Marketing Communication Anthropology: Social Branding, Media Machines, Netnography The blog of Robert Kozinets, USC communication/marketing professor

December 17, 2008

Click Together: An Anthem for the Online Revolution

Following my last posting’s talk about mashups, I was inspired to try something a little different.

As I’ve been traveling around the world telling people (and writing about for the last 11 years), we’ve got an online social and cultural connection revolution happening right now before our eyes. And since every revolution needs an anthem, what the heck, I thought it might be fun to try penning one.

If someone want to try recording it (you’ll know the tune in a moment), I’d love to hear it done…you could try a more PG-rated version of the great-but-kinda-naughty Beatles-NIN mashup available on YouTube right here.

So here are the lyrics….

Click Together (an online community anthem; to be sung to the tune of “Come Together”)

Here come old *H@Kk_Ur!*
He go surfin’ all nightly
He got Flickr eyeball he read global braindump
He got ten servers in his big RV
Must be influential he just post what he please


He shop all naked he got eBay football
He got Twitter finger he one Second Lifer
He say “I friend you, you friend me”
All is information and It got to be free
Click together online community


He blogospheric he big Technorati
He got Google goggles he shoot YouTube picture
He got cloudware clickstream on his page
Look him up in Facebook he make maximum wage
Click together online community


He carpal tunnel he wear Warcraft diaper
He got wiki widget he one porno filter
He say “Web plus Web is Two Point Oh”
Got to be a broker he Net portfolio
Click together online community

August 1, 2008

McCain’s Obama Ad Launches New Advertising Genre

Filed under: Branding,Culture + Ad Jamming,Marketing News & Insights — Robert Kozinets @ 8:45 am

I had to post on this latest ad, already much blogged about, from John McCain’s new campaign team headed by ex-Bush campaigner Steve Schmidt. You’ve probably heard or seen the ad already, which uses images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton to try to suggest that Barack Obama is some kind of breezy, superficial, fame-seeking attention-starved dilettante, while its voiceover questions his ability to lead. Notice the celebrities not being used in the ad: admired people like Oprah Winfrey and Robert Redford, who actually support Barack Obama for President.

Here’s the ad on YouTube.

Here’s some interesting coverage of it in the LA Times on how it is playing in Hollywood.Anyways, amid all the other vast blogospheric coverage of the ad (see this Wired article on some of the response it has generated among bloggers; see this blog from the SF Gate on more responses), I was thinking that it actually starts a new kind of advertisement.

We already know a lot about celebrity endorser ads, where people employ celebrities so that some of their positive cultural meanings will “rub off” onto the product or brand. Michael Jordan advertising Eveready batteries is a good example. MJ really isn’t a credible source of information about batteries, as he is with shoes, but his image was so strong he sold batteries, perfume, and lots more. Grant McCracken wrote a classic article on the Celebrity Endorser which you can link to here.

But this new McCain-supported ad isn’t just negative advertising, as everyone is calling it. It is an anti-celebrity de-endorsement. A de-legitimizing strategy. A negative inference using celebrities (and the notion of fame itself, it seems) to appeal to a particular target. It uses celebrities (widely disliked ones) in order to discredit a brand or product (of course the political candidates are like brands or products; that’s just basic marketing at this point in marketing’s evolution).

This use of celebrity images for negative rather than positive impact seems to me to be new, and noteworthy. I wonder if anyone is going to study it culturally, or in a more controlled setting like a consumer lab.

I also think it’s wonderfully ironic and kind of silly that the McCain-ex-Bush camp is talking about how awful it is that Barack Obama is using “marketing” (that devilish technique, so avoided in Washington), to make himself “popular.” They even say that he is being marketed like soap or candy bars (horror of horrors–the technique is, <gulp>, generalizable; does that mean it could spread…um, everywhere?).

They are saying this as they are experimenting very deliberately with new marketing techniques. Like the anti-celebrity de-endorsement.

However, there are two problems with your plan, McCain marketers.

Number one: Good marketing is premised on the idea of segmentation and targeting. And number two, it’s premised on old, outdated assumption about controlling your message–it’s a different media world than it was four years ago, when blogging and the Internet weren’t such a force.

So when a message targeted at blue collar Americans spills over and gets wide attention among many who are not of that target, all sorts of interesting things can happen. It also changes things when the message gets transformed, altered, transmogrified in this amazingly wild terrain of the Internet and blogosphere. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing now.

So it’s not exactly good marketing, by any means. New, probably. Effective, unlikely.

I’d expect to see a boomerang effect on the negativity. People posting responses of their own. For example…something like ‘if you want your President to be a serious man, in charge of the issues, above the realm of popular culture, and “ready to lead,” then it may be worth revisiting this video of Senator McCain.’

And this catchy little consumer-generated ditty+video that it inspired.

