Prankvertising: Why companies are pranking and why we are laughing

The latest trend in the advertising world is prankvertising.  Prankertising is the use of pranks and elaborate stunts in order to promote a brand’s product or service.  You might have seen the notorious “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” in which a normal coffee shop in NYC gets transformed into a telekinetic hub of activity when a young girl suddenly unleashes her power on an unsuspecting man.  Obviously, the whole thing is a set up and a promotion for the re-release of the movie “Carrie.”  But the people in the coffee shop have no idea that they are watching actors and stuntmen, and their honest reactions of distress prove how “real” it looks to them.

Prankvertising can also be seen around the world with companies in Chili and Germany getting in on the action.  An LG Ultra Reality TV replaces a window in a highrise in Chili, while interviews are conducted on unsuspecting people.  When a meteor sudden crashes into view, applicants are convinced they are watching the end of the world, when in reality they are just watching a video.  Reactions vary from amazement to full on outrage, but the prank proves just how powerful LG Ultra Reality TV’s really are.

And that is the gamble this prankvertising; is it really worth it?  From a marketing standpoint there are some obvious payoffs.  These prank videos are going viral like no ones business.  “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” has over 47 million views on Youtube, and it has only been online for one month.  “LG Ultra Reality” has over 14 million views on YouTube, and it has been online for two months.

Beyond the viral market, the benefits of prankvertising are still unknown.  Does giving a consumer an adrenaline rush of fear leave a lasting imprint?  Or does it drive business in the opposite direction?

10 Communications Secrets Every Business Should Know

Great Companies, Great Leaders - Tianjin WorkSpace 2008
Photo by World Economic Forum

I spend most of my professional life figuring out how to most effectively communicate.

essay writing

Yet, my most valuable tool is having the ability to listen rather than talk. I know that you have often found yourself in a situation where you wish you had an on/off button – working at being a good listener is just as important as talking. Great communicators are great listeners, and develop keen observational powers that enable them to sense the moods, attitudes and concerns of those they hope to connect with.

Here is a list of 10 communications secrets created by Mike Myatt. While you may not wish to adopt every suggestion, I think you will come away with some very good ideas.

1-Speak not with a forked tongue
In most cases, people just won’t open up to those they don’t trust. While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works. Trust is best created by earning it with right acting, thinking, and decision-making.
2-Get personal
Classic business theory tells leaders to stay at arms length. I say stay at arms length if you want to remain in the dark, receiving only highly sanitized versions of the truth.
3-Get specific
Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Your goal is to weed out the superfluous and to make your words count.
4-Focus on the leave-behinds not the take-aways
The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal.
5-Have an open mind
A leader takes her game to a whole new level the minute she willingly seeks out those who hold dissenting opinions and opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their minds.
6-Shut-up and listen
Great leaders know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off (mostly down and off).
7-Replace ego with empathy
Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present with those who choose to communicate behind the carefully crafted facade, propped-up by a very fragile ego.
8-Read between the lines
In this age of instant communication, everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their minds that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut and you’ll be amazed at how your level of organizational awareness is raised.
9-When you speak, know what you’re talking about
Develop a technical command over your subject matter. If you don’t possess subject matter expertise, few people will give you the time of day. Good communicators address both the “what” and “how” aspects of messaging so they don’t fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of form over substance.
10-Speak to groups as individuals
Great communicators can tailor a message such that they can speak to 10 people in a conference room or 10,000 people in an auditorium and have them feel as if they were speaking directly to each one of them as an individual.

Social media has changed the landscape of the “old way” businesses communicate not only with their customers, but also with their employees. How has your business adapted to new forms of communicating?

Going Gaga for “Gangnam Style”

They’re pretty much over before you even know about them. But that’s the nature of viral videos, isn’t it?

Yes, my friends, “Gangnam Style” – the Korean music video and single by South Korean rapper PSY that broke a Guinness World Record (For what, you ask? Besides awesomeness, it has the most ‘likes’ on YouTube ever with 2,141,758.), was spoofed on SNL and birthed countless parodies — will soon be filed under Internet meme nostalgia (right alongside that “Charlie Bit Me” tot).

Just when we were getting tired of over-done spoofs of “Call me, maybe?” (special thanks to the U.S. Olympic swim team for officially killing that one…) this gem comes around.

Between lasso dancing hip thrusts and a red-pant-clad Asian boy who could win a dance-off against Usher, it’s hard to look away.

Can’t. Stop.

Must. Learn. Dance.

So what does this tell us about viral video and human beings?

