Friend or friend icon?

We have recently seen a dramatic shift in the definition and responsibilities of friendship. According to Time Out Chicago, we are more likely to call people our friends without really defining them as real friends. Some sites like Facebook and Twitter have made friendship equivalent to replying to a status update.  And even Dentyne is telling us to how to treat our friends:

But, in an era where online social networking is the norm, how do we find the set of people who’s opinions we trust the most? And how does this effect what we buy?

Well, there is a fair amount of research on the subject of online word of mouth referrals amongst friends and it all centers around two things: 1.) A referral by a past customer is one of the most trusted pieces of online communication and 2.) The Dunbar Number. According to this concept, a human being can sustain relationships and communicate with about 150 people. Ironically, this is the average number of friends users have on Facebook. These 150 people make up a person’s referral circle, the people we receive information from (commercial or otherwise). Yet only 26% of these 150 will actually be called ‘real friends’ according to the aforementioned article in Time Out.

So, do we only trust these 39 people who we call our ‘real friends’? Well, a local artist/teacher, Maria Scapelli, might be able to shed some light on that with a project  called Peoplescape 365. Essentially, Scapelli set out on a mission to make one new friend a day for a year either online or offline. Her topline conclusions: 1.) she only kept about 10% as ‘real friends’ 2.) almost all of these people she met in person. So, based on these loose numbers, we might be able to say a person is only able to maintain about 30-40 real friendships and that these relationships are mainly forged by face-to-face contact.

Does that mean we don’t trust the remaining 110 people in our social circle when they say a Samsung TV is a great purchase or buy a book recommend by Legend457 online? No, of course not. But when it comes to making a brand something we love to a point of passionate irrationality (see Lovemarks), one might assume we have to talk to these 30-40 people (among other things). If we don’t, we are simply just providing purchasing descisions not life long loves.

Ready, Set, Different

3.16.09 :: At Moniker, we’ve always believed being different is good and being amazing is great. The difference between the two is often about timing. Point in case:

Pepsi Ad

This Pepsi ad breaks one of the immutable laws of food advertising– appetite appeal. Or does it? In a saturated industry where slapstick humor and lifestyle photography are the norm, is it so weird to have a lime relieving itself into your product? The answer is no. It garners attention and opens the doors to a new playing field that Pepsi’s audience was ready for.

With that being said, designer, Chip Kidd still warns us, “An idea, no matter how good, ahead of it’s time, is a bad idea.” (Just think about doing Dove’s 2007 real beauty campaign in the 50’s.) We operate in a complex marketplace of thoughts and the question of difference always has to do with timing– finding the swell before the wave. The best clients know this. We strive to jump atop it.

So, when can you achieve critical mass for amazingly different?

1. When boredom sets in
If your business is not stimulating you and/or your customers, there’s a reason, and it usually has to do with ‘business as usual’. Remember– work is not boring.

2. When there is a major untapped consumer generated trend
Think Hush Puppies or Facebook, both of whom saw a trend and then surfed it.

3. When everyone else is distracted
I.e. during a financial crisis. While everyone is worried about what they do and how they spend, by taking a little risk you can stand out and maintain a healthy business.

Extra Brand Perception

2.4.09 :: When was the last time a brand engaged all 5 of your senses (short of buying the product)? Probably not recently. Up until now, brands have been very adept at engaging people with interactive social media (Facebook) and entertainment (HBO’s voyeur project). These utilize sight and, sometimes, sound. However, some brands have added touch and smell to the experience. In 2006, Levi’s created an Intellifit computer that evaluates a customer’s body to find their perfect pair of jeans while also recommending additional clothing items– almost like an expert jeans tailor.

intellifit.jpg

And, just this past holiday season, Stove Top Stuffing installed heat lamps into Chicago bus stops with ads to remind you of the warmth it brings during the holidays. The California Milk Board (read: got milk?) even went so far as to pipe in the smell of milk and cookies into bus stops. All of these examples use technology to create a memorable, physical and, I would argue, more active brand experience.

This can even be done without a marketing budget equal to the GDP of Monaco. In the below example, a design firm has physically engaged their audience using a business card that they simply put some thought into. While this does not engage more than 2 senses, the experience is definitely more physical and interactive. What’s even better is that it pays off their concept: get stretchy.

yogacard.png

This is similar to a project we completed for a local printer. Using a direct mail, we asked print buyers to show their offices how important they were by sending them an unique office door hanger.

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So, will we ever use more than 3 senses to communicate our messages? Well, as technology develops and allows people and brands to engage each other on a more personal level, I think touch and smell will meld with sight and hearing to tell us the full brand story. Just imagine a computer that can simulate the smell of an online recipe or honest to goodness electronic paper that feels like the shirt you are going to buy. I leave you with a preview of Apple’s touch screen MacBook that demonstrates how our physical senses might be combined with our more cerebral ones.