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Groupon Investing in Traditional Media: Smart Play?

This morning I met for coffee a friend whose website I’m writing.  It’s a pretty casual shop that opens at 7am; the owner was still getting everything together at 7:05am.  Part of the process: firing up the music.

“I can’t think of it … what’s the radio on the internet?” she asked.  “Pandora,” I immediately replied without thinking twice.  “Yeah, that’s it,” she said, adding “I like Slacker, too.  It’s deeper.”

Pandora’s built from the Music Genome Project, which started in 1999.  In its current form with which you’re probably familiar, the website itself started in mid-2006.  In less than 5 years, then, “Pandora” has come to mean “radio on the internet” on a fraction of a moment’s thought.  I don’t even use Pandora and the connection is instantaneous.  That’s an important and impressive achievement.

If Pandora’s growing by anything but word of mouth, social networking and maybe some online banners, I”m not aware of it.  I’ve never seen an ad for it in any form.

Meanwhile, “the fastest growing company ever” is now “experimenting with what’s now typically referred to as traditional advertising – TV, print, radio, outdoor billboards – to maintain momentum.”  The former quote comes from a Summer 2010 story in Forbes; the latter comes from this week’s Ad Age.  Both are about everyone’s darling, Groupon, the company that can say no to Google and its $6,000,000,000.

Groupon, Collective Buying Power, logo, corporate logo, social coupon, group

Groupon and Traditional Advertising: Is that what it takes to be a premiere brand, a true household name?

Written by Rupal Parekh, the Ad Age piece is built on the fact that Groupon tried to buy Super Bowl ads, but settled for title sponsorship of the Super Bowl pre-game show because the in-game inventory has been sold out for months (at $2.8-3M per :30).  It goes on to detail their engagement with Crispin Porter + Bogusky for creative and talks with cable networks about their new agency Starcom.  It seems like they’re embracing establishment in hopes of becoming a premiere brand.

Attention traditional media: put Groupon on your “new client that’s ripe for courting” list.

Neither LivingSocial, Groupon’s chief competitor, nor Facebook, which has 50% more users at 600M than Groupon at 400M, has spent any serious cash on traditional media.  Apple, on the other hand, can’t be avoided if you watch an hour of prime time network television.  Google falls somewhere in between, but much closer to LivingSocial and Facebook.  Microsoft also falls somewhere in between, but much closer to Apple.

It’s worth noting that Pandora passed the 400M user mark more than a year ago, a mark Groupon hit at a much faster pace, achieving it in 2010.

Questions for You

Is the Super Bowl a smart play for Groupon?

Is traditional advertising still a basic requirement for a brand to become top-tier, to become a true household name?  Do the spend and presence add credibility to a brand?

Does Groupon need an agency, a creative shop and traditional media?  If so, why?  If not, how might tens of millions of dollars be better spent?

I’d really like to hear what you think – please leave a comment below.

Social Whoring – What to Make of It?

I feel compelled to have at least one image in every post.  Typically it falls in the most content-appropriate spot about a third or half way through the post.  Today, we’re starting right at the top.  Check this out:

tweet, tweets, threat, coerce, threats, coercion, deadline, program

Who does this? Why?

I’m moderately active on Twitter.  I follow about a hundred people and organizations.  I’m followed by about a hundred others.  I (mis)use it primarily for social bookmarking – sharing things I think are interesting and trying to position them with a personal take – all within 140 characters.

Now and then, I get new follows from people with whom I’m unfamiliar.  This is a great thing.  Presumably, they’ve stumbled across something I’ve put online and decided that my perspective could be of interest or value to them.

My first step: check their Twitter feeds and profiles.  Are they actually human?  Who are they?  What are they about?  How do they use Twitter?  Are they posting things in which I’d find interest or value?

I recently checked the Twitter feed and profile of an unknown follower and came across the phenomenon screen captured and embedded above: an automated system to follow new people, then threaten to un-follow them if they don’t follow back within 24 hours.  Nothing like guilt or coercion – complete with 24 hour detonation clock – to create a community of like-minded followers.  Come on, let’s connect … or I’ll terminate you!

In short: Who does this?  Why?

Related: I was terminated.

