A Pinterest Hypothesis.

Pinterest’s growth rate recently has been staggering, according to a recent post from Hitwise. And it’s referring a ton of traffic to retailers — even more than Google Plus and Twitter.

Anecdotally, last night, around the kitchen table during the Super Bowl, I caught “the women” (2 generations of them) talking about it and its allure.

But what is it about Pinterest that has made it so, er, interesting to people?

Here’s one hypothesis: Pinterest is half-shopping.

It’s the next best thing to accumulating items, but without the cost associated with actually buying them. It’s a locker where you store the things you want, the things you find interesting, the things you want people to know you’ve found — each of which is a major psychological driver in the process of retail therapy, without the cash (or credit) expenditure.

It’s why some people tweet photos of their sneakers. Why some people snap pictures of their food. Acquiring what we want or desire is an achievement, and displaying that achievement is a trophy that sets us apart from others. We’ve become accustomed to this. Now you can do it without even buying it. It’s not the real thing, but it may be the next best thing. Especially in trying economic times. Our bank accounts may change, but our behaviors find a way to adapt.

Why do you think Pinterest has been growing so quickly?

TV vs. Social Media: Concerts vs. Street Performances?

NYC's Naked Cowboy

Unfinished thought:

Television advertising is a concert. Every TV spot is a performance seen synchronously by thousands or millions at a time. Marketers love putting on that show. Each and every time. It’s sexy. People remember it. But they leave.

Marketing within social media is street performance. Street performers perform for the same number of people as concerts do. It’s just asynchronous: they reach thousands or millions, too, but not at the same time. It’s not as sexy for an advertiser, nor does it have as much immediate impact on those large numbers of people, in aggregate. But people interact with those performers over time. They gather in crowds. The performers gradually learn how to work within and make the most of their environments. The crowds take pictures. Stories are shared. The performers become fixtures. They get discovered. It’s serendipitous, and it can be wonderful. And when you’re really committed, they become legend. Naked Cowboy-style.

Both deserve a proper (significant) investment. But I’d rather have the stuff of legend (legends are stories that grow), than the one-off memory that fades. If you can make them work together, you have a media empire, and can tell the story of how it was the people, your audience, your customers that made it all possible — versus just your ad spend.

An Example of Good Proactive Customer Service.

Bravo, Verizon FiOS. Bravo.

Got any other examples of things like this happening that you’d like to share? Post ‘em to the comments below!

Also, FiOS is looking to eliminate the set top box, as reported by TechCrunch.

One Big Reason Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate Apple’s iAd: Twitter.

In today’s WSJ, there’s a story about Apple’s compromises in the mobile ad space, as they face legitimate competition from other players/networks.

This is true. But for a conspiracy theorist like me, I see one advantage that can be played against any of their competitors, should they choose to unlock it.

In iOS5, Twitter integration becomes part of the core iOS experience. If you have a Twitter account, it can be associated with your device. Which means, in theory, it can be associated with your Apple ID. Your Apple ID is the unique identifier (along with your device ID) that Apple can use to track downloads and app behavior. What if you married app usage data with the content you post and/or consume in your Twitter stream? What if you also married that to what you do on sites that you log into with your Twitter ID?

Add mobile payment data and you may have the most targeted advertising ever.

Mobile advertising is still in its infancy. Everything we use to target now is a proxy for what we should be using. But if you want to know where it’s going, you can start by extrapolating like I just did.

Social Media & The Art of Storytelling.

This was inspired by a recent conversation I had as part of the IAB’s MIXX Spotlight Series during Advertising Week 8.

UPDATE: This post is dedicated to Steve Jobs, my biggest storytelling inspiration.

Once upon a time, we told stories to each other. Stories meant to make us laugh, cry, or just understand the ‘what and why’ of something that happened, somewhere, at some time.

Eventually, we realized that we had to not just tell stories, we had to sell them. We had to make people believe. Religions needed the devout. Kings needed willing minions. Politicians needed the voting majority. And from the moment brands were born, they needed consumers willing to choose them over something else.

The way we told those brand stories used to be very linear. They had beginnings and endings, often told on a page, or in 30 seconds or less. They had punchlines; taglines; slogans; jingles to help us remember them. We crammed emotional journeys into instant coffee commercials and slideshow presentations about slideshow projectors.

For decades, brands have approached linear storytelling with a goal of migrating consumers through what we know as a similarly linear purchase funnel: awareness, interest, desire, and action. If a brand’s story was good (and, of course, if their product was good enough) they could be top-of-mind at the critical moment of a purchase decision, and the handful of steps that led up to it.

Historically, most brands’ storytelling has been used to affect those steps, as a constant barrage of TV, outdoor, radio, print, and even display advertising helped people decide for themselves – or at least make them feel like they were.

And you know what? We got really good at it.

But something funny happened on the way to the decision. The handful of steps grew exponentially. We got CONNECTED.
And because of that, storytelling will never be the same.

As consumers became more connected to information and each other, their decision-making processes changed. They found word-of-mouth, online research, reviews, blog posts, and recommendations more accessible than ever before. Their expectations were raised. A dependency upon truly-informed decisions and the sharing of information with our peers as trusted advisors were becoming as important as the act of searching for information, and a new form of media was born.

