Examining Generation Y: Stats, Demographics, Segments, Predictions

geny_header2.jpgFrom green activism to anime, from Gawker to Tony Hawk video games, Generation Y is a complex generation with diverse interests. Immersed in the digital world from an early age, Gen Y is at the forefront of mashing up how we communicate, entertain, and innovate. Let’s start with some generalizations about Gen Y: they seek diverse communities online and offline, are idealistic and socially conscious, and they crave authenticity. Underneath those generalizations are mindsets that drive their behaviors and choices.

Defining Characteristics

Connectors
With the rapid rise of Facebook and Myspace, the Connector is an obvious place to start. The Connector thrives on crowds and loves to participate in the hubbub. To live up to their billing, they stay current on Hollywood, sports, and their friends. The iPhone is among their favorite products. On TV, they are watching Sports Center, the Hills, Gossip Girl, and the Office.

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While the Connectors are on Facebook, the Forerunners are 2 steps ahead, checking out Twitter, Tumblr, and Ning. These are intellectually curious individuals who enthusiastically discover the latest trends, news, music, and urban scene, while also finding time for social causes and green issues. They aren’t shy. In fact, they live to actively share their opinion, gaining satisfaction from being in-the-know and making a difference. If you are reading blogs, you’re probably getting a lot of your information from these Gen Y thought leaders. They are emerging microblogger class. In fact, Forerunners comprise 40 percent of the microblogging site, Tumblr.

Escapists
While the Connectors and Forerunners engage at a frenzied pace, the Escapist dis-engages from the hectic world around. They enjoy their escape from everyday life; immersing themselves in their own virtual reality. Escapists jump into their avatar skins in games such as World Of Warcraft. Escapists appreciate the pleasure of low key hangout on YouTube, playing video games, and catching up on the X-Files. They like cartoons: from anime to Simpsons to Adult Swim, you’ve got the Escapist hooked.

genx_brandprofile.jpgFree Thinkers
The Free Thinker is central to the rise of the artisan class. The Free Thinker is a highly imaginative individual that likes to express the diversity of their life in out-of-the-box ways. While the Escapist is on YouTube, the Free Thinker has their own designs in mind as they seek the fulfillment of discovering new, more off-beat communities. The Free Thinker makes their home at local coffee shops, and joins the Forerunners in social and altruistic causes. While they like Bravo, they are just as comfortable watching Austin City Limits or hanging out online at undiscovered sites such as Pitchfork.

Macro Trends

Skeptic NationSixty six percent of Gen Yers voted Obama into office — more than any other generation. Connectors rallied Obama support on social media; Forrunners wore Obama pins as a badge of reform; Escapists wanted to abandon the Bush years; Free Thinkers heeded Obama’s call for change. As we reflect on Obama’s first year in the Oval Office, has he enact his much promised change? Wall Street is still accepting million-dollar bonuses, America is still fighting two wars and health reform is slow-coming. This inefficiency is turning this hopeful generation into skeptics.

Predictions

Gen Y are corporate and political skeptics. Large corporate empires present a real danger to Gen Y as they have seen the impact of too-big-to-fail banks on the economy. To appeal to Gen Y, you will need to shed the corporate brand in lieu of a more niche or personable brand. Although Hulu is a partnership between large media empires, its success can attributed to the non-corporate image. Boasting a large corporate image will only turn off this skeptic generation.

To read more about generation trends:

Health Care Summit: Truly the Right Path for Obama?

obamasummit_raw.jpgIf the Obama brand had a product, it would be healthcare, just as Apple has the iPod. Why does Apple have a 74 percent share of the MP3 market? The tech giant developed a simple, easy-to-use, desirable, MP3 player into a market of clunky, difficult-to-use devices. Initially, the iPod appealed to trendsetters. Then, distinctive white ear-buds began popping up on the NYC subway more and more everyday. If Obama wants majority support for the healthcare bill he needs to take a lesson from Apple’s playbook: 1) simplify the product and 2) gain influencer support.

As is, the healthcare bill is tremendously complex. The “death panel” issue last summer illustrates the confusion about Obama’s healthcare and today’s summit will do little to clarify anything. In fact, the partisanship in Washington could only confuse Obama’s healthcare — consequently diluting any clarity on healthcare legislation.

