The Streisand Effect: A Must-Know for Every Marketer or PR Pro

The Streisand Effect: A Must-Know for Every Marketer or PR Pro

You don’t have to be a Barbra Streisand fan or have grown up in her era of music to know just how respected she is. She is known as one of the greatest voices of all time. But beyond her voice and music legacy, we can thank Barbra Streisand for helping create a social phenomenon called ‘The Streisand Effect’. And it’s absolutely something every marketer should know about.
 

 
 

What is The Streisand Effect?

 
Let’s rewind back to 2003. 
 
Long before drones were created, a company called California Coastal Records Project captured an aerial photograph of Barbra Streisand’s sprawling beachfront mansion on the coast of Malibu. Although many photographers in California are known for invading the privacy of celebrities, this case was likely inadvertent. The photo was taken in an effort to create awareness about coastal erosion — not necessarily to reveal Barbra Streisand’s residence. That may have been a coincidence. 
 
The photographer, Kenneth Adelman, published the photos on his website. Barbra Streisand then filed a $50 million lawsuit against him, calling for him to “remove an aerial photograph of Streisand’s mansion from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs.” 
 
Aerial shot of Barbra Streisand's mansion off the coast of Malibu, CA

By Kenneth Adelman

 
At the time she filed the lawsuit, the image had only been downloaded from Adelman’s website six times; two of which were downloads by Streisand’s attorneys. As a result of the case, paired with Barbra Streisand’s celebrity status, public interest in the photograph grew immensely. By the end of the month, 420,000 people visited the site. Boy, did that backfire! 
 
‘The Streisand Effect’ occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, usually via the Internet.
 
It reminds me of the episode of Friends when Ross and Rachel get a new ‘hot nanny’. Ross forbids Joey from pursuing her, which only makes him want her more. 
 
 
Spoiler alert: we later learned she’s a lesbian. Crisis averted! 
 
 

The Streisand Effect in News & Pop Culture

 
We’ve seen examples of The Streisand Effect in play with several headlines over the years. It often comes up when celebrities try to have unflattering photos of themselves removed from the Internet. Both Beyoncé and Khloe Kardashian have tried this. I didn’t think Beyoncé could take an unflattering photo, but her 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show performance sparked the ‘hulking’ meme. RUDE!
 
Beyonce meme showing her lifting weights with an unflattering expression
 
Other examples have come up more recently amid racial justice reform. ‘Gone With the Wind’ was temporarily removed from streaming platforms, which ignited more interest. When six Dr. Seuss books would no longer be published, it created a frenzy. The attempts to suppress only drew more attention. 
 

The Takeaway for Marketers and PR Professionals

 
Why is this important for marketers or publicities? Because despite your intentions, your messaging may do more harm than good. 
 
I’m currently reading The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger. He dedicates a chapter to talking about the Tide Pod Challenge from 2017. You may remember the viral meme that encouraged teenagers to ingest laundry detergent. Obviously, not a good idea.
 
Tide tried to do the right thing early on. When they first got wind of the challenge, they released statements and messaging warning their audience that the pods were only to be used to wash clothing. They even tapped Super Bowl champion, Rob Gronkowski, for a commercial about it. 
 

 
 
But, you guessed it… the campaign only drew more attention to the Tide Pod Challenge, inspiring more teens to try it. Boom, ‘The Streisand Effect’.
 
This makes me wonder if public service announcements always have a reverse effect. Jonah Berger’s book indicates that pushing your audience and telling them what not to do, only makes them feel like their freedom, control, or choices are being limited. He says that if you really want to change someone’s mind, find more ways to remove barriers and help them come to a decision themselves.
 
They say some things are better left unsaid, which may also be true in marketing. We often think that over-communicating is what will get the message across, but it may inspire people to do the one thing you’re telling them not to.
 
In Tide’s case, I’m sure there were legal implications to their warning campaigns. But for Barbra Streisand, she probably should have let that photograph go. She unintentionally drew more attention to something she wanted hidden, and now we’ve named a phenomenon after her. 
 
The good news is, she’s safe and living the life just fine in Malibu. But I’ve gotta tell you, if I had a mansion like that, I’m not sure I’d want it hidden. It’s spectacular!’
 
 
This Simple Content Idea Works Every Time

This Simple Content Idea Works Every Time

Content creation usually requires a lot of trial and error, but for a content idea that ALWAYS works, I looked to some of my favorite movie scenes for inspiration.
 
Like in Miss Congeniality when the frumpy FBI agent Grace Hart becomes a stunning pageant queen.
 
 
Or in Clueless, when Tai Frasier gets a makeover and goes from stoner to stunner.
 
 
Or the iconic scene in She’s All That, when the class geek Laney Boggs makes an entrance down the stairs, stunning Freddie Prinze Jr. with her beauty.
 
 
If you haven’t guessed it by now, the surefire content idea I’m referring to is transformations. Transformations hit the mark every time you publish one, and they work for any medium. Here’s why:
 

 
 
 

Transformational content is versatile.

 
It’s not only people that undergo transformations. So can places, companies, and things. Any brand has the potential to share them.
 
We see this often on social media any time we see a person’s physical, mental, or behavioral traits transform. But an inspiring before-and-after can also apply to products, DIY projects, home renovations, or workplace culture.
 

Transformations are authentic.

 
But only if you communicate them correctly… Don’t skip right to the good part. 
 
Even a good testimonial can be a bad testimonial. For a transformation to be the most effective, you have to show the full story. Paint a picture of the bad, the ugly, and then the good. This gives the transformation more meaning and impact.
 
