When I’m driving alone, I’m tuned in to CBC Radio One. Yesterday night, I was on my way to the gym and it was Carol Off, from As it happens talking to Barbara Winters, the woman who tried to save Corporal Nathan Cirillo, at the Canadian War Memorial. For the first time in my life, I had to pull to the right because tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t drive.
Before I let you listen to the interview, I think this lady for what she did, fully deserves to be named to the Order of Canada.
Here is the interview with Barbara Winters.
Count Henri Baillet-Latour, chairman of the International Olympic Committee…
attacked energetically groups in the United States that have opposed American participation in the Berlin games. He asserted that the agitation against participation was exclusively a political campaign, citing as evidence the fact that none of the national Olympic committees now opposed having the games in Berlin.
He declared that the non-participation movement was being well financed and was “based on lies,” representing nothing more than a trump card in the hand of certain interested groups that have nothing to do with sport.
This excerpt is taken from a from a 1935 New York Times article (behind a freaking paywall).
Does it sound familiar?
Here is what the current IOC chairman, Thomas Bach, has to say:
We are grateful to those who respect the fact that sport can only contribute to development and peace if it is not used as a stage for political dissent, or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests. To other political leaders we say: ‘please understand what our responsibilities are, and what your responsibilities are. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes’.
I wanted to name this post “Luxury brands and bloggers, a few tips to make this relationship work”, because what I’m going to cover here should work for any luxury brand, but since I have more experience with dealing with watch brands, I opted for this title.
It’s been already four years that I’ve started WatchPaper, a blog about watches. I have to admit, there was a few years that I haven’t touched it as I was too busy with other projects, but now I’m back in action with big plans for this website.
Since 2009, I noticed many changes in the luxury industry: if in those days you wouldn’t see too many brands having a Twitter account, not to say a Facebook page, now, watch brands realized the importance of social media and most of them are using it (with a few exceptions, either because they live under a rock or don’t care because their business is booming anyways). The really smart ones are on YouTube, Tumbler and Pinterest too. Yes, Pinterest! It’s the perfect social media platform for luxury.
With a good chunk of their sales being made in China, you might even find a few brands using Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Hěn hǎo!
Just a couple of years ago, most of the watch brand websites were running on Flash, somehow they thought that we’re still in 2001 and people have patience to wait for a splash screen to load and we’re curious to find out more about the music the CMO likes. Luckily for us and for them too, most of the websites today use modern technologies and those that are really on the cutting edge made their website play nicely with mobile devices too. We can still see, here and there Flash websites, but they are the exception and not the norm.
Just as with social media, brands realized that blogging is a great tool to reach out to potential customers, nurture a brand image and create new relationships. There are a few blogs out there that are run by the brands themselves and the number of blogs written by hobbyists and collectors has significantly increased too.
If you’re the CMO or any other person in charge with PR, here are a few things I would like you to keep in mind:
Respect my time
You are in the business of measuring time, you know better than anyone else the value of time.
I’m not a journalist payed by a big publication, I have a full time job and other obligations that keep me busy. If I decide for whatever reason to write about you on my blog, please don’t make y life more difficult. I don’t have the time and patience, there are 600 other brands I can write about.
Access to news and media
When I say make my life difficult, I mean give me access to your materials in a streamlined fashion, so that by the time I gather all the stuff I need for a post, I won’t feel like Asterix who entered “The Place”.
I’m fine with registering for newsletters and accessing press rooms, because I want to be up to date with your latest novelties, but once you have my information and especially once you see where I’m coming from don’t ask me to contact your PR representative directly to get the images I need.
That’s a big NO!
Your PR officer has two options: to send me all the images, which is a huge file and too much hassle to download and unzip, or she will send me a few images that she considers relevant, but that are not exactly what I was looking for and again very much time consuming.
Your PR officer has other more important roles and duties than sending me images from your media library. They should be there as point of reliable information, answering specific questions that are not covered by a press release.
If you want to alienate bloggers, be frank about it and tell me to buzz off, like the brand we all know is doing it. I’m fine with it, it’s their choice to be reclusive and MAYBE I will try other channels to write about them.
Media libraries I like
There are a few brands that do it in a really great way and it’s a pleasure to brows their press corner. News are in chronological order, the images have thumbnails with captions and they are also optimized for the Web.
A small parentheses: I’m a blogger with a very short attention span, if your media library consist of only high resolution CMYK TIFFs, 50 MB each, I won’t be happy.
It is also really nice when I can download images one by one, or select several and download as a single file, it gives me more control over my bandwidth and my time.
Start using metadata
Here is a tip that is worth sending me a limited edition watch. It’s unbelievable how metadata is so underestimated by companies! Luxury watch brands are not the only ones to ignore this gem of technology, but it’s time for you to start using metadata.
When you’re adding images to your media library, you can include a wealth of information with the JPG files, such as the name of the watch, the reference number, the name of the photographer, who is the copyright holder, etc. It would make it so much more easy to build really smart websites that would read this information and link them together in a meaningful way.
