Tag Archive for: best practices

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Are you done yet?
If you’re like most of the media and most of America you’ve had it with the Kardashians.
We’ve moved past not caring and into outrage.

But how did this happen?
We can look to the Kardashian social media strategy for part of the story.

How did the Kardashians go from being little known D-listers with Instagram and Twitter accounts to being the most hated family in America?
I mean, it started off innocent enough, a group of spoiled beautiful girls with a notorious last name, living the day-to-day drama of having too much of everything.
It’s the kind of thing America watches, sometimes to feel morally superior, sometimes with an aspirational sigh.
And the girls were social media mavens.
They WORKED Instagram.
They LIVED on Twitter.
Snippets of their daily lives seeped into our consciousness one tweet and pic at a time.

But the Kardashians crossed several lines, specifically Kim Kardashian, who has turned pop-culture fascination into outrage and disgust.
Here’s where they went wrong:

The Line Between Transparency and Pathology

In the beginning, Instagram and Twitter followers loved how the girls lived their lives shamelessly out loud.
Their family feuds and heartaches on display for all to see.
We loved that curvy Kim and Khloe owned their curves proudly.
We even endured the occasional well-placed stunt by them and their family members.
The personalities turned into personas.
We like personas it allows us to put people in neat little categorical boxes.
It gives us context.
Personas aren’t terrible. Actually, from a branding perspective, they can be quite fantastic.
So even though their celebrity sky rocketed, their personas kept them “real.”
We DID like to see them at some exotic beach, we did like seeing their pretty selfies…until the selfies became over-orchestrated photo shoots.
But the Kardashians forgot something: they were interesting when we could relate to them, or at least identify on an aspiration level.

And this is where they REALLY went wrong:

the Kardashians never missed a chance to put distance between themselves and their followers, in an effort to show how special they really are.
We went from relating to them as they journeyed through life to feeling more and more like they were nothing like us.
Most of America would never marry a celebrity for the media bump, and it isn’t even something most of America aspires to.
Most of America doesn’t make the extreme personal journey of their family members about them.
And now there’s today’s pregnant photo of Kim.

We’re now at the point where the transparency has turned into pathological and pathetic.
With this photo, Kim has managed to make the beautiful, sad.

From Mysterious to Saturated

A well placed nude photo or leaked video (eh, em, Kim) can actually be GOOD for a celeb.
Really good.
But when you start to see nude (or nearly nude) photos of a celeb several times a year, it’s no longer exciting, titillating or even interesting.
Three times this year already we’ve seen Kim nude.
Here: Feb 2015
Here: May 2015
Here: July 2015

I mean, is there no end in sight?
Now, not only are you pathetic, you’re worse: you’re common.
You’re the OPPOSITE of special.
You’re now just another naked person – just like the one we see in the mirror everyday.
Nothing special about pathetic and naked. Nothing aspirational about that. At. All.
Even nude models and porn stars know better than to show up naked on Instagram everyday.
Because mystery is a good thing.
Leave a little bit on the table.
Let ’em wonder just.a.little.bit.

It’s not just the whole naked thing.
We started to get the sense that the Kardashians never said no to anything that might make them money.
From fashion brands to tell-all interviews.
From appearances to marriages.
If you had dollars, the Kardashians would be there to hoover it up.

Standing For…..Shallow and Surface?

And through all this, America begins to wonder, “What DO the Kardashians stand for?”
I mean, besides makeup, hair extensions and designer brands and boyfriends?
We’re left wondering if they are really as shallow as all that.
Do they lend their voices to causes that might make them more human?
Do they use their celebrity to advance a passion that might make the world a better place?
What little they apparently DO do for charity seems opportunistic and self aggrandizing.
Even Donald Trump, who Kim had to one-up with her naked photo today, has a cause.
You might not agree with Donald Trump, but at least he stands for something besides money and wrap-arounds.
We can’t defend the Kardashians anymore because we can’t even justify their celebrity anymore.

And so begins the downward slide of some of the earliest and most prolific social media celebrities.
We should thank the Kardashians for their lessons in personal branding, except they’d probably charge us for it.


When was the last time you negotiated for a website, advertising, public relations, marketing or other branding work?

Chances are, you took that first quote from an agency and thought “I bet I can get this down at least 20%.”

Maybe you can. Here’s why that attitude is costing you real dollars.