1) We like the over-the-top (why else would we watch things like Real Housewives). We like figurative train wrecks. We like extra doses of social awkwardness. We also like things that tug at our heartstrings. Above all, we like things that make us smile. These components help make a video viral because they are fodder for mainstream outlets (the “changemakers”), thus, fueling them to meme-dom.

2) Add a perky beat and some crazy dance moves, and you’ll have brides and grooms everywhere trying to do copycat reception dances. (Yes, I am getting married soon. No, I will not be doing this…sorry.)

3) (Almost) everyone wants 15 minutes of fame. But what separates the hours and hours of video uploaded to YouTube everyday from those that go viral? According to YouTube’s Trends Manager Kevin Allocca, it’s this: change-makers, communities of participation and unexpectedness.

What do you think makes a video go viral?

Need More Comments On Your Blog? Try These Suggestions

Dog, cube
Photo by Ethan Hein

I recently re-read an older blog post about getting more comments on articles. I see posts claiming to give you awesome ways to increase your comments all the time, but this blog is still one of my favorites. Why? Because the author doesn’t repeat the same tired suggestions like, “Ask a question at the end of your blog.” I still think asking a question at the end of your blog can be a conversation starter, but we’ve all read those suggestions over and over again. So, I’m condensing his great blog into a shorter version for you here.

Why are comments important?
The benefits of user-generated content are obvious to most. Not only are you generating additional unique, (hopefully) on-topic content for your pages, comments may even contribute to your article’s freshness score.

1. Make it as easy as possible to leave a comment
Does “website” really need to be a required field? Are your CAPTCHA images harder to solve than a Rubik’s cube? Sometimes the effort it would take to comment on your blog outweighs the potential user benefits. Take a look at each field and ask yourself  ”is this a hoop I’d be willing to jump through to leave a comment on a blog I’ve never visited before?”

2. Comment placement
So many widgets, so little real estate. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that the end of a blog post is the hottest piece of property on the net these days. After you’ve pumped your full author bio, social buttons, “other articles you might like,” opinion disclaimer, and multiple ad units, the comment section often ends up an entire page screen below the actual content. If you’re truly serious about getting the conversation going on your article, then you should consider giving the comment section a more prominent position on the page.

3. Social logins
If for whatever reason you simply must require users to register for commenting (a rather large barrier to entry) consider allowing them to log in using the social media accounts they’re already using. If you’re running WordPress, this can be done by installing one or two plugins of your choice. Simple Facebook Connect will get the job done and the Twitter version will do the same.

4. Join the conversation
Respond to comments on your articles. You took the time to write the piece, so get in there and stand by it! Keep the conversation rolling with questions of your own and address things you may have glossed over in your initial publishing. The reality is that articles with comments get more comments.

If you want to read the whole blog, go to SEOMOZ. Oh, and don’t forget to add your comment below!


Increase Your Media Exposure with Video

Photo by: jsawkins

Making your message stand out is harder than ever. Brands are focusing their marketing and PR efforts on gaining earned media coverage. The result is that journalists are flooded with releases and pitches, meaning your brand must stand out from the rest.

That is why this article by Mickie Kennedy on using YouTube for public relations intrigued me. Mickie cited three ways video can be incorporated into a brand’s PR.

1. Respond to a crisis. While you hopefully never have to respond to a crisis, odds are your business could face one at some point. What qualifies as a crisis? I’ll define it as any situation that brings your company negative press. As you can imagine, the severity of a crisis could vary widely.

Say someone accuses one of your employees of a heinous crime. You could create a video message to address the issue rather than hide and hope it goes away. The personal response could build goodwill with your customers.

2. Contact and connect with media. Reporters and bloggers are inundated with pitches via email and telephone daily. It can be difficult to get them to hear your story. But, people love to watch and share videos.

If you create a video that involves your pitch and you share it with reporters through sites like Twitter, you may increase your chances of setting your pitch apart from the pack. This means you’ll increase your odds of coverage.

3. Get your campaign rolling. Are you about to start a new product campaign? What better way to do so than to post a video on YouTube showing exactly why people should pay attention? Make sure the video is of good quality, and that you provide reasons why people should pay attention. In other words, keep it focused on benefits.

It is well known that imagery can sometimes say more than words alone. This is especially true for highly visual brands. Using a video service such as YouTube or Vimeo is an easy, fun and creative way to get your brand’s message to stand out above the rest in this competitive media environment.

Social Media and the Olympics: Top 5 Controversies

Is it me or did the onslaught of tweeting, Facebook posting and pinning instigate major drama during the 2012 Olympic Games? Officially dubbed the “social media games,” the 30th Olympiad is proof that all things social are shrinking our planet faster than you can say Usain Bolt.

