I wrote several months ago about the plight of the “adopster“: the early adopter who ditches social platforms once the digital riff raff (read: people who don’t work in the technology / digital / social / marketing space) arrive.
For the past month or so, however, I’ve been witnessing (yet another) resurgence of a different behavior — a behavior that seems to be the perfect inverse of the “adopster” phenomenon: the pathological social media marketer… or as I like to call them, the “sociopath.”
Oh, wait… that’s an actual term?
Okay, okay: a “socialmediopath.”
The socialmediopath is that hard-to-ignore mover and shaker who sees dollar signs wherever people gather online. It’s not a new set of behaviors, but it never stops being… annoying.
And right now, they’re all hanging out on Pinterest: the not-so-new (since 2008) virtual pinboard service that encourages users to curate collections of images and links from across the web that map to certain themes or interests, in a highly visual format. You can find them pinning and liking and commenting everywhere, smiling voraciously at their fellow users with Tony Robbins teeth and a flinty glint in their eye.
I love Pinterest, but socialmediopaths love Pinterest.
Love love it.
And even if it has been around since 2008, they’ve just noticed it… as with the teenage boy who grows a foot during the summertime, and is suddenly the captain of the basketball team come September.
Now, before you remind me that I help clients use social platforms to build their businesses and communicate with their customers, I should be clear that I’m not referring to people who use social media as part of an integrated marketing plan, or as part of a thoughtful strategy for their customer service, engagement, or marketing. This is something I do, and something many of my friends do (and they do it well!) We have the responsibility to keep our eyes open for what might work for a particular client, and to give new (or newish) opportunities a spin — otherwise, we’re just not doing our jobs (as my good friend, Shelly, astutely pointed out the other day.)
I’m also not talking about the people who have expertise in a particular type of platform and can speak thoughtfully to how a particular tool compares to similar ones, and who the ideal or typical user might be… according to their experience and whatever data is available.
No, a “socialmediopath” is the person who dives on a new opportunity — especially if it’s unproven — and…
These people make me tired.
Not because we don’t all have the right to make money where money can be made. No, it’s because following their thoughts and counsel becomes remarkably similar to keeping tabs on a 13 year-old girl’s crushes.
There’s a new infatuation every single day, and IT’S SERIOUS THIS TIME and THIS IS THE ONE YOU’VE BEEN DREAMING OF… regardless of the fact that they say that every time (and there’s always a cute new beta around the corner.)
Pinterest has been a particularly egregious obsession for socialmediopaths, in part because it gained popularity among non-power users of social media (read: your friend from high school with the flip phone) before many of even the most fervent adopsters realized what was happening. And while that’s great news for businesses or organizations that can effectively use Pinterest as part of their digital / social strategy, it also makes it ripe for exploitation.
So is it right for you, this Pinterest? Maybe.
Your business is unique. Your customers are unique. Your goals are unique. Your needs are unique. And as such, the recipe that feeds all of those unique aspects of who you are and what you do is going to involve a lot of different ingredients, in the right measure, at the right time. You try, you track, you tweak, you track some more… and you see what happens. And then you do it again. Which is what smart marketers do, anyway, come rain or shine.
Of course, none of this reasonable behavior means that you can’t get excited about adding a shiny new tool to your toolbox.
(… but maybe keep the hammer away from the socialmediopath.)
Inspired by my colleague Joerg’s retrospection, I decided to take a peek back at some of my own ‘visual history.’ I found clear evidence of a long-standing love of and affinity for circles activated by, and connected with elements of line and plane.
