I just checked out the new StumbleUpon site, and I am very pleased to report that the redesign they released today is stunning.
Most importantly, the experience I had just now was technically flawless - no floating whales, no bunnies - in fact, the only time I managed to get the Gnawing Bunny to appear was when I purposely searched for something I knew wouldn't be there - and the site still behaved as it should. Investors - StumbleUpon's engineers deserve a steak dinner, and a bonus - nice work, guys.
The other surprise was the fact that the site still feels like StumbleUpon. Why should that surprise me? Because, dear reader, I learned long ago, that with few exceptions, no one wants change more often than brand owners.
Way back in the day, at age 19, I won a radio station competition and ended up working as an advertising copywriter at a major ad agency (George Patterson/Bates in Adelaide, Australia.) Before you can say "where is the next revenue coming from?", I learned very quickly that no one tires of ads, logos, signs, business cards and slogans faster than the client.
It is SO easy to sell a new logo and/or slogan to an ad agency client that there should be a law against it. Seriously.
Want the client to approve a new web site? Just ask them. They've viewed their own web site five gazillion times. And, unlike their customers, who've seen it one millioneth of that amount of times, they are sick to death of it. Does the client want a redesign? A new logo? A new TV ad? A different jingle? Just ask! Ka-ching!
This sad knowledge is why it was so gratifying to go onto StumbleUpon's site and see that they have retained their personality, and enough of the look and feel of old for it not to feel like a new place (unlike, say, Digg, or, ahem, Friendster). This is credit-worthy - that StumbleUpon somehow managed to avoid the temptation to throw away all that is old, and easily-identified by the customer, means they won't find themselves out in the cold, like Digg, who managed to achieve the complete opposite of greater loyalty during their redesign, and alienated technical and non-technical customers alike (the fact Digg apears to have their act together now is too-little, too late, really.)
This all goes to show that StumbleUpon has some smart, long-term thinkers running stratagy. How's this translating to verifiable success on Heardable? StumbleUpon is among our top 1% performing brands, and recently cracked the Top 10 of all listed Social networks on Heardable (we track over 120 social networks, including all the ones you use, plus some you've never heard of, and we run every site in our database against them every time we do a scan - to see them all, just click the link and increase the results shown.)
According to our analysis, StumbleUpon is sitting at #9 with a bullet, with more than 1.2% of all sites we measure linking to them. That number is surely to rise with StumbleUpon's new, much easier to understand, channel strategy for users and brands. Watch this space.
Yesterday, former GOP front-runner Herman Cain announced he was dropping out of the 2012 race for President. When interviewed by Reuters, several of his followers told us what most of us already know: it wasn't the affairs that bothered them, it was the denials: the covering up.
Yes, in trying to be the "perfect brand", Cain found out the hard way that people prefer their candidates/brands to be... well, a little more human perhaps. And honest with the customer.
Nobody has learned that lesson better than another Atlanta-based brand - Coca-Cola. At the same moment Cain was announcing his retirement from the race, Coca-Cola distributors were busy apologizing to retailers and consumers and re-stocking shelves with Coke's traditional red-colored cans, after a disastrous campaign involving a white-colored can.
The decorative can - the centerpiece of a campaign that was designed to ring in the Holidays, confused a lot of folks and annoyed Diet Coke buyers as they grabbed a can that looked like Diet Coke and instead gave themselves the sugar rush/calories they'd been trying to avod.
Coke's solution to the problem? Admit the error. Wind back the campaign - totally. As Coca-Cola learned way back during the "new Coke" campaign, you can actually earn a decent amount of fresh new brand equity from admitting your imperfections (and your love and respect of the customer and his views.) Whereas not admitting you're at fault - and especially not getting to the heart fo thigns - can detract from your brand equity significantly.
Full marks to Coca-Cola this week. Herman, next time you run, maybe you should drive across town first and sit down and take counsel from the masters of building brand equity on the back of imperfect ideas (there's a reason why Warren Buffett has always loved these guys.)
Anyway, back to the national stage. Do you think Herman Cain could have stayed in the race by admitting his "imperfections"? could he have weathered the storm? Of course, we'll never know - and only Herman Cain knows for sure how much of the noise translates into past reality. But one thing is sure - to a man/woman, Cain's followers are saying loud and clear that they wish he'd just "come clean with the dirty" - so they could then make a call as to which alleged womanizer they want as President, rather than attempt to appear "perfect."
Of course a brand needs to provide as great a customer experience as possible. But absolute perfection, as it turns out, may not be an absolute positive when it comes to brand-building.
Note: We removed Herman Cain from our list of canidates at our SocialStrawPoll.com site this morning. Which is fine, because it's been looking like Newt vs. Mitt vs. Paul for about two months now, according to the major social networks.