Secondly, Obama needs the support of influencers to spread the message of healthcare reform to their tribes. He needs to stretch beyond Democrats to gain support independents and independent influencers. Imagine if Obama aligned support from renowned scientists, healthcare leaders, financial gurus such as Warren Buffet. With true experts and influentials in his corner, Obama could increase his chances of getting a meaningful healthcare bill through Congress.

By simplifying the product and appealing to influencers, Obama could build grass roots support for healthcare reform (does this remind you of his success in campaign?). If Obama has overwhelming support for healthcare legilsation from constituencies, a meaningful bill will be passed. If Obama cannot simplify the product (i.e. healthcare reform) nor appeal to independent influencers, there is not an end in sight.

Apple Streamlining iPhone OS for Apple TV and Other Devices?

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A simple job posting by Apple last week may give us a glimpse into the tech giant’s future, as clues indicate Apple is developing the iPhone operating system for more devices. Rumors of such a new direction are sparking innovative product ideas in the imaginations of Apple aficionados. The job listing, which first caught the eye of Computerworld, seeks an engineering manager “to lead a team focused on bring-up of iPhone OS on new platforms.” By expanding the breakthrough iPhone OS beyond the iPhone device, Apple has the opportunity to offer its sleek yet powerful technology beyond AT&T to other wireless carriers, such as Verizon and Sprint, enable an app store to Apple TV and replace Mac OS with the iPhone OS on larger devices.

Expanding to Other Wireless Carriers

It might have been the upcoming release of iPad that prompted the move to more devices, or the anticipated release of the iPhone to more wireless carriers. As it stands, the iPhone cannot run on other networks because their programming languages are incompatible – CDMA for Verizon, and GSM for AT&T. Overhauling this technology to function on multiple networks is a much easier task than developing an entirely new handheld device for each carrier. It gives Apple the opportunity – and control – to offer iPhone capabilities on devices with features preferred by many customers, like the option of a physical keyboard. Customers who have longed for the iPhone’s technology and interface will finally be able to get in on the action without the hassle of switching carriers. It’s also no secret that AT&T customers are upset with their iPhone service; giving them the opportunity to switch carriers while still keeping the technology they love would be a smart move for both Apple and any carrier they partner with.

Offering the App Store for other Apple Products

The real buzz about this “bring-up,” however, is focused on the somewhat forgotten Apple TV device. An iPhone OS on Apple TV could open up the App Store to even more customers, while also allowing greater functionality for Apple TV as a whole. Ars Technica’s Chris Foresman writes, “It would be nice, though, if Apple offered Apple TV apps that let users access other online content like Netflix or Hulu.” If Apple were to do this, they’d be able to compete with up-and-coming devices such as Boxee, and even Netflix’s gaming console-compatible offerings.

Applying the iPhone OS to Other Computers

Another direction Apple may be taking is installing the iPhone OS on full-sized computers, similar to how the Android OS is on Netbook devices. Experts speculate that Apple may feature this upgraded OS on the MacBook Air, which would help lower the cost of the laptop, giving it a brand new look and feel. While people love Apple products, many cannot afford their steep costs. Bringing the functionality of one of their most popular products to more low-cost devices such as Netbooks may help Apple increase its market share.

It seems like a strange move for Apple to broadcast this news in such an informal setting, as they are known for keeping projects and announcements under wraps until the last possible moment — with announcements being made by Steve Jobs himself. Until an official announcement is made, we can only speculate on the future of this project and where Apple will take it. Clearly, they have many feasible options. If this re-purposed iPhone OS eventually does come to fruition, it will no doubt have a major impact on the wireless community, and the computing industry as a whole.

Shutter Island’s Leonardo DiCaprio: The Making of an Iconic Celebrity Brand


Martin Scorcese’s new film with Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island, took the lead in the box office this past weekend, earning an astounding $40.2 million — a record opening weekend for Scorcese. Shutter Island is the latest in a string of extraordinary performances by Hollywood heartthrob turned seriously talented actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. With incredible cinematic performances in Gangs of New York, The Departed and Blood Diamond, DiCaprio is clearly building an iconic celebrity brand that will outlast typical Hollywood pretty-boys.

