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VegeSmite? Some quick thoughts on #vegefail & #nestlefamily
Twitter hastags are quickly becoming the popular shorthand to express corporate disasters with social media. Two cases in point recently: #vegefail, the dramatic, vitriolic and 100% negative response to Kraft naming a new Vegemite and Cheese product ‘iSnack 2.0’ after opening to public suggestions, and #nestlefamily in which the many, many questionable practices for Nestle regarding infant formula, and other things, resurfaced as the company courted influential ‘mummybloggers’ (a shorthand which, I gather, should really be ‘parent bloggers’ since some dads blog in this fashion, too).
First, Kraft: while having a national competition to name the new Vegemite product actually seemed a great way to harness Aussie love for all things Vegemite, especially when you receive more than 50,000 suggestions, letting Kraft simply pick a winner from all those suggestions was not such a good plan, especially when they picked ‘iSnack 2.0’ (which might be a good name for Steve Jobs’ new toaster, but not for an Australia food icon). Since the announcement last Saturday, there has been complaints, loud, angry, and funny (see one person’s response Downfall meme style! and the satirical iSnack 2.0 Twitter stream) but at the same time, the love for Vegemite was the most thing most central in these responses. All the complaints may have looked like a massive marketing fail (hence #vegefail) yet Kraft have announced today (a mere 6 days later) that they’re going back to the drawing boards and getting another new name:
In the end, though, I tend to agree that the iSnack 2.0 reaction was far from a PR disaster – whether planned from the beginning, or a clever reaction to overwhelming customer sentiment, in going back to their consumers and letting them vote once again (albeit from six safe and crappy names) Kraft both reminded most Australians how much they care about Vegemite and got more publicity for a new product than you could possibly generate with a traditional advertising campaign. (And despite the cynicism, yes, I’ve voted.)
By contrast, the recent #nestlefamily controversy erupted when Nestle attempted to court influential ‘mummybloggers’ in the US by inviting 20 or so of them to a paid retreat where Nestle could show off their latest products and get authentic mummyblogger feedback. However, Nestle seemed to give no thought at all to what openly courting social media attention might actually mean. On hearing about the planned event, and noting that some of the attendees were people she respected, PhD in Parenting wrote a long post entitled ‘An open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family blogger event’ which reminded a lot of people about the many issues with Nestle as a company, including their long history of unethical behaviour, especially in relation to infant products, most notably, of course, being pushing infant formula in Africa. Needless to say, before the event even started, a massive debate began on Twitter between supporters and detractors of Nestle; the oddest thing, though, was the deafening silence from Nestle. For most of the debate, they remained silent and let people rage on blogs and Twitter. In leaving others to defend Nestle, some of the most angry defenders have clearly done more harm than good. I don’t have time to go too far into the details, but I recommend reading the summary by Crunchy Domestic Goddess which gives an even-handed overview of the guts of the debate in terms of the way social media has been used.
Then, in a last ditch effort, Nestle have officially joined Twitter to try and manage the #nestlefamily debates, but they still don’t understand that this is a conversation, not a PR engine. At the end of the day, this tweet seems to sum up perfectly why Nestle just don’t get social media:
Of course, now that questions are being asked loudly, if Nestle doesn’t answer them, others will.
The difference between Nestle and Kraft is simple: at the end of the day, Kraft listened and that was their salvation. Nestle could learn from their corporate cousin.
YouTube in Australia (and marketing to Australians)
Google Australia have released the results of a survey of 3000 Australian YouTube users which is interesting in its statistics, but also for its main message: corporate marketers should be on YouTube, because well-made entertaining advertising content is just as welcome as user-generated content. I wonder how many user-generated content creators really agree? Take a look:
It’s a nifty little presentation, but in case you just want the stats, here they are from the Google Australia blog:
We’re large and diverse
- Includes all the family – 14-17 year olds only make up 7% of Australian YouTube users, 18-29 = 32%, 30-39 = 20%, 40-49 = 18%, 50-59 = 13% and 60+ = 10%
- Are workers, students, stay-at-home mums and retirees – 57% are working, 19% are stay at home, and only 15% are studying
- Encompasses all life stages – 55% are married, 35% are single and 9% are divorced
- Are not just techies and nerds – 61% of YouTube users are not tech-savvy
We’re active and engaged
- 86% of the community say YouTube is their favourite place to watch videos and 63% agree YouTube is one of their favourite websites
- 79% stay longer than they intended (on average 1 hour and 09 mins per week).
- 62% visit at least once a week
- 47% share videos when they find a video which they love
- 86% spend time on YouTube for entertainment
- 2 out of 3 people do more than just watch videos in YouTube
- 20% uploaded video
We watch a broad range of content:
- 51% music videos
- 31% movie trailers
- 27% user-generated content
- 26% TV shows
- 25% TV ads
- 22% news clips
- 18% sports news/highlights
On the Importance of Dating Felicia Day’s Avatar in Australia!
If you’ve glanced at YouTube, or your iTunes store, or Twitter, or even Facebook in the last few days you may very well have noticed people talking about and linking to this video:
What you might not have realised if you’ve only just heard of The Guild or Felicia Day, is that this little video represents something of a leap forward in terms of indie-based web productions finding a way to make a healthy amount of money while still giving away their content predominantly for free. For those of you who’ve not come across The Guild before, it’s a comedy web series created and written by Felicia Day (of Dr Horrible and Buffy fame), looking at the ‘real’ lives of six MMO (videogame) players. The ‘game’ is never explicitly named, but the characters and situations are largely based on play in and around World of Warcraft.
