the Facebook experiment was conducted before the IRB was consulted. Although one of Cornell professors (Jeffrey Hancock) as well as a doctoral student (Jamie Guillory) worked with Facebook on the study, Cornell went out of its way to distance itself from the research.

A classic case of cold feet? Or does Cornell fear to be associated with a behemoth like Facebook? Or is it a matter of defending the ivory tower that it academia?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Marketing Lessons from the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church knows how to recruit new “customers”. No surprise; they have been doing that for 2000 years!

What is their marketing secret?

1. Conveying the mission statement

The mission of the Catholic Church is to win and retain believers. To that end, “customers” must be convinced that the Catholic god exists.

Representatives of the Catholic Church use a cool sales trick to convince.

They argue: “True, you cannot see our god. So how do you know he exists? Well, you cannot see trust, but you trust your parents. You cannot see love, but you love your family.”

2. Why being Catholic is important

To win and retain customers, a business has to convince them of the added value of its offering. The Catholic Church explains that its main “product” was so important that his birth started the anno domini (AD) - Christian calender worldwide. This underpins what professor Robert Cialdini describes as the Principle of Authority.

3. Overcoming peer pressure

When the majority of the peers of a (potential) “customer” has a different set of norms and values and/or religion; it’s hard to champion the Catholic cause. But the Catholic Church uses in such cases an age-old and proven strategy – social evidence.

They point out that out of a current world population of 7 billion souls, 2 billion are Catholic. Quite an impressive market share!

4. Social engineering

One of the main “threats” that the Catholic Church faces, is an environment where the majority is not baptized let alone consists of practicing Catholics. The winning argument in such a case? During the time of JC, baptism was introduced for the first time. During the first day alone, 1,300 people were baptized, Quite an impressive conversion rate!

5. Retaining believers

One of the main challenges of the Catholic Church is to retain believers and handle crises (e.g., child abuse claims). The Pope as the CEO of the Catholic Church is facing the same challenges as many of his Fortune 500 counterparts: protecting and promoting the values of the enterprise and executing its mission while adapting to changing times and conducting crisis management to survive.

As the current CEO, Pope Francis is doing a good job. Let’s see how he steers his multinational during the coming decades…

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Marvelous Marketing of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Wherever you turn, it’s there - the ASL ice bucket challenge™. The concept is simple: someone dares you either to douse yourself with a bucket full of water and ice or send $100 to the ALS Association. You in turn dare others to the same challenge; they also have 24 hours to respond or make the donation.

In our social media age, the challenge spread like wildfire. People of all walks of life across continents joined in, including a flock of tech moguls, politicians, actors, musicians and other celebrities. Most of those both took the challenge and donated money.

The result up till now is spectacular – donations rose from $2.1m in 2013 to over $50m in 2014. However, critics have pointed out the number of ALS sufferers is only a fraction of people dying of heart disease (596,577 in 2011), cancer (576,691) or Alzheimer’s (84,974) annually. This means that charities such as the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Alzheimer’s Association are “losing out”.

For now, ASL is for now the charity du jour, not in the least due to savvy marketing and PR.
  • The timing is perfect – August is always one of the slowest months for news
  • Positive message – with daily coverage of human suffering in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine et al, people crave feel-good news
  • Social media – posting videos, tweeting, pinning, liking, sharing, etc makes it a global phenomena taking place in near real-time
  • Great personal PR – especially celebrities use the challenge for their own branding and promotion
  • Reality TV aspect - looking at Oprah Winfrey screaming her head off or Benedict Cumberbatch being punked.
It’s a matter of time before this fad will be over. Participants are already daring people they want to get even with in the hope that those will make a fool of themselves on camera.
The challenge is also not without risks - four firefighters in Kentucky were seriously injured when it went wrong.

The main question remains: apart from balls, banquets, runs, walks, rides, auctions, and the current challenge- what new marketing gimmick will be next for non-profits to raise funds?

(Image courtesy of Among Tech)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Downton Abbey’s Perfect Handling of Its PR Blunder

Downton Abbey is far more than a stylish period drama – it’s also making heaps of money from a slew of merchandise. British retail chainMarks and Spencer sells a "Downton Abbey" beauty line which includes soaps, nail polish, lip gloss, lotions and scented candles. There are also Downton Abbey lines of jewelry, fashion, home decor and furniture.

To launch season 5 of Downton Abbey, a series of publicity photos was released in August 2014. Eagle-eyed fans spotted a plastic water bottle Lord Grantham and Lady Edith posing in full costume in front of a marble fireplace. The photo quickly spread like wildfire all over the internet.

How did Downton Abbey handle this PR blooper? With style!

The cast teamed up with the UK chapter of WaterAid, an international non-profit organization that tries to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation. They posed for a funny photo sporting the same kind of water bottle, showing that they care about drinking clean water instead of sipping cocktails.