Why has the sexy, fall-over-heels, Titanic romantic transitioned into serious, challenging lead roles in The Departed and Blood Diamond? How is DiCaprio building an iconic celebrity brand? There are three distinct stages for pretty-boy leading men to build an iconic Hollywood celebrity brand:

  • Stage 1: Break through as a heartthrob using looks and sex appeal in a starring role
  • Stage 2: Transition into more serious roles to get respect
  • Stage 3: Explore your talent by pushing boundaries and moving outside of your comfort zone

Consider the careers of three fall-head-over-heels leading men: Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt. Sex appeal makes ladies love them and talent makes men want to be them. In the 1990s, DiCaprio built his celebrity brand in dramatic leading roles where he could show-off his pretty-boy charm and good looks. Man in the Iron Mask (1998), Titanic (1997), Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Marvin’s Room (1996) focused on DiCaprio’s good looks, much like 21 Jump Street (1987-1990), Cry Baby (1990) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) did for Johnny Depp and Johnny Suede (1991), River Runs Through It (1992) and appearances on 21 Jump Street and Growing Pains did for Brad Pitt.

The second stage is about letting your talent shine through. Looks can only take you so far in Hollywood, just as in music. Much like ‘N Sync or the Backstreet Boys good looks had an expiration date, so do Hollywood heartthrobs. While you might reach celebrity status with your good looks, talent is key to developing a sustainable celebrity brand. That means taking on more diverse acting roles that don’t just leverage your good looks, but your talent. DiCaprio transitioned from pretty boy to serious actor with The Beach (2000) and Catch Me If You Can (2002), followed by more complex roles in Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006), Blood Diamond (2006) and Shutter Island (2010). Johnny Depp did a 180 from his pretty-boy role in 21 Jump Street by starring as a disfigured “scissored” man in Edward Scissorhands (1990) and a creepy B-director in Ed Wood (1994).

DiCaprio is still in stage two because he hasn’t solidified his celebrity legacy. Stage two might re-enforce celebrity status by transitioning from pretty-boy to serious actor, but how do you build an iconic celebrity brand like Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood and George Clooney?  Legendary music diva, Madonna has some answers. She constantly pushes her boundaries by re-inventing her image — from music sex goddess to enlightened diva to cowboy lover. Now, she partners with famous artists, such as Justin Timberlake, to keep her celebrity brand relevant and alive.

Johnny Depp’s career parallels Madonna in many ways. He re-invented himself in Edward Scissorhands, again in Ed Wood and now in Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland. Beyond re-inventing himself, Johnny Depp partners, just as Madonna partnered with Timberlake, with Tim Burton on the majority of projects. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd (2007) and Alice and Wonderland (2010) are several Tim Burton films Depp starred in. DiCaprio could partner with George Clooney or Clint Eastwood in a series of serious drama or intelligent comedies. Or, looking at DiCaprio’s relationship with Martin Scorcese (starring in Scorcese’s Shutter Island, The Departed, Gangs of New York, The Aviator), he could easily follow Johnny Depp’s path. Will he be the next Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt? Considering his current path, he’s on the road to celebrity icon status.

Examining Generation Z: Stats, Demographics, Segments, Predictions

Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y are ubiquitous terms among marketers. So who is Gen Z? Gen Z is also called Generation I or Generation Next. While research is limited on this pre-teen generation, many consider the Gen Z birth period between 1994 and 2004 — the oldest of which are currently of driving age. It is estimated that Gen Z are 23 million strong and growing.

While parts of Gen Y have distant, hazy memories of a pre-smartphone world, Gen Z has no recollection. As a result, Gen Z are true digital natives — having grown-up on iPods, text messaging, Facebook, smart phones and YouTube. They are coming of age publicly on the web, are true multi-taskers and have a no-holds-barred attitude about blogging and digital publishing.

Defining Characteristics

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Speed Demons
Growing up on the web, Gen Z lives in a wold of instant gratification. Speed Demons thrive on acceleration and next, next, next. To Gen Z, dial-up is as ancient as the dinosaurs. This segment lives for speed and sluggish technology is useless technology. Google — with its emphasis on performance and speed — is well positioned to meet the high-demands of this Gen Z segment. “[Gen Z] will be so good at processing information that they will open doors we can only knock on today,” writes Penelope Trunk, founder of Gen Y social networking site, Brazen Careerist.