Imagine you’re buying a computer, you evaluate the specs and then begin negotiating. You may or may not get a better price, but one thing is certain, you will be getting the exact same product as every other person who buys it. You can actually look at a chart and evaluate it against competitive products. We’ll come back to the computers in a second…

Unlike other products which are fairly straightforward and essentially the same for everyone who buys them, creative work is individual and unique every time.
No two creative products are ever alike.
There may be similarities. But they can’t be compared.
And even if you COULD compare one piece of creative work against another, you can’t suggest that piece of work would be as successful for you as it was for someone else.
There are too many variables.
And every bit of creative work that amounts to anything takes energy, passion and several other attributes that can’t be measured on a spreadsheet.

Why is this important?

Creative products require emotional sensitivity.
It’s this sensitivity that makes creatives able to assess what may or may not work for your situation.
The more highly tuned the sensitivity, the more highly tuned the solution.
The more highly tuned the creative, the more sensitive they probably are.
Creativity on demand is something that requires focus, attention, and most importantly, desire.

Creativity requires sensitivity, creativity requires a certain fearlessness. A willingness to fail and to get up and try again. A willingness to put something personal out there to fail or succeed.
There IS toughness to creativity, but it’s dramatically different from boardroom toughness.

Now, muddy these sensitive waters by suggesting that the work isn’t “worth” what they’re proposing.
Imagine if someone told you “I love your work, it’s amazing. But, I just don’t feel like paying you THIS much for it.”
How would YOU feel about doing work for that person?
You might feel…a little less inspired.
You might still DO the work, but probably not with the same spark.
You might show up for the work, and be professional about it, but you’ll stop thinking about the work on your drive home, in the shower, or even at night while you’re sleeping.
It’s not because you’re being passive aggressive, but a light switch has gone off.

No one can pay enough for the light switch to be on and no one can assess the impact of the light switch being turned off.
Again, it doesn’t belong on a spreadsheet.

Back to that computer analogy: imagine you had to pay for the computer based on a percentage of the revenue of the work it produced for you?
We’d all be paying a shockingly high price for our computers, wouldn’t we?
Prices for computers would go UP, not down and we’d all pay different prices.

But let me illustrate my point this way. Understanding that differences in creative work are hard to measure, let’s assume for a moment that this difference in spark costs you 1% of conversions or sales.
What is THAT worth to you?

Now What?

Instead of negotiating on price, here’s how to work with creatives, including PR, branding, advertising, and marketing agencies.
[blockquote author=”— Bill Bernbach, co-founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach” link=”http://www.sketchthemes.com”]”An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.” [/blockquote]

When you’re considering people for creative people and agency work, you should ask to see recent work and you should ask to meet with the person(s) doing the work for your account.
Don’t consider this a meeting to “drive down the price” or “work the angles.” Consider this a meeting to identify if they have the right spark for the project.
You should also ask them what they expect of their own work and how they see themselves fitting into the project.
You should give them some parameters and ask them what they would expect to see from their own work.
And you should determine whether you can have a productive, collaborative relationship with the team.
Can they take feedback? How do they react?
Can they talk about WHY they did what they did and does it resonate with you?
Can they talk to you about WHY this project is so interesting to them?
Ask them to tell you about a project they worked on that was challenging and listen to why it was.
Ask them what they learned from it and how it impacts their work today.
You deserve answers like this and questions like this will provide you with far more insight than a proposal.
Creativity doesn’t belong on a spreadsheet, you’re going to have to go with YOUR gut just a bit.
You’re going to have to understand what YOU really need.
Do you need someone who will take the lead or follow direction? Do you need a collaborator or an expert? Do you need strategy or implementation?

Lots of people will say that there is a lot of money wasted every year on ineffective creative. And that there is some really expensive ineffective creative out there. That is entirely true.

Are there hacks who will take your money and produce no results? Yes.
But they are not as common as you’d think and a little research will flesh them out.
Are there super talented people and agencies who sometimes get it wrong? Yes.
But they’re also usually the ones who come up with another solution, rather than lay down on the “we got it wrong.”

And will a single flash of brilliance on the part of a creative (team) necessarily equate to a flash of brilliance for you? Maybe. Maybe not.
Does experience ALWAYS equate to brilliance? Maybe. Maybe not.
I know, it’s uncomfortable, all these unknowns.
It’s easy to say that creatives have to learn to work in the business world and not be so sensitive.
BUT, if you don’t find a creative who is sensitive and emotionally in tune with your product and your audience, it almost guaranteed you NOT to have flashes of brilliance.

