Jan 22

Cease and Desist to Warp Seven!

Guest post by Rob Longert, PepperDigital

“Without freedom of choice there is no creativity. The body dies.” — Captain James T. Kirk in 'The Return Of The Archons' 

For a short while, I had the hope that this year’s “Starship Peppercom” holiday card would be up for an academy award. The acting, stock graphics and stock music was award winning, not to mention the camera work, directing and editing. 

But as you may have heard in yesterday’s post on Ed Moed’s Measuring Up blog, we received a “very polite and tactful” letter from CBS, owners of the Star Trek property, asking us to remove the video from our Web site, and as Ed put it, “CBS has every right to protect its brand rights in Star Trek and clearly its attorney is making sure that this is enforced to the letter of the law.”

But let’s take a step back for a second and examine the situation: 

  • We created a holiday card to show our personality and have some fun… Much like the crew of the Starship enterprise, everyone on our management team has a different personality that meshes together to form a successful group. StarTrek Costume  
  • While we did use the theme of Star Trek and licensed costumes that we purchased online, we didn’t use the original intro music, name of the show, photos of the U.S.S. Starship Enterprise or photos of actors from any of the various Star Trek series’. 
  • The backdrop of the video was Steve’s office and our conference room. Unfortunately, as much as I love our offices, they look nothing like a space ship, and while Park Avenue can seem like a black hole sometimes, it isn’t! 

I am not a lawyer, and I can see where CBS’ “legal eagles” are coming from, but on the other hand, we no longer live in a world where there are strict boundaries in terms of extreme fandom and appreciation and copyright infringement. 

The whole internet thing sort of changed the rules didn't it? Is every Star Trek online forum moderated by CBS? If a fan run forum has online advertising on it, does that fan owe money to CBS? 

Look back to August of 2008, when a number of fans of the hit TV show Mad Men began tweeting on behalf of their favorite characters… AMC’s gut reaction was to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint with Twitter, to which Twitter responded by pulling down the Don Draper, Peggy Olson etc… character accounts. This sent fans into an uproar, and eventually AMC came to their senses, and realized that the fan Tweeting was actually just “free advertising” for their show.

As former Gawker blogger Richard Lawson (now with CBS) put it, “I can understand entire episodes being pulled, but little clips here and there seem to increase buzz and to potentially earn the shows some new fans.” 

The new Star Trek movie has over 330,000 fans on Facebook, they have every episode from the original series on YouTube and there are countless Star Trek spoofs out there (including one on the G4 channel called Star Trek 2.0) from TV and the Web, and you can even “Trek Yourself" (see below). But there is one thing missing… engagement from the brand.

Create Your Own

While monitoring so closely for copyright infringement, why not put some resources towards responding in forums, their Facebook page, and on YouTube? Think about the buzz that would be generated if they held a contest for the biggest Star Trek fan, who would represent them in social media circles! The possibilities are endless here…

My question to the Star Trek property is this: Will it hurt the franchise more to curb user generated content or to embrace it and converse with the passionate fans that are potential brand ambassadors?

What would James T. Kirk and Jean Luc Piccard do in this situation?!

Oct 20

What works in Jacksonville may not in Jakarta

October 20 As if marketers don't have enough to worry about, a new blog series run by PepperDigital and Upstream Asia says successful social media campaigns need to resonate with the unique wants and needs of every culture and subculture around the world.

Bottom-line: a one size fits all strategy won't fly. The McDonald's online campaign that drives consumers to stores in Clarksville will probably be a turn-off in Copenhagen (although the Mickey D fish sticks will probably still be big sellers above the Arctic Circle).

The series tracks the rise of subcultures across the globe who, while they may be separated by several oceans, share a common affinity for, say, obscure Norwegian rock music. At the same time, though, those very same affinity groups will have wildly diverging tastes in other areas. So, while savvy marketers may be able to engage with a wide mix of, say, Vietnamese, American and Tanzanian fans of the Norwegian grunge band Lars and the Golden Geese, they need to tread lightly when introducing a second topic to the same group.

The same 'new norm' holds true within borders as well. The discussion that might build buzz in Paris’ fifth arrondissement could be found objectionable in Les cites of Marseilles.

It's a mixed-up world in which we live. This new series proves the old adage that marketers need to walk before they run, especially when it comes to engaging in social media. The land rush mentality to embrace social media we've seen by many U.S. organizations will fail miserably if they extend across borders without taking the time to stop and listen. Listening is, in fact, the single best piece of advice suggested by the series.

'Think global, act local,' is a smart admonition for any traditional marketer seeking to extend its brand beyond its borders. Based upon this new series, it holds doubly true for social media and should be extended to included subcultures and affinity groups.

Jul 21

Today’s hero is often tomorrow’s road kill

Discarded-old-computer-1 I tossed on an old t-shirt before heading out for my five-mile run Sunday morning. It wasn’t until I’d come back and taken it off, though, that I noticed the writing. It featured the slogan of a long gone Web 1.0 client. This wasn’t just any Web 1.0 company. It was the first-to-market in its field. Remember first mover status? Ooooh. It was soooo important.

