The Reddit Corporate Conspiracy? (Plus some cool Reddit stats)

A few days ago, Ryan Holliday posted an article on BetaBeat about the Fakery of Brands on Reddit. I'm a longtime and active Reddit user, and I disagree with a lot of his article, and the idea that Reddit users will be so easily fooled by marketing trickery here. It's tough to even MENTION a brand without getting a /HailCorporate comment (the fact that the author refers to "HailCorporate" as a tag indicates he doesn't really use Reddit, either).

The examples he cites probably aren't examples of brands trying to work their way in there. If he'd read the comments or had a better idea of how the Reddit community worked, he'd know this.  In the example of the Audi image, many of the commenters clearly point out that a.) it uses the wrong font for Audi b.) it uses an unlicensed poster from Lord of the Rings c.) the Photoshop job is incredibly amateurish. In the example of Subaru getting their content to the front page, the author of that article fails to take into account that it's unlikely Subaru (Canada, Japan, America) would use the username "GodFree."

Similarly, his "TIL" (Today I Learned") examples are weak. People are sharing these things because they are interesting. I didn't know that Volvo invented the 3 point seat belt, but it's a cool fact.

Sometimes good content bombs on Reddit. Sometimes weird shit makes it to the top. There's no hidden corporate conspiracy like this guy makes it out to be.


My Favorite Reddit AMAS:

The Good: 

The team behind the Mars Curiosity Rover:

Why was it good? They used the strength of their team, and showcased their uniqu personalities and areas of expertise to answer questions. Being engineers/etc, they didn't shy away from really technical questions

Louis CK: 

Why was it good? Louis was just Louis, and like all of his projects it showed how human he is, spelling mistakes and all.

Terry Crews: 

Why was it good? Although it was obviously done the same day as the Old Spice "Muscle Music" Vimeo launch to promote the deodorant, Terry didn't just stick to Old Spice-related questions. As with Louis CK, he was simply himself.

My personal favourite: The owner of a cardboard box factory: 

Why was it good? Although probably inspired by the Simpsons episode where they go to a cardboard box factory, it was still a great IAMA on what could have been an otherwise boring topic. He was very patient with the questions, even though he had never seen the episode, went into a ton of detail and kept answering questions long after the standard one-day of IAMAs.

The Bad:

Woody Harrelson:

Why was it bad? He only focused on the current film he was promoting. He only answered a few questions from fans, and kept trying to steer the conversation back to the movie "Rampart."

The Other: 

An Apple Employee who likes his job: 

Why was it meh? It wasn't an officially sanctioned Reddit, but it wasn't particularly enlightening either. Interesting that a lot of the questions went right to the "ethics" of Apple (FoxConn factory employees, etc), even though the guy doing the Reddit was just an employee at the genius bar. Notable as our

Some Reddit Stats

10% of Reddit users are Canadian, so that works out to 3.4 million YEARLY unique Canadian visitors.

The main problem with getting this data from Reddit is that there isn't really anyway to track these users. Reddit doesn't ask for ANY user details, they don't have an ad network. You don't even need an email address to register.

Otherwise, your best bet for data is this blog post. It's self reported data (well, I guess so is Facebook), and focuses on things like what the favourite cheese of Redditors is. Pingdom also has some interesting data which says that 65% of Redditors are male and 58% are under the age of 35.

More information can be found in this blog post about the demographics of Reddit and this blog post about traffic to Reddit.






Toyota & Saatchi's Cautionary Tale

Sticking with the theme of automotive brands and engagement, you've no doubt seen that Toyota’s 2008 guerrilla marketing campaign, promoting its 2009 Matrix, is once again making headlines, and it aint’ pretty. As a refresher, in 2008, Amber Duick began receiving a series of emails from one by the name of ‘Sebastian Bowler’, a fictitious English soccer hooligan with a fondness for excessive drinking, destruction of private property and  general rowdiness (because these are all traits that every English soccer fan exhibits, of course). The first email Duick received from Bowler was to let her know he was on his way to her apartment – even so much as citing her address – to crash for a while. Additional emails chronicled his trip to her abode, often mentioning his frequent run-ins with the local law enforcement, while another email, this time from a hotel manager, demanded Duick pay for damages associated with a television, supposedly broken by Bowler, accompanied by an authentic-looking e-bill. Not surprisingly, Duick was a tad upset, or in her own words ‘terrified.’

