Nov
16

Social brands: I love you RebelMouse. But the name?

Clever, catchy, and utterly unhelpful.

In case you missed it, there’s a new buzzy social media tool in town called RebelMouse. And even in its early release phase, it’s not perfect, but it looks awesome and works (almost) flawlessly. So why is that grumpy branding guy DenVan going to complain about the name? Didn’t the almighty Seth Godin and his equally legendary counterpart Shakespeare say that names don’t matter? I Beg to Differ… and so does the world!

But first. What I like about RebelMouse

Here’s the DenVan “dashboard” page with all the bells and whistles.

Okay, before I get all Scrooge-y hater on the Mausketeers, let me just say, this is the slickest, most impressive looking new social media product I’ve seen in, well, ever. The team at RebelMouse knows exactly what they’re doing, and they’ve earned the incredibly effusive praise they’ve gotten from across the social echo chamber – from this rave in Mashable to this one in PandoDaily.

Here’s what they do right:

  • Frictionless sign-up: I’ve never found it so easy to set up a service. Never. Try it yourself to see how quickly you can go from tire-kicking to driving off the lot wondering how you’re going to explain this to your wife. It took me no time to set this DenVan page up.
  • Effortless blending of social channels: my page displays my Tweets, my blog posts, my Instagrams, and custom links – all in a format that’s as easy to scan as Pinterest. Many services do that in many different ways – as TechCrunch tries to explain in this taxonomy: 1) Social graphs; 2) Vertical content channels; 3) Aggregators. But it’s bloody hard to do elegantly.
  • Beautiful design: did I mention how clean and elegant it is? Well the mobile site is just as good – something most established social media stalwarts like Facebook and Twitter haven’t managed yet.
  • The team: and though the product has a way to go in terms of living up to its promise as a real Social Media network and/or tool set – and becoming more useful than a glorified “About.Me”. I’m impressed by the great pedigree and corporate story this startup has built for themselves. So I have confidence they can nail the product end of things.
  • The name: Huh? Wasn’t I supposed to be slamming the name?!? Wait for it. What I like about the RebelMouse name is that it’s not Squidoo. Or Jugnoo (sorry Danny). Or ShooBooBeeLooBeeDoo… okay I made the last one up. But I had you going didn’t I? RebelMouse is at least a clever and memorable memory hook.  But…

The name isn’t helpful

Sorry Mouse. The name RebelMouse just doesn’t help people understand your product at all – not even as a metaphor. In my product naming work, I try to help clients understand the tricky balance between the descriptive qualities of a name and the metaphorical / iconic qualities of a name. Strong names need a bit of both. Not everybody has to be a “Facebook” or heaven forbid “Friend Feed”. There is room in our brains for strong metaphors like “Google” or “Apple”. And that’s not to say RebelMouse can’t become a household name. As I say, they’ve nailed the product so far. It’s just that it will have to work a lot harder than a Facebook or a Google to equate that name with their service.

What do you think?

Are you impressed with RebelMouse? Confused? Does the name work for you? Comment away!

Nov
08

Cause branding: support these SMAC Monkeys!

We love the Sock Monkeys Against Cancer. Please help.

My friend Jennifer Stauss Windrum is a woman on a mission. For several years, her mom has been dying of lung cancer – which, sadly, looks as though it may be entering its final stages. But rather than sit back and watch it happen, Jennifer decided to fight back with not one, but two powerful cause branding ideas: swear words, and monkeys. And now, she needs your help.

NOMO, Phoenix - Jennifer Stauss Windrum anti-cancer campaign: SMAC (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer)

Two of the spokes-monkeys for the Jennifer Stauss Windrum anti-cancer campaign: SMAC (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer)

WTF Lung Cancer (WTF, as in: “Where’s The Funding?!?”)

WTF? Yup. That’ s the swear words part; WTF is Windrum’s fierce and fearless ongoing campaign to lobby for more funding for lung cancer victims.  Here’s how it was described in a Huffington Post article on Jennifer last year:

Inspired by her mom’s bout with lung cancer, and aided by the worldwide reach of social media, Windrum launched the WTF? (Where’s the Funding for Cancer) Campaign. It’s a well-received initiative that has allowed traveling and talking with politicians, strategizing with other activists, and meeting with cancer survivors. Her efforts were honored this year when WTF was chosen as a finalist for the prestigious Mashable Awards.

Long time readers (both of you – hi mom!) know I’m not a fan of TLAs here at Beg to Differ (Three Letter Abbreviations). But when they are cheeky and in your face like this one?  BIO! (By which I mean Bring It On!) You’ll also know I had my own campaign called NOMO Government Acronyms (No More). Which brings me to the first sock monkey Jennifer made for her mom: little NOMO the monkey.

SMAC (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer) crowd-funding campaign

Here’s Jennifer’s mom with NOMO and Phoenix, two of the original SMACs.

