Brands Need to Learn How to Influence Culture

Before there was social media—before there was mobile and the video revolution, there was blogging. Once heralded as a revolution in communications and to a degree, marketing—self expression and direct publishing of the written word became an influential force to be dealt with.


Blogging, in written word form of has been a commodity for some time. Content in all forms—even mobile optimized and snackable content. There’s simply too much of it. Most of it is not very good and even if it is—the amount of effort it takes to make sure that content will travel far and wide makes for considerable effort. Many will do this well but more will fail.


The ability to create it, influence it, co-create it and integrate a brand so seamlessly in culture and relevant sub cultures. This is the next frontier of marketing and communications and while it has much to do with things like social, mobile and content—it is the cultural aspect that must lead while everything else follows. A fantastic article in Harvard Business Review reflects some of this shift, labeling it within the context of something Douglas Holt calls “Crowdculture”:

The challenge for brands is that they often times cannot create culture by themselves. Today’s culture creators often thrive in “sub cultures”—niche groups that exist under more mainstream areas whether it be food, sports, fashion—lest you think this only applies to “consumer brands” it does not. Subcultures exist in business as well and continue to diversify as business itself becomes more specialized and niche.

Brands and Organizations Must Become Collaborators and Co-Creators of Culture

Today and tomorrow’s challenge for brands and organizations is to tweak their marketing and communications infrastructure so they can effectively collaborate with influencers of culture across the spectrum. If brands cannot create culture from scratch—they can co-create it with the right partners across the paid, owned, earned and social spectrum. But to do this at scale, they must understand the ecosystem of influence and re-structure internally to connect that ecosystem and approach peer to peer influence from all sides.

The Rise of Influencers

Brands and organizations who wish to influence culture and become co-creators of it, must begin to coordinate how they approach working with those who wield influence, coming at it from different directions. For example, TIME magazine featured a cover telling us that we should “eat butter”. While earned in nature, the story and the journalists behind it are playing a key role in the resurgence of butter and how Americans are re-thinking fat. It’s an example of media influencing culture—in this particular example, this kind of influence cannot be bought—it must be earned, however, increasingly cultural influencers such as “YouTubers” require paid means to collaborate with.

“Content Marketing” came after social media and mobile and it enjoyed a good run. But it’s not enough to create content in a complex media ecosystem that makes it extremely difficult to break though and earn attention. Brands will have to learn how to influence culture and sub cultures by collaborating with those who create it externally while coordinating their fractured functions internally. 

How the Chatbot will Change Retail


You’ll soon be able to do a lot of neat stuff with a Facebook messenger chatbot or via your favorite SMS app, such as WhatsApp, Line, Kik and Slack. For many of us who’ve used bot-powered digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana, bots may seem like a novelty. You may find yourself laughing at their misunderstandings more often than you’ve found yourself appreciating their utility.

But evangelists of the technology say that bots are poised to be at the center of a crucial paradigm shift in how we think about using the Internet. While a Web browser might once have been our front door to the Internet and apps often play that role today, bots could soon become our primary digital gateway. At a conference last month, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said, “Bots are the new apps.”

Retailers will have much more pressure to adopt retail technologies that consumers will enjoy. This means the customer experience will be more implicated with technology, than ever before. The role of AI’s role in customer engagement will be in one word, exponential in its growth and impact on sales.

What many people don’t seem to realize is how chatbots are the first contextual AI that will change how brands and smart spaces communicate with us. The chat bot revolution comes at a time when mobile commerce, the Internet of things (IoT) and more immersive branding combine to form a better experience for customers and one that allows them to truly personalize their journey in relation to your brand and while shopping in your store.

Integrative Engagement Paradigm (IEP)

  1. Personalization: Chat-Bots (AI) linked with predictive analytics and data-augmented technologies such as cloud POS, Big Data, loyalty programs.
  2. Convenience: Wearables (unified nativity). Multiple points of contact (Voice, SMS, notifications, wearable vibrations, color flashes on smart bands (that mean different things).
  3. Responsiveness: Smart Spaces (IoT). Open-source human data-points and human analytics.
  4. Immersion: Video content, Digital signature, holograms, AR & VR. Acquiring and engaging attention, branding and emotion.
  5. Customization: Personal Virtual Assistants (AI-ML-NLP). Hybrid human-AI intelligence.