An ITV spokesperson stated:
"After seeing the reaction the picture caused earlier this week, the cast and crew came up with the idea of turning some of this attention towards an issue around water that really matters. They hope that by posing for this picture they will be able to raise awareness and amplify the work of international charity - WaterAid."

This handling of the water bottle-gate is brilliant. It has all the elements of excellent crisis management:
  • Respond quickly
  • Do not make any (lame) excuses
  • Come up with a way to turn it into an opportunity
  • Link it to charity
  • Use humor (if appropriate)


Monday, August 11, 2014

Does Apple’s iPhone 6 Feature Wireless Charging?

Apple’s iPhone 6 will be coming to an Apple store close to you starting September 19. According to Forbes, the 4.7 inch screen iPhone 6 will retail at $199 and the 5.5 inch screen at $299.

Rumors are flying about its new features that will be shown at a media event on September 9.

TMZ claims to have obtained leaked pictures taken by an ex-employee at a Foxconn factory in China. Foxconn manufactures devices for Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Nintendo and BlackBerry.

Based on the leaked photos, it could be assumed that the port in the red circle could be for wireless charging. It is not as far-fetched as it sounds. One of the patents that Apple has filed in 2012 is for "Wireless Power Utilization in a Local Computing Environment". It describes a central hub that enables charging a device without wires.

If Apple is indeed launching a smartphone with wireless charging capabilities, that will be a major game changer. It will also be great marketing for the Cupertino-based company.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Airbnb's New Logo – An Epic Marketing Blunder

Airbnb just unveiled its new logo called “the Belo”. In the color Magenta, it strives to combine the concept of Yahoo’s distinctive purple and Nike’s famous Swoosh.

Airbnb enables users to list their homes on the web and rent them out to guests. The company wants to add more sharing products and services to its offerings, such as surfing lessons.

For its rebranding, Airbnb turned to DesignStudio, a young London-based global branding and design agency, that has as its mission statement: “By applying creative, critical thinking to these different channels, we change people’s perceptions and create the brands of the future.”

For a whole year, DesignStudio worked on the rebranding project. It conducted extensive user research and dispatched teams to more than a dozen countries to interview hosts and guests to find out what they like about Airbnb. DesignStudio also conducted detailed surveys of comparable brands such as IBM, Facebook and the Red Cross.

The result? Bélo (Belonging - Airbnb’s new logo that was launched with a lot of PR hype. The logo is in magenta, looks like the love child of a Google maps pin, a heart and a bent paper clip. It’s a matter of taste if you like it or not.

HomeSweetHome one. But it’s the uncanny resemblance with the Automation Anywhere logo that started a Twitter storm.

It's baffling that after such an extensive research and design phase, none of the creative geniuses at the agency used a simple online image search to check for similar logos to make sure that the proposed new one would be unique.

Airbnb made a gigantic marketing mistake by not running the new logo by their lawyers. The consequences for Airbnb?

However, the new logo is almost identical to several existing logos such as the
  • Legal action. I am sure that Automation Anywhere will sue Airbnb very soon.
  • Brand damage. The company is already the laughing stock in many online magazines and (of course) the social media.
  • Using an agency that wasted so much of Airbnb’s budget to come up with a copycat logo.
  • Investing more time and money to rebrand again with a new agency.
  • Removing the Bélo from all existing collateral and merchandise.
(Image: New Airbnb logo on the left, existing Automation Anywhere logo on the right)

Sunday, July 06, 2014

DKNY Ramadan Collection – A Stroke Of Marketing Genius?

DKNY, part of the LVMH Group, has just launched a new fashion line. The DKNY Ramadan Collection consists of halal couture. The stunning designs cover arms and legs and have modest necklines.

The collection (styled by two prominent Middle Eastern fashionistas Yalda Golsharifi, fashion editor of Styles Magazine, and Tamara Al Gabbani, a fashion designer in Dubai) fuses high fashion with conservative design. Both women are popular bloggers and also modeled the collection including for the #DKNYRamadan campaign.

The 12-piece collection includes summer favorites with a conservative yet modern slant such as long, flowing dresses and skirts, printed tops and floor-length skirts, classic black-and-white separates, jumpsuits and pants and long-sleeved and three-quarter-length jackets and shirts.

Each piece conveys the modesty many Middle Eastern women strive for without skimping on fashion. Pakistani writer Bina Shah lauded the collection in The Independent stating that the clothes “walk the fine line between cosmopolitan and conservative, luxurious and ostentatious. The fabrics drape around the body, encasing the curves that nature gave Middle Eastern women without making them obvious, or attempting to disguise them in bag-like abayas.” High praise indeed!

The timing is impeccable: Ramadan, the holy month of daylight fasting observed my Muslims around the world started on July 5 and will end on July 28.

