A Timeline Of Brands That Got Skewered by Social Media And How You Can Avoid Doing The Same

By Perks |

Although social media is a great medium to connect with your customers in a faster more open forum, it can spiral out of control really quickly when not done properly. Examples of this below are the reason why you need an agency and an in-house liaison that can coordinate all incoming, outgoing, internal and external communications regardless if it’s social media, branding, marketing, pr or anything else. All communications of any sort will affect your brand and have a way of ending up on social networks whether you like it or not.

The rule of thumb in an unfortunate communications situation is this: commiserate, apologize, rectify, transcend. By commiserating you let the offended party know that you understand their hurt and validate it. This is much different than apologize where you take full responsibility for what has happened. After that you make sure you rectify the situation by actually fixing the issue at hand. But don’t just rectify the situation, transcend their expectations by going above and beyond. People expect you to fix what was broken. What they don’t expect is to get more than they started with. That’s how you ACTUALLY fix the situation.

Take a look at these examples of companies that ending up being skewered on social media and learn a thing or two from their mistakes.

A list of companies that were blind-sided by the internet, they didn’t understand the impacts of the power shift to the participants, or how fast information would spread, or were just plain ignorant.

Criteria of “Punk’d” includes a situation where the story would have not been told if social media was not available, or if social media enhanced the situation.  Read my exclusive interview with Greenpeace on Forbes.

This doesn’t include fake blogs, companies who deliberately tried to cheat the system get their own honorable mention.

Although this punk’d list is the one to stay off, the one you want to get on is the Groundswell awards.

Update: I’ve added severity status for some of these Punk’d using the Categorization of Brand Backlash Storms)


GoDaddy CEO Kills Elephant, Then Trampled by Crowd
Although GoDaddy is accustomed to controversial marketing tactics this incident actually loses customers. CEO Bob Parsons took a video of him on a hunt in africa and then proudly tweeted about killing problematic elephants. NGOs like PETA responded swiftly requesting customers shift to new domain registers yet Parsons rebuts them on Twitter. Competitors of GoDaddy offered to donate $1 to elephant funds and reportedly raised over $20,000. In a gesture of branding, Mr Parsons gives local Africans GoDaddy hats as they carve up carcass for food –further inciting criticism. The original video has been removed, after critics rally behind raising money for elephants. It’s so rare, but this incident receives a stronger category rating as actual revenues were directly impacted. (Category 4)

Exported from Detroit: Chrysler Fires Social Media Agency
Just as Chrysler received a very positive reaction from their superbowl ad “Imported from Detroit”, An accidental F-Bomb was released on the official Chrysler blog, which tarnishes the driving scene in Detroit. Since then the agency employee was since fired, and then the agency NMS was also fired. This is notable for a few reasons. 1) Mistakes happen, and companies that do make them often get better (Dell, Walmart, Comcast), part of social media is to fail forward, pick yourself up and move forward 2) There’s a debate if firing the employee or agency was really warranted, or if that was too extreme, see agency blog and comments, see Chrysler corporate blog. 3) The agency NMS desperately needs a Social Media Management System with workflow and keyword triggers to ensure there’s a review process. 4) Eminem is known for many F-bomb curses, and was prominently featured in the brand campaign, isn’t this consistent with the associative branding? 5) If Chrysler showed some humor, they may have emerged unscathed by then offering free driving classes to Detroit using Chrysler cars! (Category 3)

Kenneth Cole Brings Twitter Revolution to Front Door
In a self-promotional tweet that hijacked the world sensitive #cairo tag during the revolution, Kenneth Cole promotes their own spring lineup. I’m watching the Twitter backlash unfold and see blog posts emerging. No doubt this will turn to mainstream attention (update like HuffPo within 3 hours). What’s interesting is the inflammatory tweet (now deleted) came from a blackberry with “KC” tag, and then the apology Tweet used a “we”. Update: they removed the tweet and apologized on Facebook. (Category 3)


KFC employees Goes ‘Afoul’ over order request
This Australian KFC worker in the last of the 2010 punk’d listings goes ballistic after what looks like is being taunted by a customer who requests bacon, which is forbid during Islamic tradition during this period of Ramadan. In any case, it shows that consumers now can embarrass the company and employees by using simple mobile devices then putting on YouTube, which now has over 31k views. (Category 3)

