Brand Communities, Recommendation, and Going To School On The Other Guy’s Putt

If two golfers reach the green around the same time, neither wants to putt first. That’s because it’s always instructive to watch the other player’s ball roll; it susses out hidden breaks and the speed of the green.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonThat behavior is not unique to golf; shoppers look to learn from their peers as well. As part of their participation in the Consumer Electronics Show last week, PR giant Weber Shandwick released a study that found the greatest influence on electronics purchase decisions comes from consumer reviews, not professional ones. In fact, electronics buyers value consumer reviews over editorial reviews by a more than three to one margin. Perhaps more importantly, they found that on average, buyers checked eleven consumer reviews before committing to a purchase.

All of this merely confirms the power of recommendation. As Paul Rand, President of Omnicom word of mouth shop Zócalo Group, asserts quite regularly about buyers; “92% say that the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague or expert is the single most powerful influencer of their purchase decision.”

So it only makes sense for marketers to leverage this phenomenon and encourage reviews. But sales are a competition so there’s always someone looking to bring performance enhancing drugs to the race. Last Summer, Forbes ran an article concerning authors who anonymously pen self-promoting book reviews, or worse, slams on the work of rival authors. Around the New Year, the Huffington Post ran a piece on view count inflation on YouTube music video counts and a subsequent adjustment in those numbers.

People innately seek the opinions of others they respect and trust. And well tended brand communities provide forums for sharing those opinions. Weber Shandwick’s  report even closes with suggestions on how marketers can protect their recommendations’ legitimacy so they stay effective. But as long as there is money involved, some dirtbag will try to Lance the system and scam some bucks.

Yet another reason why authenticity is such a valued commodity these days.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

The Wheel, Penicillin, the iPhone…and Now the Hutzler 571B Banana Slicer

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonWelcome to the online world of sarcasm-gone-wild. Surf here on Amazon to find the Hutzler 571B Banana Slicer: a totally unnecessary innovation in fruit-slicing technology.
At that site you’ll also find boatloads of user reviews.  Breathless reviews, glowing reviews, head-snappingly boneheaded reviews of this absolutely idiotic product brimming with snark, irony, and one-liners.
And all of those sarcastic reviews are making this lowly ‘convenience’ a best seller.  According to an article on, these absurdist, faux celebrations are driving sales way up. And Hutzler, the manufacturer, couldn’t be happier. In a recent tweet, @hutzlerco said “…Sales have certainly been up with these reviews and the additional exposure. We’ve been having so much fun with this!”  I bet they are. As an infomercial marketer with no face or dignity to lose, Hutzler Manufacturing Co. no doubt welcomes the no-cost notoriety that’s brought so much attention to their humble, banana-slicing tool.
When your biggest media outlet is earned, you quickly realize, the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. And so attention, even dodgy, goofing-on-your-merch attention, is a form of kindness.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

The Ever Observant Alan Spindle Posted This During Yesterday’s Broadcast

NFLHe captioned this Facebook update with: “I must say, this Houston Texans logo is quite groundbreaking. I have no idea what inspired them to create such an out-there design.”

Sometimes social media’s biggest reward is a smart observation or witty bon mot. You know, just like you might overhear in some other social situation.

Because engagement strategies notwithstanding, with Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Instagram, it’s always social first.

Good one Alan…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


Inundata: We Have Infinite, Immediate Information, So Why Don’t I Feel Smarter?

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonYep, “inundata.” I just made that word up; coined it without consulting Merriam or Webster, Funk or Wagnalls, Strunk or White. I didn’t invent it because the world needed a new noun, but because I needed some way to describe the intellectual slippage I feel daily, trying to keep up with the crushing flow of breaking news and fresh research and relevant posts–the whole Force Five intensity of the mobile information superhighway that’s never far from hand.

But the critical distinction is that what we live with today is a blitzkrieg of data, not actual knowledge.

I don’t believe we are smarter, I think we’re more distracted.

I don’t think we multi-task, I think we do more things with less commitment.

And I truly don’t believe any of us are wiser despite today’s omnipresence of information. We have always been able to find or conjure data to support whatever belief we hold. It may not stand up to the rigors of the scientific method, but it doesn’t need to; we’re not scientists. At least, most of us aren’t.

Which is why we should all take time to stop and make art. We should all try things, create things and play. Because in the end, creativity is the human data that defines ourselves.

Oh, and it’s also why every brand needs a really well thought out search strategy.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

New Treasury Secretary May Spur Federal Rebranding Effort

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonSee this? No, it’s not a proposed Olympic city mascot, it’s the remarkably unique signature of White House chief of staff Jack Lew who President Obama plans to nominate as the replacement for the departing Timothy Geithner. Apparently, there’s a hue and cry inside the beltway over this ‘squiggle’ because the Secretary of Treasury’s autograph is on every bill the government prints. He’s being urged to replace it with something more…decipherable.

And there’s precedent for this kind of action because apparently, they made Geithner improve his too before printing it on dollar bills.