Social whoring:

This is the best example yet of a phenomenon I’ve been thinking about and calling “social whoring.”  It’s a mindset and approach based on the idea that more is inherently better.  It’s a mindset and approach that strongly prefers “how many” to “who.”

I call it whoring because it involves attempted engagement with someone you don’t know, with whom you have nothing in common and with whom you don’t intend to relate authentically.  Instead, you’re relegated to a notch on the bed post – the more, the better.  Whether or not there’s any real engagement is irrelevant.  The quality of engagement – or lack thereof – isn’t even on the radar.

The name is a bit inflammatory by design.  I hope to provoke thought and discussion on these tactics.

Social whoring is perfectly fine.  It probably works for many of its subscribers and practitioners.  These tactics must work or else social whores wouldn’t continue to employ and evolve them.

Based on my visceral response when I encounter it, though, it doesn’t seem to be for me.

Another example:

I received a friend request from the editorial page editor of our local newspaper.  I checked out this person’s wall, which is loaded with editorials published in the newspaper and online, plus some light conversation.  I thought – OK, I’ll engage in discussions about what’s happening around here.   Accept!

A week later, some friends are over for dinner.  One of them asks – hey, are you friends with (name of editorial page editor of our local newspaper) on Facebook?  Why, yes … I am.

He was, too … until he realized that (name of editorial page editor of our local newspaper) had – immediately upon becoming friends – friend-requested all of his friends – some as far west as Oakland and as far east as Baltimore – none of whom (name of editorial page editor of our local newspaper) knew.

On principle alone, I had to un-friend the editorial page editor of our local newspaper, who seems like a nice enough person – smart and interesting, too.  This person’s approach, though, is a bit heavy on the social whoring.

For better or worse, friend-requesting people this person doesn’t know, then all of the new friends’ friends seems to be working.  The editorial page editor of our local newspaper has 2,500 friends.

Last example in this post (though examples abound – look around):

Are you a fan of Evan Bailyn on Facebook?  More than 70,000 people are.  In this October 2010 article at, he describes how he gathered 57,000 fans in one year.  The value returned to you for your “like” is the regular appearance in your news feed of generically positive status updates like “Surround yourself with people who believe in you” and “Take it one day at a time.”

A crucial step in amassing this following, beyond the consciously formulaic content strategy, was “contacting popular people on Facebook and asking them if I could get them to suggest my page in exchange for services, shout-outs, or, as a last resort – cold, hard cash.”

This case is the most confounding to me.  That last statement, written by Bailyn, is obviously whoring.  Hey – you have a big following.  I’ll give you “services” or even “cold, hard cash” in exchange for suggesting me (who you don’t know) to all your fans and friends (who don’t know me).

The confounding part is that he’s an extremely intelligent and positive person.  He probably has designs on a positive use of this mass following.  He’s founded successful start-ups and websites, written books and started a foundation to help children ages 7-17 through creativity.  His welcome page for non-fans on Facebook is a smartly-designed, stylish, fun and storytelling piece.  I like what he’s doing.

What to Make of It?

The title of the post has now come around.

In the Bailyn case, do the ends justify the means?  When is “whoring” actually whoring?  Have you witnessed any grossly whorrific tactics?  When are more people better than the right people?  Is the judgment even fair?

Your thoughts are invited in the comment section.  Thanks!

Positive Outcome from Dubious Marketing Ploy

A note on a dubious markeing ploy …

I’m “friends” with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter on Facebook.  I’m not sure how or when this happened, but, as a positive consequence, I get some useful info about goings-on at the state level.  Because of this “relationship,” I was treated to this in my Facebook News Feed yesterday morning:

Zeitgeist Movement Colorado tags Governor Bill Ritter on Facebook

Zeitgeist Movement Colorado tags Governor Bill Ritter

Like many of his 4,868 other “friends,” I watched the video out of curiosity alone.  “We are all connected” … sounds interesting!

As it turns out, the Governor appeared nowhere in this video, which was a fascinating production – particularly the audio mix.  Among those who did appear, probably without their knowledge or permission, were Bill Nye the Science Guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson (PBS), Carl Sagan and Richard Fenynman.  The video became repetitive, running about 2:00 too long.

