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BRANDE : blog archives for October 2011

October 31, 2011

Social Media PR Disasters: Moleksine’s Logo Contest Has No Winners

Unlike some of my past examples of social media crises, this disaster is unfolding right now. To my amazement, it’s happening to one of the brands that, just three months ago, I honored as a SoMe Superstar. Let’s see how the mighty have fallen.
The Brand
Moleskine
  • 102,000 Facebook likes
  • 14,000 followers on Twitter
  • 571,000 views on YouTube

The Incident

Through its encouragement via social media, the Italy-based maker of journals and notebooks had built a loyal fan base of writers and artists, eager to share their work and their love of the brand. This combination of brand affinity and design skills seemed to make a perfect environment for a design contest. So on October 10, 2011, Moleskine announced a competition for a new logo. The winner would receive 5,000 euro (about $7,000), but Moleskine would retain the rights to all the entries, allowing it to choose a different logo in the future.

The Problem

While many brands find success with similar contests, such as Doritos asking for fans to create Super Bowl commercials, Moleskine didn’t seem to realize that spec work is a contentious issue in the design community, even more so in this difficult economy. And this competition was definitely spec work, since thousands of designers who didn’t win would be working for free and giving up their copyrights. Moleskine was essentially asking its fans to do their regular 9-to-5 work, for free. Even worse, the contest “devalue[d] the role of the designer and the client-designer relationship,” said ad agency New Kind in a post titledBetrayed by the Brand. “When a company runs a contest like this, it sends a message that a brand is little more than a logo…that can be designed by anyone regardless of their level of knowledge of you and your brand.”
The Response
The backlash was immediate and fierce. Comments on Moleskine’s Facebook wall included “This is unethical,” “Shame on you, Moleskine,” and “I will never buy another Moleskine product again.” On Friday, Moleskine made matters worse by issuing a clarification, without apologizing, that basically said, “Other companies are doing this. If you don’t like it, don’t enter.” As you can imagine, the fans became outraged, to the point that Moleskine began deleting angry comments from the wall. The following Monday, Moleskine posted another response, which began, “Let’s start by apologizing for being so late with our reply” – though fans weren’t complaining about punctuality. The post went on to say “It has never been our purpose to exploit any of the authors” and “we made a mistake.” But Moleskine’s only action was to change a single contest rule, saying it would retain the copyright of just the winner, instead of all the entries. The competition would go on, without apology.
The Result
The competition’s deadline is November 10, and Moleskine seems to have no intention of canceling its inexpensive crowdsourcing strategy and hiring a professional designer. As one commenter put it, “I don’t see how someone would actually desire to win this ‘contest’ now. You would certainly not be well-received in the design community.” The backlash continues on Twitter and the Moleskine official site.

The Takeaway

How can you avoid Moleskine’s week of disastrous social media PR?
– Know Your Audience
Moleskine knew it had a following of artists but it didn’t seem to know that community’s harsh feelings towards crowdsourcing and spec work. While this attitude wouldn’t necessarily come up in a customer survey, Moleskine has multiple channels where it could have tested the waters. One tweet like “How would you feel about a logo design contest?” could have shown the notebook company that its fan base was against the idea, avoiding this social media disaster with one click.
– Fix The Problem
The company’s responses have been consistently unsatisfying. For five days, Moleskine did nothing. Then it offered a brusque statement that showed no compromise or remorse. Instead of engaging the commenters, it never mentioned the matter on Twitter and began deleting critical comments on Facebook. Finally, it posted a semi-apology and changed one contest rule, never addressing the issue of the contest itself. That latest post has 71 comments, but Moleskine itself hasn’t entered the conversation.
– Friends Can Become Foes
Hell hath no fury like a fan scorned. Moleskine had built a passionate audience…but that passion is now aimed against the brand. Just because people love you doesn’t mean that they’ll love everything you do. Moleskine fans feel truly betrayed. The latest posts on Facebook talk seriously about a boycott, with commenters promoting notebooks from Moleskine competitors Piccadillyand Canson. Still, Moleskine remains silent.
Can Moleskine win back its fans? If the contest goes on, how will the fans treat the winner? How did a company with so many active social media channels fail at all of them at once? The fallout from this social media PR disaster should be very interesting.
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October 24, 2011

Is Facebook About to Offer Free Job Listings?

I recently predicted that Facebook will eventually destroy LinkedIn. Today, that prediction came closer to reality as the world’s largest social network announced a partnership with national employment services and the US Department of Labor. According to Facebook’s official statement, the Social Jobs Partnership goal will be “to facilitate employment for America’s jobless through the use of social networks.”
Facebook has launched a page, facebook.com/socialjobs, which features resources and information for job seekers from the coalition’s other partners: The National Association of Colleges and Employers, the DirectEmployers Association, and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, along with the Labor Department. Facebook plans to create public service announcements to promote its services in the ten states with the highest unemployment rates, which, according to CNN Money, are Michigan, Rhode Island, California, South Carolina, Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina, Georgia, Alaska, and Florida.

