Lessons from Google: Get Big, Think Small

Yesterday, I was privileged enough to see Google Glass in person and to hear from Ben Malbon (@Malbonnington), the managing director of Google Creative Lab. I’ve been excited to see him, as I have been a fan of Creative Lab since the creation of The Wilderness Downtown and more recently started reading the seminal In The Plex by Steven Levy.

The presentation included several intriguingly simple statements that sum up how Google became (basically) the supreme ruler of the internet: One was the “two pizza rule” that says teams should never grow past the point where they can’t be fed with two pizzas. Another stated that you should “move fast and break things.”

But the best statements of them all were to “be uncomfortably ambitious” and that “small>big.”

Be Uncomfortably Ambitious

Always aim to be ten times better, rather than ten percent better.  This summarizes what makes Google a world leader in innovation.

Since its nascent stage, Google’s always been an ambitious company. Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin envisioned an uber-efficient search engine that would answer people’s need for information. They wanted users to quickly find information, leaving Google’s website as soon as possible. The naysayers wondered why anyone would invest in a company that openly wanted its site to be less sticky. The visionaries saw the future.

Small>Big

Google succeeds today because, even though it has grown to be a multi-billion-dollar business, it continues to think like a start-up. In fact, Google is famous for its 70/20/10 innovation model, where 20 percent of work time should be dedicated to side projects. Several of Google’s innovations have come from that 20 percent.

To paraphrase Ben Malbon: Rather than creating one large fire, Google kindles hundreds of small fires.

Encouraging employees to pursue their own ambitions incubates an unyielding culture of innovation.

Special thanks to Professor Edward Boches (@edwardboches) for bringing Malbon to BU and to Mullen for underwriting the event.

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Taco Bell Knows How to Put the Social in Media

Brands have long underutilized Twitter, using it as a glorified press release platform, but some are finally getting how to leverage the Twittersphere.

In the past, social media marketing frequently looked like this:

Thankfully, branded tweets increasingly focus on creating a conversation, rather than a linear narrative. Instead of pushing a product line, brands are now wise enough to introduce a topic that consumers might want to discuss. Take this Mcdonald’s tweet for example:

Other brands have recently found success by tapping into events that are culturally relevant. During the Super Bowl black out, Oreo set the marketing world ablaze with a rapidly produced ad that reminded viewers that they can “still dunk in the dark.”

But few brands are as successful at social media as Taco Bell.  The fast food chain proves it  knows how to tell a good, interactive story that uses social media to the fullest.

Taco Bell recently announced  its new  Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco, a follow-up to its most successful product ever.  Rather than typing up a tweet saying, “Hey, please come buy our Taco on March 7th. Our bonuses depend on it.” Taco Bell produced it’s first Vine video for the announcement.  Taco Bell then re-tweeted people’s comments about the launch. Taco Bell started conversations with a few, asking them if they wanted to try a Cool Ranch Taco.

Not stopping there, Taco Bell decided to capitalize on Valentine’s Day. They sent, Elijah Daniel (@aguywithnolife), an influential social media user, to a flower shop in New York City, where he found more than a nice bouquet. After giving a secret password to the clerk, he was handed a Cool Ranch Taco. Elijah tweeted the secret password and location of the flower shop to his followers. Droves of people appeared soon after, ready for some taco goodness.

Other brands should take note, because this is how you do a successful product launch via social media.

God Made a Farmer, Ram Might’ve Been There Too

I really wanted to like Richards Group’s ‘God Made a Farmer’ ad. In a Super Bowl characterized by  humdrum creative, it was the only ad to dare to be original. Paul Harvey’s speech spoke to the steadfast American spirit. The imagery was moving and reminded us the value of a good day’s work.

But something just felt… wrong. It didn’t (overly) bother me that the ad romanticized modern day farm life. Or that it didn’t nearly represent modern ethnic diversity in farms. Nor did it irk me that it wasn’t wholly original. I get why there’s criticism surrounding those issues, but it’s not about that.

It’s the moment that  Ram appears at the end that ruins it for me. It’s in that final moment that the ad loses its magic. It’s no longer a tribute to farmers, it’s a pitch to sell trucks.

If Ram truly wanted to make a tribute to farmers, they wouldn’t have made the final moment a picture of an empty Ram truck with no farmers in it. I understand that Ram’s goal is to ultimately sell trucks. So put your Ram in the ad but don’t make it the ultimate focal point of the ad–it’s disingenuous.

Last year’s Halftime in America, now that was a tribute to the enduring American spirit. The story included Chrysler from the start, not as a side note. It didn’t force the Chrysler brand into the commercial, it was a part of the commercial. Chrysler was struggling, just as Detroit was struggling.  Chrysler was absolutely integral to the story.

You can’t be a motor city without a motor. You can be a farmer without a truck.

SodaStream’s Controversy Might Not Bubble Over

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It’s all over the web; A “controversial” SodaStream ad, made by Alex Bogusky for the 2013 Super Bowl, has been pulled by CBS. The ad in question directly jabs at the two big players in the beverage industry, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, by calling them out for  500 million  bottles wasted on Game Day.

CBS cited the spot as being too competitive against the two beverage giants. However, considering Pepsi’s historical jabs at Coca-Cola,  it’s more likely that CBS was trying to appease their larger sponsors.

The general online consensus  is that this is a win-win for SodaStream. The CBS rejection means SodaStream gets tons of free impressions off of an otherwise unremarkable advertisement. In fact, they’ve already capitalized on the buzz by introducing  a new twitter hashtag: #SodaStreamAd.

But this new hash tag could also have the unintended effect of bubbling-up ongoing grievances against the company. Currently trending along with #SodaStreamAd are comments by activist groups opposed to SodaStream. These groups are upset because SodaStream, an Israeli company, currently produces all of  its devices in the West Bank, an area that has been the subject of Israeli-Palestinian conflict for years.

A statement on Activist group CODEPINK’s  website says this of the soda company: “SodaStream markets itself as an environmentally friendly product to ‘Turn Water Into Fresh Sparkling Water And Soda’… but there is nothing friendly about the destruction of Palestinian life, land and water resources!”

SodaStream might have to address this controversy if it doesn’t bubble over.