One thing I DO know for sure:
Take care of your creatives and they will take care of you.
Inspire a creative and you’ll often get FAR more than you paid for or way more than the contract stipulates.
Because while creativity on demand is hard, but so is turning it off when inspiration strikes. 
[blockquote author=”— George Lois, co-founder of Lois, Holland, Callaway” link=”http://www.sketchthemes.com”]Nothing comes from nothing. You must continuously feed the inner beast that sparks and inspires.[/blockquote]

You should be far more concerned about people who are “too cheap” because it’s hard to produce brilliance when you’re running around like a wild person with hair on fire.
You should be far more concerned with people who aren’t interested in the elegance of their own work.
You should be far more concerned with people who aren’t sensitive enough to talk about WHY something worked and WHY something else didn’t.
There are far more talented, creative people who do quality and occasionally brilliant work than there are hacks.
And those people who do quality work, they value their own creative energy enough to get paid, fairly, for it.
And trust me, when I say “fairly” I’m talking about way above the minimum wage and way lower than an average CEO.
If you want to work with creative professionals (and you do if you want your customer to tune-in), then expect professional and give professional.


Am I saying that you should never negotiate with creatives and agencies?
I’m simply saying that at some point, you’re going to have to decide which people are worth what they’re charging you and when you get to that first invoice, no matter what you’re paying, you’ll want to be sure that the spark is on, ignition is lit.
Wouldn’t you rather influence flame than smoke?

PS: Here’s an old-one but a good-one on this topic:

When To Stand Up for Your Brand in Social Media

This week, with the Dave and Busters “Juan” tweet yet another social media gaffe made its what into the collective conversation.
It sparked furious cries of racism.
It sparked snickers.
It sparked the “holier than thou” media to earn mega points for traffic.

Imagine for a moment, the alternative tweet: “I hate tacos” said no one ever. #tacotuesday.

Imagine what THAT would have caused: crickets.

Which of those  two messages was more brand consistent, more interesting, more compelling and took more courage?

Branding is like getting a tattoo: it takes guts and commitment.

Tweet: Branding is like getting a tattoo: it takes guts and commitment.

This is why brands and businesses must be crystal clear on who they are, what they stand for, and who their target customer is. I’m not suggesting that every brand and business rush to the edge of every cultural controversy and insensitivity in order to create some reaction to their message. But in order to make it interesting, they HAVE to know where the line is on risk-taking. Brands and businesses have to accept that people who AREN’T their customers aren’t going to “get” it and they have to stand with their customers who DO.  If you insist on a completely bland copy, messaging, and creative, you will get some bland results.

Tweet: If you insist on a completely bland copy, messaging and creativity, you will get some bland results.

Tweet: Brands and businesses have to stand with their customers who DO “get it”.

I’m actually disappointed Dave and Busters didn’t fire back to the haters with another pun. Dave and Busters is a GAMING VENUE for grown-ups. It isn’t a financial company; it isn’t a children’s nonprofit; it isn’t a government agency; it isn’t a church. It’s supposed to be FUN. Taco Tuesdays are supposed to be FUN. I don’t know about you – but I could use a little fun in my tweet stream.

So here’s where we’re at with a collective lack of spine in the social, marketing, and advertising world: be creative, be dynamic, create conversation and excitement, but DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TAKE RISKS. Does the marketing and advertising world really want to be known as the analysis paralysis industry, whose signature color is beige?

Tweet: Does the marketing and advertising world really want to be known as the analysis paralysis industry whose signature color is beige?

Yes, let’s think through things. Yes, let’s consider the context. But let’s stop freaking out the minute someone with 2,000 followers takes issue with an edgy statement. Let’s understand our brands, their purpose, their customers, and values, and let’s stand by those values even when everyone else doesn’t get it. It’s OK. If your brand is truly defined, not everyone will.

Yes, the pain of nasty-gram tweets and email is piercing. They don’t last forever. In fact, in most cases, those same people are off on an entirely different tangent tomorrow. Being a wishy-washy brand isn’t good for anyone, except dish soap – and those consequences are far longer reaching.

Tweet: Being a wishy washy brand isn’t good for anyone, except dish soap – and those consequences are far longer reaching.
Stand tall. Take smart risks. Stand by your customers. Have some brand confidence. Stand by your brand.


This post originally appeared on Akamai Marketing