Only after receiving a final email containing a link to a video did Duick realize what was actually happening: she was the target of a virtual prank designed to raise awareness of the new 2009 Toyota Matrix. What a rugged English soccer fan with a penchant for inebriation has to do with the Matrix is beyond me, and quite obviously, beyond Duick as well - a woman who was chosen because she represented Toyota’s target market.  The campaign certainly had a hint major dose of realism to it, something Alex Flint, creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi – the L.A.-based agency responsible for the campaign – boasted about. Now, three years later, news broke that a California court has agreed that Duick can move forward with a $10 million lawsuit against both Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi. Ouch.

I don’t think anyone can argue that this was a poorly executed idea, one that clearly – at least to everyone outside of Saatchi & Saatchi – wasn’t given nearly enough thought.  But as someone who works in the PR industry, this whole campaign fascinates me for a different reason, outside of its headline-grabbing concept.

Here Toyota was, in 2008, when Twitter only had 500,000 monthly visitors, when Facebook broke its first user milestone of catching up to MySpace, and when the concept of social media, and storytelling marketing was still in its infancy. Despite this, Toyota took a chance on a program, albeit one disconnected from its audience, and ran with a concept that was, to an extent, ahead of its time.

Today, one of the most difficult challenges PR, marketing and advertising professionals face isn’t always coming up with fresh ideas; it’s selling them to clients. Businesses have a comfort zone and it’s when they step out of it that great, award-winning campaigns are born.  To that extent, I applaud Toyota, which for the record, is still with Saatchi, for at least trying something new and taking a head-first dive into the unknown.

As for Flint, he told marketing magazine OMMA (Online, Media, Marketing & Advertising) that the prank campaign should gain the appreciation from ‘even the most cynical, anti-advertising guy.’ Three years, a flurry of negative articles, public backlash, and possibly $10 million later, I wonder if he still feels the same way.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Nike Sportswear Isn't Going To Just Fade Away

Producing high-quality, shareable content is the way to get noticed these days, and it doesn't have to be that hard. There are tons of musicians and artists out there with huge followings, and the inability of the record industry to deal with this in the internet era means that these artists are looking for other options.

Corporate sponsorship is one of those options, and a great example of this is Nike Sportswear's Pitch Perfect series of albums:

With full-on football (aka soccer) mania about to consume the minds and hearts of billions around the globe, The FADER wanted to express what the sport means to us. Faced with that seemingly daunting task, we decided to focus on what we know—music, art and culture—and view the game through the creative endeavors inspired by it. To that end, The FADER has joined with Nike Sportswear to present our collaborative project, Pitch Perfect.

Starting on June 1, 2010, and stretching over the next several weeks, we will give you new music from all over the world via continental mixtapes made by top selectors, limited edition screen-printed posters inspired by football’s global reach, and, best of all, a special documentary series filmed in South Africa by The FADER crew as football fans deluge the country. While we’re there, Nike Sportswear and The FADER will present a live music event on June 16 at Nike’s brand new Football Training Center in Soweto, featuring artists from all over Africa, that will also be streamed live on and so that all those who couldn’t make it to South Africa can feel like they did.

I've argued before that this kind of promotion is a win-win-win: fans get to listen to the music they like; the artists get paid for their work and gain new fans; and the brand is able to connect with their audience in a meaningful way.

Scion (the car company) has done something similar, and so has the Cartoon Network with their ATL-RMX album (probably the best mix of southern hip-hop and electronic music you're likely to find outside of The Hood Internet).

...And as I was wrapping up this post, I realized that Starbucks has teamed up with iTunes for a similar deal. From

"Starbucks has created a free music mix to complement your Frappuccino® beverage. Featuring electrifying summertime favorites ranging from Frightened Rabbit to Hot Chip, your free Frappuccino® Beverage Music Mix is available to download on iTunes now!"

How do you feel about this model for sponsoring musicians? Do you like it when your artists team up with brands you may or may not like?

