Tag Archives: pop culture

Say ‘hello’ to Glee’s new songs, cracking the top 100 downloads… again

Glee's Triumphant return in April with songs cracking Top 100 itunes downloads

In light of Glee‘s epic return to primetime television, I decided to revive one of my previous posts about the show’s outstanding marketing ploy in releasing songs for download on iTunes after each episode. During the first half of the season, as the show grew in fan base, I noticed that each of the songs performed cracked the Top 100 downloads within minutes of the show’s end. Now, after its 5-month break, is it possible for Glee to continue this impressive track record?

Rather than divulging into one of my lengthy-and-usually-alcohol-induced obsessive over-analysis on the unparalleled success of Glee (much of which you are free to read here), I will just give you the straight facts.

This week’s show’s numbers, only one hour after the episode ended:
#15 Like a Prayer (Madonna cover)
#62 4 Minutes (Madonna cover)
#69 Borderline / Open Your Heart (Madonna cover)
#92 Like a Virgin (Madonna cover)

And if you think this instant-reaction to download these songs is just a one-hit-wonder, take a look at the songs from last week’s show that are still holding strong in the Top 100, a full seven days later:
#35 Gives You Hell (All-American Rejects cover)
#50 Hello (Lionel Richie cover)
#63 Hello Goodbye (Beatles cover)
#84 Hello, I Love You (The Doors cover)

The ability to download songs on sites like iTunes has given the show the power to market its content it venues outside the television world and spread the word to potential new followers. I am gleeful to find that apparently the show hasn’t lost any of its luster during its 5-month hiatus.

=============UPDATE 4/21 9:30 A.M.=============

And why not give my mandatory update of where the songs lie 12 hours later? I rest my case.

#7 Like a Prayer (+7)
#29 Borderline / Open Your Heart (+40)
#32 Gives You Hell (+3)
#34 4 Minutes (+28)
#92 Like a Virgin (+54)
#40 Hello (+10)
#57 Hello Goodbye (+6)
#62 Espress Yourself (new)
#67 Hello, I Love You (+17)
#83 What it feels like for a girl (new)
#95 Vogue (new)


Bravo, NBC, Washington Post make Twitter accessible to all with aggregators

Even with all of the positive Twitter hype over the past few years, the social networking site still harbors a bad rap among non-users. People ask themselves time and time again the same questions: Why do people care if I just went for a run? Why should I announce to the world I had pasta for dinner? Why should I tell all my followers what I did every waking second of every day? Although this is not the sole focus of Twitter, that is what many non-believers point to when supporting their negatively charged arguments. It is sometimes very difficult for them to justify being apart of the Twitter community.

As much as I can personally advocate the merits of Twitter, some people will just never listen. However, when reputable businesses start using Twitter to produce and manage their own content, people start to pay attention. Twitter then becomes less of a nuisance and more of a necessary tool, even for those who don’t already use it. Yes, everyone now has a Twitter feed where they re-post content from their website, but what about repositioning other users’ content in order to tell your own story? Many highly regarded groups have begun building their own tailored Twitter aggregators, and through their usability and necessity, successfully diminished negative connotations Twitter has created.

Bravo Television’s Real Housewives of New York City Viewing Party

Bravo has always been a pioneer in terms of merging television with the interactive online world (insert shameless plug for a past post of mine on Bravo’s blogs). Adding to their most recent partnership with foursquare, Bravo built their own Twitter aggregator to host “Real Housewives of New York City” virtual viewing parties. Every week, Bravo encourages viewers to join a live online chat on Bravo.com where they can connect with the shows’ stars and fans alike to talk about what is happening on the show in real-time. Through Twitter and Facebook, users can post their own thoughts about the show, and have them appear on the virtual party page. The aggregator allows you to filter through the posts based on “Bravolebrities” only, Twitter only, Facebook only, or all posts simultaneously.

This Twitter aggregator furthers diminishes the gap between the real world and the online world. It allows viewers to gather in one location and celebrate the show, no matter where they are actually located.

The viewing party also allows people to be apart of a Twitter world without actually signing up for an account. If you want to submit a comment, yes you will still need to do so via Twitter or Facebook. However, if you just want to be a fly on the wall at the hippest online party around, the aggregator allows you to read through everyone’s conversations without joining (what some still consider) the taboo Twitter network.

Bravo TV Real Housewives of New York City Viewing Party - Twitter Aggregator

NBC’s Olympic Pulse Tweet Sheet

Bravo is not the only company around to utilize Twitter in this manner. Back in February, NBC provided a comprehensive coverage of the Winter Olympics. In addition to countless hours of television footage on 7 different networks, this exposure included in depth social media endeavors, notably online video cast, an intuitive iPhone app, featured blogs, and of course, a Twitter aggregator.