With social media becoming less engaging and social sharing down on sites like Facebook, we’re already looking to the future. The future is one in which AI actually humanizes cities, spaces and facilitates a more personalized world full of more ambient and emotional customer experiences and authentic interactions.

Growing up texting and on Instagram is one thing, growing up with responsive environments and customizable AI interfaces is quite another. The future is not just one experience, it’s choosing the way you want to interact with people, places, brands and contexts that are customizable with AI to help you navigate an increasingly “noisy” world.

Free Basics, Net Neutrality & Economic Discrimination

Free Basics – formerly, is Facebook’s initiative to provide free, but limited Internet to the developing world. Last week, the Times of India reported that India’s telecom body asked Facebook’s partner, the wireless carrier Reliance, to cease the service while it determines whether operators should be able to price their services based on content.

download (7)

Mark Zuckerberg emerged from his paternity leave to pen an op-ed article in the English-language daily. Basically, he can’t believe that India isn’t grateful for it. I, myself am still deciding whose side I am now, but let’s take a look at his response to figure it out.

The first time I breezed through his article, I could pick up on the annoyance. On the second read, I realized how Zuckerberg sees India, where about a billion people are not connected to the Internet, as backwards for even questioning Facebook’s charitable endeavor.

“Who could possibly be against this?” he asks passive-aggressively. “Surprisingly, over the last year there’s been a big debate about this in India.”

Even though net neutrality is an issue in the United States as well, Zuckerberg makes it more of a first-world problem, such that it doesn’t apply to India because limited service is better than no service. Net neutrality activists are arguing that Facebook and its telecom partners are gatekeepers, deciding which websites can be accessed for free. While Facebook could add more telecom partners to open up the number of sites and services Free Basics users could use for free, it only has one partner in India.

Zuckerberg does acknowledge that Free Basics does not provide people with access to the full web, but sees it as a step in the right direction. He claims that half of the people that come online for the first time by using Free Basics, buy full internet access within 30 days.

He even tells the story of a farmer named Ganesh, who uses the free Internet service to check weather updates and commodity prices. He asked, “How does Ganesh being able to better tend his crops hurt the internet?”

Something that Zuckerberg failed to address is that zero-rated services like Free Basics amount to economic discrimination – poor Internet for poor people. In the Times of India in October, net-neutrality advocacy group quoted Tim Berners-Lee, father of the internet, as saying: Economic discrimination is just as harmful as technical discrimination, so [internet service providers] will still be able to pick winners and losers online.” Facebook’s walled garden could very well determine the sites and services that will succeed in India.

What do you think?


Your Online Presence – Social Media

Social media communicates information, generates discussions, shares videos, pictures and more. It is the medium that everyone can use to express their thoughts, opimeizu-m1-note-indianions, likes, dislikes and reviews to a virtual audience. There is a wide range of social media sites as well including forums, micro blogging sites, social networking sites and wikis like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, Pinterest, Reddit, LinkedIn and many more. However, we need to realize that these sites aren’t limited to interactions with only customers, but prospective customers as well.

With Social Media You Can:

  • Connect with friends, family and followers
  • Launch a new products
  • Improve the brand image of a product or company
  • Project and promote another’s skills and talents

Social media helps you get noticed on social networking sites and can help to increase the number of visitors to your website. Any startup venture or business can begin their marketing and advertising campaigns in a very cost effective manner. It also helps to improve the business relationship with the customer – strengthening trust and faith. These strong relationships will make your business with them last longer and attract new potential customers and projects. Creating brand awareness always helps to gain first tie customers and break new ground.

One of the advantages of social media is that even a small message can go viral. Your information can reach thousands and millions that you could not reach through any other advertising campaign.

downloadBuilding A Positive Reputation:

  • Create a presence
  • Test your audience
  • Spend time on 4 or 5 different websites to target your consumer

Begin by generating discussions on neutral topics that are related to the industry of your business rather than your own services or products. For example, if you are in the restaurant industry, then a good neutral topic could be healthy food. Once you are comfortable using the website, you can generate content that directs to your business.

