Jonathan Salem Baskin

The Inanity of Online Comments

Have you ever commented at the end of an online news story or blog post? I have, and then almost always wondered why I did so. A few of the comments I received on my latest column in Advertising Age this week got me thinking even more about the entire shebang.

My conclusion is that not only is it a waste of time most of the time, but it actually denigrates if not wholly blows up the very idea of conversation.

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Are You Scared of No?

I know I’m a dim bulb, but I was at a conference last week full of marketers who sang the praises of engagement, conversation, and the other descriptors of endless social activity that are supposed to take the place of overt selling. And then it dawned on me:

They’re all scared of being told “no.”

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Kraft & Kellogg’s Are Clueless

Kraft has rebranded its salad dressing as “anything dressing.” Kellogg’s “Project Signature” is intended to change the way consumers experience breakfast. Both companies are enamored with the ideas, emotions, associations and appearance of their branding.

And both companies are clueless.

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How Much Is My “Like” Worth?

I received an email a few weeks ago from Travelocity, a service I use rather infrequently to book hotels, and it offered me a $25 coupon if I’d “like” the company’s Facebook page. It got me thinking about what it would get in return:

 

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Tell Me Something That Matters To Me

The future of social communication is mobile, at least if you believe the latest round of evangelism coming from the technopunditry. I actually buy it, mostly, and I think the idea of being immersed in a web of background, insight and opinion at any given moment is kinda cool in a cyberpunk consensual hallucination sort of way.

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Apple Loses A Customer

I know I’m dim, and I know that customers suffer glitches with every tech brand so my complaint isn’t news. But I want to explore it in the broader scheme of brand integrity and business strategy.

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A Great Subaru Ad

I may be dim, but I love this ad. A dad leans through an open window of a car door, dispensing driving advice to his 7 year-old daughter who’s behind the wheel. The little girl is giggly cute and after a bit tells her dad she’ll be fine. Cut to dad who winces his agreement, then back to the daughter, only now we see her as she really is — not through her dad’s eyes — and she’s a mature-looking teen. The car pulls out of the driveway as dad watches. “We knew this day would come, and that’s why we bought a Subaru,” the narrator intones.

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Another Airline Merger

I may be dim, but I’m having deja vu all over again after reading that the unions of newly-bankrupt American Airlines would rather consider a merger with habitually-bankrupt US Airways than pursue a draconian business plan proposed by their own management.

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The Semantics of Branding

I may be dim, but have you ever thought about how people talk about brands? The brand stands for something. The brand does this or that. The brand value is whatever. The brand has a conversation with people. The brand tells stories.

Guess what? There’s no such thing as “the brand.” It has no consciousness or personality. It can’t do things. It simply isn’t.

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A Tale of Two Ads

We marketers are a funny lot, in that we seem to learn far better from examples than we do from theories or explanations, however detailed those descriptions might be. I’ve often argued that this penchant of ours keeps us from ever straying far from The Conventional Wisdom -- in that the next campaign must look much like the last one, by definition -- and it means most branding conversations amount to little more than vocational quibbles (versus the thoughtful, strategic analyses our business needs so desperately).

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