The Future Of Music (It Was A Good Day)

It has been fairly obvious that the record industry is in decline, has been for years, and will probably continue to decline for some time. That's because the RECORD industry is based on a decades-old business model of selling discs of either the vinyl or laser-read variety. The music industry, it seems, has never been better.

Artists and record labels that have embraced the internet and new ways of doing business are being rewarded. Imogen Heap, a 31-year old recording artist from England (formerly of the band Frou Frou) is a great example of this. As a recent article on the Telegraph website says, she  "has a lucrative sideline in “sync deals”—licensing her songs for use on television and in ads and film soundtracks."

I truly believe that this sort of licensing of music will be the future of the music industry. Fans will still get to hear and share the music they love and artists will still be rewarded for their hard work. The difference is that it will be companies paying the artist's salary via these licensing deals. The more popular an artist is, the more choices they'll have when it comes to aligning their music with a brand.

A great example of this in action can be seen in this ad from Nike SB featuring pro-skaters Paul Rodriguez and Eric Koston, basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, and music from Ice Cube (SB is Nike's surf/skateboard/snowboard brand):

(Yeah, you can watch it here on BlogCampaigning or your RSS reader, but I highly recommend you watch the full-screen version with the sound on.)

I was out riding my skateboard through the streets of Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood within two hours of seeing the video. I had that song stuck in my head (and will forever associate it with Nike), and although I was wearing a pair of Nikes, they're two years old and the video has me thinking about buying new ones.

I've never been a fan of Ice Cube's music, and didn't even know that the song in the video ("Today Was A Good Day") was was by him.

The result of this video was that I was entertained by a commercial so much that I watched it a few times and shared it with some friends. I became a fan of Ice Cube's song, and he probably got rewarded by Nike for having it play along with the video.

Turn Online Activity into Offline Action

The Obama presidential campaign was one of the most successful social media campaigns to date. Last month I went to see Rahaf Harfoush speak about her time spent in the "trenches" as a member of Obama's new media team. She gave a good overview of how a variety of online tools and applications were used to rally supporters, build awareness and raise funds. Rahaf emphasized one important theme which was featured in every online initiative. It was simple: aim to turn online activity into offline action. It's one thing to rally online support for something or someone, or have a huge number of fans, followers or friends, but it's a lot harder to turn that momentum into something meaningful offline. MyBOThe Obama camp did a great job of this. MyBO ( was launched early in the primaries to unite communities and supporters already active online. The site grew to over 2 million profiles and 35,000 volunteer groups. This activity translated into 200,000 offline events and over 35 million dollars raised by personal fundraising pages alone. The new media team also used a number of other social applications including YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter to build support and provide fans with shareable content. This helped get Obama's message out and also directed traffic to MyBO, where fans could be converted to volunteers. High levels of engagement with supporters led to millions of dollars of small donations. By building strong online communities, divided by region, Obama's team could spring into action offline whenever and wherever they needed to.

Other successful campaigns have also benefited by keeping this rule in mind:

Dunkin' Donuts uses its Facebook page to bring fans together to share pictures and videos of themselves expressing their love for DD. It also uses Dunkin' Run, a site where customers alert their friends and co-workers when they are about to make a "run" and invite them to submit items to their order. This activity has created a sense of community online and also increased DD's in-store sales.

BlendTec made a series of inexpensive "Will it Blend?" videos, which are housed on its YouTube channel. The videos generated hundreds of thousands of views and led to a 700% increase in sales.

Starbucks launched its My Starbucks Ideas site where members can share ideas, give suggestions, vote and chat. The aim was to tie Starbucks fans closer to the brand and allow them help "shape the future of Starbucks". By also adding an "Ideas In Action" section, contributors can see the suggestions that earned the most votes and which ones will be called to action offline.

Canada Dry Mott's recently launched a Facebook page and Twitter account to energize fans and followers around their goal of making the Caesar Canada's official drink. Not only are they becoming more engaged with their community, but they also have a clear goal of 50,000 signatures before they can take their petition to Parliament Hill. This campaign is still young, but looks like it may develop a strong following.

In your next online campaign or initiative, remember to ask yourself how it will translate towards your online goals.