Brandjacking: DKNY Stripped by PETA Anti-Fur Protesters
In a coordinated real world and online attack, PETA anti-fur protesters overtook the DKNY Facebook wall, with little or no resistance from corporate staff.  Taking a page from the successful Greenpeace assaults, PETA if catching on, although has yet to develop social assets that can be used by their community in the assault.  Expect PETA and other NGOs to continue to ramp up their sophistication in assaults, often much faster than brands are ready for.  Brandjackings are an interesting thing.  Brands spend millions on FB pages, yet PETA and Greenpeace can easily overrun investment. (Category 3)

Fonterra Dairy Soured: Brandjacked by Greenpeace, Commits Facebook Suicide
In a style similar to the Nestle’ social brandjacking campaigns, Greenpeace launches campaign at New Zealand based dairy corporation Fonterra’s apparent Facebook page.  Fonterra claimed not to manage this page, however the offensive videos and posts were removed.  Apparently, the entire Facebook page was eventually dismantled.(Category 3)

‘Cook Source’ Steals Recipe. Self-Immolates In Kitchen
A blogger by name of  Monica Gaudio found out that ‘Cook Source’ helped themselves to one of her 2005 recipes from her blog, did minor edits and the posted it on their own website as their own original content.  After confronting the editor of Cook Source, she was apparently told the blogger the content could be used anyway they wanted (sources conflict here).  Regardless, Cook Source experienced a groundswell on their social media properties like Facebook, a Hitler video, and resulted in a variety of critical articles (Google counts over 65 mainstream media articles). (Category 3)

Gap Falls Into Their Own Redesign Revolt
Gap Inc, puts forth a logo redesign, but is met with severe backlash from passionate fans, critics, and media on social media channels. There were thousands of comments, logo redesign websites, Twitter spoof accounts (over 4000 followers) and even Facebook accounts setup to lead this branding revolt and over 626 results in Google News on “Gap Logo” from mainstream press. We once thought logos were owned by the brand, but clearly we’re finding that the consumers take just as much ownership in the logo. Link via Roger Harris. (Category 3)

Bait and Switch: Pantene’s Cause Marketing Backfires
A lesson in transparency: A cause marketing style campaign was launched in the Philippines, asking women to get join a Facebook page called “I Commit to Change“. Once the members joined the independent ’cause’ Pantene unleashed its branding campaign, promoting their latest products as the agent of change. Feeling duped, the women fire back, launching blog salvos, and it remains a case study in South East Asia marketing case studies and beyond. The lesson? Be up front and clear about your intentions to consumers, or risk greater brand damage and reduced trust. As told to me from Donald Lim. (Category 2)

A Polished Apple: Mac Forums Censors Critics in Forums
A recent consumer reports publication critiques the iPhone4 as having faulty reception and antennae issues.  Although widely discussed online in a variety of locations, Apple community managers have apparently censored the discussion in their own community, which only exasperates the situation as they spread it to blogs.  Reading down this list, in many cases we see that censoring only makes the problem worse.  Instead, companies should see this as an opportunity –not a threat to be swept under the carpet. (Category 3)

Nestle’ Sours their Facebook Page
Nestle, which has been under attack from Greenpeace members for sustainability issues has gone under attack.  Apparently, junior members of Nestle’s staff (or PR firm) asked members not to mis-use the logos or risk being banned from the Facebook page.  After some arguing, a groundswell overtook the page and there are thousands of critical comments, some of the ‘rudeness’ and some demanding sustainable products and threatening boycotts.   There are two major issues here:  A PR crises regarding rain forests and sustainability, and social media best practices. Update: Read my analysis (Category 3)

iPunk’d: Mainstream News Falls for iPad “Beta Tester” Hoax
Flamboyant CEO and internet celebrity Jason Calacanis tweeted he was an early beta-tester for iPad, and ‘leaked’ out fake specs.  Mainstream media, who were hungry to break any news, published mis-stories, with a variety of accuracies. Among the over zealous journalists includes The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, CNN Money, Reuters, Macworld, ComputerWorld, and Joystiq (couldn’t find article), more from Valleywag. Just goes to show that any lead is a story worth starting, fact checking not required, and Jason knows how to catch a media wave. (Category 2)