There are many social media websites out there and it is impossible to have a presence on all of them. Figure out which websites your customers are using the most and stick with them. For example, if you are a B2B business, then LinkedIn would be more valuable to you. If you are a B2C business, then Facebook and Twitter would be better options.

How do you engage with your customers? Have you experimented with using social media yet?

How Do We Market Without Social Media Again?


Social media has become the go-to for online marketing for a number of reasons, but primarily because it can cost you virtually nothing. Social media has become so infused with our lives that marketing campaigns can just get lost in the great clutter on the web. So, that brings me to ask you a question – how can you reach people without social media? That’s right, no likes, shares or retweets. Do you remember how we used to do it in the good old days?


  1. Ambassador Programs

Recruit some college students to be campus ambassadors. They serve as representation of your brand and can spread the word in their immediate community. Establish a kind of points-reward system so that for doing things like giving presentations, they can get reimbursed towards college credits. If you realize that there are particular communities that you do better in, there is no harm in bulking up. In the end, it costs you almost nothing – just some paperwork with the university.

  1. Bloggers

No, I don’t believe that blogging is social media. I do however believe that bloggers are how you get your first real customers that aren’t your friends and family. Find blogs that match your target audience and send them a pitch for collaboration. You might have to give them some sort of freebie or pay a small fee to be featured. Ask the blogger if they will host a giveaway on their website by collecting email entries that you can later add to your newsletter.

  1. Contribute

If you have an industry-related topic that you can write about, do it. Send it off to blogs and websites that want content and ask them to include your bio and hyperlink to your business website. Most of the time, you’ll be doing this for free, but when you gain at least one new customer, it is worth it. It will also help your credentials and SEO.

  1. Speak

The same topics that you can write about can also be made into a great presentation. Businesses, schools, conferences and organization are always in need for speakers to inspire their audience. Show your expertise and use your business as an example of a lesson or motivation. Make sure to bring something with your business information on it for attendees as they leave at the end of the program.

  1. Trade Shows

They can be a little expensive depending on the ones you attend, but the return can be worth it. The advantage at trade shows are the relationships that you can build with your consumers and other brands. See if you can attend any trade shows in your industry as an exhibitor. If the costs are too much, then go as an attendee and network as much as you can.

See, marketing does exist outside of social media – don’t forget about these great channels to engage in.

The Facebook Era is Ending

fb-artSome people can say that they think that Facebook is alive and well in 2015, but I see it as the end. Social media applications have evolved way past Facebook. Even though Facebook will take on VR, SMS and Instagram, I believe that by in the next year or two, there will be a large shift away from Facebook. Why? Because it is already happening.

Let’s look over our shoulder at how Facebook has invaded our lives. Facebook exploded onto the scene and brought social media interaction and the art of snooping on others into the limelight. Facebook is the popular kid – they are the monopoly, the Google of social media. I don’t think that this is a good thing either. Facebook habitually buys up companies that are innovative and creative and makes them less so.

What is really going on? Young people aren’t on Facebook anymore – they want to be on social instagramlogomedia that is made for mobile, meaning Instagram. Especially as millienials own parents and baby boomers get onto Facebook, they are opting for platforms that they aren’t on yet like Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr and spending more time texting each other. I belie that in the next five years, these are the social media platforms that will continue to grow and emerge, eventually displacing Facebook.

However, Facebook is doing great things like trying to bring broadband to countries without Internet access – but their 1.5 billion users don’t mean that they can keep their position. After all, Facebook is almost 11 years old, which is prehistoric in our day and age of technology.

A Google Trends report shows that the amount of searches of “Facebook” peaked in December of 2012 has only been decreasing since then – people are losing interest. Not to mention that Facebook has become the platform for bullies, body shaming and more harmful acts. Even though Facebook has positives like finding and keeping in touch with old friends. There have certainly been a growing number of dramatic stories that stem from a simple Facebook post and we can’t just ignore that.

Like everything, even the universe itself, things bloom and blossom and then burst. Facebook had its time in the spotlight – spread like a disease, becoming immune to its attractions and now it is all over. We are ready for new channels that are more authentic, less invasive and more psychologically healthy. Who will be next?