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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Whatever your personal opinion of Rebecca Black, you can’t deny the American teenager’s stardom. Few people in the online world won’t have heard of Black –   her surprise YouTube hit ‘Friday’ amassed tens of millions of views and reached #33 on the iTunes chart.

While online marketers salivate, the media and public alike remain slack-jawed at this extraordinary demonstration of viral success. Yet, there’s  at least one obvious reason for Black’s success: haters. Whether through genuine aversion or mere disbelief, negative reactions made this $2000 clip into a global phenomenon in a matter of days.

So is this a tick in the box for the adage, all press is good press?

Social Media Hecklers

Also known as ‘h8ers’, hecklers are those individuals making negative comments about brands/celebrities/groups/individuals on social media. Anyone who has been around the Twitter traps will notice people dedicate a lot of chatter to hating on others.

(But it’s not all bad. One of the great things about Twitter is that it enables us to vent our frustrations and then get on with our day. Moreover, we know that the majority of Tweets are seen by few people, responded to by fewer and remembered by even less, if any.)

As brand keepers, we must be able to distinguish between criticism for a genuine and specific reason (i.e. expressing offence to something your company has done, said or sold) and heckling (i.e. unnecessary negativity lacking a constructive aim).

Just like celebrities and people in the public eye, big brands will always have critics. Much of it is benign, perhaps borne from a single off-putting event, ignorance or even denial. However, we can’t simply write off heckling with the old ‘sticks and stones…’ rhyme. Hecklers can lose you subscriber numbers, which means the number of people receiving your direct communications/ promotions is reduced, potentially impacting sales.

On the other hand, the attention could bring extra people to your social media pages or see fans come to your defence, strengthening those relationships and brand loyalty.

And we’re back to thinking about Black and the all press/good press question!

How to Deal with Hecklers

1) Clarify

Don’t make the mistake of assuming a poorly expressed question or challenge (or even compliment) is an attack. Seek to clarify the intent behind a comment and you may just find areas of agreement with the commenter.

2) Stay Professional and Seek a Resolution

Always maintain a professional tone and attitude when dealing with hecklers. It’s often best to publicly respond to the complainer and treat them as a valued customer. Give them something to do, such as directing them to your contact page. Certain hecklers won’t bother to take the next step because they are only temporarily displeased or blowing off steam. Stay calm, polite and true to your brand’s personality. Don’t give anyone a reason to continue fighting. This will hopefully neutralise the adversarial nature of the exchange. If all else fails, you may have to employ mum’s counsel and simply walk away.

3) Listen and Learn

A-ha! Bet you thought we were finished with the advice. Not so. We must keep in mind that hating on haters is not a constructive use of anyone’s time. Instead, ask yourself if a heckler’s comments have merit. Do they highlight something on which you could improve? Not to get too schoolyard here, but it’s usually our friends who are least likely to openly criticise us, even when we deserve it. Furthermore, the need to prove our adversaries wrong has always been a strong motivator.

Let’s not let those h8ers win!

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A design we at Mustard are impressed with this week: the Omnifer, a braille overlay for Apple iPads.

Jayson D’Alessandro’s entry for the 2011 IDEA Awards, this design aims to make iPads more accessible for the visually impaired.

Thin and light, the three-panel flip design transforms part of the iPad’s surface into a braille keyboard. A corresponding app automatically streams text into braille format, setting off a chemical reaction that raises the braille keys as required.

We hope this design makes it to the mainstream, but at any rate, it’s good to know there’s still a lot of innovative thinking out there.

(Social) Media is today saturated with heated responses to British PM David Cameron’s announcement that his government is looking into its right to stop social media use for the means of ‘plotting violence, disorder and criminality’.

Last week’s four nights of rioting left 5 people killed, 1500 arrested, and £100 million in stolen goods and property damage, not to mention international embarrassment for the British Government. So we can somewhat forgive Cameron for temporarily forgetting earlier comments he made, lauding social media for its role in the Arab Spring:

“Our interests lie in upholding our valuesin insisting on the right to peaceful protest, in freedom of speech and the internet, in freedom of assembly and the rule of law. But these are not just our values, but the entitlement of people everywhere.”

