Substantive Content: Responses over comments

The comments section of any blog or online magazine is a great place to share perspectives or reactions to an author’s content. But too often, I find comments sections either overpopulated with drivel, covered in spam, or totally unengaging. Comments were once a great measure of a piece of substantive content’s success or popularity; now I feel like comments sections are in desperate need of an update. Clearly, the team at Medium.com feels the same way, and I admire the platform that they’ve developed to address the problem.

medium.com - substantive contentMedium, an online forum/magazine focused on the social sector, has a proprietary commenting platform they call ‘Responses’. ‘Responses’ offers a fresh take on how to bring comments back into the realm of the substantive, going one step further than the traditional comments section in the footer by republishing someone’s response as a standalone article on their own stream. Additionally, responses only populate in the footer of the original article if that article’s author recommends them.

Two big benefits come out of this approach. First, it encourages people to submit more meaningful content and thought-provoking responses to articles. Knowing that your two-line quip or superficial gab won’t make the queue unless the publisher finds it helpful encourages more attentive writing (this also aligns with the Medium.com brand and mission). Second, when there is more thoughtful commenting, Medium turns those responses into contextualized content through republishing. Responses, republished as articles, will increase engagement with the platform and help populate a regular stream of new, compelling content.

I’m excited to see how ‘Responses’ plays out over time—whether it proves a promising approach to stopping the onslaught of annoying comments. And if you haven’t heard about Medium.com, I encourage you to check it out. It’s a slick platform where anyone can write articles or create their own stream. Plus, I hear the experience of writing and publishing is top-notch.

If you want to get more people to see your video, think like an animal.

One of the most interesting lessons from the book Switch, by the Heath brothers – which, admittedly, I am obsessed with – is that we humans have a built-in tendency to follow the behaviors of others in our group. We are more comfortable taking actions when we know that other people are doing the same thing. TV producers having been using this fact for decades. Take the sitcom, for example. If we were in a live studio audience, we’d follow the behavior of others in the crowd by laughing along with the group. But when we watch a sitcom at home we are often alone, without a group to follow behaviorally. So producers built in fabricated crowd laughter that automatically triggers our urge to laugh along.

Which begs the question, how do we follow the herd in the age of YouTube, when so much video entertainment does not include a laugh track – and we are even more often a singular audience watching video at our desks (when we should be working)? YouTube and other channels wisely include the number of “likes” and views per video. They also make it easy to search for the most popular videos in a given category. We don’t have fake laughter to tell us what’s funny, but the herd nevertheless guides our viewing choices. To experience this, check out Battle at Kruger, arguably the most fascinating wildlife video ever captured on camera – and by a couple that just happened to be in the right place at the right time while on a safari. It has over seventy-five million views. We humans quite literally “follow the herd” when we watch this video.

We think of our species as smarter than all others. But we are all animals nevertheless. So, when you’re making a film you want your target audience to see, think about how to create the perception that others in the same herd are heading in the same direction. One way to do this is to recruit a thought leader in a category, or celebrity, that your target group is used to following (perhaps quite literally following on Twitter). The people you want to reach will be far more likely to follow along. It’s our nature.

Deepwater Wind VS. Cape Wind: The Power of Wind Company Branding

deepwater wind vs cape wind: the power of wind company branding

Cape Wind has been stalled for years and recently lost its contracts with utilities, a potential end to their dream of being (as their site currently claims) “America’s first offshore wind farm.” Deepwater Wind, however, recently got a green light on a major financing deal and will begin construction in 2015. Deepwater will in fact be America’s first offshore wind farm.

Why was one wind company brand successful while the other may fail? While many factors were at play, it’s clear to me that the power of wind company branding played a significant role. Full disclosure: my company created the brand for Deepwater Wind. I point this out not to boast, but to share with you some insights gleaned from the brand’s development that can help other companies be successful, whether they be in clean energy, automotive, or dog food.

First, take a look at the names and logos of each company. The Cape Wind name includes “Cape.” What does that name evoke? Sunny days at the beach. Relaxing by the water. Beautiful scenery. Now add “Wind” to “Cape.” Just the juxtaposition of the two implies the intrusion of wind turbines into our mental image of the Cape. The Cape Wind logo rubs beach sand into the wound by including a graphic of a big wind turbine. The project itself, which has been planned for Nantucket sound, hit a firewall of protest from day one, which continued for over a decade. Lawsuit after lawsuit, delay after delay. Why? The name and logo and the project had one thing in common: visibility. The turbines would be highly visible, and most people – rightly or wrongly – don’t find the turbines to be an appealing addition to the skyline.

Now look at the Deepwater Wind name and logo. The name “Deepwater” came about because the company had a technology that allowed them to erect turbines farther from shore, in deep water, where they would be less visible. “Deepwater” does not conjure images of a national treasure. It conveys a sense of, well, deep water. Places farther from shore. When you site a turbine in deep water farther off the coast, they tend to be in places with the wind is stronger, allowing for greater energy to be gathered efficiently and at lower cost. And most importantly, they’re less visible from shore. Note that there is no wind turbine in the Deepwater Wind logo. The word “wind” says enough, without emphasizing the one thing most people don’t like about wind energy – the big turbines. Note also the logo is in various shades of blue, a color that instills a sense of financial solidity and trust. In addition, the font we used is bold, conveying power. The upturned lines above the word “wind” convey a range of positive associations, such as waves cresting, and the rush of wind across the deep ocean waters. Everything about the Deepwater Wind name and logo mark makes you feel good about them. This is no accident. It’s by design.

Customers will only say “yes” to your company if they like you. To make this happen, your brand has to be engineered with as much thought and care as your technology. And the essential value of the brand has to run like an electric current through your whole company and culture. A great brand isn’t a label, it’s a true and compelling representation of what your company believes and values right down to your core.

To be clear, Deepwater Wind is a success many years in the making; they did a lot of things right, and their brand was only one of the things that played a role in their success. But what’s significant is that it was one of the first things they did right. They were able to build on this solid foundation to tell their story to the world and become a trailblazer in American clean energy.

If you’re interested in more information about wind company branding, check out our Branding & Marketing for Renewable Energy Companies eBook.