Included in Facebook’s list of initiatives is this intriguing item: “The partnership will explore and develop systems for delivering job postings virally through Facebook at no charge.” Does that mean Facebook will officially enter the job-search market? If so, well, Mashable’s Sarah Kessler put it bluntly: “A job board that lives on Facebook could put the social network in direct competition with sites like LinkedIn and Monster.com.”
LinkedIn already faces challenges from Monster-owned BeKnown and the startup BranchOut, which have launched recruiting applications for Facebook. If Facebook itself gets into the game, it may make LinkedIn irrelevant even before my 2013 prediction.
And that’s just the start of the dominos falling. Monster would find itself in a particularly strange position as its host starts directly competing against it. Monster may drop its Facebook application and return to its own site – but if that strategy was working, why did it approach Facebook at all? Craigslist would also stand to suffer if Facebook allows free job listings, because the social network could offer more focused targeting than Craigslist’s city sections do. BranchOut, with no corporate “parent,” may simply disappear.
When Mashable’s Kessler pressed Facebook on this important matter, a spokesman told her, “We’re going to invest in research in new technologies that will deliver jobs virally at no charge and expand opportunities for people to create social job searching experiences online.”
That one sentence may alter the future of four different corporations and the entire online recruiting world. You know where I stand; what’s your prediction?
October 16, 2011

Google+ or Minus?

Do you have a Google+ account? 40 million people do, according to Google CEO Larry Page. But are you using it? That’s a very different question. Metrics, trends, and public opinion are all showing that Google’s new social network simply hasn’t caught on.
Let’s look at the numbers. Data analytics company Chitika has shown that, after a huge increase in traffic when Google+ went public on September 20, traffic has since dropped back down to the same level as when the service was available only by invitation. This means that a lot of people activated their account, which was particularly easy for Gmail users, but haven’t gone back to the site since.

Perhaps most telling is that Google’s own management team barely uses the service. Mashable’s Ben Parr wrote a brilliant piece breaking down the involvement of Google’s senior leadership. In the first three months of Google+’s existence, CEO Page had only posted seven times; co-founder Sergey Brin had posted 12. Eleven executives, including executive chairman Eric Schmidt, hadn’t posted anything at all. By contrast, Mark Zuckerberg is very active on Facebook and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has tweeted thousand of times. Schmidt finally broke his Google+ silence with a post about Steve Jobs’ death, 107 days after the service launched.
An informal Twitter poll from ReadWriteWeb asked followers why they weren’t using Google+. Some people responded that their friends weren’t on it, which seems to be a cyclical argument. Others echoed Romit Mehta, who responded, “Twitter is good for ‘fast, real time’ and Facebook is where my friends and family are. G+ solves no problem.”
Image courtesy of Kenny Strawn
A Google search of “I love Google Plus” returns 207,000 results. “I like Google Plus” gets 1.18 million results. “I don’t like Google Plus” returns 300,000 results, while “I hate Google Plus” returns 20,700 results. My conclusion? While more than a million people like the service, more people don’t like it than love it. And 10,000 people hate it. (These ratios were about the same when I searched for “Google+” instead of “Google Plus.”)
How about one of my favorite topics – mobile? Google+ does indeed come as an iPhone app. The latest version, released October 4, has only 39 votes (not much interest) and a rating of three stars out of five (not much love). One reviewer wrote, “Is it really THAT hard for a HUGE company like Google to make an iPad native version?” Google seems to be missing opportunities at every turn.
Here’s my personal experience with Google+. I have ten “friends” in different circles. Since I joined on July 9 (three weeks after launch, thank you), my stream has a total of six posts by four people. One of those cialis posts is a notification that a friend changed her profile photo. These are people who regularly update their Facebook, Twitter, or both. They’re just not using Google+.
At BRANDEMiX, we recommend that our clients spend an hour a day on social media, which includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Is Google+ currently worth that commitment? I have to say no. Will it ever be? That’s the 64-billion-dollar question.
October 9, 2011

The Business of Design

60 Seconds - Things That Happen On Internet Every Sixty Seconds
Infographic by- Shanghai Web Designers

If you’ve seen my presentation on Social Media Marketing, you already know what’s happening every 20 minutes on Facebook. Today, have a look at what’s going on every 60 seconds on the web. Integrate that with real life and the more than 5,000 marketing messages consumers receive each day and you can understand why design disruption is the holy grail of the digital world.

In my homage to Steve Jobs, who the New York Times called a Designer first and a CEO second, lets look at some web design trends and how his genius has sparked them.

No Flash. Since Jobs banished it from the iPods, iPads and iPhones, HTML5 has replaced Flash as the simplest way to code interactivity and motion. According to Jobs: “Flash was created during the PC era — for PCs and mice… the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards — all areas where Flash falls short.”

No Fold. Speaking of falling short, remember when important web content used to be placed above the fold- the imaginary bottom of your 19′ computer screen, before you had to start scrolling down? Again, thanks to Jobs’ tablets and mobile screens, single page sites and massive images are a better way to make impressions that disrupt.

Beyond Arial. If you’ve been following the accolades and anecdotes this week, you might have learned that Jobs took calligraphy class during his brief stint at college. As such, the Mac brought fonts to the masses. Thankfully we are moving away from the handful of fonts that web browsers support into more glorious, custom typography that adds style and grace to a digital brand effort.

Just as you can’t move forward with an interactive strategy before having a business strategy, you need to capture attention to create buy-in. In today’s fragmented digital world, that gets harder and harder to do. Kudos to Jobs who through zealous attention to the details in design,  put the emotional connection into interactive.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

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