Community-Organizers
Gen Z has grown up with social communities, such as Facebook or Orkut. Meeting, befriending and interacting with the online community is second nature. Accordingly, Community-Organizers value is in their ability to spread messages to vast sums of internet users. Famed generational experts Strauss and Howe theorize that generational behavior is cyclical (e.g. Gen X are independent, Gen Y are team players). This thinking would therefore indicate that Gen Z should be independent. However, the community-oriented nature of the digital world and Gen Z’s place in it might trump this theory.

Open Books
Of course books are only a metaphor (the Kindle is the new “book”). Open Books find little value in privacy. Personal information is only sensitive when it comes to money. Everything else is fair game. Consider the issue of privacy as it cascades through Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. Privacy is less of a concern with the more tech-savvy generations. If you thought Gen Y was lax on privacy, Gen Z will blow your mind.

genz_brand_profile.jpgMicro Miners
Think 19th Century Russia. Dostoyevsky could publish a 600-page book and it would be the hottest paper in all of Russia. Fast forward to the digital age and we have a much different picture. Today, attention spans could not handle even a 400-page book. Fast forward into the Gen Z’s future and everything is broken into bite-size, manageable pieces. Micro miners thrive on small bits of information. Think Boing-Boing in Twitter-length messages. Information is condensed into its very essence. Micro-blogging, social platforms like Tumblr will emerge very popular among Micro Miners.

Macro Trends

Freedom: New way of creativity — The 2010 Freedom trend is about the rise in self-publishing tools, such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. As Gen Z are true digital natives, self-publishing tools are a staple of their online lives. Speed Demons enjoy Blogger’s simple, accessible user interface, community-organizers leverage Facebook groups, Open Books use life-streaming sites like Twitter and Micro Miners are Tumblr users for it’s easy search and discovery tools.

Predictions

There will be a push in marketing to create more captivating campaigns — as 60% of Gen Z want to consume relevant, interesting advertisements. To appeal to this growing audience, marketers will need to focus on entertaining Gen Z –potentially incorporating self-publishing tools into marketing campaigns — to make a connection, then add a brand message. Let Gen Z take control of your brand by fusing entertainment with user-generated content. Consider outsourcing your advertising through user generated campaigns, similar to Pizza Hut.

To learn more about generation trends:

2010 Generation Trend Report

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Baby Boomers are still reeling from the recessionary aftershock, Generation X is taking the reigns of their future by appointing themselves CEO, Generation Y is growing impatient for the much promised political, economic and social change and Generation Z? Who is Generation Z? Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y are ubiquitous terms among marketers, but what is understood about youngsters of Generation Z?

Supre, Jay Jays, Speed Demons, Open Books are just a few key elements of the up-and-coming Generation Z that we examine in our 2010 Generation Trend Report. We segment each generation into common groups, discuss relevant 2010 macro trends, build brand profiles and cast predictions of what to expect in the coming five years in our 2010 Generational Trends.

Join us as we explore Connectors, Micro Miners, Escapists, Forerruners and more.

Generation Z

Gen Z is also called Generation I or Generation Next. While research is limited on this pre-teen generation, many consider the Gen Z birth period between 1994 and 2004 — the oldest of which are currently of driving age. It is estimated that Gen Z are 23 million strong and growing.

Generation Y

From green activism to anime, from Gawker to Tony Hawk video games, Generation Y is a complex generation with diverse interests.  Immersed in the digital world from an early age, Gen Y is at the forefront of mashing up how we communicate, entertain, and innovate.

Generation X

Sergey Brin, Quentin Tarantino and Jon Stewart are among many Gen X luminaries pushing the limits, re-shaping corporate culture, re-thinking film and revolutionizing comedy. They are accelerating the speed of life and “keeping America from sucking,” writes Jeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers have charged social and cultural revolutions and built vast, far-reaching corporate empires. They have helped weave the social, political and economic fabric of our country today. Their many achievements have made them one of the greatest generations of all time. Their wealth and influence is greater than any other generation today.

Top 5 Reasons to Enter New Markets

Did you know Pepsi is a strong competitor in the snack food market? Or that the Virgin Group makes everything from spaceships to cosmetics? These—and many other successful brands—have grown revenue streams by entering new markets, whether through mergers and acquisitions or organic growth from the ground up.

