culture, Marketing and Branding

The relevance of marketing/social media in Politics

I figured 2012 was a perfect year to bring this topic up, as it is the year of the Presidential elections both in France and in the USA. I feel concerned by both, even though I can only vote for the first one.

By the way, I encourage anyone, French or American to educate yourselves, and GO VOTE! We didn’t always have that right, and it baffles me when people take it for granted and think it’s useless.

Once again, I digress. It has struck me over the years how much the political campaigns have changed. The awareness that image is important to boost the votes during an election is a concept well-known to political advisers, but it’s only until recently that candidates have been under so much scrutiny. The politics have come to that understanding: you are “selling” a candidate, like you sell a product. The same techniques used to sell products and goods are now applied to people. And that means they are promoted via TV commercial, mail, email, social media, and even tabloids.Thanks to the internet, tv and social media, they have invaded our homes and it has become just about impossible to miss them.

But overall, does it work? Here the opinions differ. Some people say that  by using technology and social media, the politics can reach a broad range of people that otherwise wouldn’t have been approached, like younger voters for example. This way, people get an idea of what the candidates’ ideas are, who they are, what they are standing for, and a lot of times, who they are standing against.

Others think that the kind of information provided through those outlets is too shallow to allow people to form a proper opinion and make an informed decision, and that on the contrary, giving partial and/or superficial information is becoming misinformation. They accuse the media to be condescending and provide a simple, black-and-white version of the issues at hand.

Of course deciding between two presidential candidates is trickier than deciding between two brands of detergent. There is also the chance that people will completely block the information out, because they are flooded with ads and refuse to let the media invade their lives. For example, because I am registered at the French Consulate of Chicago as a French expatriate, I have received numerous emails from all the candidates (there are ten of them in the first round of elections in France, then two in the second round) detailing their positions and their plan for the country if they get elected. To be honest, I was getting so many every day, that I felt spammed and ended up deleting a lot of them without reading.

However, I feel it’s better to be bombed by information than not informed at all. To continue with my example, I may have deleted a lot of those emails, but I kept some that I found interesting and used the information in them to do more research about the campaign.

Of course in an ideal world, journalists and PR people would care more about the content of their articles and their advertisement and wouldn’t resort to demagoguery to convince people, but as flawed as the information can be, it is still here and available, and anyone has the freedom to dig deeper and even look at the competition’s version to make their own opinion, and that kind of freedom is priceless… Just like voting itself.

PS: Here are a couple links I found interesting concerning campaigning and the media issue during elections:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/world/europe/french-media-question-election-reporting-rules.html?ref=world

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/world/europe/in-france-hollande-camp-tries-us-style-canvassing.html?smid=tw-nytimes&seid=auto

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Entrepreneurship

The power of an idea

And there you must be thinking… Not again! Everybody has seen the movie Inception,   and lately the concept of idea generating is on everybody’s lips: an idea can change everything, is at the origin of the biggest civilization changes, and once expressed, can never be destroyed. Indeed, ideas are… Trendy.
Why? Because in a world that’s constantly evolving, they are vital. I was reading an article about Instagram, explaining why the concept of this app wasn’t invented by the giants of the photography industry such as Kodak, but grew in a small San Francisco start-up to the point of being bought for $1 billion by Facebook (who, by the way, didn’t come up with it either).

This idea that it is harder for corporations to innovate and evolve may seem daunting to some; I on the other hand found it quite refreshing, optimistic even.
It means that you don’t need to be big to make a difference, in fact you don’t want to be, because if you’re small you are flexible, and not tied by expectations from customers, the competition, etc.. All you need is this idea, and the drive to grow it. Besides, giant corporations themselves started by an idea, that grew out to become a complex entity.

I feel that now more than ever is the time to go out there, and express your idea, for the very reason that makes it scary in the first place: there aren’t as many jobs available as there used to be, the world is changing faster and faster, and people’s needs are constantly evolving. Where there is danger there is also opportunity, and if it weren’t for the bold who decided to reveal to the world their crazy ideas in spite of fear of rejection and criticism, most of the amazing things mankind has invented would have never existed.

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culture

The American Dream Today

This topic is particularly dear to me, as I remember telling all of my friends “You’ll see, I’ll make it to America some day, I’ll marry this American guy and I’ll move and make my life there.”

It is funny looking back to these memories, because that is exactly what I did. I don’t know why I wanted to make it here that bad, and I certainly had no clue that I was going to end up in Chicago, and how I was going to make it there, I just knew I wanted something different that my town in Southern France couldn’t provide me.

Now that I have been here for a while, I see things differently and I have had time to take some perspective. I no longer look at everything with bright shiny eyes and an open mouth, and I understand better the differences between life here and back at home.

But this post isn’t about me. I just wanted to set the background of my observations since I’ve been a fan of America, and since the first time I flew across the Atlantic in 2007. In particular one aspect that fascinates me, and sometimes annoys me.

It can be summed up in one sentence: America is the country of eternal optimism!

I’m aware that over the past few years, with the economy being what it is, some may argue that the optimism seems to have deserted the land of the Self-Made Man, but I disagree. There might be some movements of protest such as “Occupy” in particular, but they always come with this unwavering feeling that “Things will get better!” no matter how dark the times are.

This feeling isn’t necessarily shared in the Old Continent. In similar circumstances, where Europeans tend to complain and analyze, dissect and criticize, Americans just start acting in one way or another in regards to the crisis.

And there are many examples of this mentality in the media, everyday. I will mention for example this gigantic marketing campaign Kony 2012, by the NGO Invisible Children that invaded social media this past March – I salute, by the way, the brilliant marketing strategy behind it – and was tailored for the American public.