It’s the first time that a New York-based brand launched a regionalized collection and campaign. The pieces are only available in stores in the Middle East, but you can check out the full 12-look collection at

But the question remains: did DKNY make a smart marketing move?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Design Scandal Tarnishes a Swedish Prince’s Brand

Carl Philip is the son of the current king of Sweden.

He built his reputation as a designer with the launch of a fireguard in the shape of a castle.

He branded it as "designed by Prince Carl Philip 2010".

As it turns out, designer Eric Ericson is the creator of the fireguard. "It was I who designed the fireguard," Eric Ericson told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

"I didn't work with this for a very long time and the conditions changed as time passed. At first I thought I was just going to be his tutor but then it is became apparent that I was to do his stuff. In hindsight, it all really feels bloody wrong. It wasn't a serious collaboration but I don't want to blacken his name. He has only studied (design) for a short time. He can become a designer but it takes a lot of hard work and you must enter the profession to be successful. He might be world's nicest guy but he doesn't have to get up at five in the morning and slave to pay the rent.”

The product was marketed and sold by the Svensk Tenn interior design company that have since scrubbed Carl Philip's signature off the fireguard. It retails for 14,500 kronor ($2,200).

Ericson's remarks follow a damning editorial by Form Editor-in-Chief Bo Madestrand who slammed the prince for being a "fake".

The editorial pointed out that "Carl Philip is not guilty of plagiarism – because he hasn’t designed his own products. If Prince Carl Philip had better advisers – and worked a little harder – he might succeed better at his chosen profession. The question is, why does he continue? Who benefits from Carl Philip’s playing at being a designer, when, like his father, he’d really rather be tearing up the roads behind the wheel of a sports car?"

No matter what, the Prince's brand had suffered from devastating damage.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Brilliant Way the CIA joined Twitter

US governmental agencies routinely secure social media account to prevent unauthorized users tweeting and

The CIA filed an impersonation complaint with Twitter against such a user, the Langley-based agency decided to open its own (and verified) account on Twitter and Facebook.

In an official statement the agency announced: "This week, the CIA moved deeper into the world of social media with the launch of official social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook."

The CIA describes itself as: “We are the Nation's first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go”.

On the CIA website, CIA Director John O. Brennan posted on June 6, 2014:

This week, the CIA expanded its social media presence with the launch of official social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter @CIA and on Facebook for the latest CIA updates, #tbt (Throwback Thursday) photos, reflections on intelligence history, and fun facts from the CIA World Factbook. You’ll also receive updates on CIA career postings and get the latest glimpse into CIA’s Museum - the best museum most people never get to see. Our social media expansion will put content right at your fingertips.

The launch expands CIA’s online presence, which already includes the Agency’s public website, and mobile, and official Flickr and YouTube accounts.

In the coming weeks, look out for other enhancements, including live streaming capabilities via Ustream

The CIA also showed a wicked sense of humor with an epic first tweet:

Epic branding!

(Image:The CIA logo at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va. (Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images)

posting under their name.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How NOT To Promote Your Services

Recently, I got the following email:

As a { }, are you interested in following SEO, SMO and website redesigning services at this time for your company by industry experts:

$500 SEO services includes: Keyword Research, Website Theme Review, Navigation Review, Images Review, Page Development Review, Website Content Review, Search Engine Tag Review, File Name Review, Finished Layout Review

$500 Social media optimization includes: Article Submission, Press Release Submission, Social Bookmarking, Video Submissions, PPT Submissions, RSS Feed Submissions, Social Network Marketing and Posting on Forums

$500 Website redesigning and maintenance includes: Competition updates their website regularly with latest updates, SEO friendly site, new technology contents, Memorable Logo, Simplistic Catchy Design, Who You Are and What You Do, Samples of Your Work, Link to Relevant Blogs, Additional Testimonials, Update Contact Information

Thanks and let me know.

Olivia Miller, Digital marketing consultant

This email is an excellent example of how NOT to contact potential customers!

1) This person mined my email from LinkedIn. If you want to drum up business, use the “promotion” tab in various groups. Spamming people like me by mining our emails is counterproductive.

2) The first sentence asks me if I am "interested in following services for my company by experts". This sentence is poorly written.

3) Who are the "industry experts"? Why the overuse of capitals?

4) This person uses pricing to hook me. This is a common mistake. She should understand that potential customers want to see a portfolio and testimonials – price is just a secondary parameter.

5) The offered website redesigning and maintenance includes: "Competition updates their website regularly with latest updates". Does this mean that I would pay for the website updates of my competitors?

6) When I wanted to visit their website (, I found out that (1) the website is a parked domain at GoDaddythat is (2) registered by a certain Subendu Ghosh located in Bangalore, India.

7) The only reference to Mantize Marketing that I could find was on the LinkedIn profile of Michael Smith who states that he worked 10 months for the company in 2009/2010 providing database marketing solutions. I could not find any "Olivia Miller" working for Mantize Marketing.

My advice to anyone else that got this email - mark it as spam.