But does it really matter? Should we change someone’s personal brand for no other reason than legibility? I don’t think so. Because if you’re the kind of person whose day is shattered because you can’t read the small print on a twenty, you should work on re-prioritizing.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


Social is Visual

Todays MediaPost reports that HubSpot, creators of software for inbound marketers, released a new study on social engagement which found, perhaps not surprisingly, that using visuals on Facebook Pages boosted response and engagement.

Their methodology was pretty simple–take about 9,000 B2B and B2C company posts and  compare Likes-per-photo vs Likes-per-posts.  Not only did photos earn 53% more Likes than average, they also earned 104% more comments.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

Courtesy of Awkward Stock Photos

This follows the simple trend of our culture’s increasingly visual orientation.  The Facebook community uploads nearly 300 million photos every day and marketers who want to be relevant need to think visually as well.  Just please lord, don’t let this lead to a crush of vapid stock photography usage.

Then again, maybe that will help Mark Zuckerberg create huge demand so he can start to monetize his Instagram investment and sell businesses all of those photos…  Hmm…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


On Disappointment…

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonWell, the charmed streak my beloved Irish enjoyed all season long came to a crushing end last night.

The pundits said we were overrated and they were right. They said we were lucky and they were right too.

Still, hope dies last. Or as the Spartan philosopher Epictetus wrote in his remarkably readable The Enchiridion: “dum spiro, spero”: “While I breathe, I hope.”

Hope is a crucial currency in advertising. In a world of endless pitching, hope keeps you coming back despite the disappointments, the rejections and the outright failures.

But last night’s disappointment wasn’t solely limited to the game. Midway through the first half, a TV spot we produced well over four years ago at the now defunct Element 79 aired for Lay’s potato chips. Which means two things. First, that despite canning all of us at that agency, Frito Lay has yet to find something better and second, those three actresses are positively killing it on residuals. Still, it’s tremendously disappointing and judging by a Facebook post and the comments that followed, the sting of that injustice still rankles.

The only way to deal with disappointment is perspective. It’s always perspective. As a Notre Dame friend of mine posted last night, “Who would have thought we would have a disappointment on January 8th?” We were blessed with an improbably charmed run, and a raft of storylines that warmed the heart and fueled the imagination, with both Notre Dame’s football season and our work on Frito Lay at Element 79. And it ended, as things inevitably do. Now the only proper response for that experience is gratitude.

So despite the sting and the disappointment, I am grateful. For a brief and shining moment, a wonderful group of magical people were center stage at the show.

Today, the hard work of getting back there begins again.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Hockey’s Back!

Hockey’s a big deal in Minnesota. Such a big deal that to help launch the Minnesota Wild during their debut 2000-2001 season, our agency founder penned this anthem declaring Minnesota “The State of Hockey.”  And yep, it’s still played before every game at the Xcel Energy Center.

So we’re all glad the CBA reached this weekend means the NHL will be ready to play by January 19. We’re fired up to see Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in Wild uniforms. And our client BAUER couldn’t be happier to have everyone talking about the game again.

But candidly, all of this is just a cheap excuse for me to show this awesome photo from our BAUER shoot last Summer.  Go Wild…but even though I live here now, Go Blackhawks!

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Read All About It…

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingThere’s a lot of irony in the latest report on World Press Trends from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Sure, there’s the expected:

  • newspaper advertising’s 25% global decline over the past five years, with North America driving nearly three quarters of that drop
  • digital news’ growth and struggle to monetize
  • television continued dominance, with 40% of the world’s advertising
  • search’s dominance of internet ad revenue at 58%

But some of their findings were not so expected. Like how newspapers may be down and yet they’re still pretty pervasive. Globally, they amount to a 200 billion dollar annual industry and domestically, with ad revenues at $96 Billion in 2011, they represent 20% of the overall ad market. The biggest hit on newspapers has been the drop in classified revenues, which has dropped 65% in five years.

The real lesson here is that newspapers remain a viable media platform, particularly for an older, more educated audience. And unlike search, they can actually help you build a brand.

Besides, crosswords stink on an iPad.

Happy Friday!


Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Forget Sustainability; The Future Of Everything–Even Advertising–Depends On Fast Adapting

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingIn this month’s issued of Wired, Andrew Zolli presents a very compelling case for emphasizing resilience instead of sustainability. He views sustainability as impractical given that stasis is totally counter to the natural order. By contrast, emphasizing resilience helps people deal with disruption and volatility. For instance, instead of building a seawall in a Quixotic attempt to staunch the surge of the next monster hurricane, Zolli suggests developing infrastructure that is lighter weight, more portable and redundant cutting down response times and helping the system self repair. Given our Congress’ shameful impotence on providing relief for Hurricane Sandy victims, that makes a lot of sense.

Resilience also makes sense for advertising.  Back in the early 90’s, everyone in Chicago talked about how Ted Bell “…had a standing army of 500 creatives at Y&R.” This legend was spoken in hushed tones, a paean to omnipotent firepower.

Which seems quaint now. Successful creative brand stewardship comes down to casting, not staffing; clients need the right minds, not simply a lot of them. Too many inputs overwhelm the system and slow things down–it’s all about faster, leaner, responsiveness.

Successful advertising really is all about resilience.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


And in advertising, no one can deny these are volatile, disruptive times. Zolli’s