Does adding Twitter to a brand make it cooler?

Lorenzo's "Twitter bike"

Jorge Lorenzo is on top of the world right now. He’s a 23-year-old motorbike racer from Mallorca in Spain and is atop the standings in the MotoGP circuit (he won yesterday’s race in Laguna Seca by several seconds, too). But he has a problem. Teammate Valentino Rossi has a better brand. Mostly because Rossi is older, has won season after season, and has cultivated thousands of fans. When I saw Rossi speak last year at Indianapolis fans were literally crying for a chance to touch him. Seriously. Most of us have never seen celebrity like this close up. Photo of Lorenzo’s Twitter sign on his bike taken by my producer Rocky Barbanica — we got a tour yesterday of his pits and got a chance to see the Twitter bike up close and personal. More of my photos are up on Flickr.

#1 MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo

But the MotoGP sport has a problem. If Rossi can’t race anymore, like he couldn’t for a month this year because he broke his leg, ticket sales go down. A lot.

#1 MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo

So, the Fiat/Yamaha team is trying something new: Twitter.

While Rossi disdains talking with fans online, Lorenzo welcomes it. Posting photos, doing his own tweets, and meeting with fans one-on-one which, over time, will make him a world-wide brand. He also does things to get his Twitter fans to talk, like after the race yesterday he donned a space suit and re-enacted man’s landing on the moon at the top of Laguna Seca’s famous corkscrew turns (last week was the anniversary of the moon landing). Photo by Umberto Schiavella.

Laguna Seca - Race

But he pushes it further than any other racer on the MotoGP circuit and is including Twitter on his bike (Twitter gets this exposure for free, unlike other sponsors on his bike) and even holding up signs after races asking fans to follow him on Twitter.

Yes, the sport is also using other technologies, like small TV cameras to get fans at home into the race, but every racer is doing that.

Lorenzo's video camera

Only Lorenzo is really using Twitter in any big way on the track.

I’m noticing this with more and more brands: they are using Twitter to get an edge on their competition in the branding war — I’m seeing more and more “follow us on Twitter signs” in restaurants, malls, and even amusement parks. Are you noticing this too? Question is, does adding Twitter to a brand make it cooler?

To me it does.

Why?

1. It sends a signal to the world that you want to hear from your customers.
2. It sends a signal to the world that you’ll use the latest technology to communicate with them. Many of whom are no longer using email. My son, for instance, rarely uses email to communicate with his friends.
3. It lets you feature your customers. Notice the pictures on Lorenzo’s bike? They are his fans on Twitter. Win-win.
4. It gives your team a way to communicate in one stream all the photos and stuff.
5. It lets you bridge audiences around the world. Look at how he mixes Spanish and English together on Tweets.

"Follow Me on Twitter" Banner

But what do you think? What are you seeing the bleeding edge brands doing today to find more customers and build more brand loyalty? I wonder what Chris Brogan would say?

Oh, and it wasn’t lost on the team that about 100 people were checked in at the track on Foursquare. How long before Foursquare has some involvement with race and sports brands? I give it a few hours the way Foursquare’s business developer Tristan Walker has been working lately.

Finally, just in case, they are on Flickr at lorenzo99 and has an old-school website plus a Facebook fan page. But the team tells me that Lorenzo likes Twitter the best. He even wants to visit Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco to meet his hero, Evan Williams. I bet he gets that dream. Something about him tells me he’s going to be someone we’ll hear from for a long time to come.

#1 MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo

Comments

    1. Let me say that i like twitter, i like facebook, i like google and i even like Microsoft … and i currently have a love / hate relationship with Apple. That said, if he did it just to attract followers Kudos … however, if he got paid for it, its purely an paid endorsement. Nothing wrong with that but lets not confuse the motivation.

  1. Twitter as a brand has hard good value – Does it need advertising or do advertisers need Twitter…

  2. Twitter as a brand has hard good value – Does it need advertising or do advertisers need Twitter… not for Twitter service but to use Twitter as a brand

  3. Esta entrada sin comentario en español no vale nada. Lorenzo campeón del mundo!

  4. I would love to hear your refutation of what I laid out. You saying that this doesn't communicate all these new things to fans? I say you are totally wrong.

