How Popularity Ends

Popular things can begin to grate on you. Sometimes you wonder when people are going to stop sharing or talking about X item. The good news for the terminally bored is that popularity can and often does end.

The bad news is popular brands and personalities may not like that. Of course, something else will become popular and we can all suffer through the trivial presence of and conversation about new popular thing Y. A select few popular brands will be smart enough to evolve and maintain their popularity.

I was thinking of this in relation to a recent article Richard Becker wrote about social networks losing some of their shine with corporate marketers and PR pros. This popular trend may be losing its shine because of the way social media-based corporate promotion is “supposed to work” versus the very nature of marketing. Rich had a good counterpoint about social networks over-conditioning people to act in certain ways. And he is correct, the like-fest is not delivering the same marketing experience as promised.

The conversation sparked some additional thoughts on what ends popularity, in general. Here are some causes:

1) Reality Sets In

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When a popular trend or fad hits, it often brings a promise. Bell bottom jeans thin your profile, that is until everyone starts wearing them and there is enough of a sample out there to immediately recognize the thin and the thick.

Or say you have a baby boy, and you decide to name him something that ends with an “n.” You like the sound, and want him to have a unique name. That is until everyone does it and the novelty wears off as soon as your kid gets to school and half the boys in the room are named Colin, Maven, Chillin’ and Whateverin’.

By the way, please don’t name your daughter Soleil. Thank you!

In all seriousness, I think this is the case with social networking-based marketing. Rich made this point pretty well in his post: The medium’s true nature may not lend itself to marketing, or the way communicators are being conditioned to market by both the networks themselves as well as industry thought leaders.

The hit or miss nature of many of these tactics creates a need for the analytical revolution of now. Big and small, company’s are tired of the latest gimmick (You need blogs. No, try Facebook and Twitter pages! Wait, it’s content! Now, it’s Facebook ads. Hold on, it’s Instagram for Business!). Experimentation remains the rule, but community activation and interest is an empirical must.

2) Boredom

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Let’s be honest, over-exposure makes popular things boring! I love chocolate mousse. But if I ate chocolate mousse every day I’d get sick of it pretty quickly. Particularly, if it was my own or my wife’s chocolate mousse.

This phenomena is what my friends at Power Supply like to call single source provider. When the same person cooks your meals over and over again, your palate gets bored. Your poor spouse’s cooking is probably better than you think, you are suffering from eating the same thing cooked by the same person over and over again.

Ever listen to top 40 radio? I do now thanks to Soleil (remember, you cannot name your daughter Soleil). I’ll admit it, I kind of like the recent Taylor Swift songs that came out, until I heard them a few hundred times. Now I am bored. I am also severely bored with songs that have sampled deep male bass voices rhythmically chanting “Hey.” Sorry, Maroon5 you were late to this game (love the 5 by the way).

Sooner or later something new comes along, a new innovation or just a different jingle. How does a brand survive? It continues to innovate. You may be tired of iPhones, but you have to admit Apple does keep evolving the product. Every time it release a new iPhone, people get excited. Brands like Apple, BMW, Coke and others possess longevity grounded in commitments to evolve, whether in product or in marketing.

This may be Faceboook’s primary problem right now. No matter how much Zuck and co innovate, they cannot improve the Like, nor can they make it more attractive.

3) Stop Evolving

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The other aspect of ending popularity deals with the behavior of the popular themselves. Perhaps they take their popularity for granted. They believe in their own myth, and then their behavior betrays their ego. There is no greater example of this than Lance Armstrong.

I would also argue that Blackberry lost its market position in spite of clear warning signs and competition. It believed its market form and IOS were superior, and did not respond to the challenges in time.

Or in some cases a personality or brand chooses different priorities, and simply stops taking the actions that maintain popularity. Have you ever seen a popular personality simply retire or retreat to focus on other things such as family matters? David Bowie literally disappeared for a decade to focus on raising his children.

In that vein, some brands choose not to extend themselves into other markets and form factors. They don’t innovate, and just remain true to their basic promise. However, the novelty of the item wears out.

I think Lincoln Logs are a classic example. You won’t see a Lincoln Logs movie anytime soon, nor will you see a Star Wars edition. Nor will you see a Madagascar edition with African animals. It doesn’t mean that Lincoln Logs aren’t a good toy. They are still awesome, but they lack the popularity of a brand like Lego which has expanded its toys and its marketing to meet the culture of now.

Whatever the cause, brands and people stop the actions that created their popularity. So they lose it.

What do you think about popularity and how it ends?

How Will Project Glass Impact Marketers?

I will be speaking at xPotomac this February 25. Co-organizer Patrick Ashamalla and I are presenting together on Google Project Glass and augmented reality. Here’s a sneak preview of our session.

Google Project Glass promises to take ubiquitous mobile Internet access and layer unprecedented information into our day-to-day existence. While Google doesn’t like the term augmented reality, wearable computing could move this concept from a geeky work in progress to a breakthrough Internet application.

This glass monocle features a wirelessly connected computer built into it. A half-inch display allows you to take and share photos, chat and access information like calendars and maps on the Web. Bone conducting audio will allow information to transmit without interfering with outside sounds.

Scheduled for release in 2014, Project Glass holds so much promise Apple and Microsoft have competing projects.

Wearable computing empowers two things: Sharing and accessing information anywhere.

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Does Google Deserve More Credit?

Sometimes I think Google deserves more credit.

This is not a defense of Google+, anti-trust issues facing the company, or the apparent sunsetting of Feedburner. Rather, more admiration for the company’s overall approach and success online in recent years.

When I learned Google had scrapped its facial recognition technology because the negative uses outweighed the good, I felt they were the better player of the big companies operating in this space. It’s not an isolated incident.

Google changed its privacy earlier this year, uniting its many disparate policies across different products into one holistic company-wide statement. The company waged an extensive public relations and advertising effort to explain the new policy to the general public.

When was the last time Facebook did that? Never, to my knowledge. You just log in and find everything switched without any communication whatsoever.
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5 Forms of Apple Link Bait

Apple iPhone 4s 3rd August 2012 12:09.53pm
Image by dennoir

Everyone wants to talk about tomorrow’s iPhone 5 announcement. Why bother trying to compete?

Instead, let’s “newsjack” the iPhone 5 reveal with a fun post lampooning the most common forms of Apple link bait! Here we go:

1) Find a “Lost” iPhone/iPad Prototype

“We found this prototype iPhone in the restroom of a Palo Alto bowling alley.”

Come on! Does anybody believe these iPhones find stories anymore?
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You’re Still Not My Audience

Crowd jumping!!
Image by being LarsLars

Let’s be clear. You’re not my audience.

We have a relationship here, and you can talk back. Further, I realize that I am just one of you, all members of the same community.

I’m just lucky enough to have you come here now and again, and read my posts.

The miracle of social media empowers this very public symbiotic relationship of equals.

It’s also why communicators who call their stakeholders audiences drive me crazy.

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