Anyway, this dotcom had raised millions of dollars from top venture capital firms and its Israeli-led management team believed they walked on water. I remember their unbelievable hubris when they’d descend on our office. When not brow-beating our account team in the conference room, they’d stroll up and down our hallways screaming into their cell phones at some administrative type or banker on the other end. And we permitted it because, well, these were dotcom gods, that’s why. I think they went belly-up in 2002.

I remember another Web 1.0 CEO and his henchwoman who thought they, too, walked on water. Their business model had something to do with being on the edge of the Web and, like the Israelis, they were first-to-market with their business model. They’d raised tons of money, hired hundreds of people and demanded that our account team work 24×7 just like they did. I still remember their ‘coming out’ party at Lotus. It was a ‘must attend’ event for anyone who was anyone in what used to be called Silicon Alley. I also remember the CEO acting like some sultan from “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights”and holding court in a back room. That company imploded two or three months later.

I also recall a gaming company whose head of public relations had the foulest mouth this side of a Bayonne longshoreman. She, too, thought she walked on water and regularly browbeat our team. I think the worst moment came when an industry trade publication named her ‘Young PR Professional of the Year.’ I remember thinking at the time that either some judge hadn’t done her homework or the industry was now including verbal abuse as a key component of the successful, young PR pro. Happily, it turned out to be the former and this horror show and her firm soon disappeared from the Web 1.0 landscape.

I bring all this up because I’ve noticed more and more hubris of late from Web 2.0 CEOs and their in-house marketing communications types. Hopefully, what I’m seeing is an exception to the norm. Even if it’s not, I’m sure I’ll be running one day soon in a  t-shirt from a company that went very quickly from being today’s hero to tomorrow’s road kill. That’s because there seems to be a direct correlation between short-term abuse and long-term failure.

Jul 20

Won’t you listen to what the man said?

Listening Listening is critical to success. That’s what I’ve heard or read three times in the last few  days.

The first occurred at a Cablefax-Peppercom daylong workshop for some 26 sales, marketing, operational and IT types representing programmers, broadband providers and multiple system operators. Some of the participants were incredibly savvy when it came to social media; others were relative Neanderthals. Yet, all agreed the key to social media success was to listen to what customers were saying, where they were saying it and how they’d like to be engaged. Almost all agreed that, while they got the importance of listening, their C-suite bosses were still entrenched in the old, top-down ‘…here’s my corporate message’ school of communications. While there are no silver bullets to convince old school executives to cede control to customers, the group did agree on a number of smart strategies to start the ball rolling: suggest a ‘walk before you run’ approach, share what best-in-class competitors are doing and, most importantly, demonstrate ROI.

The next reminder came during a podcast with Joanne Davis, a top marketing search consultant. When asked the number one mistake most agencies make when pitching new business, she said, “Listening.” Ms. Davis said agencies are too quick to force their own thinking and past experiences on a prospective client. Instead, she said, it’s critical to pick up on the verbal and non-verbal cues being sent and provide real-time solutions to the pain points.

The final example came from the book “Your Call Is (not that) Important To Us.” In the text, the author quotes a JetBlue Airlines supervisor as saying he uses ‘sympathetic listening’ with the most irate customers. “I’ve found that a huge amount can be defused by just taking the time to listen. If you’ve got an irate call and the person is in tears, it’s important to take the time and listen— listening for when they’re wound down and then resolving the problem.’

While it seems so obvious, too many organizations continue to pursue a ‘field of dreams’ strategy in their marketing and customer service. It’s not about what we say but, rather, how well we listen to what our customers and prospects are saying that will determine success.

Jun 09

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Guest Post by Anonymous

June 9 Once upon a time, people relied on this cool invention called a telephone to remotely communicate with others. Then, e-mail came onto the scene and people practically forgot about this nifty communication device. While e-mail can be a time-saving method for getting messages out, it can also be unreliable ― an aspect that can be a reputation killer in today’s fast-paced business world.

For example, a reporter recently sent me a request via e-mail, which I gladly would have replied to if I had received it. However, due to the mysteries of e-mail servers and fiber optic cables, the message never reached my inbox.  Instead, it ended up in that black hole known as “cyberspace.”

Now, you may think this seems harmless, but this reporter was extremely offended by my lack of response (mind you, I was completely unaware of his request). Rather than pick up the phone to determine if I received his message, he decided to email the head of my company and bash my PR skills. Thankfully, my boss knows I would never be so unprofessional so he did not take this to heart. However, if I did not build this rapport with him this email could have completely damaged my reputation. 

All that said, my advice to everyone is to remember that e-mail is not always reliable. So whether you are managing your reputation or others’, if  e-mail is not getting the job done, take AT&T’s advice: “Reach out and touch someone.”