Do you have any other examples of campaigns that have succeeded by employing this strategy?

Twitter is the RSS dream made real (follow @BlogCampaigning!)

Twitter is the RSS dream made real. (I repeated the headline here because I'm feeling pretty self-satisfied with having written it.) If you're reading this post, you're probably pretty hip to the RSS scene (I know that the majority of BlogCampaigning's readers read it via RSS). But you're not mainstream—you're probably a PR Pro with a Penchant for Social Media, one of my Blogging Brethren, a Conference-Attending Corporate Communicator

RSS never really caught on because even the simplest analogies made it sound complicated. I mean, between Rich Site Summary and Really Simple Syndication people can't even seem to agree on what it stands for.

But Twitter... people seem to instantly grasp the concept of Twitter. They understand the idea that if they "follow" an account, they get updates from that account. No messing around with moving the subscription URL to your RSS reader.

Professional communicators should always try and make it as easy as possible for people to access their message, or at least make it possible for their audience to access the message in the manner they prefer.

While some people might frown upon feed-based Twitter accounts, I'm all for them and for that reason I've set up As I feel fewer and fewer people are checking their RSS readers and moving more towards their Tweetdecks, Twitter homepages and Twhirls, I want to make sure they're still able to easily access the freshest BlogCampaigning posts. Hardcore BlogCampaigning fans probably don't want to be bothered with the daily chatter that fills my personal Twitter account—they just want the hottest news from the BlogCampaigning team.

Even if you don't want to follow the BlogCampaigning Twitter feed, you can still subscribe by email, RSS or even access the page directly (which, in case you haven't noticed, went through a redesign recently).

Applied to the greater world of PR, don't limit your campaigns to just a Facebook group, just a news release directed at traditional media, or just a Twitter account. Except in probably very unique cases, making your message accessible in only one place probably won't result in much success.

How do you feel about feed-based Twitter accounts? Is there a better way we can be getting our news out?


PS: Don't forget to follow @BlogCampaigning!

Must Love Death: German Social Media Lessons

The preface: The claim resurfaces regularly. I've written about it; others have written about it: in terms of internet and social media, Germany lags behind.

ReadWriteWeb just published an interview with Marcel Weiß, the editor of—one of Germany's most popular blogs—in which he explains that Germany is at least five years behind the U.S. when it comes to social media and its adoption by a larger part of society. Blogs are still considered to be suspect by a large part of the German public and have very little influence, and social news sites and aggregators attract very little attention.

He goes on to explain that

[B]logging and social media adoption in Germany is far behind similar trends in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Blogs are still considered suspect and have almost no influence over local or national politics. The mainstream media still likes to describe the Internet as a dangerous place, full of malware, porn, and scammers. While regular newspapers in Germany have also started to feel the pressure from the Internet (and every major German paper has a web site), the absence of a successful Craigslist-type site in the country has given the newspapers a longer lease on life than in America.

The reasons for this are very deeply ingrained in German society. Felix Salmon offers a short and comprehensible (yet also stereotyped) overview: basically, Germany's culture is the antithesis of what blogging is all about.

The blogosphere is fundamentally egalitarian, to the point at which the young and even the completely anonymous can become A-listers. At the same time, highly respected professors and experts often find themselves ignored, perhaps because they hedge themselves too much or are simply too boring to pay attention to. Germany, by contrast, is fundamentally hierarchical.

A bit of a generalization, but he's close to the point. I'd say this statement rather applies to culture. The use of mass culture in Germany is quite hierarchical as it reflects power structures. I will spare you the sociology behind it (see my post about Bourdieu and social media). Just this much: in contrast to American discourses, which embrace the internet as a genuinely democratic and—thus specifically American—cultural practice, in Germany this egalitarian appeal and integrative potential is perceived as a threat to milieus (and media) which still perpetuate restricted high cultural traditions (or the "right" use of pop culture) in order to gain social capital.

Also: Germany experienced its greatest push towards modernity under the Nazis, the first party to embrace mass media for propaganda purposes in a kind of reactionary modernism, which makes the whole field... suspect.

Anyway, the result of all this is: Germany indeed does lag behind.

