I’m honored when people call Hammock Inc. one of the agencies that pioneered content marketing. (This month marks our 23rd anniversary.) However, I’ve always felt the term “content marketing” can be confusing when it’s applied to everything from blogging and social media to animated kitten GIFs. Unfortunately, when a term is used to label anything, it can start to mean very little.
(See update at the end of the post.)
While I typically support efforts to add sanity to our overly-litigious culture that seems to encourage anyone to sue anybody for anything, I don’t think the lawyers at General Mills thought through the type of social media firestorm they would ignite by adding language to the company’s website alerting customers they can’t take legal action against the company if they’ve done things like download a coupon, enter a contest or, if read literally, liked on Facebook one of the company’s products, say, Cheerios or Wheaties or Macaroni Grill or Fruit Loops.
The 12 readers of this blog will recognize some themes in the essay about social objects appearing in the current Hammock Idea-Email. Also, thanks to my friend Hugh MacLeod for giving us permission to use his illustration to accompany it. More importantly, thanks to Hugh for introducing me to the idea of social objects several years ago.
Social objects come in a wide variety of forms, from cartoons to blog posts to 4-photo tweets. They are the hard currency of the internet, the beginning of a social exchange that creates and fosters conversations that lead to long-term, people-to-people relationships among those who go by such labels as buyers and sellers, shoppers and merchants, creators and collectors.
(Sidenote: Each issue of the Idea-Email contains one 300-400 word essay on an idea we believe will be helpful to a senior marketing executive. You can see an archive of past issues and subscribe to it here.)
Jeff Cornwall, Belmont University entrepreneurship professor and longtime blogger (The Entrepreneurial Mind), recently invited me to appear on the video version of his blog — a show that is produced by the Nashville-based web video network, Talkapolis (think Leo Laport’s TWit network with a southern accent). The episode was posted today. It was to visit with Dr. Cornwall and I appreciated the chance to explain the customer media and content focus of Hammock Inc. — and our role in the context of today’s marketing landscape. Here’s is an embed of the 10 minute interview.
The 12 people who read this blog know that among my top three current obsessions is riding a bicycle to and from work. (I’ve just crossed 1,000 miles of in-town bicycling during the first eight months of 2013.) A small sub-set of people know that my in-city bicycling has caused me to wonder why I spent so many years believing riding a bike was dependent on my wearing Spandex and trying to ride as fast as I could.
Riding a bicycle for transportation and fun has nothing to do with Spandex, I’ve discovered. Nor speed. It’s about having such a wonderful means of commuting to work that even a woman driver* blowing her horn, screaming, “just get on the f*0#ing sidewalk” can’t pierce ones zone of bliss. (And yes, that happened to me yesterday.)
Recently, I touched on this topic and wondered out loud what the bicycle industrial complex was thinking when they spent decades using-up the majority of their marketing dollars reinforcing the idea that Spandex and bicycles are joined a the hip area. (Actually, that’s a rhetorical question as I know the answer: bicycles purchased by spandex-wearers are high-margin, expensive products.)
As I’ve noted, I believe the CitiBike program in New York could prove to be the breakthrough biking needs to help people understand that riding a bike is about transportation, as much as it is about recreation or fitness.
The reason I say CitiBike is the “disruptive” force is simple: A large chunk of the U.S. fashion industry exists within a fairly flat and densely populated few square miles of Manhattan. The world’s largest advertising and marketing firms occupy much of that same area, as do the nation’s major entertainment and media companies.
Quickly, these gate-keepers of pop-culture and fashion (especially the young fashion magazine associates commuting to work) will crush the notion that Spandex has anything to do with bicycling. Spin-classes, maybe, but the commuting kind, no.
Just look at this list of articles about “bicycles and fashion” that have appeared in the New York Times during the past year.
Spandex is bicycling’s Blackberry. Commuter fashion is its iPhone.
Before landing in New York, the urban bicycling fashion trend has been building over the past several years. For the past five years, San Francisco-based Levi’s has been nurturing a niche fashion collection for bike commuters. (And the coolest bike shoes in the U.S. are also from San Francisco.)
Today, bicycle fashion tends to slant towards hipster chic…or if older riders like me wear it, perhaps hipster-replacement chic. But check out these bicycle shoes from the UK if you want a sample of what you’ll see on Wall Street among bicycle commuters there.
As you’ve probably never seen its commuter fashion line advertised on TV or elsewhere, how does Levi’s market it? Customer media and content, of course. (Thus, the subject line of this post.)
Here are three short videos in a Levi’s YouTube series that show hip, young bicycle commuters who happen to be wearing Levi’s Commuter “Go to Work” collection. Makes you want to commute, huh?
*This particular incident involved a woman, but being a redneck is gender neutral.