Cleanup in Aisle 8: Digital Fingerprints Exposes Wal-Mart’s Paid Supporter
A vocal online supporter of Wal-Mart opening in Chicago was allegedly unearthed ties back to Wal-Mart’s PR firm. In an era of digital footprints, the IP address was matched to the agency that represents Wal-Mart, the Chicagoist has some of the alleged discussion, on display. There’s three lessons here: 1) transparency in fiduciary relationships isn’t only ethical, it’s probably the law, when lobbying for a company while on payroll on the web (although FTC regulations tend to be fuzzy in my opinion) 2) This erodes trust of communities and the social web. 3) It’s disappointing to see Wal-Mart (or it’s partners) on this list again (see below) this is a good time to send a disclosure memorandum to all agency partners. (Category 2)


Pepsi’s AMP iPhone App Encourages Guys To Score –Yet Results in a Penalty
Pepsi’s AMP brand which caters to young males created an iPhone application that arms studs with pickup lines for different categories of women.  This application gives young men to categorize women (geek, cougar, band girl and beyond) and offers pickup lines, useful information to relate to them and a ‘scoring’ system after they’ve done the deed.  Unfortunately, a groundswell emerged from blogs and mainstream press forcing Pepsi’s hand to remove the app –and the offensive material. (Category 3)

Honda Product Manager Crashes Into His Own Comments
An overzealous product manager at Honda promotes his own product but fails to disclose his own relationship with the company –till the community calls him out. Honda responds by sheepishly removing his posts, due to lack of disclosure and not being a company representative. It should be recognized that every employee is a representative of the company –official or not. What’s needed? Training, internal policies, and a safe place to practice. (Category 2)

Digerati Dooce Sends Maytag/Whirlpool to the Cleaners
Consumer activism or celebrity abuse?  Popular blogger and Twitterati (over 1 million followers) had problems with her brand new Whirlpool machine and took to her social tools to discuss, complain, and suggest a boycott till her machine was fixed, read her chronicle, and what happened next as it spread to Forbes.  Not sure what Whirlpool could have done to avoid this –all customer experiences good and bad are exposed on the social web, how does a brand know when they’re talking to an influencer?  They don’t. (Category 3)

Property Manager Sues Over Moldy Tweet –Infecting Their Own Brand
A tenent in a Chicago apartment who had 20 followers in Twitter was sued by property manager for saying: “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s OK.” is being sued for $50k for defamation.  As a result, this incident has received global attention on the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune and major news outlets.  This may have caused self-damage to Horizon as prospective customers may search Google for Horizon and see how they publically sued a customer.  Horizon later issued a statement regarding their intention to “sue first, ask questions later” (Category 3)

Decrescendo For United Airlines After “Breaking Guitar” Song
A musican scorned is a scary thing –add YouTube and the whole world can see.   Dave Carroll claims he saw United baggage handlers toss his custom guitar, then complained with no resolution.  He turned to what he knows best, and created a song and shared it with the world.  More from LA times who says that after the song started to get popular, United changed their tune from minor chords to major, thanks to Mark for submitting. (Category 3)

Fire Sale: Furniture Company Habitat Self-Evicts on Twitter

Stylish furninture maker Habitat jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, but this time, tags it’s self-promotionary tweets with popular trending topics such as the Iran election.  What’s this the same as?  Parasite marketing.   As a result, the Twitter community strikes back, and Habitat retreats.  To their defense, they’re just the ones that got called out -there’s a bunch of spammers doing this now.  Thanks Mark for the submission (Category 2)

Contest for Bloggers Results in Asus Losing
Computer manufacturer Asus hosted a sponsored contest where bloggers could review their products –then the community could vote on the best review.  Asus, not happy with the honest (but not that shiny review) review from one blogger, decided to shift the rules to benefit a more positive review.  Backlash ensues, read comments, link via Ian Fogg (Category 2)

Snotty Dominos Employees YouTube Themselves To Court
Millions are grossed out by two Dominos employees who uploaded a video to YouTube of them blowing snot on pizzas at a Dominos stores. Interestingly, the crowd was able to pinpoint their location, they’ve now been fired and are facing felony charges, NYTs has more. Thanks to Josh for the tip. (Category 3, and perhaps 4 if this doesn’t get cleaned up)

Buying Friends? Belkin pays for Positive Reviews
This scandal leaves consumers not sure if they can trust the positive reviews about Belkin products. As one employee offered to pay users of Amazon’s Mechnical Turk to write positive reviews. As Belkin was exposed, they issued a mea culpa suggesting this was an isolated event, but now, it’s suggested that these orders came from executives. (Category 2, yet if the Fed gets involved, it go to Category 3 or 4)


