Google Glass: Smash or Trash?

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Over the last few months, we’ve enjoyed tracking online coverage of Google Glass. Why? Well, if Google can convince the world to wear silly little computers on their heads, then the brand will have pulled off the online brand management coup of the year. And if not, the failure will give Google haters a never-ending supply of material. Either way, we loved that a reader brought this handy little infographic, which outlines everything we need to know about Google Glass, to our attention.

It’s hard not to snicker at the idea of wearable technology, so naturally Goggle Glass made for an excellent target during Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks ago. In it, Weekend Update tech reporter Randall Weeks (played by Fred Armisen) tried to illustrate how normal and easy the Glass works. Predictably, SNL’s version of the product was hilarious glitchy and hard to use.

Yet, as the infographic points out, we’ve been rocking some form of wearable technology since the 1980s heyday of calculator watches. And for all of its silly features and comedic possibilities, Google Glass does a lot of cool things, too.

“Glass is a step toward the dream of ubiquitous computing in which the Internet is available everywhere at all times without the need for interrupting the task at hand,” the infographic notes. Eye-level Internet means real-time flight status at the airport, checking the weather without glancing at a phone and turn-by-turn directions. The bumps and glitches of Google Glass are currently being worked out, thanks to a team of lucky fans who forked over $1,500 each to help in “shaping the future of Glass.” The rest of us will be able to get our mitts on Glass for a lot less dough — and right in time for the holidays.

One thing is certain: Google Glass is highly buzzed about, parodied and blogged on. From an online marketing viewpoint, Google has already won. Thousands of the devices will fly off the shelves just out of sheer curiosity. Whether Glass can outlast the calculator watch, however, remains to be seen.

Tall Lessons on Facebook, Branding and Racism from Jeremy Lin

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With Tiger on the outs and Tebow too polarizing, the world of sports has been in desperate need of a hero who could potentially become a branding superstar, a headline-maker and an international sensation. No current figure from professional sports fits that bill better than Jeremy Lin. Thanks to a jaw-dropping winning streak earlier this month, Lin is suddenly an unlikely superstar — and an illustration in what’s right and what’s wrong with Facebook marketing and online brand management.

The 6-foot 3-inch tall Christian Asian-American Lin reluctantly joined Facebook; within days, his followers were in the hundreds of thousands. As a brand and personality, Lin is intriguing, different and enigmatic. On Facebook these are great traits to have but being an individual also opens the doors for a world of ridiculous and ignorant comments. ESPN has already canned one employee who spewed racist nonsense on Facebook, and hundreds of other anti-Asian comments have flooded his page from so-called fans.

Sigh. Lin’s presence and celebrity should be celebrated and as a global brand he should be one we are ready to embrace. Facebook in the same right should be the place where that can happen. But as it’s been noted by smarter folks than us, what’s wrong on Facebook is sometimes a mirror of what’s wrong with the world at large. But it’s not just on Facebook where Lin is misunderstood. Ben and Jerry’s attempted to pay tribute to Lin with an ice cream flavor entitled “Taste the Lin-Sanity.” Featuring lychee fruit and fortune cookies, all that was missing from this stereotype-fest was a miniature gong and dragon on the label. Yeesh. Lin was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the U.S., so this type of “ancient Chinese secret” packaging seriously missed the mark. Thankfully, the folks at Ben & Jerry’s realized it, too, and replaced the fortune cookie pieces with waffles.

While Lin is exciting to watching on the court, we as marketers and consumers are learning a thing or two about cultural sensitivity. Looks like we still have a long way to go.

Muppet Mania Invades Social Media

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A felt puppet infestation is imminent. Go ahead, laugh. But don’t say we didn’t warn you. In fact, we predicted that the current Muppet tidal wave would be huge several months ago. And thanks to some keen social media marketing and incredible online brand management, the Muppets’ comeback is a full-fledged sensation.

The problem with most Muppet projects released after the death of creator Jim Henson in 1990 is that they lacked that zing and sparkle of the original franchise. Several attempts were made to revitalize our favorite puppets — and even more failed — leaving the brand dormant for many years. But now, all of that is changing, largely because of online marketing.

The Muppets is the straightforward-titled return to the big screen that has prompted major marketing of epic proportions. The film’s Facebook page and its 1 million-plus fan base proves that even though this is a kids movie, The Muppets are not messing around. Peppered with the absurd and silly humor Muppet fans love, the site serves as a portal to everything Muppet mania. But the most clever social media marketing trick here is the Fan-a-thon feature. Fan-a-thon is the type of machine only those wacky puppets could come up with. It sorts all of your Muppet likes (including individual Muppet pages and videos), has a link to special free VIP screenings around the country and an app that allows you tell friends what Muppet you think they look like.

The brand also has those two grumpy curmudgeons in the balcony, Statler and Waldorf, tweeting for them on Twitter. Those hilarious haters are at it again, cracking jokes about Fozzie Bear and tweeting their disdain for the current Muppet invasion. Again, it’s spot-on branding and pitch perfect for older fans of the franchise. You can find more Muppet madness on Google+ and YouTube and, well, basically anywhere you can fit a puppet online. FAO Schwartz is giving fans a chance to make their own Muppets. There’s even a Facebook campaign to get them to host the Oscars!

The American Farmer Plants Seeds to Fight Bad Publicity

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Bad PR, it seems, isn’t just for Charlie Sheen and oil companies. The American farmer is desperately trying to give itself an image reboot. While farming groups would like us to remember that they do, in fact, supply the planet with the majority of its food supply, detractors like animal rights and environmental activists emphasize what they believe are the questionable and allegedly harmful practices the American farmer uses to get said food supply to our table. Shocking videos of animal cruelty, like fuzzy chicks being stuffed into grinders and poorly-treated piggies, have damaged the farmers’ reputations and shaken public confidence in the industry. In order to combat the evil farming empire image, several of the nation’s farming groups have banded together to give the American farmer a makeover.

In November, big-time farm groups like the National Pork Producers Council and the National Corn Growers Association formed the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance with the goal of publicizing a friendlier and more environmentally-concerned farmer. A high-profile ad campaign, according to alliance members, is “unlikely.” Instead, the farmers are hoping to engage in a conversation with consumers. Naturally, a heavy social media presence is being relied on by the alliance to help start the conversation.

Hog, corn, and soy farmer Mike VerSteeg has already been using social media to communicate his humane and natural ways of farming. He told the Los Angeles Times that he even sends tweets from his tractor during harvest.

“I like to let consumers know how much we care for our animals, because if they are well taken care of they produce a lot better,” VerSteeg said. “Consumers like to have a choice in the food they like to eat and farmers should have a choice in how we care for our animals.”

Farmers, like other independent business owners, are discovering that they can help control their image problems – but, like crops and livestock, it takes constant and steady tending.