Take, for example, these spreads from some of my first forays into (self-conscious) graphic design: editorial layouts for student publications, circa 1998. A motif is established; an aesthetic proclivity begins:
A year later, working on another publication, the circle as dynamic element reappears:
The women’s heads in the photograph (one of my first and only forays into photojournalism) act as a dynamic triad of circles:
In this last example, I’ve subconsciously integrated a dominant circle into the layout through photography (and yes, these photographs are of my own making):
As I stared down graduation and entry into the ‘real world,’ my use of circles grew more rigid, less free:
Certainly—as my clients can attest—my design exploration regularly moves beyond the approaches and tendencies identified here. That said, it’s important to have the capacity to be self-reflexive, to embrace natural proclivities, and to control them in the service of clients and their communications. For designers striving to harness the basic, universal principles of design in infinite contexts, ‘aesthetic self-knowlege’ is critical.
2011 was a tremendously busy year at Sametz Blackstone — and 2012 is shaping up to be another year of compelling projects, fantastic clients, and much time spent exploring opportunities and tackling challenges as a team. We’re thrilled to be embarking on some new collaborations, and to have some fresh projects ramping up with old friends.
This is a tremendously exciting time to be doing what we do: never before has there been such a diverse range of communication tools and venues available to help organizations tell their stories, and build a “mosaic brand.”
Blog posts around New Year’s often focus on reflections on the year behind us, or predictions for the year ahead. We’re going to land somewhere in the middle, and share a few favorite posts from our blog over the last 12 months. Technically, that’s reflective, I suppose — but some of them had predictions, too!
We’ll be sharing more of our thinking in the months ahead, and celebrating some great achievements by our friends and partners.
Stay tuned.. and the very happiest of New Year’s to you and yours.
Thanks for coming by today — and join us for more in 2012!
Subtle and spectacular: two words that describe the colors of the Arizona landscape. The daytime palette is dominated by blue skies and red earth, punctuated by the soft green of cacti and desert scrub and the mellow beige, gold, and brown of dry grass.
As evening approaches, the blues transition to lavender and purple; the reds shift to crimson and maroon. The once-saturated colors wash together to produce a gradient of extreme subtlety.
Somehow, Southwest Airlines has managed to capture that palette in their livery. The airline’s palette isn’t subtle or sophisticated, mind you. In fact, until I visited Arizona, I thought of Southwest’s as one of the uglier liveries on the nation’s runways.
But now I understand that it works. They’ve managed to evoke a palette that would be impossible to replicate on aluminum (and, indeed, is impossible to replicate photographically.)
Now, when I see their planes, I’m reminded of, and transported to the transcendent moments of extreme beauty we experienced driving and hiking through the Arizona landscape. Their brand uses color as a reference or reminder of something much more powerful than could ever be designed or distributed.
Southwest (their aircraft and their brand) becomes both the literal and metaphorical connection between customer and place.
There is something romantic about old signs.
Ghost signs, fading away over time.
Signs for businesses — often no longer in existence — that we walk or drive by each day. They were fabricated in the era when signs were hand-lettered, painted on the sides of buildings, and sometimes burnished with gold leaf. They were posted prior to the days of characterless, generic awning signs, or box signs with fluorescent lights illuminating cut vinyl from the rear.
(And clearly also before the days of spell check, and signage regulations!)
These signs have a vernacular aesthetic that has evolved over time to reflect the environmental, cultural, and historical context in which they exist — much like vernacular architecture. Often they are just text with an occasional graphic element; all caps with sans-serif type seems to be the most ubiquitous treatment.
What follows is a sample of signs I see in my daily travels. Some have already been taken down since the photos were snapped, or will soon disappear as the buildings they grace are “rehabbed”. Once in a while, you may see a new sign made to look like a ghost sign… but they are far from standard.
So tell me, where are some of your favorite fading beauties?
If you’re a loyal Coke drinker, you’re likely feeling a little confused these days.
Recently, when you scanned the soda aisle at the grocery store looking for your familiar red and white can, you may have wondered if you’d accidentally landed in the wrong section. But, wait… all the other soda is here. So where’s the Coke? They can’t be out of Coke.
Then, after another scan and a squint: “Wait, is THAT what I’m looking for?!”