Anyway, one of the most important things is that after the first season of The Guild, Day very cleverly managed to strike a deal with Microsoft which would allow them to co-produce The Guild and thus season two was initially, exclusively available via the Xbox Live, MSN and Zune websites. Significantly, Day retained all intellectual property regarding The Guild, meaning that the show remains under her ownership and control (about which Day is rightly proud). Indeed, just striking that deal is a significant business move for an indie web media creator. Of course, Day ensured that episodes also appeared on YouTube and other venues after a period of time, ensuring fans could access The Guild in whichever manner they preferred. The Guild has built a very healthy following (as has Day herself, with over a million Twitter followers) and after initially being available for free, Day released DVDs of season one and two via Amazon, which have sold reasonably well.
However, the music video which I’m focusing on today is The Guild’s ‘(Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar’ which was written by Felicia Day, features the cast of The Guild, and was directed by Jed Whedon (one of Joss’ brothers, who also co-wrote Dr Horrible). Initially revealed at Comic-Con, the music video playfully engages with pretty much every stereotype that there is about gamers, electronically dancing a fine line between knowing parody and unadulterated fandom. Following the deal with Microsoft, ‘Avatar’ was available exclusively on the Xbox and Zune websites for a week, before hitting the rest of the web both for free on YouTube and as paid download via iTunes stores, Amazon and elsewhere. And that’s where the story gets impressive, as the music video has hit number one on the US iTunes store and on Amazon as an mp3 download. More to the point, Day has learnt from the successes and problems that Dr Horrible hit last year.
While Dr Horrible was a huge hit in the US iTunes store, there were problems even viewing Dr Horrible outside of the US for the first few days, and it took months before Australians had a legal option to purchase Dr Horrible online. In contrast, Day seems acutely aware that The Guild’s fans are spread all across the globe and that all ‘national’ versions of the iTunes store (all of which have separate licensing agreements) should be ready to spread The Guild’s musical talents. [Update: To distribute the mp3 versions, Day used the Tunecore service which lets artists release their mp3s across a range of international stores simultaneously for a small fee.] The image visible on the left shows today’s Top Music Videos in the Australian iTunes store, with (Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar [feat. Felicia Day] sitting proudly at the top of the charts; it also topped the UK iTunes store (and elsewhere across the globe, too, I’m sure). While there was a delay of a day or so getting some versions of the music video or mp3 into particular national online stores, Day has no doubt affirmed the loyalty of fans across the globe by ensuring they have access to ‘Avatar’ for free, or to buy, on exactly the same terms as fans in the US. While we may never know exactly how much ‘Avatar’ earns (or even what the music video cost to make) even the $2.59 a pop for the music video in Australia, or $1.69 for the mp3 single, will surely combine with sales across the globe to make a very respectable amount. Indeed, I’d guess it could make more than a full season of The Guild webisodes!
Most importantly, though, Felicia Day has shown the sort of foresight that comes from being a clever media creator in the digital era: rather than bowing to the tyranny of digital distance, and letting the globe be arbitrarily cut into different regions in which different media companies can license and re-sell content, Day clearly views her loyal fans as a truly global, participative audience who all deserve equal access to the highly enjoyable media she creates! Felicia Day is someone who understands that digital media can, and should, also mean global media.
Now, after all that, if you’ve not done so already, stop listening to me, and check out ‘(Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar’!
Will web leaks hurt Wolverine or Caprica?
So, in the wake of the much-discussed and widely downloaded leak of the Wolverine workprint, the direct-to-DVD BSG prequel pilot Caprica has also found its way online over a week prior to any official release (on DVD or via direct download). Yet, while media corporations decry the sales supposedly lost and the evils of piracy, any real evidence that these leaks will hurt either the film or the prequel series pilot is hard to come by.
The Wolverine workprint is an unusual case, as the leaked version is unfinished – while it is feature length, many of the special effects shots are either absent or only partial and a series of pick-ups shot earlier this year are missing. While one Fox reviewer got the boot after admitting downloading, watching and liking the workprint, some reports suggest that the leak has actually worked as great publicity amongst the key demographics most likely to see Wolverine in theatres. More importantly, in my view, this unfinished and thus can-be-improved-upon version may just lead some people to review the film more favourably – while folks won’t admit seeing the workprint, if the official release is better, and reviewers’ expectations were lowered by the workprint, I’d guess they’re going to give relieved and thus warmer reviews. More to the point, the workprint might also function as the most in-depth audience screener ever, which has resulting not just in mixed reviews, but in useful advice on how the film might be improved. A canny producer might just collate these suggestions and get some free tips on what the film-going public would really like to see in Wolverine!
Caprica is a different beast altogether – anyone who believes that any distribution of the Battlestar Galactica prequel series pilot will hurt its sales of the series are fooling themselves. It has long been argued that the US release of Battlestar Galactica was aided by the enthusiastic word-of-mouth generated by peer to peer sharing of the first episodes when they were released in the UK before the US. The direct-to-DVD pilot (no, it’s not a movie any more than Razor made sense as a standalone movie; it’s clearly a pilot) is there to do one thing: get audiences interested in the coming series. The DVD release is happening primarily because of the success of Battlestar Galactica, and the desire of BSG’s fans for something new in that franchise, albeit a very different sort of show from BSG. From the studio’s perspective, it’ll also help gauge the level of audience interest. Yet Caprica is, more than anything else, an advertisement for the coming series. The fact that the Caprica pilot DVD will clearly make money (it was 22 on Amazon’s best selling DVD chart today, for example) is candy, and perhaps one way the producers could get a special-effects heavy pilot created, but this is definitely an addition to the normal process of shooting a television pilot. Sharing the pilot on bittorrent will produce another metric by which the studio can see how popular the coming series will be. That word of mouth (presuming it’s positive) will be amongst the best advertisements Caprica can have.
Update: The workprint leak clearly didn’t hurt X-Men Origins: Wolverine: it clocked an impressive $AU221 million globally during its opening weekend!