  5. I'm supposing that Twitter doesn't charge a fee – if that is the case, then I think it's a positive thing. @planabrand

  6. Adding Twitter makes the “brand” Lorenzo definitely cooler, but does it make the “person” Lorenzo cooler, more “real”? Valentino's charisma (which is his brandmark) is hard to beat, because it's real. For over 14 years.
    Note: I think @chrisbrogan will think the same. “Trust me” ;)
    Cheers!

  7. I do agree that it makes sense to add Twitter and Facebook, but I have to wonder if it adds any higher cool factor to the average fan that doesn't understand what these social platforms do for them.

    You and I understand and are completely sold of the advantages, but I think we are still in the minority of the general public that does so. Also, there are too many big brands that generally ignore their twitter stream. They say follow us and just push out press releases while not following advantage #2 on your list.

  8. Well, he's already very cool if you meet him in person and definitely real. But most people can't have lunch with the guy like I did last year.

  9. Actually, Cindy's question is valid, when you think of how many people pay good money to advertise Roxy or Hollister or whatever. The premium on price between Hollister attire and Kirkland attire is due primarily to the brand that is attached. If Twitter gets purchased by the RIAA or by the Associated Press, expect Twitter to charge people to display their brand in the future. :)

    More seriously, it needs to be stated that simply putting up a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page is not enough. If you simply use these tools to blast messages out, then they provide no value to the business. (A tool is not a way of life.) As you well know, it takes discipline for a company, or a person, to take the time to listen to those that talk to them. The underlying corporate culture has to change so that external feedback is valued. Once that change is made, you can decide whether to start a Twitter account or set up a Facebook page or dust off that old Telex machine or whatever.

    1. Well said. Agreed. Being a marketing person in the music biz…this certainly applies in our industry. I’ve been witnessing painful marketing and retail disasters in the music world. Many recording artists are doing exactly what you stated provides no value; “If you simply use these tools to blast messages out, then they…” Yes, John, you are spot on!

  10. I think it definitely sends the message that you aren't stuck in the stone age. But, there is also a big difference between telling people you are on Twitter and actually giving folks a compelling reason to follow you and continue to pay attention.

  11. Twitter itself doesn't make the brand cooler. It's how you use it. A restaurant with a Twitter account that just spams customers is even less cool than a restaurant without one. A restaurant with a Facebook fans page that doesn't offer special value to people for creating that brand relationship is also less cool.

  12. First it was email, then web pages, then blogs, then RSS feeds, then photomoblie “blogs”, then vblogs, then generic social networking tools of the moment, now short-quipping micro-text platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and tomorrow's whatever. Make cooler? It's all a commodity — implementational use of and content, more important than tools. Celebrity ego and inane vanity, actually makes less cool.

  13. Twitter has become a standard now for companies that deal with consumers.

    Do I think Nestle is 'cooler' because they're @Nestle?

    No, in fact, they go down in my 'cool' estimates. They're one-way level of interaction just shows them for the huge corporation that they actually are. Twitter does them no favours in terms of my perception of them as a brand.

    Twitter, is not a solution, it's a tool. You highlighted someone who's using this tool effectively, and for each one of them there's a shed load doing the opposite.

  14. Give Robert a break. The track started playing the Italian National Anthem at the podium ceremony yesterday, before cutting it off and switching it to the Spanish Anthem :-D

  15. “3. It lets you feature your customers. Notice the pictures on Lorenzo’s bike? They are his fans on Twitter. Win-win.”

    Those werent necessarily his Twitter followers. Those are people who went to a website and uploaded their picture. Rossi did the same on his bike.

  16. I think it is going to be more and more frequent that we see brands using Twitter addresses. Remember when you wouldn't see any advertisements in magazines with a web address? Now there is no company that goes without a website and includes it as a main contact point in adverts.

    Twitter and Facebook pages are going to be more prolific next, followed by whichever platform stands out above the rest in the location check-in world.