Motrin Gets Headache From Twittering Moms
A well-intended Motrin ad launched towards baby carrying moms triggered them to revolt on twitter. On this quiet weekend it spread to blogs, YouTube, and then mainstream press. Some argue the moms were acting more like a mob, Motrin didn’t test it’s copy with the target audience up front –leaving everyone with a splitting headache. (Category 2)

CNN Falls For Rumor –Sinking Apple Stock
A rumor created by community created news site iReport that falsified CEO Steve Jobs having a heart attack spread to mainstream media website CNN, and caused a dip in stock price. User generated content will always have the risk of falsified content. (Category 4)

Exxon Mobil Brandjacked in Twitter
The twitter community (myself included) was eager to embrace “Janet” a no holds barred up front in your face corporate representative that was ready to tackle the hard issues –sometimes without grace. Unfortunately, to the Twittersphere’s surprise and Exxon, Janet, is not an official company representative she claimed to be. Read the story to unravel the multiple angles to this unique case. (Category 2)

JC Penney Brandjacked by Fake “Sex” Ad
We’re seeing more ads being created. In this case a ‘third party vendor’ (agency, I think) created this and submitted it to Cannes. JC Penney wasn’t happy and had it removed from YouTube. Unfortunately, blogs picked it up and it will never go away, video is here, I know you want to click. (Category 2)

Louis Vuitton gets Brandjacked in Anti-Genocide Campaign
Artist creates and sells T-shirt demonstrating how the media turns a deaf ear to real world tradgeies such as genocide in Dafur, infringing on LV logo. LV fires back, with lawsuit, a groundswell begins. Submitted by Søren Storm Hansen (Category 2)

Burger King exec trash talks using daughter’s email
Not sure why he didn’t just create a new email address, that would have been a lot safer. Submitted by Hilker. (Category 3)

Johnson and Johnson to bloggers: Hurry up and get dis-invited
Sounds like a mis-coordination, bad timing, and not a well thought through process that ended up getting scobleized, and Maryamized. (Category 2)

Anonymous Unmasks Church of Scientology
The church of Scientology has been criticized by an anonymous group, a faceless mass that has created videos, staged marches and protests, and is subvert the Church from around the internet. (Category 2)

Marvel nearly cuts of bloggers from Iron Man screening
Techcrunch (700,000 + subscribed) who intended to host a screening for loyal tech readers (perhaps a perfect audience of tech bloggers) were cut off by Marvel. Techcrunch is known for copy and pasting legal notes right onto the blog, fortunatly, things were quickly resolved. (Category 2)

Target-ed by Bloggers
A blogger complained about an indecent ad that portrayed as demeaning to women, complained and was shoved off by a Target representative. Story now on NYTimes, little things, can be big.


Target’s Rounders program “This is our secret game”

Target encouraged it’s premier members in the rounders program to pump up it’s brand in a Facebook group, sadly, the covert operation ended up on blogs and then mainstream media

HD DVD Decoded by Digg, unDugg, then Dugg again
Digg users publish HD code, industry freaks out, Digg maintains stance.

Wholefoods CEO caught being a troll
Whole Foods CEO, was anonymously trashing competitors and pumping company up on Yahoo finance boards. (Category 3)

Delta holds customers hostage
What’s worse than being held prisoner on Delta’s dirty plane? (Video), watching the crew getting off da plane. Oh, and no food, crying babies, but one talented videographer. (Category 3)

Taco Bell’s infestation crawls into YouTube
A minor rat problem moved it’s way to YouTube, spreading faster and farther than expected, a total of more than one million views for all videos. Submitted by Graham Hill (Category 3)

Facebook Party with Molson ends up with Hangover
Molson invited folks to share party pics in Facebook, including with youth, which resulted in a backlash from community and parents. Molson withdrew the campaign and went home early –no more Facebook partying for this brand.


Data storage blogger posts industry price lists, sales reps cry f#ck!
Robin Harris, one of the most well known of the data storage blogosphere posts price lists that were received from various customers.

Dell Laptop Explodes, news at 11 –via YouTube
More bad news for Dell, as laptops explode in Japan, all can see online.