As you enter a new market, immerse yourself in understanding the customer needs: how can you better serve customers with a new product or service? Where are the gaps and how can you fill them in? Answering these basic questions involves research, time and maybe partnering with an integrated digital marketing agency. To jumpstart your thinking as you evaluate new market entry, we’ve developed a list of the top five reasons to enter a new market:

Expand geography

McDonald’s serves an estimated 47 million people daily. While a majority share is derived from the U.S., McDonald’s also operates in 128 out of a total 140 countries. The McDonald’s franchise exemplifies the benefits of entering new markets. The world’s largest fast food chain revenues grew 27% between 2004 and 2007 — totaling $22.8 billion, with a 9%, or $3.9 billion, increase in operating income. The McDonald’s geographic growth strategy focuses on the core product (e.g. fast food) while adopting the local culinary culture (e.g. McDonald’s France sells wine).

Diversify product offering

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group empire has a very unique and diverse product offering. By translating the core values of the Virgin brand into a range of products, Branson has successfully launch everything from spaceships to games to housewares. A diverse portfolio can also help you spread and reduce risk. For instance, if Virgin only invested in music, the company might be on the brink of failure. However, by investing in a range of products and services, Virgin’s leadership has developed a sustainable, durable company.

Appeal to different customer segments

Gap, Inc. is the largest specialty retailer in the world. By appealing to multiple consumer segments, the brand has ensured a leadership position. Beyond appealing to the middle class, Gap has captured specific customer segments, such as baby, children, women and maternity. Within the Gap brand, there is GapKids, babyGap, GapBody and GapMaternity. The retailer has also focused on multiple life and wealth stages. Gap Inc. has successfully launched Banana Republic for the more affluent and more professional; Old Navy for young, middle America; and Athleta, for athletic, upper-middle class women.

Achieve long-term vision

Google’s long-term vision is easy to remember: organize the world’s information. It is quite the task, however. Google has acquired over 50 companies — since its inception just a decade ago — in its attempt of realizing its ambitious vision. Google went from a single search engine to a communications conglomerate — with mobile devices to maps and books to web browsers and OS. The search giant has entered countless markets in an ambitious attempt to organize information.

Build new skills and competencies

Did you know Pepsi is a strong competitor in the snack foods market? PepsiCo owns Frito Lay, Tropicana and Quaker among its many soft drink brands (such as Gatorade, Sierra Mist and Mountain Dew). PepsiCo.’s decision to enter the snack food market makes sense. The soft drink giant established distribution channels in grocery stores and gas stations around the world. Therefore, moving from the cooler to the stock shelf was a leap worth making.

Can Tiger Woods Press Conference Help his Brand?

Nearly three months after Tiger Woods’ life entered a tailspin, the disgraced golfer is ready to tell his side of the story. Today, Woods will speak publicly to a small group of close friends and family to “discuss his past and his future, and he intends to apologize for his behavior,” according to an official statement. Speculation about his future in golf has been buzzing ever since the revelation of his many affairs and subsequent disappearance from the public in November. Now, not only is he facing serious personal repercussions, his image as an athlete and role model are now tarnished as well. Through his incredible athletic prowess, he has branded himself a leader in golf, both on and off of the course, a process that took years to complete. Now, he faces the daunting task of restoring his public image — which will be made infinitely more difficult due to poor public relations decisions. Could he have avoided or at least quelled such an incredible PR fallout?

Though he released a written public apology shortly after the scandal broke, Tiger Woods hasn’t been seen in public since late November. This lack of action to address the issue head-on was poor crisis management on the part of Woods and his team. Usually, when celebrities, CEOs, and other leaders find themselves in a scandal, they immediately embark on a media tour to make apologies through every outlet imaginable. Letting months go by with no official statement or knowledge of his whereabouts, speculation and rumors have only grown, only exacerbating the crisis at hand.

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Though many sponsors have ended their contracts with Woods — AT&T, Gatorade, and Accenture were the first to do so — his status with his many other sponsors hasn’t been affected, with the remaining companies stating that they will stand behind him. This is a bold move, and perhaps an effort to help him hold on to the little positive image that still remains. Online, Tiger’s brand shows no signs of his recent public downfall. His Facebook fan page has more than 1 million fans, and the traffic on his official Web site has nearly tripled since the scandal broke – though neither site addresses Tiger’s current situation. To top it all off, Forbes ranked Woods as the top athlete brand on its Fab 40 list, released earlier this month. Forbes’ rankings are based on sponsorships and earnings, and don’t focus on personal situations. If Tiger’s personal drama had been considered, however, chances are he would not hold the top spot.

