Super Mario Teaches a New Generation

Imagine the scenario – your child is devoted to his Nintendo DS XL.  He is allowed 1 hour per day to play it, and Legos Star Wars and Mario Kart are in constant rotation.  One afternoon he is allowed to recharge it himself, and in a moment of frustration, forces the connection and bends all of the pins.  There is no way to straighten them, there is no way to fix the unit.  What does a loving parent who believes in teaching the consequences of ones actions do?

First we explained to our 7-year old that he had to be more careful and would be responsible for helping to pay for repairs.  Then we went out to the internet to find solutions.  Ultimately, the blog and tech consensus was to send the device back to Nintendo.  Which we did.  Two weeks later it came back, fixed, no charge!  Nintendo actually enclosed a letter tailor-made for parents of young children that explained that this was the ONLY time the company would perform such a service.  Next time . . . .  I love Nintendo.

Nintendo’s snail mail customer service, however, is not duplicated by its online services.  This seems odd for a company devoted to plugged-in customers.  First of all, Nintendo needs to have a parents’ site available.  Clearly they understand that at least part of their audience is under 10 (or acts like someone under 10 years old).  Why not create a dedicated parent’s site?  How about a parents’ Twitter feed that would allow us to be up to date on releases and issues that arise?  Why do we have to be nagged by our children – companies should reach out to us and give us the good information we can use to decide on the best birthday and holiday gifts.  Currently I go to to read reviews.  However, given Nintendo’s market share, I would like to know how they could empower us, parents, to partner with them to offer better information to the pocketbooks that pay for the games.

Nintendo – please create a parent site.  Give us information and help us create the conscientious consumers that your form letter indicates is important to you as a company.Help us Nintendo

Nintendo – Please allow us to have easy access to releases and new versions in a forum for parents.  MyNintendoNews on Twitter is not tailored enough.

Nintendo FacebookNintendo – Facebook would be a great place for a parents’ page.  Let us interact, comment, and help you create a friendly marketing environment for our children.  We know they love it – we just want to know more about it.

Parents want to be involved in their children’s lives, and the old model of advertising sugar cereals and junk food on Saturday morning during Scooby Doo and the Laugh Olympics doesn’t work in the age of computers and social media.  DeadMau5 ensures that Super Mario will remain in my child’s lexicon for at least another 10 years.  Nintendo – help us help our children understand the responsiblity that comes with expensive game units and negotiating techno!


Laugh Olympics Intro.  You Tube.

Nintendo.  Homepage.

Nintendo.  New Super Mario Bros Walkthrough, Part 1.  You Tube,

Schulman, J. (2011, March 29).  A day with deadmau5:  LEDs, Super Mario, and techno.  Engadget,

Scooby Doo Introduction.  You Tube.


Theme Park Magic – Branding Experiences on Twitter

We just returned from a three-day trip to Disney World.  We were there to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday and had three generations of our family on the same rides I went on as a child – It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Peter Pan.  On the first day we all wore t-shirts in celebration of my father’s birthday.  It was amazing the number of people who stopped us to say “Happy Birthday” or “Where’s the birthday boy” or who congratulated my father on making it so far and looking so fit.  While some of those people were Disney employees, the vast majority were other visitors to the parks.  Disney World is a place where people actively engage and interact with their environment.  They come to the park expecting a hands-on experience, and expecting to be in touch with the people, characters, rides, and other visitors.

This same spirit of interaction is evident in Disney’s Twitter strategy.  Look at only the official Disney presence on Twitter:

Handle Description Followers
@WaltDisneyWorld The official Twitter feed for the Walt Disney World   Resort 338,187
@Disneyland The official Twitter feed for the Disneyland Resort-covering   Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park, Downtown Disney and   Disneyland Resort Hotels 215,476
@DisneyCruise The official Twitter feed for Disney Cruise Line 69,971
@DisneyParks The official Twitter feed for Disney Parks & Resorts-covering   Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line and properties   worldwide 251,989
@DisneySports The official Twitter feed for sports across all   Disney Parks 19,196


This list does not even include more specific Disney handles such as @runDisney, or fan threads such as @DisneyWorldMom.

