Buzz Off

This week, Google released its new Social aggregation service (I don’t think that it is a networking service) called Buzz. Jason Calacanis thinks Buzz just ate Facebook’s lunch. I disagree.
Buzz requires connections with people through my personal Gmail account. Unlike Facebook, where I can “unfriend” anyone, and hide them when I don’t want to communicate, tying this account to my personal email means that I have to give out that email to connect with someone. Even though I can block them or stop following them if they’re suddenly undesirable, they still have my email, and can abuse it, publish it, pass it to spammers, etc.
I think this is somewhat shortsighted. Of course, Google wants to drive adoption of Gmail and its’ other services. However, with Wave they created GoogleWave.com addresses, and still pulled in Gmail “buddies.” They could have and should have done the same.
Next, the requirement that I be logged into Gmail to see my Buzz stuff is not appealing. I have many email accounts, and still use various desktop clients to manage them. Call me a luddite, but I have no intention of using Gmail full time, so Buzz is going to be an interrupt – driven activity – I’m already getting emails on Buzz threads where I’ve commented and already contemplating how I’m going to filter them.
Jason, this is not the second coming of Facebook. Buzz is a lot like FriendFeed, which I also don’t use because it is cluttered and takes too much effort for me to organize. I see it as way too geeky. When my brothers and sisters are on Buzz, we’ll talk.

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User Generated Beverages – What Can we learn from DewMocracy?

In December I attended the reception* for the Mountain Dew Dewmocracy event, and learned how Mountain Dew was using its fans to help pick a new flavor (or several new flavors) of the beverage. Personally, I love the idea of asking your customers what they want from a product and giving it to them. It is often the way products are made, but in this day of mass market and focus group watering down of the message, I liked that Dew went out to their fans and actually made them work for the product they want – that should ensure good adoption when the release the soda later this year.

The intent from the start was to activate Mountain Dew’s most rabid fans, the people that live the “Mountain Dew lifestyle” all the time, and get them to participate in creating the flavor, color, name, and creative for this drink. Mountain Dew took a flavor sample truck to 17 markets and found fans in those areas to test the 7 sample flavors, make video posts and document their experiences, and invite their friends. 50 fanatics from this process got home tasting kits, invited their friends and documented the experience on an included Flip video camera. Once they got that input, Mountain Dew created their own social network of 4000 core fans, and got them involved teaching them how the flavors were designed, picking the color of the drinks, the names of the drinks and even creating test graphic treatments and advertisements for the drinks, some of which you can see at http://12seconds.tv/campaign/dewmocracy.

Ultimately, it comes down to sales, so in April when the product hits the shelves, the 3 flavor ‘teams’ will get their friends to vote for their favorite, which becomes part of the line with a launch on Labor Day in 2010. The fans will design the launch campaign as well.
While this won’t be the first Social Media Community Designed beverage (that honor seems to go to Vitamin Water Connect), Dew’s effort did more to involve more fans, and had voting or fan participation at every stage, up until the launch.

This campaign has so many good marketing elements to it, so here are some lessons for your future marketing. (There are probably more elements I’m missing.)
Brand Loyalty: Showing fans you care and asking them to tell you the next product generates interest – especially among your most rabid fans.
Social Sharing: Use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and 12 Seconds.TV and more got fans voting and promoting the entire effort.
Word of Mouth: The name contest required votes and followers on Twitter (see http://twitter.com/509Cyclone for an example). Many of these accounts got 500 or more followers in just a few days. These people had to make a little effort to vote, and share with their friends. And the accounts interacted back with their fans.
User Generated Content: The 12 Seconds TV effort generated a number of very clever spots watched by hundreds or thousands of people.
PR: I’m writing about a soda I don’t even drink (since I’m decaffeinated.) They have a good story to tell the press.

Ultimately, though, we’ll see how many sales rack up with the 3 test flavors, and whether “everyone gets a trophy” (they release all 3) or whether they keep one for launch on Labor Day.  I’m Interested in knowing how this ends. What else can we learn from efforts like this?

*Disclaimer: I was invited to the reception by Porter Novelli and Pepsico friends, but received no compensation for this blog post (other than a few hors d’oeuvres and some Mountain Dew samples at the reception.)
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J.D. Lasica on 21st Century Media Literacies with Howard Rheingold

I just found this wonderful interview that JD did with Howard Rheingold, from last summer. I’m posting it because my class should watch this video, and learn from two people who have been thinking about the subject for a very long time.
Howard Rheingold on essential media literacies | Socialmedia.biz

Increas­ingly I think the dig­i­tal divide is less about access to tech­nol­ogy and more about the dif­fer­ence between those who know how and those who don’t know how,” he said. He’s con­vinced that what’s most impor­tant is not access to the Inter­net — we have more than a bil­lion peo­ple on the Inter­net now and there are 4 bil­lion phones out there — but access to knowl­edge and lit­era­cies for the dig­i­tal age. “The abil­ity to know has sud­denly become the abil­ity to search and the abil­ity to sift” and dis­cern.

The video is great – take the 6 minutes to watch it. Thanks JD and Howard.