What do you say to people who say they aren't influenced by advertising?

Via the user ShamelessMendacity on Reddit in response to the question "Ad people, what do you say to people who say they are not influenced by advertising or branding?"

Great advertising changes your behaviour. It doesn't change what you want - doesn't even attempt to. It changeshow you want.
An example: If you ask people what they want to have five years from now, most of them will give you a list that's essentially an upgrade of things they currently own, or that their friends and colleagues have. A better car. A bigger house. A nice kitchen. Better furniture.
That's all fine - but then you should ask them what they're picturing when they say "a better car."
Chances are they're not thinking of a slight upgrade on their Ford Mondeo - they're thinking of an Audi. Or a Lexus. And when they say "a nice kitchen" it'll have a specific set of features that approximate to something made by Viking.
It's legitimate to want "better" things, but one of the most powerful effects of branding is that people have learned to benchmark quality based on brands with which they're already somewhat familiar. And even if the choice is negative, buying an Acura specifically because it isn't a Lexus is still a choice made with Lexus in mind.
By advertising themselves and branding themselves in a certain way, brands can completely change your relationship with their entire category.
Oh, and if someone says they're not influenced by advertising, they're actually admitting that advertising has the power to influence. Just that it doesn't influence them. And people don't make their choices in a vacuum. Even if you never watched TV or listened to the radio, never read a magazine, or surfed the internet, and only read books written before 1914, and were completely immune from the influence of advertising, you're still going to be influenced by what everyone around you is doing. You may not care about pop culture, but it cares about you.

You can read the rest of the thread on Reddit here. 




I found this quote on Reddit via user Reasonably Plausible, and really liked it:

"Human beings are scary. We breathe a corrosive gas, drink one of the most potent solvents. Our preferred method of hunting was persistence hunting, where we chased animals until their body simply gave up and died. We can eat just about anything we find, which means that we don't need to stop for food when chasing our prey. If we can't find food, that's fine. Our body will simply begin to eat itself so that we don't have to stop chasing our prey. We walk upright, we sweat, we don't have much body hair, which allows us to radiate away our body heat. This means that excessive time or extreme environment wont stop our hunts. If the animal fights back against us, we can take massive damage to our extremities and lose half our blood and still live. Our entire existence is owed to persistence, endurance, and determination. When we put ourselves to a task, it gets done, period. And this instinct is still affecting us today. 332BC: Alexander the Great hits a stalemate with the fortified island city of Tyre. Instead of going back defeated, he builds a kilometer long bridge in order to raze the city. 49BC: Cesar, after defeating the Gauls and invading Britain, turns a political fight into a civil war by invading Italy with only a single legion. He eventually becomes dictator starting a world superpower whose engineering feats are only recently being broken. 1804AD: A charismatic French general declares himself Emperor and sets off to conquer much of mainland Europe. He is captured, exiled, and then escapes. The soldiers sent to recapture him instead lay down their arms and join him. 1961AD: One man decides that we will go to the moon, despite much of the technology to do so not even existing yet. Just eight years later, two humans stand on the surface of the moon and look back upon the Earth. 200 years ago, we didn't have railroads. 100 years ago, we didn't have airplanes. 50 years ago, we didn't have spaceflight. 25 years ago we didn't have the Internet. We've already inherited the Earth and soon we WILL inherit the stars and anyone or anything that stands in our way will be eliminated one way or another."

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.






An Obituary From The Future

Yesterday on Reddit, user NoFlag posted an obituary he wrote for himself as part of a project for his journalism class: John X. Noflag was pronounced dead at the age of 225 this Thursday at the Mons Olympus Medical Combine, following complications with a voluntary nanotech experiment.

Observers say a procedure to fully immerse Noflag within a nanotech swarm ended abruptly as his body dissolved before their eyes. Due to the failure, most of the nanotech was collected and deactivated, although some escaped. The escaped sample is not believed to be self-replicating, but it could not be confirmed.

Born on Earth in Somecity, California, Noflag was one of the later immigrants to Mars after the Earth ban of age enhancement technologies and strict regulation of nanotechnology, being commonly heard to say “Earth will pay for its lack of vision.” He is survived by two fully mature clones and a youngling.

A public funeral and ceremonial burial is planned on the grounds of the Noflag Estate.

In lieu of flowers, mourners are asked to send money or weapons to the Nanotech Defense Front.

He's seems like a pretty smart kid, and I'm sure  he can probably see far enough into the future to know that he probably won't be a journalist when he graduates.



