Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will have Facebook a better 2011 than Google?

Peter Cashmore, founder of Mashable (the leading blog on social media) wrote for his CNN column the predictions about 2011. Among his comments, one that appears very interesting is the opinion that Facebook will have a better 2011 than Google. It is something that today looks less surprising than some years ago when everybody thought that the inevitable future of Facebook would be being bought by “someone like Google”. It seems that 2011 will show us, for the first time, the image of two giants that can face each other, not anymore like a David and a Goliath.

The interesting part is trying to understand what is giving Facebook its leadership and, likewise what is making that Google looses part of his “absolute winner” halo we were used to. The first thing that Facebook has done really well is to understand the human beings and evolve with them to make Facebook keep being a space for their interests. With that, it has created a singular knowledge and a unique targeting platform unknown so far in the Human history. As stated by Cashmore: “Facebook will understand both our social connections and our interests, providing the holy grail of targeted advertising”.

But what will make that Facebook maintains its relevancy not just for the advertisers but for users is to keep building that public space that allows us getting together, meet each other, identify and express ourselves. It is, in many senses, that new agora that provides that space for social interaction (with even a political role, further than the social or commercial functions). Facebook is much more than a space for gossips. I would say it is the most relevant public space (and obviously the largest) in Human history. When Places (the geo localization application launched this year) becomes more global, it would be even more evident that it is that public space where the difference between virtual and real worlds turns irrelevant.

2011 for Google will be very interesting, mainly because the penetration of Android and all the applications that enhace people´s life on the go. Now, according to rumors quoted by Cashmore, Google would be interested on creating a platform for competing with Facebook. But the main difference between them is that Google has mastered metrics and deep knowledge on how people behave on the web, sometimes forgetting that behind all those figures there are people, not geeks but human beings that more than useful tools are looking for spending more enjoyable time on the web. Wave was a good example of this. Even that it had really good comments from experts, people did not know what to do with it.

Other, on the contrary, such as HBR in its Six Social Media Trends for 2011, forecast that Google, far from creating their own Facebook or their own Twitter, will make that they know best: Index them. Make that conversations on both have better options of accessing to potentiate their value.

Now, in my opinion, the most important challenge for Facebook will be surviving to their own success. Avoid loosing the essence for trying to be everything for everybody, loosing novelty or get into rejection as a super powerful leader, mainly if it gets to the trap of arrogance. So far it looks that it won´t as its great virtue is to deeply understand the connection between people and technology. Understanding the importance that has for anybody to know if their friend is single or married, if it has friends in common or if it looked good on the picture of the party. This understanding is and always will be the best army agains irrelevance or rejection.

Well, the interesting part of 2011 will be discovering two giants with so different profiles but with competitive and complementary spaces that will show us a lot about the digital future. It will be very interesting to analyze platforms vs contents, advertising and spaces for brands relevance as part of the purchasing process, not only on search but also on entertainment and socialization spaces. Who will have a better 2011? The debate is open.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Unbranded Branding

What would happen if we would say that the future of branding is about trying to make the brand less visible? Or what about if we say that advertising in order to be more relevant would have to make contents more important than the brand itself?

Perhaps what impacted me more from the movie The Social Network is that idea that advertising would had "ruin the party". It seems to be the key piece of advice that Sean Parker (Napster founder) gave to Zuckerberg that reinforces the vision that he already had and that appears as the key decision that consolidated the success of Facebook over MySpace, for example.

For all of us who work in branding, it feels too hard to hear that the presence of advertising is like ending a party at 11 pm. Even more, realize that the absence of advertising was the main reason why Facebook worked. If we understand that Facebook is the biggest communication and social phenomenon in the last few decades it is even harder to hear that. But it makes lot of sense. We have seen that the best branding cases have been those that does not have advertising in the obvious way. We all know now that no any consumer would send or participate in a content in which the brand is larger than the idea.

I think we will se more and more cases in which the brand capitalizes a social phenomenon. It means, those brand building processes in which the consumer help us to make the message larger and more relevant. And we know that it is true only in two cases. The first one is when the consumer has a huge connection with the brand to a point that he considers that the brand is not a foreign but a friend with a purpose he wants to back. The second case is when the content is attractive by itself and gains the preference of consumers to be transmitted to his own community of friends and family.

It was exactly when I was thinking on this idea of "unbranded branding" and I was wondering how the brands can make advertising without hundred of logos and brand presence, a friend of mine sent me the most recent case of BMW and I think it is very relevant for this discussion. I think this creative idea would be one of the most commented in 2011 as it made people to see the logo in an advertising execution that it had no logo. And I want to bring it to this discussion because I think it is part of this "trend".

Building a brand without the logo is, obviously, the largest challenge. The one-million-dollar question. The interesting part is to keep in mind those cases that show us alternative ways of building relevance to brands and make them big social phenomena. It is very interesting to check those brands that have been able to add brand value to its communication efforts without being obvious. Those that have been able to place more value on the experience than in the logo. Technology is the main ally to focus our efforts on branding with relevant content rather than maintaining the logo-centric way of relationship that dominates many brands.

To see the case of BMW, please click here