Compare Disney’s Twitter profile to Universal Studios:

Handle Description Followers
@UORnews Official Twitter for Universal Orlando Resort 32,586
@UniStudios The official Universal Studios Hollywood (Theme Park) Twitter 42,483
@UniversalPics Welcome to Universal Pictures 201,836


Both Disney and Universal are multinational media empires.  The Walt Disney Company owns all of the Disney brands, Touchstone, Pixar, ESPN, and the ABC News brands (The Walt Disney Company).  However, the Disney theme park’s social media presence emphasizes the many types of family-oriented experiences that guests can have through the Disney brand.  They offer everything from theme parks, to cruises, to sporting events.  Disney’s strategy is to focus on the interactive experiences that guests can have in multiple venues through Twitter (and of course its other online vehicles, including its website, YouTube channels, and blogs).

Universal (part of UniversalNBC) is a subsidiary of Comcast, whose brands also include all of the NBC franchises (MSNBC, CNBC), Telemundo, Bravo, Sprout, Xfinity, Oxygen, and hosts of popular TV shows and films (2011 Annual Review).  Universal’s strategy is to cross-promote its familial brands.  Hence, the theme parks become forums through which to sell the other entertainment offerings.  The difference between these two brand strategies can be illustrated by comparing the Twitter image associated with @WaltDisneyWorld and @UORnews, and the “following” lists of each profile.

@WaltDisneyWorld!/WaltDisneyWorld/following has only 77 follows, including bloggers on Disney, news about Disney, travel advice, and a few Disney staff.  The banner image is the iconic centerpiece of the Disney brand, Cinderella’s Castle, paired with the “W” from Walt Disney’s signature as the tweet image.  In fact, all of the Disney images are variations on the official Disney logos.  They do not explicitly reference the popular characters.  Rather, the inhabitants of the Disney films and parks maintain real-world  existences in action films, games, toys, clothing, and of course in the parks themselves.



In contrast, has 407 follows.  However, sprinkled among the bloggers and fans are celebrities, characters, and films under the Universal/Warner Brothers umbrella, Despicable Me 2including @ConanO’Brien, @DespicableMe, @SpongeBob, and @kelly_clarkson.  Furthermore, the media connections of the brand are expressed in the fact that it follows major news and television outlets from around the world.  The image displayed (currently) on the Orlando theme park is a shot from the current film Universal Studios is promoting, next summer’s release of Despicable Me 2 (slated for June 2013).  The connections between these different aspects of Comcast (the different personalities, artistic products, and news feeds) help to create relationships that extend interest and loyalty from one brand to another.  It also leverages the highly popular personalities to make consumers aware of other aspects of the company.



Disney has a cohesive brand focused on family entertainment that enjoys instant recognition.  Their diversification strategy, therefore, has a common center that holds the pieces in place.  By contract, Comcast is in multiple, related, media areas, and needs to more actively connect the dots for the consumer.

Virtual Worlds for Virtual Consumption – Or, how to enjoy a cup of coffee online

Starbucks mocha-frappuccino-blended-coffee

Where can you record a custom soundtrack, visualize a custom beverage, and twitter the results to your best friends?  Starbucks of course.

Build your drink hereRecord your track here.

McDonald's Iced Coffee

Now what does McDonald’s offer?  Tasty coffee, but hardly an interactive, engaging online experience.

 Select your flavor here.

Dunkin' Donuts Coffee

How about Dunkin’ Donuts?  You can watch people walking outside of the NYC Dunkin’ Donuts in Time Square.  Great to know that DD has a NYC store, but what does that mean to me driving to work in Tallahassee?  Two clicks in, a visitor learns that DD uses Fair Trade coffees. 

Watch the webcam hereLearn about the story of DD Fair Trade Certified Espresso here.