This Twitter aggregator allowed the user to sort tweets based on specific athlete/consultant, by sport, by NBC Olympic tweets, or by seeing tweets from all categories at once. Similar to the Bravo viewing party aggregator, this device allowed all web users to follow people on Twitter without actually creating a Twitter account. This raised the accessibility of Twitter, demonstrating its usefulness in seamlessly compiling information from topic-relevant people and sorting them in a user-friendly manner.

NBC Olympics Twitter Aggregator

WashingtonPost.com’s NFL Twitter Aggregator

Though this aggregator was built a few months ago, it still remains active and relevant today, and was the first I had ever seen of its kind. At the beginning of last NFL season, the Washington Post wanted to create one location where users could read tweets from NFL players, and naturally with all the hype around some NFL players’ posts, they created an aggregator.

As the two previous case studies demonstrated, this aggregator allowed site visitors to follow players on Twitter without having to themselves sign up for an account.  It also allowed them to filter based on their favorite team or position, and displayed the athletes’ real names, instead of their Twitter handles.

The Washington Post also designed two other Twitter aggregators: one to follow latest updates on the Ft. Hood shooting, and one to follow the last Virginia election.

Washington Post's NFL Twitter Aggregator

I agree with many of people’s woes on inappropriate use of Twitter, and I too get annoyed with constant monotonous updates. But Twitter has become so much more than that, and this new fad of building aggregators demonstrates this. More and more, companies and organizations are finding their best practices in how to run their own Twitter accounts. However, from what we have seen, the next steps will be to see how well we utilize other people’s content within Twitter – and monetize it.

The Future of Foursquare and Brand, Business Partnerships

FoursquareAt first glance, Foursquare can be misconstrued as nothing but a simple social media network built for entertainment purposes. The one-line description usually classifies the product as a “game where you check-in at locations and earn badges.” More sophisticated ones explain how users can receive advice on where to eat, what to order, where to find what you’re looking for.

Though these statements are all true, they represent only a fraction of Foursquare’s current capabilities – and its potential for permanently changing the online/offline corporate advertising relationships.

Brand and Business Partnerships

On February 1st, 2010, the trendy network television brand Bravo! TV announced a partnership with Foursquare, the location-based social networking sensation. This alliance would enable Foursquare to highlight locations, or “check-in points,” relevant to Bravo Television shows and stars.

Though this wasn’t the first time Foursquare has worked with a business or brand, it is its first true media collaboration. This endeavors, and the partnerships it has since then put into motion (Zagat, Warner Bros., and HBO), makes this a significant milestone in the expansion of the Foursquare program into mainstream everyday life.

Though these are the only true partnerships Foursquare has produced thus far, they began a system called “Foursquare for Businesses,” launched in September 2009. This enables businesses to list specials for Foursquare users (such as 2 for 1 coffee on your first check-in, free drink for the venue Mayor, free desert for every 10th check-in). Not only do these deals appear when users check-in to the venue in questions, but they also appear when a user checks-in to any venue nearby. This model is an ingenious way to build reliable clientele, and to create new ones. It is also a free service offered by Foursquare (at least for now.)

Foursquare for businesses

Where Twitter is Failing, Foursquare is…

Foursquare has been projected by many social media industry leaders to be the Twitter of 2010. The two internet start-up companies have a similar user-base and measured growth. With their ability for effortless and instant updates, both are extremely pertinent to today’s digital and mobile lifestyle. Just this month, Foursquare reached the 300,000 users benchmark, jumping from the Innovators phase to the Early-adopters.

Where Twitter has yet to flourish is its ability to create revenue (or dare I say, inability to even conceptualize the means of doing so.) This is what sets Foursquare apart. Though their current “Foursquare for Businesses” does not charge companies to list their business or specials, this model holds the ability to seamlessly migrate over to a charging system without causing uproar as Twitter has potential to do.

In their current free listing system, Foursquare is able to build their database of businesses, making the social networking site more relevant to consumers. These businesses will also advertise Foursquare deals on their own, to encourage repeat clientele. Through this circular relationship, Foursquare will also be able to collect pertinent data on their listed businesses and the success of their specials. Unlike Twitter, which has struggled to offer measurable results to justify their ability to charge for accounts, Foursquare can compile data proving success as they continue to grow and explore means of turning a profit.