ZZZ… Comcast suffers from Narcolepsy
Sleepy Techician caught on YouTube, then fired. Also see Comcast must die blog, submitted by Jeff Jarvis. (Category 3)

Hitachi “Hell” Gets The Finger
Angry customer gets bad service, writes long experience, and flips off HQ in picture, he’s also an influencer in the gaming community. (Category 2)

The Naked NOKA Chocolate Uncovered
A premium chocolatier (Noka) had a tremendous markup ($309- $2,080 per pound) of their secretly re-packaged chocolate, was exposed as a fraud and spread on blogs. And their google results is really painful. Submitted by Whitney.

AOL Holds Customers Hostage –Then Gets Canceled
This guy really bothers me, I can see why Vincent Ferrari was miffed. It’s clear, he was dealing with the customer retention department. Nothing worse than the feeling of being held hostage. Submitted by David Alston.

Airplane Fiasco’s Spread Online: JetBlue
There are so many examples, such as a YouTube testimonial about JetBlue’s 8+ hours stranded in terminal. Related: JetBlue’s CEO responds after flights are cut months later due to storm.

Starbucks Brandjacked by YouTube Video
Who wants a tasty frappuccino when there are kids starving? This was one of the first cases of brandjacking we saw.


Why we Dwell on Dell Hell
Jeff Jarvis launches blog post that sends a flurry of PR negativty at Dell’s poor service, it’s since been improved.(Category 3)


Kryptonite unlocked
Locks were disabled using a simple bic pen cap, spread on forums and blogs, one of the earliest examples that got mainstream attention. (Category 3)

Wives of EA beg for spouses back on blog
Call HR? Forget it, call Livejournal. This early incident from a wife of a game developer complains on a blog –getting national attention from press and media. As a result, EA did make some changes to their work and lifestyles of their employees. (Category 3)


The Barbera Streisand Effect
Singer star tries to remove content from internet, it all goes downhill from there. I actually learned about this from reading my colleagues Groundswell book (Category 2)


Apple’s dirty little secret plastered over NYC
Apparently, 18 months is all the iPod will run before you’ll need to buy a new one, says this video, where street teams went around defacing ads. Submitted by David Churbuck (I got his name right this time)

Unique Viral Sony Advertising Campaign Launches Cybershot Above The Rest

By Perks |

Sony has taken two iconic photos – one of Albert Einstein & the other of Marilyn Monroe – and used them in their new Sony Cybershot ad campaign for their panoramic camera. Done by Saatchi & Saatchi out of Argentina, these two video ads add humor and intrigue to two well known subjects.

The beauty about this ad campaign is that while entertaining the audience through suspense with multiple unveilings, Sony keeps the focus on the product all throughout. They show how much better photographs can be when they’re taken in panoramic. The message of how much you are missing by only shooting a limited area is conveyed in a fun and artistic way.

The main purpose of any integrated marketing campaign is to convey the value of the product as well as make it memorable enough that the viewer converts to a consumer at the point of purchase. Sony has just about done this by turning their product advert into something viral that will be talked about at water-coolers, shared on social networks and written up in blog posts much like this one.

The main thing to remember here is that while you may want to come off funny and witty in your advert you also want to clearly tie it to your product otherwise it will have the opposite effect with viewers. Relevancy and timeliness make your engagement that much more effective.

Why did Einstein stick out his tongue in that iconic photograph? Sony Cybershot takes you behind the scenes, offering a never-before-seen (and fictional) panoramic version of the shot. Check it out below, along with a related Marilyn Monroe spot after the jump. Both ads, created by Argentina’s Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, are reminiscent of Samsung’s recent ads about viewing art masterpieces in 3-D, which unfortunately have been removed from YouTube. Hat tip to The Presurfer.

Blog pages

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Blog pages

https://accounts.brightcove.com/en/terms-and-conditions/. –>

10 Secrets of Super-Effective Networking

By Perks |

These 10 points should always be kept in mind when going out to events to network. A great way to meet new people is to partner up with someone and introduce each other to new people. This breaks the ice and sets the stage of you being someone who wants to give introductions or be introduced. Compare that to going up to someone who you don’t know. Some of their first thoughts could include, ‘Why is this person talking to me?’ and ‘What do they want from me?’

Tip #2 is one of the most valuable tips. Being introduced by a mutual acquaintance is instantaneous social proof. You now have a point of reference to call back. You also skip the vetting process because your mutual acquaintance has done that for you.

The other key tip is #8. Following up within 24 hours is a major must as you will still be fresh in the person’s mind. Email, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook – it doesn’t matter what the method of contact. What matters is that you follow up in a timely relevant manner. Make sure to include some #6 and then #7.