The first problem with Cameron’s logic in cracking down on social media is clear: hypocrisy. Free-speech groups were quick to claim that restricting social media could violate basic freedoms.

The second major problem is the ‘how’. Namely, how exactly do the British Government and industry plan to stop people communicating via web sites and social media services?

A large-scale shutdown of Britain’s Internet, a la Egypt, is obviously out of the question. Individual bans are also problematic for anyone outside of a lockup facility. What’s to stop an offender jumping on a friend’s iPhone or public computer?

While Facebook has removed pages seen as explicitly inciting violence, Twitter has refused to delete a single Tweet or account, although both have agreed to meet with the Government (along with BlackBerry’s smartphone maker, Research in Motion) to discuss possible violence-curbing measures.

Another flaw in Cameron’s logic is the idea that restricting social media would actually curb dissidence and violence. Certainly, social media can play a central roll in these events, but they still occurred well before its advent.

As Crikey points out: ‘Focusing on the technologies that enable interconnectedness misses the point, which is what people are choosing to do when they connect with each other, and why they choose to do it. Social media are merely targeted because they’re perceived as new and unfamiliar to institutional élites, which are always late-adopters.’

It seems that Cameron’s is a fairly standard reaction for someone in power who has seen his or her foundations rocked. Even if we managed to restrict individual use of social media, those determined enough would find away around it.

As ReadWriteWeb writer Curt Hopkins argues, banning access to social media ‘will have zero effect on crime, aside from criminalising social media itself.’

And not even David Cameron wants that.

The Problem

Borders continues to close its doors across Australia

It’s no secret that Australian retailers have had their worst financial year in 50 years. With Borders going under, the Just Group closing 50 stores, high street chains like Country Road reporting losses and David Jones practically crying in the corner, it’s a grim market.

An unstable US economy and a fair amount of local political and economic uncertainty are largely to blame for Australian households reportedly saving at their highest rate (17% of income) for a quarter century. We have the cash, apparently we just don’t want to spend it. Great news for the economy in the long run, but a problem for retailers who haven’t had the time to adjust to this swift downturn.

What the retailers are doing about it

If all your news came in the form of large retailer CEO sound-bites (which, frankly, it sometimes seems), then you’d know what else is to blame: the evil internet, with its plethora of foreign owned online retailers, with their low-cost postage and lack of GST. The solution: add GST to all online purchases, or failing that, shut down Australian access to the internet altogether.

Thankfully, David Jones are attempting to boost sales via other, more tried and tested methods, relying on added variety and the old fashioned cult of celebrity. They’re keen to introduce “freshness and newness” via 60 new brands, including a number of celebrity labels from the likes of Lily Allen, Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian (yeah, really).

Maybe DJs have been paying close attention to Spain’s Zara (the latest international retailing giant to open its shiny doors in Australia), whose parent company, Inditex, continues to expand globally and post solid profits.

Zara: affordable, trendy and quickly turned over

Zara’s success may lie in its high turnover of inexpensive, trendy and stylish pieces, which reportedly make it from designer to floor in a matter of weeks.

Mustard’s foolproof solution

All right, you’ve waited long enough, so here it is. Mustard‘s infallible solution to getting the registers ringing. Two words: Kate Middleton. Or maybe that should be Catherine Middleton, or is it Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge now?

Style icon: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Either way, Ms Middleton is the ultimate celebrity endorsement. Gone are the days of Rachel Zoe, with the maxi dresses and bug-eyed sunglasses. It’s all about the world’s most famous new royal.

Even prior to her engagement to Prince William, Kate Middleton was setting trends, selling out everything from riding boots to flared jeans (no easy feat in this skinny-legged day and age).

Kate’s £385 Issa Sapphire wrap dress sold out within 24 hours of appearing in the official engagement photos, while high street replicas also sold well. The same goes for a Burberry trench Kate wore in March, which caused sales to soar for both the original and cheaper versions.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Kate’s wardrobe is full of now sold out pieces. Italian designer Luisa Spagnoli even based the key colour of her entire autumn/winter collection off the back of the extreme popularity of a red suit Kate donned in February.

Kate Middleton: the answer to retail woes

Myer, you’re welcome.