From “Pay Per Click” to “Pay Per Check-in”

These partnerships with local businesses have the potential to grow to a “Pay Per Check-in” model. Many businesses already use Google AdWords, allowing them to only pay for advertising that yield them coverage. This “Pay Per Click” model allows targeted advertising on small budgets. Foursquare can pioneer a “Pay Per Check-in” model, offering premium accounts to businesses and charging a nominal fee per check-in, or per special awarded. Would a business mind paying a few cents to drive clientele on a more regular basis? I don’t think so, and I think on a broad scale, this could be a lucrative element to Foursquare – and a valuable asset to businesses’ digital brands.

If Twitter tells me #Honorsociety is hot shit, it must be true

You know you’ve made it in showbiz when you’ve made it on Twitter.

I’m running through my Twitter accounts to catch up on news in the world and in my industry. As usual, I browse through the Twitter Trending Topics to see what people are talking about most. The usual come up: #musicmonday, Haiti, Titanic which just recently aired on network television, #theburiedlife, MTV’s newest coockie-cutter reality TV show… but the at the top is #honorsociety. I check the description, and the only explanation currently available is “because the gentlemen of @honorsociety rock twitter.” Thanks Twitter community for being so descriptive.

So I follow the Twitter search, and Honor Society is an r&b influenced pop band. I listen to some of their music on their MySpace page. Alright, I’ll give it to them. It’s a torrid love affair edged on the Backstreet boys crossed with Cobra Starship, subtly pre-packaged in a Disney Channel after school special. In sum, something I may listen to privately in the deepest ends of my closet in substitution for downing half a bottle of Patron to get rid of an isolated bad day. But that it neither here nor there.

Honor Society... I rest my case.

I am still baffled. How did they get to #1 Trending Topic? I became momentarily obsessed with this idea (as you can tell by having to write a blog posting about it.) For something that is so instantaneous like Twitter, I would expect a big event occurring for them to rise so quickly. The most recent appearance of Honor Society in the news was on January 31st when they sang the National Anthem at the Pro Bowl. Before that, they announced their next concert tour “Here Comes Trouble” on January 21st. Moving back even further, their most recent album was released on September 15th, 2009. Google Trends shows them on the up and up, but nothing standing out in a spike. Looking at their @honorsociety Twitter account, there is no activity out of the ordinary, no recent calls to action.

How did this happen? Are their fans really that obsessed? Are they really that much more technically savvy than the hundreds of thousand other mainstream bands out there? And for this to happen at 11:30 p.m. on a school night when most of the Disney Channel audience is counting sheep in their toasty beds?

I do not have the answers yet. But I have a sneaking suspicion that these answers will unlock the nexus of the universe.

World of Whatcraft? How gaming has changed – and not changed

Old School vs New School Gaming Advertising

Deja-vu in gaming advertising? Somethings don't change...

I am not a huge gamer. My experience with online gaming is limited to my Rock Band landing 689th place playing a rendition of The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which put us in the top 1% of the overall Xbox community. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud.

Because of this lack of knowledge, my social media class on gaming was a huge eye opening experience. I enjoyed watching my professor Mike run around the virtual world of World of Warcraft (suddenly that ‘Call of Duty’ episode from the office made a lot more sense.) I could not believe there was that many people inside that virtual world at the same time.

The idea of interactive computer games has been around for a while, and although the idea that you are interacting with real people – in real-time – in a virtual world is rather mind-boggling to me, it’s not something I would write home about.

What I do think is fascinating is the idea of using these games to make money, advertise, and promote real-life products.

Inside Second Life, Starwood Hotels established the aloft Hotel, which opened up online months before the real hotel even opened its doors. This fall, Massive‘s video game advertising network added many multi-player games, including World of Warcraft, major EA sports, and Guitar Hero.  Even back in October 2008, a Barack Obama billboard appeared in Burnout Paradise, making him the first Presidential candidate to purchase in-game advertising.

Beyond the video game world, I’ve noticed companies trying to get involved with online games within social networks. The game that stands out to me the most is that of Farmville, the online farming game that allows you to plant, grow, and manage crops. Last October, the game’s maker Zynga advertised a “Sweet Seeds for Haiti” program, allowing players to purchase limited edition sweet potato seeds that never wither and last one week. Half of the proceeds benefit charity. They recently also added in-game pop-ups advertising their other games.

Unofficially, I can also testify that the company BioTech approached Farmville with the idea of having Farmville showcase a special “BioTech seed,” which would grow faster/last longer etc. Farmville responded with a quote of $200,000 for a 2 week promotion. That is ridiculous!

Though this process nevertheless fascinates me, I’ve found it is hardly ground-breaking. In looking back through the years, you can see that these advertisements are nothing new: FIFA_International_Soccer

Above, an Adidas billboard is displayed in the foreground of the 1994 computer game FIFA International Soccer.