Spring is in the air, or at least it will be once all this darn snow melts away. Maybe it’s the good weather (all relative, Bostonians), or maybe it’s the graduating seniors/MBAs, but I always feel like I meet tons of brand new networkers this time of year.

I typically spend 3-4 nights a week meeting new people at networking events, so I figured I’d share a few best practices I’ve acquired over the last few years.

Warning: For some of you, this post may seem a bit stalker-ish. That is certainly not the intention. Entrepreneurs need to work hard to get in front of the right people, and being meticulous will put you out ahead of your competition. Happy networking!


#1: Comb through the guest list and identify your “targets.”
Many events publish guest lists beforehand, or you can simply ask the event organizer for one. Compile a short list of your targets for the evening.

#2: Find mutual acquaintances.
Use the power of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) to find people with whom you and your target are mutually acquainted. If your acquaintance will also be at the event, make sure you request an intro in person. If not, request an intro beforehand to give your target a heads up.

#3: Do your homework on what your target cares about.
You should read as much as you can (bios, blog posts, interviews) about your target and get to know what he does and how he thinks about the world. (Let’s arbitrarily assume your target is male to avoid the whole he/she pronoun issue.) This is relatively easy with a little Googling nowadays.

After digesting this info, form your own opinion about what your target is working on, or views he’s expressed publicly. Make sure you have one topic where you agree and one where you disagree (more to come on this later).


#4: Show up on time and check the name card desk.
Most important people show up late to events. That’s just the way it is. They’re running from one thing to another, and they can’t help being late. You, however, can show up on time and have the benefit of checking the name card desk when few of the name cards have been taken. That way, if you had any doubts as to who would be in attendance, you can now be relatively certain.

#5: Know the hotspots, i.e. “the 3 B’s.”
The 3 B’s are Bar, Buffet, and Bathroom. These are the places your target will hit at least once in the evening. If you hang out by one of these, you will probably bump into him.

#6: Display knowledge and value.
Have your mutual acquaintance make an introduction at the event, or alternatively introduce yourself. Be polite and lead with the piece of your homework that you agree on. Let the conversation take off from there. If you get into a deeper conversation, bring up the piece of your homework that you disagree on. This will show that you have some gumption, and that you’ve thought through the relevant issues deeply. Again, be polite. No one likes a know-it-all.

Throughout the conversation, if you can add value to the relationship (an intro, your expert opinion), feel free to offer. Often to “come bearing gifts” is the best strategy.

#7: Exit gracefully.
Your interaction should typically last no more than five minutes. If you find your target’s gaze wandering, it’s time to finish up. Express that you enjoyed the conversation and that you’d love to follow up. It’s ok to ask for a card and to give him one yourself if you’ve had a meaningful exchange.


#8: Follow up within 24 hours.
Send a follow up email within 24 hours of the event. After 24 hours, you may be forgotten. Make it short and sweet, and make sure you have an “ask” that’s specific and actionable.

Before you press the send button, ask yourself the question, “Can [the target] read this on his blackberry without scrolling?” Obey the http://three.sentenc.es methodology for the body of the email. And, keep in mind, the target may not remember you.

#9: Don’t do any of the following:

  • Fire off a LinkedIn invite. (You haven’t “done business together”…yet.)
  • Friend your target on Facebook. (You’re not friends. Sorry.)
  • Send a file attached to your email (unless explicitly asked).
  • Leave a voicemail with your email. (It’s just annoying and never gets listened to.)

#10: Play it cool.
If you send 3 emails in one week, you will get ignored. Don’t look desperate. My rule of thumb is one email a week if you don’t hear back for up to 3 weeks. After that, it’s a lost cause, my friend. Start from #1 and cycle through again.

Overall, your goal in any networking interaction is to create the illusion of serendipity where none exists. What does exist usually is a thoughtful, meticulous process that connects you with the people who can help you most.

The Big Winners At South By Southwest

By Perks |

SXSW Interactive 2011 logo

Damien and Lauren recently got back from SXSW with some major takeaways at what was big down there. GroupMe, Foursquare, Gowalla, Pepsi, Fast Company, CNN, Chevy and Apple all came out on top as they all had physical presences. Yes, the big technology to come out of SXSW this was advertising.

It’s true that the group texting was the actual technology that shined at SXSW this year. Overall, the companies that made a big impression were the ones that were always in your face with advertising and a physical presence. The brands that made an impact were the ones that actually did something.