Just four years ago, we were oohing and ahhing at the over-the-top opening ceremonies in Beijing. Twitter was only a couple of years old. Facebook hit 100 million users that summer (Today there are more than 900 million users.) There was not a pin on a Pinterest board to be found of Ryan Lochte wearing his ridiculous grill (Wipe your tears. His fandom is certainly making up for it this year.)

Between delayed coverage, off-color tweets and fan frenzy, I thought it would be fun to recap the top 5 controversies fueled by social media at the Olympic games.

5. Grill Time - Full disclosure: I’m a Gator, and I’m proud that the University of Florida’s current and former athletes account for four gold, four silver and five bronze medals (that’s 13 of America’s 90 medals). With that said, I think Ryan Lochte’s custom “grills” are really obnoxious. When he was asked not to wear them on the medal stand – and risk not receiving his gold medal if he did -ESPN feature writer Wayne Drehs took to Twitter to share the news.

4. Hair Critics - The young woman is a two-time gold medalist and yet Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas and her Mom had to answer to insensitive tweets about her straightened hair. Clearly social media helps shine a light on how awesome the human race can be … At least Gabby has shown grace and class in response to the Twitter negativity.

3. Gun Gate – Whether her comments were blown out of proportion or not, Olympic hurdler LoLo Jones found herself in some hot water with this tweet:

2. Solo Smash - U.S. women’s soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo created a ruckus when she took to Twitter to bash former U.S. professional soccer player Brandi Chastain. (Anyone remember the game-winning penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup? Or her two gold and one silver Olympic medals? Yep. That Brandi Chastain.) Hope’s rant certainly caused a stir in the Twittersphere.

1. Spoiler Alerts (or lack-thereof) – Between NBC not live-streaming the opening ceremonies (for folks on the West Coast), NBC’s prime time delays and our Facebook friends ruining the medal results, I’d say the most uproar on social media had to do with the time difference and the choices of NBC. What does this tell us? We want our Olympic updates and we want them now!


Achieving social good through social media

I recently attended the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR) Communities Network Conference in Denver where my firm was a presenter. This was not only a great opportunity to discuss the importance of social media for advancing a purpose or cause but it was the chance to highlight social media in the context of the “greater good.”

My fellow attendees set out to learn about this campaign, which was conceived by Ralph Smith, senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. With compelling data to back it up, the campaign focuses on closing the gap in third-grade literacy to improve education outcomes and social consequences. Data also shows minorities and low-income children are at the highest risk.

We presented a session on “Social Media: Fueling Modern Movements in the Digital Age.” As I sat listening to my colleagues Melissa and Sam educate a room full of conference attendees about movements, explaining the theory and methodology behind creating a groundswell and citing that passion is the primary ingredient to fuel a movement, I was struck with the passion and philanthropic mindset around this campaign.

I heard the most inspirational speeches given by several mayors, including those leading the charge in Denver, Sacramento and Providence, who had made a leadership commitment to this campaign. I heard from cities, counties and districts committed to improving third-grade literacy rates in their areas. I heard a commitment to ALL children – a promise that the passion goes beyond caring for “my” child but to all children who are powerless and depend on the powerful to make the right decisions. I was nodding in agreement when most leaders put forth the need to collaborate, to bring the entire community together for the children.

I was proud to attend the conference – heartened by the fact that 600 people got together to advocate for the greater good.

I’m caught in the movement, and I know social media will do much to rally others around this worthy cause.

“My demographics don’t use social media or mobile devices.” This statement could be one of the biggest problems to your marketing plan.

Infographic from All Twitter

See the full size infographic

We can’t deny the fact that kids these days are getting mobile electronic devices at a younger age than ever before. As an example, my 4-year-old nephew had a Kindle Fire at the age of 3. In fact, all of my nieces and nephews, who range in age from 4 to 8, own some type of mobile device. Because this is a growing trend in the world today, marketers need to use social media and other digital marketing techniques to stay in front of their upcoming consumers.

Common Sense Media did a study on How Teens View Their Digital Lives that I found to be very interesting.

The survey polled 13-17 year-olds from around the U.S. to find out how social media plays a role in their lives. They discovered that 90 percent of them use some form of social media today, and the majority of teens use digital communications as a part of their daily lives. The results of this survey are not surprising, but I hear companies often say their target audience doesn’t use social media. That comment can’t be further from the truth.

There are many reports like the one from Common Sense Media showing social media and mobile device usage … and how they are being used. There are over 5.6 billion mobile phones being used in the world today. That is 79 percent of the world population! Approximately 55 percent of mobile owners access the web and predictions have been made that by 2014 using mobile to access the Internet will top desktop computer usage.