My Problem:

I was confronted with this fact very recently when an old high school friend of mine asked me to help him promote a movie he produced, by means of social media. The movie is in English (in fact it's supposed to take place in the U.S.), and aims at an international audience. Here, two mindsets collided.

It had to explain what a Facebook fan page was, why we want to get a Twitter and a Flickr account, etc. Once everything was set up, the next step was to explain how everything worked. It was a social media crash course.

I suppose Twitter alone would warrant a whole night of instructions (if the other person has no idea at all): What are the basics? How do I contact people? How, why and when do I send direct messages? Wait, I can change the background? I woke up to ICQ (yes, ICQ) messages asking me why a # was in front of a tweet. And what the hell is Follow Friday?

At this stage, we didn't even discuss the "proper" use of Twitter yet: engage in conversations, be nice and say thank you, look for Twitter users or bloggers who are interested in the romantic horror comedy splatter genre and get them to cover you... If someone does an interview or writes a review, see if the person has a Twitter account and add them... A sample conversation: "One of the singers from the soundtrack is following us." "Did you follow her back?" "Why?"

And so it went on. I was the one who's supposed to update the account. Andy, the director, attended the film's premier in Montreal. Lot's of potential there in terms of Twitter. But he had no idea about it either. So apparently it was up to me... (sitting at my office desk in Germany, writing my doctoral thesis, not really having the time to monitor any coverage of the movie). It was going to be a long way. I really hope my friend realized how to use Thwirl by now...

"BTW, it would be nice if Andy could take some pictures and could upload them on Flickr. I also installed a plug-in to display the latest Flickr uploads on the Facebook page" "Uh... he doesn't know how to. And why do we need Flickr in the first place, I thought we could upload photos on Facebook!" "Yaaaaah, but..."

The problem was: my friend's German mindset, not being acquainted with any social media or its principle at all, collided with the world out there.

But, to give credit were credit is due: he seemed to be learning—in terms of the basic idea at least.

While having a beer at a bar, the producer told me what kind of trailer they would produce and how they would introduce the people behind the movie in little clips; how he would ask the director to film movies with his mobile at festivals and put those on Facebook and Youtube—basically share the experience and engage people, let them become part of the project and involve them in the process of getting the whole thing started. Or as he put it "Keep zings reel!"

We were getting there. Slowly.

I invited all my friends on Facebook to become a fan of the movie, while my friend sent out an e-mail to the 150 people of the (German) movie team. All of a sudden 2/3s of our fan base came from Australia—apparently hardly anyone of the team was on Facebook!

In short: please become a fan of Must Love Death and follow us on Twitter!!


Dear HypeMachine (a letter to anyone involved in mass email for marketing or newsletters)

Dear HypeMachine, I've been a huge fan of your site for a while now. You're an amazing resource when it comes to finding new music, and ever since you included my music blog in your listings, traffic to it has quadrupled.

When I first signed up to be a member of your site, you asked for my email address. A lot of sites do this. In fact, most sites do this.

Most sites then send you weekly updates, monthly reminders and invites to events that you don't care about or are nowhere near you (I believe the correct term for this type of stuff is "Bacn"). HypeMachine doesn't. In fact, I think this is one of the first I've gotten from you:


# NEWS: We want your Top 10 Albums Music Blog Zeitgeist 2008 is coming in December, and we need your Top 10 Albums. Open to anybody with a blog, enter the link to your blog post and what CDs you picked to be included:

# NEWS: Profile Customization Now you can add a photo, website, & set your location. How: Click settings in the toolbar

# MUSIC: 5 tracks YOUR friends are obsessed with Play All:

# MUSIC: Hottest 3 artists right now 1. Deerhunter: 2. Kanye West: 3. Cut Copy:

# BLOGS: Latest 3 music blogs added 1. New Rave gone wrong: 2. 88 Days In My Veins: 3. The Laundromatinee:

# BLOGS: Hottest 3 music blogs right now 1. Popdose: 2. Metaphor: 3. music is art:

---- <3 The Hype Machine Team (Anthony, Taylor, Zoya, Scott, & Mati)

We make these newsletters for you. Want to see something else added? Let us know: Unsubscribe:

No heavy graphics or lengthy blocks of text - you guys want the simple route. With just a quick glance, I can get the gist of what your news is.