GroupMe took over a grill in front of the Convention Center, called it the GroupMe Grill, and gave out free grilled cheese and beer between 12 and 2 to people that could prove they had GroupMe on their phone. They won for best placement as you always saw them considering they were opposite the front of the Convention Center. Ultimately they also came out on top of all of the Group Texting apps as well. Coincidence? Probably not.

Foursquare partnered with Pepsi for the Pepsi Max Lot, which had an actual foursquare court to play foursquare with Foursquare, a bar, a ping pong table, a photo booth, tables with outlets, a couch lounge area and free Pepsi Max. Foursquare also partnered with Big Boi and Pepsi to release 2,000 Golden Tickets that were randomly unlocked as you checked in all over Austin during SXSW Interactive. If you unlocked the Foursquare badge you showed it at the Pepsi Max Lot for a physical ticket to a show with The Sounds and Big Boi. They also partnered with American Express to tie a limited amount of retailers into their social rewards program. If you tied your AmEx to Foursquare and paid at one of their retailers you unlocked a special Foursquare badge.

Gowalla had their classic Airstream trailer where they were giving you physical Gowalla Passports that you could put stickers of the places you checked into on Gowalla. This was a great representation of their service, as their app has a digital passport that you get digital stickers of the places you go. Their “there” was everywhere. After collecting 5 stickers you went back to the Airstream to get a bracelet for VIP access to their party headlined by Matt & Kim. After collecting 15 stickers you got a premium quality Gowalla t-shirt. While Gowalla’s physical footprint was smaller their takeaway was larger. To have a physical version of what you’re digitally doing really hits home their message of what they’re trying to do.

Pepsi also had their usual Pepsi stage area, which focused on the sustainability of brands you may not know that PepsiCo owns, like Sun Chips and Sabra. This year they launched an augmented reality game that was just like how Kinect for X-Box functions. A camera captures your movements as you are the controller that moves a shopping cart through an obstacle course collecting PepsiCo products. Our own Damien Basile launched this product and went up against Gary Vaynerchuck and Baratunde Thurston, and beat the both of them! In addition to all of this Pepsi had a separate stage in an adjacent room for free alternative programming, where Damien was interviewed about his new app Addieu.

Fast Company took over a restaurant behind the Convention Center where they provided free meals to people who were lucky enough to be on their guest list. They had a table with chargers that was a welcome break from having to sit by your phone and an outlet. In the back of the grill Zazzle had an area set up where you could create and pick up your own custom iPhone 4 cover. They showed off their custom printing abilities by showcasing sneakers, skateboards and other gadget cases.

CNN took over a grill opposite of the Pepsi Lot. They took off the restaurant sign to put up their own rotating CNN sign. It seemed the big thing this year was taking over grills with your own branding and custom offerings. Ironically, the restaurant was called Max’s which was located across from the Pepsi Max Lot. That irony was lost on the fact that CNN changed out the signage 1 day before SXSW officially started.

Not to be outdone, Apple launched the iPad 2 during SXSW on the 11th. Most people were willing to go to the Austin mall to line up, which was about 3 miles away. Apple decided that what they would do is open an iPad popup store in downtown Austin for the duration of SXSW Interactive. The environment was fun and festive, as the employees would dance to exuberant music as you came in and clap as you left. Apple didn’t need to pull a stunt. It’s product and culture of product became the stunt. Business as usual but definitely something to experience as I don’t see Apple doing a popup store in it’s near future again.

Out of all of the brands at SXSW with prominent advertising, Chevy turned out to be the most useful and thoughtful. Free food and swag is great, but at the end of the day all you really wanted was to not be walking anywhere anymore. Chevy took care of that. In addition to their yearly Chevy Volt lounge where you recharge all of your dying devices, Chevy had a pickup area outside of the front of the Convention Center. You could either test drive a Chevy in a closed course around town or Catch A Chevy, which would take you anywhere in the downtown Austin area for free.

To recap: In order to make a huge splash at SXSW now you have to have a big branded engagement that is useful to the festival-goers. SXSW Interactive has become so huge that your presence needs to be huge. The best engagements gave you food, battery power, a place to rest and transportation – the necessities of SXSW. In order to succeed next year at SXSWi think about what your customer would want there and give it to them. Swag is nice but a comfortable experience is nicer.

