Archive for July, 2010

Bow ties are cool.

Or rather, making it sound cool when you say “Bow ties are cool”…

…is cool.

I think so.

My kids think so.

(In our house it’s like Derren Brown has hypnotised everyone to say “Bow ties are cool” every time someone on TV says the trigger word “cool”.)

And judging by 59 “Bow ties are cool” related videos on YouTube – a combination of bow tie clips from the recent Dr Who series and user generated homages – plenty of other people think so too.

Bow ties are cool.

And the premise of this post is that idiosyncratic language, well delivered, is cool.

Cool and powerful.

Cool because it’s powerful.

Most of what’s been written about Old Spice recently focuses on the awesome way in which the TV campaign has been “remastered” for social media.

But this campaign was a triumph of idiosyncratic language long before it became a social cause célèbre.

I’m on a horse.

Swan dive!

Silver fish hand catch!

As someone who occasionally reviews books I’m a sucker for elegant, idiosyncratic language.

A lot of my favourite ads feature persistently catchy turns of phrase.

And most of my favourite bands include great lyric writers.

From the Beatles…

The day breaks, your mind aches
You find that all her words of kindness linger on
When she no longer needs you

To the Arctic Monkeys

Well now then Mardy Bum
Oh I’m in trouble again, aren’t I
I thought as much
Cause you turned over there
Pulling that silent disappointment face
The one that I can’t bear

And lots of things in between – Elvis Costello to Eminem.

(It’s why, for the most part, I never really got into Oasis. Most of their lyrics are meaningless nonsense. A jumble of references crammed into rhyming non-sequiturs.)

It was one of my high school English teachers that first made me aware of the power and beauty of language. Mal Jones was (is I assume), a tall, heavy-smoking, Liverpool supporting welshman with a blue stain on his best jacket pocket where a biro leaked a couple of days after he bought it.

We were reading Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee.

And in the chapter entitled “First Bite At The Apple” is a passage detailing Lee’s encounter with Rosie in a sun-baked hayfield somewhere in the Cotswolds.

We kissed, only once, so dry and shy, it was like two leaves colliding in air.

Mr Jones went off on one about the poetry contained in that one sentence. And, as you’d expect from a class full of 14 year olds in a Wigan comprehensive school, we all feigned indifference (well it was feigned indifference on my part at least).

But the realisation that ideas could be conveyed with such elegance has stayed with me ever since.

In this day and age when everyone is so concerned with having their content repeated and shared, you can still do a lot worse than including quotable language in your ideas. Indeed seemingly one of the best ways to get retweeted is to post a pithy 140 character quote.

Think about the words in word of mouth.

Idiosyncratic language is cool.


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I presented the EdTwinge case study at a social media conference in Edinburgh last week.

It was a reasonably lively affair with plenty of questions from the audience.

Not surprisingly several of these questions related to what brands and organisations can and can not do on Facebook.

And it struck me, not just at this conference but as a result of many recent experiences of Facebook, that the more someone knows about Facebook the less likely they are to give a 100% categoric answer. And the more likely they are to hesitate before answering. The more likely they are to give an informed answer but advise you to check directly with Facebook if you have something innovative in mind. The more likely they are to say “er”.

Working with brands on Facebook feels a bit like picking cockles on Morecambe Sands.

(Image borrowed from flickrzak)

Of all the links to articles about Morecambe Sands that I could have chosen, I chose this one because it includes the phrases “rich harvest” and “treacherous sands”.

A bit melodramatic maybe.

But it’s a decent analogy for brands on Facebook.

When social media people talk about fishing where the fish are, Facebook is usually the first platform that springs to mind. There are rich engagement pickings to be had if you play your cards right.

But playing your cards right on Facebook is not easy for brands. The sands shift. Almost daily. What you could do yesterday, you can’t today.

The two main Facebook blogs that I follow are All Facebook and Inside Facebook. For the seven day period 3rd to 9th July inclusive I counted 21 posts on the former and 27 posts on the latter.

Now, most of these posts do not relate directly to substantive changes to what brands can do on Facebook, but the sheer number of posts in a single seven day period shows how close an eye you need to keep on Facebook in order to stay on top of it. And it shows why a true Facebook expertise is characterised by a degree of hesitation.

Indeed, even people who work at Facebook say “er”. And “er” in these instances usually means “I’ll check with someone in the States.”

Which brings me onto the real objective of Facebook advertising.

The real objective of Facebook advertising, if you’re a brand for whom Facebook is a big deal, is not the immediate impressions or clicks that those, oh so carefully targeted, ads generate. Oh no.

The main thing that you’re buying with Facebook ads is not impressions or clicks, it’s access.

Access to people at Facebook who can give you quick answers and work with you to make things happen.

And the more you spend the better that access gets.

And the better that access gets, the more you’ll be able to do with your brand on Facebook that will generate greater return than the ads you booked to get that access in the first place.

At least I think that’s how it works.


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