Social media.

But after decades of being good at storytelling through two-dimensional, linear media programmed at people, brands became stymied by the uncontrollable four-dimensional social media that had formed between people. Media that you couldn’t buy, in the traditional sense. You couldn’t creative- or art-direct for it. It just happened. With or without you.

You were screwed.

As an industry, we’ve spent the last several years trying to figure out how to tell stories in an age of social media. The problem is that some time ago, probably between the time Napster was launched and when Facebook eclipsed Google in terms of ‘time spent’, we reached what I will call (with apologies to Ray Kurzweil) ‘the advertising singularity’ – the point at which the velocity of consumers’ behavioral evolution outpaced the decision-making speed of marketers. Brand storytelling as we knew it changed forever, as an empowered consumer picked up brand stories from wherever they left off, and told them as their own. Often, with their own interpretation. And those interpretations weren’t always nice – especially if the brand or product wasn’t either.

Social media has given consumers the power to create, distribute, and manipulate content. It has given them the power to organize. To mobilize. To act. To embrace the good stories, and correct the wrong ones. It has made them both the medium AND the message. And it is forcing us to evolve into better storytellers.

Non-linear, trans-media storytellers.

Collaborative storytellers.

Real-time storytellers.

As time goes on, this evolution will have an impact on the business of advertising, as it becomes a polarized trade. On one end, you’ll have the traditional, linear, awareness-driven, impression-based practices, which will focus on squeezing as much performance out of classic advertising real estate as possible. On the other end, will be the much more complex practice of engaging the consumer, where performance will be evaluated upon how well consumers are actively or passively telling the brand’s story, and helping each other make ‘the right’ brand decisions.

This is already starting to change everything we know about the business of advertising. After all, how can we expect the same story to be told both synchronously and asynchronously – and by millions of different storytellers? I will posit that it is impossible for brands and agencies to do both profitably within their existing, siloed models. They will need to change. Traditional siloed approaches don’t help make these kinds of things happen. Silos are for storing. And social media is about sharing.

As media itself undergoes its most rapid changes in its history, social media is becoming the most engaging and intensely consumed (and created) type of media. And because of all of our connections, it isn’t impressions, but *attention* that is becoming most scarce. More impressions are being created every second. But they’re certainly not making any more attention.

In his book Everything Bad Is Good For You, Steven Johnson argues that television storytelling is better now than ever before (in spite of reality programming) because it rewards us for paying attention to more complex story arcs. The stories may still be told linearly, but frequent callbacks to events from prior episodes, and even seasons, engross a viewer, turning them into active participants in show communities and advocates outside of those communities. Attention is what good stories are exchanged for, and social media represents infinite golden opportunities to pay it forward.

There’s a lesson to be learned there. If marketers choose to truly engage and involve audiences in non-linear, collaborative, real-time storytelling in an age of social media, they should tell stories that are not just about the product, but the lifestyle associated with the product, and the values the brand stands for. They should be ones that consumers can spin and tell on their own; ones they can share between them. And since the mix of media is as much a part of the story as the story itself, it requires more fluid thinking and execution, more real-time interaction with consumers. Everything is kind of starting to look like everything else as the methods of storytelling are becoming indistinguishable, yet more memorable at the same time.

We must tell those stories with consumers, in real-time, and engage consumers at scales that will actually result in measurable impacts on our businesses’ bottom-lines.

These new, non-linear, collaborative, real-time stories must add value to consumers’ lives. They must make consumers want to engage with each other in ways that make experiences better. These stories must be relevant enough to be meaningful at every consumer touchpoint. They must use digital, mobile, and social media to move people emotionally, behaviorally, and physically.

Of course, we must be able to measure the impact of these stories on consumer engagement and behavior objectively. Brands must first understand what the value to their business is of each kind of consumer engagement that advances the story. And the quality of those stories should be evaluated based upon their ability to be effectively wielded by consumers.

Brands must be comfortable with programming their never-ending stories with consumers. They must find each and every way to ensure that as many of the right people share those experiences as possible, so the story can find its way to as many people, through as many people as possible. Engagement across – and through – social media will demand that these aspects be managed holistically and be optimized towards meaningful, valuable, story-advancing engagement. And as media just becomes irreversibly social, collaborative and real-time storytelling will become even more important.

The biggest difference between historical and present-day brand storytelling is that when the stories were linear, the protagonist was the brand. But when storytelling is collaborative and in real-time, it’s the consumer who is the protagonist.

Evolve your approach to real-time, collaborative storytelling now, and your customers will advocate more, refer more, buy more, and make more, better customers. And you will live happily ever after.

From ClickZ: Digital Requires the Remodeling of the Relic Agency Model

From ClickZ and the brilliant Augustine Fou:

It is well known that big agencies have been struggling mightily, recently. From the multimillion-dollar accounts being switched without reviews to public laments that clients expect big ideas for free to procurement departments squashing out every last ounce of margin. Is this a temporary headache or is it a tide that cannot be turned back?

via Digital Requires the Remodeling of the Relic Agency Model | ClickZ.

by Ian Schafer