Best Popup Ever aka Thanks Constant Contact

By perksconsulting |


More businesses should thank their customers every now and then. Doing this unscheduled surprises a customer and engenders more customer loyalty. Constant Contact’s positive sentiment went up substantially with me because of this. All too often we’re bombarded with offers from the company, effectively spamming their best customers. Instead, follow in Constant Contact’s footsteps by doing something nice and unexpected every now and then.

The Ins And Outs Of Group Text Messaging

By Perks |

Communication is all over the place with Email, Twitter and Facebook. Recently a surge in the group messaging market has given us many options to solve the problem of being able to communicate with people quickly, efficiently and reliably. The competitors are many but the winner is clear: GroupMe.

Group Messaging works by connecting many different phone numbers to one random phone number that everyone texts to. The group messaging company figures out who is texting by their registered name and number and posts their message to the random group number along with their first name in front so you can identify who is sending the message.

But before we get to why GroupMe is winning, here are some other companies in the group text messaging space:

Beluga recently was purchased by Facebook for obvious reasons. Facebook launched their messages platform that links your email and phone number to your Facebook message inbox. Facebook sees the need to provide their users a way to communicate with each other like they do in messages but easier. It’s no secret that Facebook’s mobile app isn’t up to snuff. With the purchase of Beluga Facebook bought both team and technology. For now Facebook said they’ll leave Beluga open and running, but who knows how long that will last? Facebook cannibalized the last two companies they purchased (Hot Potato and Drop.io) and they left Friendfeed all for dead when they kept it open and took the core team into Facebook to work on their own products.

Gogii has a product called TextPlus that gives users phone numbers if they don’t have one in order to text message with their friends through their app and not sms. This is good for teens who don’t have unlimited text plans, non-smartphones and have iPod Touches. Their longterm goal is to take this highly engaged group of users and get them to play social games with each other, thus transforming their conversations into conversation based gameplay.

Brightkite pivoted not too long ago from a location based checkin service that offers you badges as rewards to a group messaging platform. They saw that their group messaging service was much more popular than their checkin service so they decided to refocus on what their customers wanted.

Fastsociety came out around the same time as GroupMe. Their big seller was that you could create quick groups that expire after a certain amount of time. GroupMe now does that too in addition to keeping groups in an ongoing state.

So why has GroupMe won the group messaging market? For these reasons:

  • Get push notifications instead of text messages, thus reducing texts and consolidating where you read them
  • Checkin on Foursquare and share your location with your group to let them know where you are
  • Share photos and videos easily
  • Mute noisy groups when you need to
  • Start a conference call from the group you’re in
  • The GroupMe app is available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry

In addition to this if you go to GroupMe.com/Foursquare on your mobile phone you can see which of your friends are nearby and add them to a quick group to find out if the nearby event is hot or not and where they’re going to next.

That last out of app feature is their real killer feature. Although I’ll be using GroupMe to coordinate plans for my startup Addieu at SXSW, I’ll also be interested in what parties are hot and where to go next. The Create a Group using Foursquare feature will be the killer app at SXSW as everyone is always looking for the next hot party.

How can you use group messaging?

  • Coordinating quick messages amongst your team.
  • Collaborative real-time product feedback from your best customers.
  • Create very specific groups for very specific issues.
  • Plan events on the fly

As with any new communications, make sure that the people you are adding to your group are ok with it before you add them. Some may be familiar with the technology and fine with you adding them. Others, like your best customers, would definitely need to be asked before you add them as you don’t want to alienate them.

Mashable Awards 2011 at Zumanity Theater Las Vegas

By Lauren |

Zumanity Hoops treated the attendees of the fourth annual Mashable Awards this year at CES 2011 with a special performance. The Cirque du Soleil favorite within Las Vegas’ New York New York Hotel was a special surprise for Mashable’s many media, brand, digital and social influencers in attendance.

Motorola Xoom Tablet

By Lauren |

Motorola and Google teamed up for the Xoom tablet, which features Android’s Honeycomb 3.0 technology, HD video capture and much more. It’s previewed here in the Motorola press announcement of their 2011 product innovations, exclusively at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2011.

Vator.tv – CES Trends to Watch in 2011

By Lauren |


Our CEO Lauren Perkins just came back from CES 2011. She’s posted a couple videos from CES to our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/perksconsulting as well as articles for Vator.tv and an interview with CES/CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro coming out on America 1.