Mashable posted an infographic created by Online MBA which breaks down the demographics using the biggest social networks today. More than 66 percent of all adults are connected to one or more social media platforms. Interestingly, people 45 and older make up 46 percent of Facebook users.

Infographic from Mashable

See full size Infographic

You may need to evaluate your marketing plan if you think your demographics don’t use social media or mobile devices.

Other related Infographics

Surprising New Consumer Social Media Statistics

Social Media Trends for 2012Photo by

Do you feel as if you aren’t up on the latest in social media? Do you feel out of the loop? Do you sometimes wonder if all the attention social media seems to get is just a bunch of hype?

Just in time to help you navigate the social media landscape, here are some useful bits of information from a new study by Edison Research and Arbitron. Now you can say you have your finger on the pulse of the most recent social media trends.

Social media statistic #1
Over half of Americans (56 percent) surveyed have a profile on a social networking site. This is up from 24 percent in 2008, 34 percent in 2009, 48 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2011.

Social media statistic #2
While 52 percent of social media users surveyed are under age 35, approximately 48 percent are over age 35. The majority of any age group is the 12-24 year olds – with 32 percent of those individuals using social networking.

Social media statistic #3
Of those surveyed, 93, 90 and 85 percent expressed knowledge of each of the following social media sites—Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, respectively. Google + was known by 45 percent and LinkedIn by 39 percent.

Social media statistic #4
Knowledge of social networking sites does not necessarily equal usage. Of those surveyed, 54 percent said they currently use Facebook, only 13 percent said they used LinkedIn, 10 percent used Twitter and just 8 percent used Google+.

Social media statistic #5
The largest year-over-year growth in social networking was observed in those over age 45, with engagement among 45 to 54 year-olds increasing from 45 percent to 55 percent from 2010 to 2011. Social usage among those aged 18-34 saw no growth and remained flat.

Social media statistic #6
Not surprisingly, of the total individuals surveyed, 73 percent access Facebook via a smart device like a smartphone or tablet. Interestingly, 37 percent of Facebook users say they access the site via a smart device most!

I don’t know about you, but I found there were more than a few surprises published in the report. You can download the full survey here. Let us know what statistics you think are the most interesting or revealing!

4 Simple Social Habits for Busy Businesses

Social Media Landscape
Photo by

How has your client engagement changed in the last five years? I don’t know about you, but even as the owner of a communications and marketing firm, my world has changed tremendously … right along with the social media landscape.  I don’t think my firm even offered social media training for clients five years ago but it’s a huge part of my business now. And I don’t see it slowing down.

What companies often have trouble with is coming to terms with “how” they will engage in social media … not “if” they will do it. Part of the concern is how much time employees should dedicate to the company’s social media platforms. I admit I am biased in my belief that most companies could use a little help and training in this area … at least to get started.

 But if you don’t have the ability to hire outside help, here’s some good advice from Samantha Stone on how you or your employees can manage the social media beast at your company:

Schedule it! (Two 15-minute increments per day)
The nature of social is fluid, and so we fool ourselves into thinking to be effective we must be engaged all the time. Physically block two 15-minute sessions on your calendar to do nothing but monitor priority social channels at least three days a week. Pick times that work for your schedule, even if it varies from one day to another. Just make a routine and stick to it.

Collide social and “non-social” work
You can and should re-use content. In fact, the busiest marketing professionals I know do exactly that. Each week I take a look at my to-do list. I carefully evaluate what needs to get done, and I toss to the bottom of the list items that are only to be used once. I physically write down what can be connected. Lesson learned: Forget the notion of “separate” disciplines of marketing. There is no social vs. traditional, there is only marketing. Plan to maximize integration.

Lower your expectations
When we expect instantaneous results, we disappoint ourselves and take focus off the outreach. Instead, set realistic goals and celebrate success. If I only looked at blog comments as a measure of my effort, I’d be sorely disappointed. My blog in general doesn’t get a lot of comments. However, I do get a fair amount of engagement on my blog posts via Facebook, Twitter, and often through email and in-person engagements. Not everything we do is going to go “viral,” and that’s OK. Small victories really do count.

Have fun with social
There is a reason these communication channels are called social networks. People engage through networking because they enjoy spending time connecting with other individuals who share common interests. If you think of it only as “another to-do on my daily list,” you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to expand your world in new and exciting ways. Let yourself enjoy it by celebrating company wins, giving sneak peaks into your unique corporate culture, rallying around client causes, and showing your sense of humor.

One word of caution about the last tip: humor is good, but make sure you use it with your audience and your corporate “voice” in mind.