I’m not talking here about corporate open data and linked open data. That’s for another post, maybe in a few years when the industry will be ready to talk about these things.
Keep an archive
I would love to see brands taking over the control of their history. It’s not normal that in a business where heritage and history is so important, that when it comes to the Internet, it is presented with only a couple of paragraphs and a few black and white pictures.
Your history is more than that. Just as museums around the world, you should start looking at your archives and start digitizing everything: sketches, photos, patents, diplomas, etc. This digital archive should be available online for us bloggers, journalists, writers.
This list could go longer, but there is one thing I would like to emphasize here: you, the brand and me, the blogger, we’re in symbiosis. I need you to feed me with brute materials for my stories and you need me, because blogs are the cornerstone of social media.
I want you, the watch industry, to be known, to be respected and prosper! The craft of watch making is part of our human cultural heritage and in a world of smart watches and other digital gizmos, it’s important to keep this tradition alive. Please help me help you!
I’m working on revamping WatchPaper, my long neglected blog about luxury watches. Part of the work is to polish the logo and get it up to date with the latest norms in branding.
Since I own the .com domain name, there was no need to keep it in the logo, so that was the first thing I dropped. I was also uncomfortable with the symbol that initially I created as a reference to an RSS symbol turned vertically, to elude to the 10 minutes past 10 position of watches, but it looked more like a WiFi sign, so that too I had to change.
Finally I changed the camelcase for lowercase and two colors.
Next thing on my list is to change the design of the website. It’s quite dated and I should make it responsive, so that it looks good on mobile devices too.
Going trough some old files, I found this logo that I did a couple of years ago for a mobile app.
The main idea behind the app was to find an environmentally friendly solution for urban commuting by sharing taxis rides with others.
The task of designing the logo was easier than usually, since I came up with the name too and I was involved in the planning phase too. The app never made it to the App Store, but I still had a lot of fun working on the logo.
Google is an important part of the Internet and there are many people that are not happy about it. They are concerned about their privacy, about the fact that there is way too much power centralized in the hands of a corporation. Although Google was founded on the principle of “don’t be evil”, it became an easy target for sceptics.
One of the “evils” that Google is blamed with by many, is its algorithm used for the search results. Google will serve up different result to the same query for different people, based on data Google might have about them.
You can read more about this on a blog post by Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo, a competitor of Google. If you just want to get to the essence of his message, here is a promotional video that attacks Google’s result filtering practice:
I gave DuckDuckGo a spin more than once, and often the results were not that helpful. I remember when hurricane Sandy was approaching Canada, after days of havoc in the US, the top DuckDuckGo results to the query “Sandy” had nothing to do with the hurricane. The same query on Google gave me a legion of useful information, including links to official websites of emergency preparedness.
Yesterday, when I learned about the bombings in Boston, like everyone else, I was curios to find out more what happened. My first destination was Twitter, than Google and for the sake of being better informed, I searched DuckDuckGo too.
Here were the results I got from Google, on April 15 at 4:50 PM, for searching for “boston marathon”:
Here are the results from DuckDuckGo, at the same time, for the same query:
As we can see on the screenshot of the Google results page, the first thing we see is the date of the Boston Marathon, which comes from the Knowledge Graph, a semantic result enhancement introduced last year. It is followed immediately by headlines from CNN, NBC and CBC about the explosions. As this was a developing story, after the news headlines, there were the regular search results, starting with the official website of the Boston Marathon.
On DuckDuckGo, it was business as usual, with the results, that I have to admit are neutral and unfiltered, but given the moment, with very little value. I also got a banner add on the top, inviting me to save up to 70% on hotels near the Boston Marathon.
I repeated the same experiment this morning, this time with the query “boston explosion”. Here is Google:
Here is DuckDuckGo:
As we can see the Google results are dominated by news about the explosions from the Huffington Post, RTE, NYT, CBC, BBC, etc.
DuckDuckGo, gave news results from more or less the same sources, the only difference is that here, the stories are a bit dated. The “Wanna Win MegaMillion” banner is there to prove that DuckDuckGo too, is just another company that wants to make profit.
Filter bubbles are a reality; it’s not just Google using them, but many other major online platforms that deal with a huge amount of data. The main reason filter bubbles were introduced was to keep people interested in the content of the platform, in a fierce battle for attention.
With a lot of data, you also get a lot of noise and the answer to a question might change, depending of who is asking it, when and where.
The danger with filter bubbles is that you fall into stereotypes. A few weeks ago, I wrote about this online art project that is exploring filter bubbles across the world. It’s important to be aware of their existence in order to take results with a grain of salt and to constantly look for new channels of information.
Personally, I found the unfiltered results of DuckDuckGo unhelpful and outdated. On another note, as a profit seeking entity, they should have had the decency, not to show ads next to results dealing with this tragedy, at least for a few days.