With such a global reaction, people found themselves quickly divided in 2 sides: The Enthusiasts, and the Skeptics. The skeptical people – that includes people from America, Europe and Africa – criticized the naive version of the story told, and the incentive given by the campaign to expand American military presence in Central Africa, to which The Enthusiasts, majorly in America, replied “Well at least we are doing something about it!”

It is this mere quality that is America’s core strength and its worst weakness. This is why America is admired and despised at the same time. It is refreshing that they have kept their pioneer spirit, but to the “Euro blasé” this outlook may appear naive, misinformed and at times blatantly obnoxious. It explains the USA positions in diplomacy, and the cultural trends in the country, that are criticized worldwide.

Some people have declared that the US might not stay on top of the world for long if they don’t change that attitude, but that has in no way shaken the Americans’ immovable optimism. By the way, here’s their reply: “Bring it on!”

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Marketing and Branding

Biting into the juicy Apple

 

This is a huge topic for a first post. But you know, go big or go home.

I have studied at many occasions while in college the branding strategy of Apple, and then more so during my thesis about  the dos and don’ts of tribal marketing.

It seems that any time one mentions a successful trend setting or uses an example of a brilliant brand development, Apple is the first word that comes out of one’s mouth.

And with reason. I’ve heard once that the late Steve Jobs “Made things that we didn’t need become necessary”. This love for the futile has been instilled slowly within certain social circles, but has now reached all social classes and communities.

Not being an Apple fan myself, I still have to tip my hat to the brand, because it made itself really hard to avoid if you’re after the latest trends in terms of communication, entertainment, and let’s face it, cool apps.

But this success didn’t happen by chance. It took a very well thought strategy, remarkably executed.

Let’s start with its recognizable design.

Since its beginnings, Apple has always made a point to “be different”, and the brand’s will to stand out was remarkably carried out through the design of each of their devices.

The first Apple product I’ve ever come across was in my French middle school library. The school took pride in having the brand new computer by Apple, this weird colored cube, named the iMac G3. Even though my English wasn’t what it is today, I remember their early slogan: “Sorry, no beige”.  I find it quite remarkable that a brand was able to impregnate its image in the mind of an eleven year-old just through a goofy design and a catchy slogan, to the point that 13 years later, they’ll still remember it. I’ll agree, back then it was a lot easier to stand out, as the competition isn’t what it is today. But Apple’s resolve to be different, and look different grew exponentially, as the competition became more and more fierce. It is largely due to Jobs’ obsession with lines and design, always oriented towards the end-user.Today, no one can mistake an Apple product for another, and the rounded, harmonious lines and sleek appearance are a signature of the brand, which has also contributed to attract the original target segment of the brand: creative and technology oriented people, design and media professionals.

Apple is a brand who has made communication and connectivity a priority.

Each device is a platform connected to another device. The principle is simple: once one owns an Apple device, they have to get “connected” in order to enjoy it fully. This is true for other brands as well, but Apple has truly mastered the concept, for example with the iPhone, with all the apps that are only iPhone compatible. This creates a dependency for the user, but also largely contributed to help set Apple products as a “trend” by generating customer exclusivity: once you buy an Apple product, you “commit” to the brand in a way.

Which brings us to the second way Apple creates connections, by allowing the users to communicate to other users and to the brand itself. The products offer multiple platforms and outlets for communication. This way, customers are drawn to engage emotionally into the products. By communicating with it, through it, the devices have become a “way of life” and also a sign of recognition for the member of the “Apple tribe”. Without exaggeration.

Apple has all the characteristics of a religion, with its prophets, its proselytism and its mecca being the Apple stores. The point of sales becomes a meeting point, a trendy place of worship of all Apple products, where all Apple fans can meet and exchange between users, and with and the brand. Apple listens to their customers and lets them express themselves throughout the use of their products to create an appropriation by the user, an emotional bond if you will. This bond is at the core of Apple branding strategy, and is also reflected in the features of the devices, enabling people to connect more and in diverse ways, using lots of images, appealing to one’s creativity and personality. It’s become an expression of self through the product.

However, this emotional attachment between the brand and the customer wouldn’t last if it weren’t for the band’s constant  strive to always be technologically relevant, and to stay on top of the competition in terms of performance. Paradoxically, for a brand so popular recently, it was not originally intended to become mainstream. That’s why the prices have always been above other similar devices produced by the competition. Apple has always had one goal: to please its tribe, which means provide a performance dedicated to fulfill the needs of the “tribe”, the core following, the group of original “fans” of the brand, the people who liked it before it was popular.

That performance was only made possible by a leader with a vision. This is where Steve Jobs came into play, and gave the brand its identity and direction. That strong leadership was necessary to create the brand’s identity, and to generate followers, people who saw and understood Jobs’ vision and decided to be a part of it. The notion of belief is capital, which once again suggest the parallel with religion. And looking at the outbursts of sadness and despair from all around the world after Jobs’ death in October 2011, it is pretty obvious that the man was for many people more than another CEO, member of the 1%, and goes to show the impact of the leader in the community.

So far, Apple has has made all the right moves and has become a necessary figure of today’s media and technology because it is a powerful tool and agent at the same time; and from the elitist brand that it was, has become quite mainstream.

But for how long? There are many competitors, and one can wonder how long Apple can stay ahead of the game while maintaining its authenticity and brand identity, if the new Apple user is now a High School teen buying it to be “cool”.

Sources

http://www.apple.com/

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/why-iphone-changing-washington-thinks-machine-politics-193007184.html

http://www.fluctuat.net/blog/30624-Et-si-on-en-faisait-trop-sur-Steve-Jobs-

http://www.landsnail.com/apple/local/design/apple2.html

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