Consumables have two challenges they must negotiate as they expand into social media.  First, as consumables brands embrace web 2.0+, they need to think about the relationship between themselves and their customers in new ways.  Perhaps the simplest way to phrase the question, is how can a consumable like coffee BE relevant online?  Second, the competition is these markets is fierce.  How can a company that sells coffee in paper cups obtain a cutting edge presence without the help of the taste, smell or feel of its product?

Starbucks has crafted and recrafted a brand that creatively entices consumers into enjoying the brand, visiting the website, and viewing a coffee as a luxurious necessity of life.  The coffee experience includes fun apps, music DVDs, poetry, and stories.  Starbucks’ social media presence extends from and returns to the stores via Facebook, coupons, the grocery store, and back via twitter to their website.  In 2010, the Starbucks social media team identified 10 elements of their strategy, the core of which is to enhance communications with customers at multiple levels simultaneously assuming, however, that these communications will intersect, enhance, and echo each other (Belicove, 2010).  Integrated marketing across the spectrum of relationships is given focus, according to the team, by understanding that the reality of being relevant is keeping up with the buzz:  as Belicove writes, “If it doesn’t matter on Twitter, it doesn’t matter.” 

Not only has Starbucks weathered a downturn in its profits, it has fended off competition by McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.  Certainly an upbeat economy helps, as does a unique market position as a specialist in coffee products (Misonzhnik, 2011).  Equally important, however, is that Starbucks is a specialist in coffee culture.  Not content to merely meet competition, Starbucks pushes the boundaries of social media with information, entertainment, and new features.  Their specialization in changing with their audience allows them to beat the competition online and in the ‘real’ world. 

The key to Starbucks’ success, it seems, is that it aligns its social presence across worlds, virtual and ‘real’ and allows customers to move seamlessly from one to the other.  So, how do you enjoy a cup of coffee online?  Go to Starbucks and see for yourself.


Belicove, M. (2010, April 1).  How Starbucks Builds Meaningful Customer Engagement via Social Media.  American Express Open Forum, Retrieved May 17, 2012 from

Find Your Flavor.  McDonald’s, Retrieved May 16, 2012,

Frappuccino Drink Builder.  Starbucks, Retrieved May 16, 2012,

Home Page.  Dunkin’ Donuts, Retrieved May 16, 2012,

Misonzhnik, E. (2011, April 27).  Starbucks Recaptures Its Position at the Head of the US Coffee Market.  RetailTraffic, Retrieved May 17, 2012,

Remix Soundboard.  Starbucks, Retrieved May 16, 2012,

The Espresso Story.  Dunkin’ Donuts, Retrieved May 16, 2012,

Mobile Apps Reforming Society

“All kitchens are filthy, Mr. Fawlty, in fact the better the kitchen, the filthier it is. . .” Basil the Rat, Fawlty Towers

Mobile applications have changed the face of social media in a few short years.  According to a recent study, 87 percent of the world’s population (5.9 million subscribers) has a mobile device, and 20% of those users have 3G coverage (mobiThinking). The study also shows that in the U.S., 25 percent of mobile users only access the web through their mobile device.  All of this goes to show that mobile apps are having an effect on how social media spreads, and are poised to continue to have a significant effect on the future of social media.

Mobile apps carry the social media revolution into the ‘real’ world.  For example, consumers engage in new forms of immediate market research thanks to apps such as the Amazon app and Amazon price check app.  In April 2012, Best Buy’s CEO Brian Dunn left the corporation after a career with the company beginning as a “blue shirt” thanks to criticism that he was ineffective in meeting the challenges posed by online retailers such as Amazon.  In particular, the criticism leveraged by the industry and aired by a Dateline NBC segment, was that Best Buy had become Amazon’s showroom (Skariachan).  However, the challenge posed by Amazon is not limited to high end electronics.  Amazon offers everything from Kleenex to diamond rings, all of which can be price checked in a moment using the Amazon price check app.  Simply scan the bar code and find the best price for the item.  Shoppers have been empowered by mobile apps to think beyond getting an item to finding it for the best price.  As brand loyalty takes a second seat to personal benefit, the market economy shifts to favor the buyer not the seller.

