Pre-Thanksgiving Digital Juice Fast.
We’re cleaning out our browser caches this week in preparation for the Thanksgiving holidays – a kind of digital juice fast as we prepare to gorge ourselves on stories of holiday marketing gone awry and viral videos of pets enjoying themselves on sleds. Oh, okay. Maybe just a quick one:
From the “Just Because You Can” folder: A suicide prevention charity in the UK has suspended a controversial tweet-scanning app. The Samaritans Radar Twitter app would scan the tweets of people you follow to look for signs of heavy depression and send up alerts. Though it should be said that the Samaritans had the best of intentions, there were several privacy concerns: foremost the fact that those being monitored would never even receive notification when their tweets were flagged.
From the “Fascinating History of Everyday Things” folder: an excerpt, aptly posted on Slate, from a new book, Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom by Lewis Buzbee. Buzbee traces not only the blackboard’s history, but defends its continuing importance in a world where small groups and discussion-based learning are all the rage. Favorite passage: “in rural areas…it was often made from scratch, rough pine boards nailed together and covered with a mixture of egg whites and the carbon leavings from charred potatoes.”
“Should the Polar Bear Still Sell Coca-Cola?” That’s the title, and the central question, of a recent New Yorker piece by Mya Frazier. Plenty of brand mascots are animals; Frazier cites an observation by art critic John Berger that in the industrial age, “no other source of imagery can begin to compete with that of animals.” Still, the polar bear is undoubtedly in danger, and the global industrial complex to which Coke belongs is at least partially responsible. The company has donated a small fraction, “a tiny sum of money,” toward efforts for their preservation. Frazier makes an attempt to sort the greenwashing from the exploitation.
From the “I don’t really know why I clicked” folder: A story from Adweek about the fickle nature of viral marketing: A new smart-home app called Wink attempted to create a viral campaign around a non-existent robot butler. The company got the robot an actual appearance (and subsequent Twitter pic) with Martha Stewart. They tweeted fake shout-outs to major media (who hadn’t actually run stories on the robot). It was weird. It was random. Maybe too random. It didn’t work.
Like a lot of Americans, we at Well Done are just a bit obsessed with the new Serial podcast from the producers of This American Life. The podcast, a weekly cold-case investigation by T.A.L. reporter Sarah Koenig, traces the ins and outs of a fifteen-year-old murder case. The uncertainty of the outcome has some listeners scrambling through Reddit threads looking for clues. We’re not quite there, yet, but we are kind of interested in this article on the podcast’s disarmingly simple ad, for email service MailChimp, which has developed something of a shadow cult.
Well, we’ll see you next week, when it’ll be all about turkey photography and the root vegetables with the funniest names (“rutabaga”). Or so we assume. In the meantime, enjoy these bits of marketing wisdom from one of our Thanksgivings past. They’re as true today as they were way back in 2010. Possibly even truer.
Chalkboard photo (Dr. Robert Goddard) by NASA (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADr._Robert_Goddard_at_Clark_University_-_GPN-2002-000130.jpg) via Wikimedia Commons.
Polar bear etching by W. Panorma, (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AZoological_Society_of_London%3B_a_white_polar_bear_on_an_ice_f_Wellcome_V0023096.jpg) via Wikimedia Commons.
MailChimp photo by designmilk (https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8231/8423724699_de13a5ec22_z.jpg) via Flickr Creative Commons.