What Reddit DOESN'T Do

A few days ago Reddit wrote a blog post to celebrate the fact that in December 2011, they had over 2 billion monthly page views and over 34 million unique visitors on their site (and 10% of that is Canadian!). The blog post also points out that in the past year, traffic to their site has doubled and users are spending an average of 16 minutes/visit on the site.

As my friend Fred Moesker pointed out, it's interesting how they achieved this based on the list of things they DON'T do:

  • We don't get traffic through ads.
  • We don’t participate in any traffic trading.
  • We don’t email our users (unless they choose to enter an email and then forget their password).
  • We don’t harass users to sign up.
  • We don’t harass users to invite their friends.
  • We don’t pester you to download our app.
  • We don’t use slideshows and other pageview gimmicks.
  • We don't know anything about SEO.
  • We don't integrate with Facebook.
  • We don't even link to our Facebook or twitter accounts.
In a time when sites are becoming increasingly connected and our online profiles are telling a deeper story of who we, its interesting to see Reddit take almost an opposite approach: focusing on the community of people together, rather than on individual identification.

A Guide To Community Building

For the last few months my colleague, Ujwal Arkalgud, and I have been researching the communities of Digg and Reddit to determine the role that culture plays in online communities. We went into the research unsure of what we would learn, and came out with some pretty amazing and useful findings. First, we found that culture absolutely plays a role in the building and proliferation of online communities. More specifically, there are specific counter-cultural elements pertaining to design, social interaction and structure that are essential for every online community.  We have seen these elements manifest themselves in older communities like the WELL and as well as the leading communities today like Digg and Reddit.

Second, we found that the further an online community moves away from these core counter-cultural characteristics, the weaker the community becomes.  As communities approach the 'break point' they begin to take the form of groups, content distribution and syndication networks.

Based on these findings, we were able to pin-point 6 key counter-cultural elements necessary for an online community to be successful, and use them to develop specific recommendations for  building or activating an online community.

Check out our research report for the full lists, findings and full research.

What do you think of advertising on Reddit?

I've been increasingly interested in exploring advertising options on social media sites over the past year or so. Facebook ads whetted my appetite, I'm fascinated by the possibilities of StumbleUpon's Paid Discovery service and now I want to learn more about advertising on Reddit. If you're a Reddit user, how do you feel about Sponsored Links at the top of your favourite website?

If you're an advertiser, have you advertised on Reddit before? How did it work out for you?

Thanks to everyone who responds!


Some Thoughts on Changing Media

On the weekend I met two former Australian lecturers of mine – Jason Nelson and Ben (whose last name neither Parker nor I can remember) – when the conversation turned to the demise of newspapers. Ben's argument was that they probably would stay around, after all we're still listening to the radio. Something about that argument felt wrong, even though at that moment I couldn't articulate it. Thinking about it more, I realised that this view is very ahistoric. When radio started, people would schedule their lives around it. They would wait for a certain programme to be broadcasted to gather the whole family around it and consciously absorb what the wireless had to say.

Then television arrived and took over exactly that role. Now people were staying at home to watch evening shows and sometimes were even attired to underline the specialness of the moment. It was like going to the theatre, only in one's own home.

Radio couldn't compete with that. Instead it started to serve a different purpose: It served as background noise, something that tootles along while you're in the office or driving to work. No one scheduled his life around the broadcast schedule anymore, instead the interchangeable format radio became the norm. "Five songs in a row with no ads or talking!" That function is certainly different to the one of the printed press whose products you'd have to consciously read in order to make meaning of them.

As Parker pointed out this doesn't mean that media is dying, it's just changing. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, even though traditional media certainly serves its purposes; e.g. it helps to bring important developments to the conscience of the public by helping to spread them. It's a catalyst. Without you never might have noticed that Facebook changed it terms of use – not everyone is reading tech blogs after all.

Then again this isn't a process that couldn't be democratised with the help of internet, the best examples being sites like digg or reddit. Here the users decide which information enters the front page which in turn acts like a catalyst again (just like sites serve as means of democratisation of something as elitist as 'style')

These 'democratic catalysts' certainly aren't without problems. Power users might dominate which content gets voted for, fads become more important than news and a net-savvy, educated elite could dominate the political discourse and use these sites like an echo-chamber.

But the same could be said of newspapers: They certainly aren't free of interest but rely heavily on advertising; human interest matters more than serious reporting; again an educated elite perpetuates world views (otherwise there wouldn't be conservative and liberal papers) Which begs the question: Why not have 'democratic catalysts' of different political nature? The certainly is room for a conservative counterpart to reddit.