This is probably way more effective than long paragraphs that most readers will probably just skim anyways. Its also easy to read on mobile devices, and its actually worth reading. Not only is it giving me news about your site, but it is also fun in that it gives me some info on the top music.

Not every site or company has something as interesting as top music lists to share with their readers, but surely they can put something interesting. In that case, they could take the time to publicly thank their top customers or users. Or they could provide brief stats or numbers about their industry - people love lists, too.

But you already know that, HypeMachine. A lot of people can probably learn from you.

Keep up the great work on all fronts.


Parker Mason

PS: if you ever get another wordy, graphically-rich marketing email from someone: send them yours and tell them I said it was awesome.

PPS: iStudio's annual Christmas card is an exception to the simplicity-is-best rule, but that's because they are so damn clever. After being fortunate enough to see it last year, it was actually one of the things I was looking forward to the most this holiday season. Check it out at

PR Spam

While checking my RSS feeds today, I couldn't help but notice the interesting contrast between this post by B.L. Ochman detailing the recent "trip to e-mail hell" as a result of a mass mailing sent out by PR Week Magazine and this post by Rich at Copywrite, Ink. about a report from the Direct Marketing Association saying that direct e-mail is one of the marketers most successful tools and results in a high return on investment (approximately $45 for every dollar spent). The high returns probably don't take into account the cost of paying for computer support for nearly everyone on the mailing list as a result of problems faced

The high return on investment probably also doesn't take into account the thought that for every customer that responds positively to the mailing there are probably five more that become annoyed with your brand.  As Rich writes, "while more than 70 percent of marketers said they intend to use e-mail to enhance consumers relationships, one wonders if consumers share their point of view."


Fixing mesh with duct tape

One of the other people that I had the chance to meet at mesh07 was John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. During his panel discussion with Maggie Fox (who said she liked my shoes) and Jen Evans, someone asked a question about why he blogged and about the return of investment on blogging. John's answer was probably the best that I have ever heard to this question. He said that when he first started blogging, he didn't think anyone would ever read it. Blogging gave him a chance to gather his thoughts, and forced him to research some of the topics he was writing about. As a result, John said that he became a better writer, and was able to speak more confidently about what he was writing about.

Those two reasons alone are enough for most people to start blogging. While it might be possible to make similar improvements by just keeping a journal, a blog forces your thoughts and writing into the public sphere. You become much more accountable for what you've written, and as a result are more likely to take it more seriously.

Another point that was brought up in the same panel discussion (I don't know who said it, but I'll attribute it to Jantsch just because I like his good-natured attitude) was that we don't try and measure the ROI on taking a client out for lunch. A meeting like that might not result in anything tangible at that moment, but its about building relationships. The same goes for an organization's blog. It is unlikely that launching a blog will result in a huge increase in sales, but by building a relationship with

I'm not saying anything new here but, like John Jantsch, I'm just writing it down and posting it to secure my own thoughts on the matter.


Consumerism 2.0

This confusing internet: Not only defies it traditional marketing approaches but it also leads to the slow and inevitable death of blockbusters. Instead we can witness a fragmentation of tastes that justifies the existence of services like ebay (and pretty every other successful website of the last ten years or so...). In his classic The Long Tail, Chris Anderson argues that  products that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough. Combine this thought with social bookmarking and you have the German start-up The sales volume of sex dolls for dogs might not not have reached its nadir yet but combine it with meat card holders and an AK-47 mobile phone and we're talking serious business. iliketotallyloveit allows users to publish all kinds of excrescences of capitalism which the community can then vote for. The more votes, the higher the product rates until it feels the love of the frontpage where it's exposed to even more visitors/potential consumers and their irrational desires. Attached to every item is a direct link to an online shop where it can be purchased. In short: it's like for shopping and a good example of how consumerism works in times of web 2.0. A few added community features (e.g. the ability to start groups to discuss certain products or product ranges: Dog sex doll lover unite!) could furthermore enhance the potential of this clever approach – which in its simplicity makes me wonder why I didn't have the idea. Gott verdammt!