Cupa Chups in Zool

Also displayed is a screenshot of the “Sweet World” in Zool for the Amiga system (1992), in which the iconic striped Chupa Chups products can be seen in the background.

As you can see by these screenshots, and even the playful t-shirts above, advertising in games is not a new concept, but it’s one that has certainly evolved over time.

(Something tells me little ol’ Chupa Chups was not submitted to a $200,000 sponsorship fee.)

Get off the Cluetrain and into my Zipcar: Social media success in the car-sharing business

I came across an excellent blog posting by Lora Kratchounova, aka “Scratch” – an industry marketing and media guru – addressing Zipcar’s unparalleled marketing success.

Over the past 9 years, Zipcar has built more than just a revolutionary product – they built a brand. Through their intriguing marketing and media messaging, Zipcar planted in consumers the illusion of exclusivity and luxury. Potential consumers ponder the wishful idea that if they’re lucky enough, maybe just one day, they too can become a Zipcar member.

Scratch’s post outlines 8 things she loves about Zipcar – all with which I whole-heartedly agree. But there are two more points that she missed, both of which I think are crucial to the success of their overall brand. Coincidentally, both of these points are major elements of the Cluetrain Manifesto: the use of the ‘human voice’ and the idea that ‘markets are conversations’.

Across their entire brand and marketing campaign, Zipcar speaks to their consumers with a human voice, and not that of a corporation. As I pointed out in an earlier posting on the Cluetrain Manifesto, traditional companies’ voices are dry, homogenized, and contrived; they do not sound like the real people in their market.

Successful ones, such as Zipcar, understand human mannerisms to be able to interact with their market. A true example of this is the way they treat their cars like people.

Their vehicles are all given a name, such as Babycakes, Bitsy, Belvedere, Boy wonder, even Boogaloo. Zipcar’s online database also contains short descriptions of the vehicles – each one of them resembling more an online dating profile than typical rent-a-car websites. They even recently announced a Zipcar “sleepover” program; this slumber party allowing you to keep a Zipcar overnight at a discounted rate.Zipcar Profiles

The cars become your companions, your teammates, and not just a tool to achieve your goal. In the end, this personification of vehicles and casual language makes users feel more connected to the company as a whole.

Second, Zipcar uses every instance of delivering corporate messages as an opportunity for a conversation with their market.

While many companies attempt – and fail – at successfully involving their markets in conversation, Zipcar thrives (or should I say drives.) This affirmation is evident by their extremely active Facebook page.

Zipcar has a following on Facebook of over 27 thousand fans. Though many pages can boast that many members, few have achieved the same level of interaction.

Every Zipcar post on Facebook earns tens, hundreds, something thousands of feedback messages.

Zipcar regularly asks its members to name their vehicles. In a request for naming on September 10th, members responded overwhelmingly with 1,641 comments and 20 “likes.”

Zipcar also converses with their members on a level beyond the product itself. They encourage ‘Zipsters’ to send in stories and pictures of things they’ve done during their Zipcar reservations. On December 4th, they posted a picture of a baby who was born after being driven to the hospital in a Zipcar. On September 25th, two guys from MIT drove their Zipcar to a launch site where they floated a balloon with a camera attached into the sky, and submitted a picture of what they found. On November 6th, Tyler and Jane hopped in a Zipcar after their wedding and drove off into the sunset.

Zipcar Weekend Fun

They have also asked their members to submit designs for their Christmas e-card, or a picture of their Halloween “pumpkin art” carving that captures what they love about Zipcar.

Why is Zipcar so successful in employing these two elements into their marketing scheme? Because they use them together. The ‘human voice’ plays off the belief that ‘markets are conversations.’

Companies can easily write a witty passage, but if no one is there to respond, what is the use? And why converse with your audience when you aren’t speaking the same language?

Zipcar has found a way to seamlessly incorporate both of these elements into their marketing plan, and it is their use in tangent that makes them relevant to us, the consumer. Or in their case, the too-cool-for-school “Zipsters.”

If you weren’t believin’ before, you are now: Tonight’s ‘Glee’ songs already hitting Top 100

On October 29th, Columbia Records reported that the Glee Cast’s rendition of Journey’s beloved “Don’t Stop Believin’” went Gold in digital sales with an excess of 500,000 downloads. This rounds off the show’s total number of digital song purchases to over two million.

Tonight’s show (November 15th) featured “Defying Gravity” from the Broadway hit Wicked, and CCR’s classic “Proud Mary.”