The Tiger Woods brand is a combination of his personal and professional personas, which is the reason this scandal has been such a major issue. Woods’ marketed himself as a family man, and has been quoted as saying that “[Having a family] has been great, actually, the best thing that ever happened to me,” and that “family first, golf second.” Unfortunately, because these brands were so intertwined, one of these brand images could not be damaged without affecting the other. University of Pittsburgh law professor Mike Madison of madisonian.net took an interesting view of Tiger’s situation, comparing his persona and brand to intellectual copyright. He wrote in a recent blog post that, “When a celebrity turns himself or herself into a brand, as Tiger has done so effectively, then the challenges of maintaining brand integrity, and the risks associated with what trademark lawyers sometimes call self-dilution — in this case, self-tarnishment, are enormous.”

Many athletes have faced similar personal branding obstacles – most recently Michael Phelps’ marijuana scandal – and have seemingly bounced back to their former super-star statuses. Phelps immediately addressed the issue by apologizing publicly, admitting to using drugs, and handling the fallout professionally. Though he too lost sponsorship deals and was suspended from his sport for a short time, Phelps returned to the sport and didn’t dwell on his past actions. Will Tiger be able to follow a similar path? Today’s small press conference may not turn his image around automatically, but it is a small start.

Prior to Tiger’s sex scandal, his wife and children were fixtures on the sidelines at all of his tournaments. Going forward, Woods should keep his family out of the public eye, and instead focus only on his professional and athletic endeavors. Though it may take away from his status as an “everyman,” it is the best decision for his brand right now. Ultimately, personal brands are built upon character, integrity, and action. As long as Tiger can maintain a positive image in these areas of his life, he may be able to undo the past and find his footing once again.

Image by parry bedi from Stock.Xchng

Successful Facebook Strategies for Brands

These days, if you want to establish your brand on social networks, the first place to start is Facebook. Like an individual’s profile page, and brand’s fan page gives creative control for appearance and content, and provides a unique platform for engaging with customers from around the world. So much is happening on these pages, from special giveaways, coupons and discounts, and contests, to games, interaction, and more. Facebook gives brands more leeway on their pages, enabling them to turn a Facebook page into an extension of their Web site, but with more features, and in a space where even more people can connect. With more than 350 million users (up 50 million in less than three months), there’s no shortage of people to connect with. We’ve analyzed some of the most followed brand fan pages on Facebook to see what they’re doing right, and what other brands can learn from these efforts.

Spark a Conversation

Each of the brands’ pages we viewed did an excellent job of initiating conversation among groups customers, and getting customers to “converse” with the brand itself (rather, the people behind the brand). Each brand poses questions to fans about why they love the product, to share their experiences with the brand, and more. Skittles has posted several fun videos (separate from their clever commercials), which have all received hundreds of comments and thousands of “likes” from users. Each page as a tab for “Discussions,” which is a forum for users to create threads on any topic they feel like, and interact with other customers. Giving fans a way to express their love of a product on your page is a great way to monitor conversation and gain valuable feedback, too.

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Special Deals

One way that brands are really developing a fan base on Facebook is by offering special deals, discounts, and giveaways that can’t be found anywhere else. Victoria’s Secret PINK page offers links to multiple discounts, free items, and advance previews of sales that are only available to Facebook fans, and Target gave fans a preview of Black Friday discounts, as well as insider information regarding their holiday giveaway spectacular, where they gave away $200,000 worth of products over the Thanksgiving weekend. Although anyone can log on and see these pages, those who are fans get the information through their news feeds first.

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Encourage Participation

In May 2009, Target launched a unique charity event that utilized the power of the Facebook crowd to make an impact. Target donated $3 million to select charities, and it was up to the Facebook fans to decide where they money went and how much each charity would receive. The event brought in more than 291,000 votes from users, with St. Jude Children’s Hospital receiving the top prize. More and more brands are utilizing their Facebook pages for similar efforts – Coca Cola is taking a stand on climate change by launching “Hopenhagen,” on their Facebook page, an effort to get users to reduce their carbon footprints and show those gathered at the UN Climate Change Conference that Coca Cola cares.