Boom-boom-boom boom-boom-er-ang.

De-endorsement, indeed.

July 17, 2008

The Mystery of Nissan’s Jiggly Juggy Viral Ad

I recently had the opportunity to teach a full-day workshop devoted to online communities and netnography for Nissan at their corporate retreat in Hakone, about two hours outside of Tokyo, nestled in the hot spring foothills of Mt. Fuji. It was a great session, and the feedback and comments were incredible. I’m very grateful to Hiroko Osaka, who planned the event, and to Nissan, which made it happen.

One component of the workshop involved getting Nissan’s best and brightest marketing managers involved hands-on in using cutting-edge netnographic techniques to understand how their customers made sense of their brand and the entire category online.

As we were going through different examples of online postings and communications about Nissan, a mystery emerged.

As I had been searching for popular online Nissan ads, that is, ads that were frequently shared and also commented upon by communities of consumers online, I had come across this ad. The ad was popular, it had been Digg’d previously and extensively, had lots of interesting comments on YouTube, and was around since 2006. Given that I was presenting to a mixed-gender group, and unsure whether showing this ad would make some people uncomfortable, I opted not to put it in my presentation. But here it was. It’s definitely jiggly. And in content, no doubt it’s all juggy. It spread around so it’s very viral. The Jiggly Juggy Viral Ad.

Here it is:

A group of managers, both males and females, were standing around watching this ad on their computer as one part of the netnographic overview of online communications and meanings they were examining for the program. I stopped them and asked “Why did you make such a risqué ad? What was the idea behind this.”

The manager from the USA looked at me and said, “As far as I know, we didn’t make this. I’ve checked into it before. No one here at Nissan knows where this ad comes from. It just appeared online. And that’s not even our font they are using. It’s totally not authorized and not created by us.”

Now, that’s an interesting little puzzle. I wonder if anyone out there had the answer.

Where did this Nissan ad come from?

As far as I can tell, there are only a few options if Nissan didn’t create this ad.

  1. It is user-generated content. Usually for something like this, that would be the most likely candidate. But the jiggling is pretty precise, and the production values are quite high. To me, this doesn’t look like a homemade video, neither in conception nor in execution.
  2. It is a fake ad planted by competitors. Sort of a little reverse viral undermining strategy. But it’s really not that offensive. It’s kind of cute, in an old Playboy mag, soft-core kind of way. If someone really wanted to undermine, I’d expect that they would go more for something more offensive or damaging to the brand.
  3. It was a spoof created by an advertising firm to try out an idea, then leaked. My money is on this theory. The conception, the production values, they all smack of an ad agency. But why did they use a real brand, the Nissan Pathfinder brand to showcase? And why would they choose to share it online? Was it created for internal use, and then liked by someone so much that it was leaked? If so, it was a very successful leak. The ad is one of the top Nissan ad’s online.

One of the reasons I favor theory #3 is the existence of the old fake terrorist ad for VW that was rolling around the Internet some time back and had everyone fooled for a while. In terms of feeling like it was conceived by advertising people, and the production values it clearly embodies, it reminds me of this Nissan ad (actually, they use the VW font so it’s even closer).

The VW ad is still very much around, and still apparently arousing controversy. Here’s a link to that ad.

According to a story in the Guardian, and many, many blog postings on the topic, it’s a spoof ad that was created by two advertising people as a gimmick. Some stories say that the ad was pitched to Volkswagen, who rejected it as offensive. Other stories say that the team (“Lee and Dan”) leaked it on purpose to create controversy and further a political agenda. They do say that it “got out accidentally.”

Well, I’m not sure how that happens. I have lots of video, and none of it so far has escaped my hard-drive without my say-so.

Finally, there are those who say that this was all a very clever and rather devious campaign by VW to stir up all kinds of weird word of mouth, while staying officially above the fray. They covertly commission a few clever producers to make this video and then leak it. Then they go into the press, distance themselves from it, while acknowledging it over and over again, officially and express extreme disgust, even threatening to sue them for damaging the brand. But all the while its being viewed, over and over again. (Just like it is off this blog….)

For those conspiracy theorists, I’d like to recommend the book Jennifer Government by Max Barry . In that book, the Nike of the future covertly commissions killers to murder people for their new Nike shoes, secretly creating a sensation that boosts demand for them. It’s a fun ride of a science fictionalized marketing-satirizing book and I recommend it.

I keep coming back to the production values. I wonder exactly how this was done, the physics and biomechanics of the operation. Was it CG special effects on the order of WALL-E or Final Fantasy IV? A person mounted on some sort of platform? A gifted and talented “breast actress” who needs no mechanical assistance whatsoever?

Any insights, speculations, inside dope, personal demonstrations, or even sheer guesses into any of these abundant mysteries would be most welcome.

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