Obviously, the tagging of the Governor by a member of the movement was a tactic to get attention – a “spray and pray” effort to cast a message as widely as possible by whatever means available with the hope that a target will be struck.  The downside: this runs against new, targeted, permission-based marketing principles.  The lamentable upside: it actually works …  I’m writing about it right now (!?).

So what is this Zeitgeist Movement that made its way into my consciousness by way of a dubious marketing ploy?  They seem to have semi-laudable but wildly impractical goals/ideals.  They call for a “sustainable social design” built on a “resource-based economy.”  Those are nice-sounding phrases.  It’s all based on the life’s work of industrial designer and social engineer Jaques Fresco.

I say it’s “laudable” because their critique of the status quo is harsh, highlighting the ugliest things about the way we live, work and “prosper.”  Also laudable are emphases on: world as singular organism, humans as singlular family, dependence upon healthy environment, natural processes, and the scientific method.  Per their intro video, they endorse the “humane application of science and technology to social design and decision making.”

I judge it “impractical” because it seeks a complete and fundamental redesign of all the world’s social and economic structures; its coming to pass seems wholly impossible given human nature.

In hindsight, I’m glad my Facebook News Feed was “hijacked” by a fallacious video tag.

They’re “out there.”  They’re disconnected in nearly every way from mainstream thought.  They’re imagining an experience, even existence, here on earth completely unlike what it is today.  I expect that this separation from mainstream is a primary reason they resort to such tactics.

A positive outcome: they reminded me of something valuable.  We owe it to ourselves to consider every now and again how our fellow human beings are thinking and dreaming differently.

I never endorse such tactics, but I always endorse thinking, dreaming and listening.

Here’s their US homepage:  Zeitgeist Movement

Here’s a video introduction:  Zeitgeist Movement

Facebook Project: Neighborhood Community Page

For fun and for the love I have for my neighborhood, I started a Facebook “Community Page.”  It’s called Ivywild Neighborhood – Colorado Springs.  Please check it out and consider clicking “Like.”

Sign at Tejon, Cascade, Ramona and Cheyenne Boulevard marking the neighborhood

Ivywild Neighborhood - Colorado Springs

I seeded it with about 50 photos I shot on a morning walk this week; I grouped them loosely into themes.

My primary hope is to represent the many things I love about our neighborhood.  The neighborhood is more than 100 years old; it’s got mature trees and lots of character.  We’ve got a great Indian restaurant (Little Nepal), a family pizza joint (Panino’s), a fantastic brewery (Bristol), an innovative culinary experience (Blue Star) and many other fine establishements.

My secondary hope is that neighbors, visitors, local businesses, realtors and others might start posting stories, photos, reviews and other info about my ‘hood.

We’ll see how it goes …

Visit the page here.

Happy 5th Birthday, Here’s Your URL!

Chalk Flood

This 4-year-old’s name is Ethan Beute.  He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  This photo of him was published to the Grand Rapids Press website earlier this year.

Coincidentally, my name is Ethan Beute and I lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan for at least 20 years of my life.  I would add that he looks a little bit like I did as a child.

The day a friend of mine posted this as a link on my Facebook page, I knew I had to buy  What parent of an Ethan Beute wouldn’t want to give his or her child ownership rights to  “” as a fifth birthday gift!?  A stretch, I know, but I didn’t want to risk it.

With regard to my surname, my wife and I were the only “Beute” in the Chicago phone book for the 4 years we lived there.  When I witnessed a child with my name living in my hometown, however, I knew that I had to claim my online real estate immediately.

I’m Ethan Beute on Facebook and LinkedIn.  I’m ethanbeute on Twitter and Flickr.  As a natural extension of my personal brand, is the only way to go.

Claiming a url is a simple process; my technical knowledge and skills are limited, yet I had no problem doing it.  I used and paid $10/year for the rights.  I set it up to redirect to this blog site.

I have no idea where all this is going – and by “all this” I mean life online in a very general sense.  I do know that I need to be easily found online.  This online presence is necessary if I’m to have any future in promotion, marketing, and branding.

Recommendation: consider your personal brand.  As a primer, here’s a years-old article from Fast Company (1997!) from the exceptional business mind of Tom Peters (yes, that’s a link to

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