This is Jennifer’s new, and even more brilliant, defiant, heart-felt, cancer busting campaign. It involves monkeys. Real, in-the-stuffing sock monkeys that Jennifer is creating to bring attention to the issues, while also providing comfort to the victims of cancer and their families.

And the name of the leading monkey? NOMO. Now normally, I’d get all prima-dona-huffy that my best ideas are getting stolen. But Jennifer, feel free to steal this one, okay?

As a close family member of someone who is fighting with a very serious cancer right now (go Marg!) I think this SMAC concept is so brilliant, because these monkeys operate on so many levels for me:

  1.  A brand with a sense of humour: These monkeys are a fun and positive approach to an awful condition that is usually neither.
  2. A defiant statement:  But these  monkeys are fighters. They’re like a little cancer-fighting ninja companion to keep up the spirits of the person they’re fighting for.
  3. Support for cancer research: just like the WTF campaign, this is all about beating cancer – both at the individual level, and hopefully, to beat cancer for all of us.
  4. Smart gift product: When someone we love is suffering, we always want to DO something, and often BUY something for them. But it’s so hard to know what to give. These monkeys aren’t just a gift, they’re a statement.
  5. Crowd funding campaign: and speaking of gifts, and things you can do. Jennifer is currently using online crowd funding to put her SMAC monkeys into larger scale production.

BUT, it won’t happen without you…

As with all great, social-entrepreneurial ideas, Jennifer has already invested decades of time, and oodles of enthusiasm. But now, she needs money. Which is why I pledged to help her crowd-funding campaign. And so can you. Best case: she reaches her goal and you get some cool perks (see links below). Worst case: if she doesn’t reach her goal, it costs you nothing.

So go on, please help a monkey out.

Some more links:

Oct
23

Meme watch: 10 Reasons Mitt Romney likes 1916 so much

Mitt Romney’s weapons of mass anachronism

In one brilliant moment in last night’s US Presidential debate, Barack Obama was able to take a Mitt Romney soundbyte – that the US Navy is smaller today than it was in 1916 – and turn it into a meme-beating-meme of his own. Which led to a lot of spin-off memes. But in thinking about it, I realized: Mitt Romney has a lot of reasons to look back fondly at 1916.

From denvan.ca.

Background for non-political junkies

Here’s Barack Obama’s one-liner lampooning Mitt’s fixation with 1916 – as Tweeted by the @Obama2012 team:


Click the image above to visit my DenVan.ca post.

Which of course, went viral on social media almost instantly. So last night, hoping to add to the viral feeding frenzy, I posted an infographic (at right) about Mitt Romney and his binders full of modern ideas.

But 1916 was a really interesting choice for Romney to make in many, many other ways. I’ll give you 10 – with my tongue firmly in cheek of course.

10 Reasons for Mitt Romney to like 1916 so much.

  • American “manifest destiny” dreams were at their peak. American troops occupied Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, the Philippines, and a bunch of others. Sure it was expensive. But it was cool.
  • The US Navy had WAY more boats in 1916 than today. Okay, they looked like this (below), but there were LOTS of them!
  • The US invaded the Dominican Republic. They installed a puppet dictatorship, then spent years fighting grumpy insurgents. Mitt should try that somewhere. It could work!
  • Republicans were pushing the US to go to war with Mexico! That would have been awesome!
  • Massive military buildups between the world’s superpowers over the previous decade meant that in Europe they were having a Great War!
  • It only cost $17 million to build 375 new “aeroplanes” in 1916. In the F35 fighter program that would buy you a floor mat and two barf bags.
  • The rich were doing just fine.The Rockefellers and Carnegies were at their height and the richest 1% held more wealth than ever before in history!

    Check out the similarity between 1917 – what gazillionaires refer to as the “good old days” – and the modern era. Oh, but cheat the 2012 line up to 24%.

  • Blacks were allowed to vote, but sneaky tricks were used to keep them away from the polls! Forget photo ID laws. Those 1916 voter suppression ideas were even more radical!
  • American women couldn’t vote yet. That would totally help Mitt’s chances!
  • A popular Democrat named Woodrow Wilson won a second term running against a completely forgettable Republican opponent. That guy was named… um…

Oh wait. Ignore that last one Mitt! 1916 is totally the year you should focus on!

Aug
03

Exposing the naughty bits: 10 new Facebook features nobody was asking for

So yesterday, I accidentally exposed my naughty bits on Facebook. It was okay though, because it was a Private Group. You know. Members only. But to my shock and dismay, a new Facebook notice appeared out of nowhere that told me 55 people had seen my naughty bits. But only four had Liked them. You might think I’d want to know that. I Beg to Differ.

Exposing the naughty bits

Like me, Facebook has been exposing its naughty bits lately. And yes Facebook, they were Seen By many. And not all of us Liked them.

You see, Facebook has this odd way of suddenly adding “features” to its site and mobile apps with little or no warning or explanation. They just appear. And some just make you scratch your head. Now, let it be said: I’m not the type to just complain about change, because some Facebook updates are brilliant, and actually useful things – like Tagging, which appeared in late 2009 to much joy and thumb-upping. Or user friendly names for users and pages. Or Pages themselves. Or Groups. All good.