The potential for shifting power relationships through social media has not go unnoticed by the United States Department of Labor.  Mobile apps and instant comparison information offered the perfect forum for social activism.  In 2011, the DOL announced a mobile app contest called the DOL Occupational Employment Statistics App Challenge.  Prizes were to go to application designers who could use DOL data sources (or other online data sources) to make users more aware of the information collected by the DOL and could use that information to make long-term decisions related to education, career, or more immediate decisions, such as where to spend money.

The winners were announced in October 2011.  First and second place went to mobile apps that provide essentially the same information.  They use geocoding to identify the restaurants, stores and hotels that have health, OSHA or Department of Labor code violations, allowing consumers to choose establishments that have chosen to operate safely and fairly.  Eat Shop Sleep is available to both iPad and Android platforms, while  iCitizen Labor Report is available only from the iPod App store.  Consumers can let companies know that they feel committed to fair labor practices, safe working environments, and compliance with food safety laws by looking up a local business and instantly retrieving an easy to use rating that lets the consumer know how compliant that business establishment is.  Being socially conscious and active has never been so easy.

These apps hint at the future value of the merging of information and portable technology to all of us. Economic awareness is part and parcel of the social media world.  As Clay Shirky points out, this is truly a revolutionary moment.  For the first time in history, people have both the technological and social mandate to control what is said in a public forum (Shirky).  They are allowing information that is relevant to be accessed easily and immediately to allow for decision-making that benefits the user.  Mobile apps do more than make old information relevant, they have the power to reshape habits and democratize the ‘real’ social marketplace just as the virtual marketplace has already started changing.


Amazon price check app.  Application for Android, available at

Eat Shop Sleep.  Application for Android, available at

iCITIZEN LABOR REPORT.  Application for Apple iPod, available at

Occupational Employment Statistics Challenge.  Retrieved May 9, 2012 from

OPA News Release.  (2011, October 27).  US Department of Labor Announces Winners of Online and Mobile Development Contests.  United States Department of Labor.  Retrieved May 10, 2012 from

mobiThinking. (2012, February).  Global mobile statistics 2012.  Retrieved April 24, 2012 from

Shirky, C.  (2009, June).  How Social Media Can Make History.  TED, Retrieved April 2, 2012, from make_history.html

Skariachan, D.  (2012, April 10).  Best Buy CEO out as more shoppers move online.  Reuters, Retrieved May 9, 2012 from

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

How do you get your news? Google or Yahoo? RSS Feeds? Twitter? Among the industries most changed by social media, according to “social media guru” Brian Solis, are financial services, music and news reporting (Heath, M.) The one that I have been following with the most interest is news reporting – not necessarily because I am all that interested in the news industry – but because as a regular listener to NPR, reader of internet news, and regular reader of my local paper (Gannett’s Tallahassee Democrat) the change has impacted the way I get the news.

I have followed the fate of my local paper with some curiosity. Over my last 10 years of readership, I have noticed significant changes. The Monday edition is so thin that it would not cover the bottom of a bird cage (if people still use newspaper for that). Since 2008, the Real Estate section has gotten thinner and thinner. First, of course, it was because no one could sell a house and so the desire to spend money marketing it no sense. Subsequently, the real estate industry has moved online. Clearinghouses such as, Zillow, and Trulia, along with Craigslist and websites that feature detailed tours of homes have taken the place of the photo and specs listings we used to browse on Saturday morning. Midweek print advertising has also taken a hit. Thursday’s paper used to carry thick, glossy ads from the national retailers in town. Those ads have been replaced with weekly emails to opt-in consumers. No more Old Navy ads in our paper.