  17. So most of us are in agreement. It is a tool and simply adding it doesn't increase the coolness factor.

    Twitter has so much potential to be great, but is being adopted by too many companies that think it is the flavor of the year and don't know or see the true benefits.

    I really want companies to leverage the platform correctly and can only hope that more do in the future. We need more Zappos and Lorenzo99 examples to show the others the right way.

  18. Good for you. Don't get me wrong: a Dutch proverb says (litt.) “Even if a monkey wears a gold ring, it is and remains an ugly creature”. So by just adding a @ does not make you a different person.

  19. Celebrity type people seem to use “Follow me on Twitter”, but to your point about malls, amusement parks, restaurants, stores, etc… I see a lot more “Follow us on Facebook”. Does that make these brands cooler? Only if they actually interact with their audience, and most don't other than “here's a crappy coupon”.

  20. Hi,

    Thanks for the article. Nicely put and an interesting quick read. The Facebook wall is remarkably similar to Twitter really and many people I know just can't be bothered, or can't get their head around Twitter. I think it needs some changes to take on the popularity and enjoyment of use of Facebook. That said, I use both and find Twitter great for meeting contacts and exchanging ideas – where Facebook may be better at connecting people who already know each other together. Something that will change no doubt though – especially as others enter the market, e.g. Google Me. Actually, you can check out more on Google Me here – http://searchscientist.co.uk/google-to-launch-g… – nice brief article including predictions on how it may compare to Facebook.

    I look forward to more posts.

    Cheers,
    Louise

  21. Good post. In general, I see brands' usage of Twitter as an indication that they are forward-thinking and willing to put effort into connecting/interacting with fans and customers. So yes, it increases the “cool” factor for me.

    Though, as an aside, I'd like to mention that exactly how the brand uses Twitter is also important.

    Regards,
    Joshua

  22. hi

    I have always been propagandizing the use & power of twitter for celebrities & social personalities. There was never any doubt about the power of twitter & social media. However the challenge was always what is that the celebrities can do better to connect with the audience. Lorenzo has lead the way.

    I firmly believe that it is eventually up to the individual on how they want to use this power & reach of social media. I had myself tried to showcase this concept in one of my earlier posts http://bit.ly/7r90q

  23. Interesting post Robert. Some of the newer F1 drivers such as Karun Chandok are on twitter quite a bit.

    Ferrari has an account for the whole team. And I think Massa tweets in Spanish quite a bit on his own account.

    And there may be one or two other drivers on twitter too.

    These do indeed take the fans into the sport. The whole of the BBC F1 team 9 the presenters etc) are on twitter too and there some very interesting back and forth that goes on, specially after controversial races like this weekends'. In fact @jakehumphreyf1 carries around his ipad with Twitter open ( not sure which app he's using tho) even when he's live on air.

    It certainly has added an extra dimension to the coverage.

  24. Maybe a bit less cool for those who don’t use twitter… Asking everyone to “Follow us on twitter” reminds me a bit of those old tv commercials that always tried to refer the audience to AOL keywords, which was slightly annoying for those not on AOL

  25. This truly is an amusing read.
    You think Jorge’s ‘brand’ is improved because he uses social media? Are you serious?
    I think it’s more the other way around. He has a lot of twitter followers because they were already race fans.
    Did the Fiat/Yamaha team ACTUALLY SAY they were turning to social media to promote the sport?
    I find that hard to believe. The team with two of the most popular riders, ever, has an image problem? pft!
    No amount of witty/interesting/personalised tweets will make someone watch a bike race if they’re not partial to motorsport in the first place.
    “But the MotoGP sport has a problem.” really? Where is your evidence for this?
    “If Rossi can’t race anymore, like he couldn’t for a month this year because he broke his leg, ticket sales go down. A lot.”
    A lot?! Where? Laguna Seca? Perhaps yes, in a country not known for their enthusiasm of two-wheeled motorsport. The Moto2 and 125cc classes aren’t even allowed to race there.
    I think you’ll find the sport has NO problem with it’s global audience within other countries.

    Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy reading Jorge’s tweets, and if you bothered to dig a little deeper, you would’ve found he’s not the only one. There are a myriad of other tweeters within the industry. Mechanics, photo-journalists, team managers, etc are all engaging twitterers.
    But their tweets don’t generate an interest in or improve the ‘brand’ of the sport. We seek out their tweets because we already have a love for the sport.
    I wonder if this is true for other brands too?
    Perhaps using twitter is just like preaching to the converted.

  26. Several years ago, did you think companies were cooler for referring viewers to AOL Keywords in their tv commercials? For people not on twitter (and there are a lot of us)… it's slightly annoying to get bombarded with “Follow us on twitter”

  27. The last few races saw sizeable declines in tickets sold. Not just the Yamaha/Fiat team were saying this and there were even press reports about those drops. Yes, the team is actively using Twitter to try to build up Jorge's fan base. They see it as an important way to interact with fans. Rossi doesn't think it's important, in part because he's already on top of the sport. Rossi is the old guard and Lorenzo is the new. Makes sense to me.

  28. Well said. I'm glad you pointed this out John. “As you well know, it takes discipline for a company, or a person, to take the time to listen to those that talk to them. The underlying corporate culture has to change so that external feedback is valued.” A business can't just open a Twitter account and suddenly think they're open and communicative.

  29. People talk in the real world not just “follow”. Why does the simplicity of “Like” work so well: because it is unequivocal. As @adamcohen points outs so well, I think the true call to action for a public figure or indeed a brand is a sign that displays “Talk with me on Twitter”, it´s just so more human than a lemming like call of “follow”. Broaden your appeal beyond geeksphere.

  30. I have to agree with Robert half way, it does make a brand cooler so long that you support the tool you are using to truly represent you, and consistency plays a big role here.

  31. Well, it might make it cooler but as for this one, I might like a blue tweety bird racing with ferrari or stuff like that. That is cooler. Well, there's nothing wrong with this one. The only thing is that what is the Twitter's connection with racing? It just doesn't make sense. LOL

  32. I don’t think it makes your brand “cooler”. All it might do is let someone know they can find his 140 character thoughts on twitter. I think twitter has moved from being hip to a common tool. Like one of the other commenter said, everyone is on twitter now. It’s like saying, does it make you cooler to have a cellphone? (not starting the iphone debate here)

  33. Everything is fine, say cool till now but what happens if he miss any race? I guess he would feel guilty to present himself on a social network if his base to connect on twitter is just to popularize his brand !

  34. If the right person at the top of a brand tweets, then for sure it is cool.

    But isn't Twitter simply a new PR Tool for brands that embrace Social Media.

    BP should have used Twitter during the oil spillage and sent out tweets from their innocent workers that faced the heartache of cleaning up that disaster zone.
    Perhaps if BP gave out a more humane message to the people in the area via Social Media, then maybe everybody would have shared this tragedy with BP, instead of crucifying them.

  35. Great way to engage when your brand has a following. Its been proven countless times already, this is just a different realm of celeb. Would be cool if we could send a question via twitter and he replies with a video response and, oh wait…

  36. Never heard of the guy. But then again, I guess MotoGP is sort of like soccer. Popular everywhere else but the U.S. The only thing that will keep him “on top of the world” is winning. He likely doesn’t need Twitter to move his “brand”. I mean, hell, Richard Harriman is last in the CampWorld Truck Series and he has a Twitter account. Ever heard of him? Didn’t think so

  37. People need to pull their heads out of their monitors and “smartphones” and seriously look at the bigger picture! Global tourism is down, attending two or three days of motorsport racing is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination and when you have the Football World Cup and one of the most interesting seasons of Forumula 1 racing happening at the same time you are highly likely to see fluctuations in ticket sales in countries where Motorsports draw a fairly large fan base, ie: Europe and Asia.

  38. Great way to engage with your fans and market your name. More and more people will begin doing this I believe, not just for Twitter but for Facebook as well!

  39. Well I won't say cooler but it definitely helps a brand build relations with its customers.These days almost all major web apps(brands) have their own twitter account and it's no problem if the non-web brands 'follow' the trend.But,the account should really connect to the brand's fans rather than becoming an RSS feed of its employees.