And some are structural revisions like Timeline - which was disorienting and caused some ripples when it appeared. But largely this kind of change make sense as a step in the evolution of the platform, so the furor died down. And I for one, became a fan. Because Timeline was helpful.

But then there are the others, the “features” that appear suddenly and randomly, but don’t seem to serve any real purpose, and actually hurt Facebook’s usability and simplicity. Or even worse, increase the sense that Facebook is being sneaky or Big Brotherish. So without further ado:

Ten Facebook features we didn’t need

1) ”Seen by” in groups

This is the one I mentioned above. Where Facebook tells you how many people have supposedly “seen” your post in a group. And then, if you hover over the “Seen By” message, it tells you who saw it, and what time / date.  I say supposedly, because it’s unclear either a) how Facebook defines “seeing” – i.e. is scrolling past something “seeing” it? or b) why that is even important or relevant information – i.e. to anyone but the most anally retentive admin?

Weird. Creepy. And makes users feel like they are losing a little bit more control over how they interact within a group. Just a bad, anti-social idea.

2) Find Friends Nearby

If you hadn’t heard of this one, it was a mobile feature Facebook tried to introduce quietly that was designed to instantly find friends in the vicinity based on mobile GPS location data. But then, when it rapidly caused a privacy stink, Facebook killed it the same day because it was too obviously creepy-stalkerish, even for Facebook.

3) Your picture in other people’s ads (a.ka. “Sponsored Stories”)

Thanks to Maddie Grant from Social Fish for this one.

This one has been making the news lately because of a just-settled, then un-settled, lawsuit.  Here’s what Facebook officially says about this “feature”. Basically, because you “Liked” something – say OB Tampons – your photo can appear in an OB Tampon ad in my stream. Again. Creepy. And in this case, feels unethical too because Facebook is using people’s faces without permission to endorse products and make money.

4) Facebook e-mail switch

From Shinyshiny.tv

Do you remember back when Facebook wanted to revolutionise the way we message one another by giving us all @facebook.com email addresses? Yeah it was pretty “meh” and no one really cared. Well now in an attempt to make our Facebook inboxes more relevant Zuck and the gang have got rid of your regular email addresses and replaced them with a Facebook one.

Again, silly, creepy, and bad strategy.

5) Editing comments

The problem here is not that you can edit your typos and screw-ups. You could do that (kind of) for a while – but it was time limited, so you could make small changes if you were quick, but after a while, they became permanent. Which worked.  My problems are 1) the bizarre “edit” history thread  that tracks your edits forever, and 2) that they didn’t aply this behaviour consistently – as  Techdrink points out.

But here’s what you can’t do. You can’t edit your comments on the Comments Box plug in used by many websites like TechCrunch (and even TechDrink at one stage). You can’t edit your comments on mobile where it would arguably have been infinitely more useful (isn’t that right, auto correct!). And you still can’t edit original posts!

Also, there is the potential for abuse. Say I post a comment that says “I like kittens!” and 520 people “Like” it. I could then go back and write “Kill all the kittens”, and it would look like all 520 people were secret kitten murderers as well.

The “Ticker”: oooh look! Another place to see Farmville requests!

6) Sidebar “Tickers” – all those bloody right hand sidebars.

Back when I first saw them last August, I thought the new sidebars were kind of cool and an interesting addition to Facebook. That is, until they actually appeared on my Facebook screen, constantly moving as they scroll by, and created an exponential increase in the clutter and “Wall of Noise” effect you get from Facebook.

Gah!!! Again, it made me feel less in control of Facebook. Not good for Facebook!

7) Facebook messages popping up like chat requests

(Thanks to Dave Harrison for this one.)

Yeah. That. We didn’t ask for that one either. It sucks because we could ALWAYS tell when we had a message through that little red icon at the top. But you could ignore it until you actually had time to look. Now it’s in your face and you feel rude if you don’t answer immediately.

8) An iPhone mobile app (and other mobile apps) that really suck

(Thanks to Jon Aston for this one)

Okay, this wasn’t a feature they chose (I hope), but it’s one of my biggest sources of Facebook frustration. I’d love it if they pulled every engineer from the useless projects above and assigned them to fixing their wonky, slow mobile apps. And maybe letting us tag people and do other basic stuff? Huh? Please?!?!

9) People who complain about every new feature on Facebook.

(Thanks to Shelly Kramer for this one)

I agree, in that this annoys me too. But I’d also argue this is actually a “feature” of how Facebook rolls stuff out. By changing so frequently, radically, and in many cases with a tin ear for how the changes may be received, they are constantly shaking the platform. Which makes people feel unsteady.

1o) <Add your own Facebook feature here.>

What do you think? Are we being fair to Facebook? Do they deserve the constant criticism? Please share your pet peeves, your faves, your tirades or praises in the comments.