Tallahassee.comAnd yet, despite these changes, the paper has actually expanded coverage of local events and news. The Tallahassee Democrat appears to be an interesting case study in what is working these days for newspapers. Its website began charging for access to premium content in 2010, but has been able to remain the largest news website in its market, including both charging and free websites (Kulicke). Local politics, crime, sports, and events make up the bulk of the paper, which is exactly what I need, because I can read the NYT, WSJ, USA Today, AP, Reuters, and watch the BBC news feed all on demand. What becomes more complicated is weeding through the Leon County Schools website to figure out what the newest standardized testing change means to me and my elementary-aged children.

Tallahassee’s local paper has fantastic reporters that offer real value to the community by focusing on the information and issues that cannot be gleaned easily from the mainstream, national and international news media. When local news stations began to focus on making news relevant to the local market, the news tended to be edited versions of national news that included a few lines about how a local person was at the event (Tallahassean witnesses Tsunami – story of a local couple on vacation who happened to see a few waves).

Local reporting has matured to the point of being able to understand that providing value to a community is covering the community. This niche reporting is the result of two social media trends. First, the lower cost model of communication through social media outlets creates an expectation of information that is of great relevance to more specialized groups of people. Second, the technology behind social media means that markets are segmented less by geographic location, and more by interest. Local papers can take advantage of both of these trends.

The Tallahassee Democrat offers blogs, twitter feeds, online commentary on stories, breaking news alerts, and is available on mobile devices, tablets, and probably Google’s rumored web-enabled eye glasses (Henn). But as with everything in social media, the innovation is not the technology itself, but the application of the technology. Local papers have a lot to gain from the instant communication of national and international news via social media – they have an audience again.

Heath, M. (2011, October 24). Three Industries Forever Changed by Social Media. Invest Forward, Retrieved May 2, 2012 from
Henn, S. (2012, February 24). Google’s Goggles: Is the Future Right Before Our Eyes? NPR – All Tech Considered, Retrieved May 4, 2012, from
Kulicke, H. (2012, February 9). Case Study: Newspaper Thriving in Tallahassee. Editor & Publisher, Retrieved May 5, 2012, from–Newspaper-Thriving-in-Tallahassee

Does Happiness Make You Live Longer? Maybe Not!

Is happiness correlated with a long life?  Drs. Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin published a book on this topic in 2011 that was based on the data gathered from The Longevity Project, a longitudinal study of 1,500 United States individuals that began in 1921.  The key finding was that happiness was NOT correlated to long life, but that both happiness and long life were correlated with specific patterns of living that included honesty and health-consciousness.  The authors state, “Following over 1,500 American across many decades, we have found that the same behaviors, personalities, friendships, and careers that make you happy are the ones that help you stay healthy” (Friedman, para. 7).

The Longevity Project was initiated by Dr. Lewis Terman, a Stanford University psychologist, who looked for children born about 1910 for his study.  Dr. Terman died in 1956, but others continued the study.  Individuals who were selected for the study were tracked over the lengths of their lives, including information about what they ate, how they felt, when they were sick, what they did for a living, who they married, and when they died.  The data gathered was invaluable, because most of it was factual and contemporaneous, rather than based on recollection or self-reporting.  Some of the myths of long life that this study disproves include the following (Friedman & Martin):

1. Get married and you will live longer (not true)

2.  Thinking happy thoughts reduces stress and leads to long life (not true)

3.  Worrying is bad for your health (not true)

In fact, the study suggests that worrying can actually be good for a person, and that living a “meaningful” life “dedicated to work, genuine friends and dependable lifestyles” was the key to health, happiness and longevity (Friedman, para. 9).


Friedman, H. (2011, April 2).  Does Being Happy Improve Our Health?  You Might Be Surprised.  Huffpost healthy Living Blog, Retrieved April 24, 2012 from 

Friedman, H. and Martin, L. (n.d.).  Read the Introduction.  The Longevity Project Website, Retrieved April 25, 2012 from