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Make it your own

With the exception of Target’s fan page, all of the fan pages we looked at brought us first to a special FMBL page customized for the brand. Unlike a regular Facebook profile which brings users to the “wall” at first visit, these FBML pages have special tabs to make the page feel less like a Facebook profile and more like an actual Web site. Of course, fans can click on other tabs and go to the regular content, but these splash pages provide a way for brands to make their page their own, and really stand out. Mountain Dew’s splash page is a platform for crowdsourcing the next specialty Mountain Dew flavor, and is also a Web site in itself. Coca Cola’s splash page is also very unique, providing links videos made by users and the company as well, fan photos featuring Coke products, and many more interactive features that certainly aren’t available on the corporate site.

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Provide Innovative Content

The possibilities for content on Facebook fan pages seem to be limitless, and these brands really know how to produce fun content for users of all ages. On the Dunkin Donuts splash page, fans can watch a video of Maurice, the company’s espresso bean mascot. Users can make Maurice say a variety of small phrases and post it as a link or widget on a friend’s wall, or share it with all of their friends. Skittles lets users be a DJ with “Mix the Rainbow,” using colored skittles as beats, instruments, melodies, and more. These free activities provide fun for all, and keep users on the site instead of somewhere else.

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Utilizing Facebook fan pages for brands can be a great way to attract new customers while connecting with your already existing ones as well. With the new and improved news feed, you’ll be able to share information quickly and easily, on a platform where people spend much of their time anyway. With all of the features Facebook provides, it’s hard to not resist just trying it out – you might be surprised with the response you’ll get.

What are the Brand Implications of Obama / Dali Lama Meeting?

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How do global brands stay relevant and appeal to a diverse constituency/audience? For Barack Obama and the Dali Lama, it’s about joining in a symbolic meeting about human rights and taking appropriate action; for corporate brands, such as HSBC or McDonalds, it’s about speaking to the political intolerance in Kuwait or creating the Indian lamb Maharaja Mac. The Obama / Dali Lama meeting is a brand building opportunity for Obama to weigh-in on human rights issues and legitimize his Noble Peace Prize and the Dali Lama to re-iterate his international relevance to modern day human rights issues.

For international brands to be relevant, they must maintain a consistent core brand message while leaving some room to customize. Although the Dali Lama and Obama must have a consistent core brand message of uplifting the oppressed and suffering, they have to customize their message to address current human rights violations in China and suffering in Haiti. Global brands, such as HSBC, McDonalds and Coca-Cola follow a similar strategy when entering new local markets. Just as Obama and the Dali Lama need to stay on message while dealing with current issues, brands like McDonalds and HSBC must stay on-brand while localizing their message.

For instance, McDonalds needs to deliver on its brand promise of fast food at cheap prices while offering India’s lamb or chicken Maharaja Mac (as Hindus don’t eat beef) or Japan’s Koroke mashed potato, cabbage and katsu sauce burger (not your typical US McDonald’s menu). “The World’s Local Bank,” HSBC, developed an effective ad campaign that spoke to the HSBC brand while appealing to local culture. See how an ad in Singapore differs from an ad in Kuwait:

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Every new market presents unique cultural differences. McDonald’s would fail to market its American all-beef patty to Hindus and HSBC’s ad speaks to the political strife in Kuwait. Both recognize that a successful global brand must also have the ability to update and customize their its brand based on the local culture.

Obama and the Dali Lama’s meeting is an update on their personal brands — an opportunity for a brand “refresh.” The Dali Lama is demonstrating his relevance by meeting with the leader of the free world while Obama is taking a stance on human rights (a backhand to China) by meeting with the international figure of peace.

Global brands must update and localize their appeal to stay relevant. HSBC and the Dali Lama have brand parallels in that they must continue building and updating their brand, whether it’s in new markets or a new political environment, to stay relevant and sustain international influence. HSBC’s targeted ad campaigns and McDonald’s localized menu are small steps to build an international brand. While Obama and the Dali Lama’s meeting will not solve China’s humanitarian issues or stop suffering in Haiti, they must take incremental steps to improve, update and build their global brands.

Image from the White House Flickr stream