As part of FOX’s genius marketing ploy, songs from each episode are released on iTunes for download as they appear on the show. Tonight, in one of my weakest moments, I gave in and purchased “Defying Gravity.”

After playing the song through a few times, I thought to myself – how many other people did exactly what I did? How many other Americans are also hopelessly brainwashed by the show’s catchy-teen-musical combination that they, too, in a zombie-like fashion, searched “Glee Cast’ in iTunes and clicked “purchase” to the two newest songs?

Around 1 A.M., I found the list of top 100 iTunes downloads, updated daily. Sure enough, within 3 hours of tonight’s Glee episode, the November 12th chart featured Glee’s “Defying Gravity” at #66 and “Proud Mary” at #81. Both songs are the only Glee songs currently featured on the Top 100.

Top 100 iTunes Downloads

How long had these songs been on the chart? Since there are no archives on the site, I looked up a Google cached version of that exact webpage. The most recent snapshot I found was taken on November 11th at 9:33 GMT, which comes out to 4:33 A.M. EST.

Google Cached version of the Top 100

I looked through the list, and I did not see the two songs in question. In fact, I did not even see one Glee song. Just to be sure of this, I used my trusty ⌘F key to “Find” the term Glee in the browser window, and still nothing came up. That’s pretty ⌘F-ing crazy.

Within just a few hours, two previously unknown songs had risen to the Top 100 downloaded list just because they appeared in a TV show.

According to the Boston Herald, the week of October 6th saw ten Glee songs crack the Top 200 download list, with “Somebody to Love” cracking the Top 10 – sitting up there with mainstream favorites Jay-Z, Mylie, and Black Eyed Peas.

All of these songs are not successful because of the phenomenal talent and energy of their performers alone. They are successful because they allow viewers to connect with the visual and emotional sensations they feel when watching the show.

A heart-felt rendition of “Keep Holding On” was sung at the end of an episode where Quinn, head cheerleader, was kicked off the squad because of an unplanned pregnancy. The performance of “No Air” exploded with chemistry between the lead male and female who are destined to cross high school clique boundaries.

This unique model allows the show’s story to continue beyond your flat screen TV. Glee is no longer just a one-hour-a-week commitment. It’s a full experience, a cult, a lifestyle.

=============UPDATE 11/12 10:39 A.M.=============

At 10:39 A.M., the Glee Cast’s version of “Defying Gravity” jumped to #41 and “Proud Mary” to #53. This is getting out of control.

=============UPDATE 11/13 1:36 P.M.=============

I am going to blow your mind with this interesting twist. Let me first start off by saying “Defying Gravity (Glee Cast Version)” is currently at #16 and “Proud Mary” quietly skipped to #39. That, in itself, is worth the blog update. However, I discovered even more noteworthy movement in the charts that merits addressing. Glee now has an additional three songs in the Top 100 daily downloads.

Last Wednesday, character Artie, a paraplegic in a wheelchair, sang a cover of “Dancing with Myself.” I originally did not mention this song as one of the ones featured in last episode because it was not a “Glee Club” song, sung on screen by the entire cast. Apparently, that did not stop the rest of America from paying attention to it. Originally a Billy Idol favorite, this Glee Cast rendition finally cracked the Top 100, coming in at #73.

In an even more mind-boggling event, the last two songs to hit the chart were two different versions of the episode’s headlining song, “Defying Gravity.” Accompanying the original Glee Cast Version at #16 are Rachel/Lea Michele‘s Solo Version at #35 (jumping from yesterday’s #75 ranking which I completely missed) and Kurt/Chris Colfer‘s Solo Version at #88.

I can’t imagine every single one of those three versions were downloaded by different people. That means with just one song, Fox’s genius marketing machine managed to potentially generate up to three times the revenue. No one in their right mind would typically download a song three times. However, as I explained earlier in the posting, these songs are more than just musical bliss. They are the emotional connectors between the viewers and the television show.

The song “Defying Gravity” was sung as part of a “diva-off” between the usual female lead, Rachel, and Kurt, the gay male who also wanted to be considered for the lead role, even though it is typically given to a female. Each character was asked to sing the song and the winner was voted on by the rest of the Glee club.

Downloading one or more of these versions means more than just defining which song displays the most musical prowess. Viewers can continue the show’s popularity debate over one character or another, or in their own way cast their vote as to who they think sang the song best. They could also sympathize with the ideal that everyone should have an equal opportunity, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or handicap.

It could be any or all of these elements. The point is these songs instill something different in everyone, and it’s those personal reasons that make them want to download a particular song – or in this case – maybe all three.