And you’re not alone: many loyal fans have been greeting the new white Coke can pictured above in a similar way. The new design, complete with silver polar bears, was a cause marketing effort recently introduced by Coca-Cola Company, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund.
In a statement to their confused fan base, Coke explained that the campaign was launched to highlight the threat global warming poses to the Arctic habitat of the polar bear. They designed the white can to be bold and attention-grabbing –and most importantly, to “reinforce” the campaign theme.
However, most customers didn’t buy it — literally.
Some buyers wondered if the cans actually contained the Coke they knew and loved, and as a result, were reluctant to put them in their grocery baskets. Another — likely foreseeable — complaint arose from the similarity of the polar bear design and the Diet Coke can: many consumers purchased the non-diet formula in the polar bear can, and didn’t realize they were getting more than one calorie until they took a swig.
And with the most subjective response of them all — though potentially the most damaging — some longtime Coke drinkers said the new can had an impact on the taste.
I think it’s a beautiful design, actually – but does the aesthetic value of the design really have anything to do with the buzz? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s more of a failure of expectation, and a failure to respect their own brand equity.
Coke’s customers have developed a solid brand loyalty over the years to the company’s iconic visual system — a system that both drives and relies on their emotional attachments to a certain look and feel.
A red can = Classic Coca Cola.
A silver and white can = Diet Coke.
They also sell Coke Zero in distinctive black cans that were introduced in 2005 — but the design clearly signaled “new product!” when they launched the formula.
The system is internationally recognizable, and has sustained value over time, even through the New Coke debacle and various successful and unsuccessful product extensions. That’s why the new holiday design was not simply a swapping of brand colors, but a risky muddling of a well-established system… and in the end, it failed to engage their loyal customers.
Another example: imagine waking up one day to discover that the colors on the ubiquitous McDonald’s logo had switched. Now the arches are red, and name is yellow. The shock would be instant… and understandable. Visual systems give us something to connect to, both consciously and subconsciously. While adding a little dissonance to a design can be a positive kind of disruption, flipping the whole system on its ear is a dangerous decision for a major brand to make.
In response to the wave of negative reactions, Coke announced a recall of the white cans from the shelves, and introduced a seasonal red can of a similar design “to maintain the excitement” of the campaign.
I think that’s a smart move; not only because customers will find what they’re looking for in the soda aisle more easily, but because Coke decided to reward brand allegiance, and make a truly customer-responsive change. Hopefully the polar bears will benefit, too!
Recently, we had the pleasure of working with Brandeis High School Programs to develop some digital collateral for their recruiting and marketing season. Among them was a rich PDF of the program’s viewbook (a viewbook we designed initially for print): an image-heavy look at their students in action, complete with some interactive navigation and features.
But in order to provide materials for the widest range of digital users, we decided that the print and PDF viewbooks required a mobile counterpart — an option that could be used in conjunction with strategically distributed QR codes on print postcards, or simply be accessed via a link. This counterpart needed to be done expediently and efficiently… without, of course, sacrificing quality.
Enter JQuery Mobile, a framework designed to replicate the aesthetic and functionality of stand-alone mobile apps, but within the convenient environment of the mobile browser. We leveraged its broad platform support to create a product that could serve as many mobile or tablet-based viewers as possible.
Utilizing the framework’s collapsible blocks, we created a responsive, concise version of the viewbook. Users could use common touch-based behavior to navigate through a series of blocks containing streamlined text, mobile-optimized images, YouTube videos, and links. Some links were tailored specifically for mobile, allowing viewers to call the school with a simple press of a button.
Our team then developed a custom skin for the “app”, creating a singular aesthetic that fit the mobile viewbook into the client’s brand system with natural ease. The end result was an efficiently produced yet polished product that served the client’s needs without costing a fortune. It maintains its aesthetic and functional integrity on mobile phones, tablets, and desktop browsers.
With JQuery Mobile’s help, web developers now have a new window in to mobile optimization.
Categories: Digital Media