Internet & Social Media Filter Bubbles

Helping Advertisers, but Hindering Flow of Information


The internet was conceived with the intent of connecting all the people of the world with one another and providing a publishing platform for all who had something to say. In theory, that goal has been accomplished. In reality, algorithms and advertisers are thwarting an egalitarian online environment.

Without a doubt, algorithms are helpful narrowing down the firehose blast of information available online, so that when you do a Google search for a dry cleaner the results are relevant to your location. To deliver this kind of personalized information Google monitors and tracks 57 signals that your device emits like browser type, browsing history, past searches, geographic location and more. So in fact, there is no such thing as a standard Google search results. Every single search – even if the exact same phrase is used – displays unique results tailored to the user. This is not only the case with Google, it also happens with Yahoo News, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media.

Most consumers understand the bargain that they’ve made with search engines and social media. The cost of the “free” service is that their online actions are tracked and compiled to create a consumer profile for advertisers. Information personalization is a two-way street. Not only can you find a dry cleaner near you – the local dry cleaner can find you and direct advertising to you. Anyone who has been assaulted with repetitive pop up ads for a pair of shoes you looked at online is well aware that their behavior is fueling what is being marketed to them.

At first glance, all of this personalized information sounds like a win, win for everyone; that is until you understand that narrowed content delivery is a double-edged sword. Algorithms are also determining what news and information you view online. Essentially, delivering an online newspaper to you with many of the articles cut out.

The problem is that the choices made by the algorithms as to what content you see are not transparent. The result is a “filter bubble,” a term coined by internet activist Eli Pariser. Pariser argues that a result of filter bubbles is that users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.

A new study from Pew Research claims that 62 percent of people get their news from social media, with Facebook the most prevalent news source. If a majority of people are getting their news and information from social media and that content is being curated to only show them information that mirrors their beliefs, it perpetuates “confirmation bias,” the tendency of people to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts it. The surprising results of the U.S. presidential election in 2016, has been blamed on the "filter bubble" phenomenon.

Rebranding After an Acquisition or Merger

Determining the Best Brand Strategy


Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups may have convinced the world that combining peanut butter and chocolate is a good idea, but the task can be more difficult when combining companies. The rate of mergers and acquisitions over the past decade has skyrocketed, driven by financial, operational or geographic territory decisions. Rebranding the newly combined entity is all too often an afterthought.

In their paper “Merging the Brands and Branding the Merger” authors Richard Ettenson and Jonathan Knowles studied mergers and acquisitions completed over a ten year period and found that branding strategy was a low priority for the majority of organizations during M&A negotiations. Ettenson and Knowles noted that, "For marketers, a merger and acquisition therefore provides an important test. Failure to establish a new brand and to communicate its worth to internal and external audiences could have massive repercussions on the organization as a whole."

Combining two entities provides a tremendous opportunity to leverage new brand characteristics that are gained. A critical starting point to rebranding is gaining an in-depth understanding of the current perception of the brand(s) in the marketplace and how they relate to competitors. Based on this research, the combined entity can then decide if one company brand will be dominant or if a newly combined brand should be created.

Based on the decisions made when faced with the rebranding, Ettenson and Knowles grouped them into four main categories and tabulated what percentage used the strategy:

Backing the Stronger Horse (55%) - one organization takes the visual identity of the other, which has the stronger brand.

Business As Usual (24%) – both brands continue to exist independently.

Best of Both (13%) – the new organizations combines the visual identity of the both companies.

Different In Kind (8%) – an entirely new corporate identity is created for the organization.

Each of these rebranding decisions has its pros and cons. Deciding to eliminate one brand over the other, can convey the message that one company was the loser, which risks alienating customers that were loyal to the brand that was eliminated. On the other hand, it can remove negative perceptions and breathe new life into a beleaguered company.

Combining companies is a chance to conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) for each organization. This reimagined brand strategy can serve as the roadmap to navigate the transition between a company’s current positioning and where they want to be.

When deciding which route to take it’s important to remember that a brand has to resonate not only with customers, but employees as well. Mergers and acquisitions can be difficult for employees facing uncertainty, so it’s important to carefully examine your brand selection strategy and the message it sends. Rebranding can serve as a catalyst to engage all employees and align core values throughout the new company.

Crowdsourcing Engages Consumers With Brands

Monopoly Crowdsources To Select New Game Tokens


If you’re a fan of the game Monopoly, then you’ll soon discover that new versions of the game look a little bit different. In March 2017, Hasbro, the maker of the popular board game announced the results of their recent crowdsourcing campaign, which polled consumers in 100 countries to choose which Monopoly tokens should be retired and what they should be replaced with when the next edition of the game debuts in the fall.

Monopoly’s crowdsourcing campaign started in January 2017 and asked fans to choose the next tokens from a list of 64 options. Astonishingly, over 4.3 million votes were cast. During the campaign groups tried to sway the voting by advocating for or against certain tokens. Zipcar advocated for the survival of the racecar token by asking fans to #SaveTheCar. The New England Aquarium tweeted photographs of their penguins with the hashtag #VotePenguin.

After tallying all the votes, Monopoly will be bidding farewell to three tokens which had been staples of the game debuted in the 1930’s. Gone are the boot, the wheelbarrow and the thimble. They will be replaced with a Tyrannosaurus rex, a rubber ducky and a penguin.

Crowdsourcing is not a new marketing tool but through the growth of the internet and social media, it has become even more commonplace. Giving consumers a say in a brand’s direction gives them a stronger sense of ownership and a stronger connection. Crowdsourcing isn’t easy and companies need to be aware of potential pitfalls before they jump in.

A number of companies had great success with crowdsourcing campaigns. Doritos, Starbucks and AirBnB are just a few brands who have been successful with opening up marketing input to consumers.

Since 2012, Lays Potato Chips has done a “Do Us A Flavor” yearly campaign. Fans of Lays Chips are asked to suggest a new flavor and design a bag to match. The top three flavors are then produced and sold so consumers can sample the new flavors and vote on their favorite.

Each of these crowdsourcing campaigns not only brings in fresh ideas to large companies but they are great marketing tools. It builds excitement around a brand, gets their fans involved in new products and keeps everyone talking for months after the campaign ends. With all of the social tools available now, more and more brands will continue to jump on board the crowdsourcing train.

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