If you have a satisfied customer, don’t just share a happy-go-lucky quote. Help your audience understand their original problem and pain points so the transformation has a stronger story arc.
 

Transformations are compelling.

 
They give the reader something to look forward to, and there’s always a clear beginning, middle, and end. It’s likely your audience can relate to the before stage of the transformation themselves, and they’ll be interested to see how the story ends. Transformations are the perfect way to promote the idea that “if it worked for them, it will work for me.” 
 
Every great story has a strong hook, so be sure to frame your content with an interesting detail that will grab their attention. 
 
 

Transformations promote conversation.

 
If your audience sees the way things were before compared to how they are now, there’s a built-in wow factor. 
 
They’ll feel inspired to remark on the story or ask questions of their own. And since transformations typically emphasize improvements, your followers will want to applaud, congratulate, and engage.
 
 

Transformations illustrate credibility.

 
No matter what your expertise is, transformations show your impact. This can apply to products you sell or services you perform. Maybe you’re an artist who makes jewelry to upgrade someone’s look, or you’re a landscaper who gives homes some much-needed curb appeal. 
 
With transformations, you don’t have to explain why you’re an expert. They prove it on their own. This will make people trust you and want to work with you. 
 
 

Transformations build relationships.

 
A transformation is often highly personal. It’s admitting to the world that you needed to make a change. Your transparency and willingness to share the full journey with your audience not only make them feel closer to you, but it makes them want to root for you.
 
Because of this, vulnerability is key with transformations. Your content will be much more interesting if you share your imperfect experience. 
 


Transformations create an emotional connection.

 
Have you ever sat through an episode of Queer Eye and found yourself crying at the end? When you bring your audience along for a transformation, they experience the emotional roller coaster, too. They are an ideal opportunity to relate to your audience and inspire them to take action or get involved.
 
 

Transform Your Brand’s Content

Audit your content to see if you’re sharing enough transformations. This content idea works well as a blog post, short or long-form video, Twitter thread, or even before and after photographs. You also can get really creative with transformation transitions on TikTok! With every transformation you share, you’ll build trust and bring yourself closer to your audience.
 
How to Take Personal Branding Photos as Awesome as SNL Bumper Shots

How to Take Personal Branding Photos as Awesome as SNL Bumper Shots

There’s a lot to love about Saturday Night Live. The show has been going on for decades and always makes us laugh. We get to see a different side of the celebrities we love, poke fun at the media, and play back the skits countless times on YouTube.

But there’s something else that always catches my eye beyond the sketches, monologues, and live performances: the SNL bumper photos.

I didn’t know about these photos even had a name until I did my research, but SNL bumper photos are shown in between commercial breaks and feature the host or musical guest. And they are works of art. 

The photographer, Mary Ellen Matthews, clearly has an eye for creativity. But beyond that, you can tell she does her best to capture the personality of her subject. She doesn’t just pose them in front of a backdrop. She puts effort into the details to make sure each celebrity’s bumper photo tells their story. 

 
 

For example, to poke fun at Ariana Grande’s iconic ponytail, Mary Ellen playfully posed her with scissors.

 

 

Here is a round-up of some of my other favorite shots:

How to Take Better Personal Branding Photos

SNL bumper photos are a sharp contrast from the boring yearbook photos we took in grade school. Thankfully, we no longer have to pose in front of tacky, watercolor backgrounds like we did then. 

Yet, most professional headshots these days don’t embrace the boundless creative potential. This is what came up when I Googled ‘professional headshots’. We’ve got a bunch of suits and corporate squares who all look the same. 

 
 
 

Where is the personality?!?!

As kids, yearbook photos were a chance to be awkward. But as adults, professional headshots are a chance to be awesome.

Your photos are part of what make you memorable online, and you won’t dread taking photos if you make them uniquely you.

It starts with abandoning your idea of a “professional” headshot. Instead, think of them as *personal* headshots that are true to you. This doesn’t mean your photos will lack polish

 

Here are some things to think through to when taking personal branding photos:

Wardrobe – Ditch the boring black blazer. Choose bold colors or patterns that reflect your personality. Don’t be afraid to incorporate statement earrings, colorful glasses, or a vintage tee.

Location – You can do so much better than a white backdrop. Go outside, find a cool mural, or look for a venue that makes sense for your niche.

For example, if you work in sports, take some fun shots on a basketball court. Music lover? Hit up a record store.

Poses – This is another chance to get creative. Put on your favorite playlist and let loose a little. Test different expressions and do a variety of candid vs. posed shots. And smile!

Props – My favorite tip! Props are small elements that make a huge difference. They help tell your story! For my ’90s-inspired shoot, I brought a fluffy Clueless pen, a Central Perk mug, and a throwback laptop.

 
 
If you’re able to splurge, hire a professional photographer. Consider your photos an investment in yourself and your brand. They’ll make such a statement on your website and social profiles!
 
But you can also do SO much with your phone and a few editing apps, especially when you add your personal style with everything mentioned above.
 
Let me know if you plan to put take personality branding photos! I’d love to see your creativity and personality come to life!
 
Brands: How to Jump in on Trending Topics without Getting Canceled

Brands: How to Jump in on Trending Topics without Getting Canceled

If you knew all of your potential customers were going to a party, wouldn’t you try to make an appearance? Real-time trending topics are like parties on social media. It’s where your audience hangs out, and where your brand should, too. From the latest news in music, TV, sports, or movies, chiming in on pop culture trends demonstrates your brand’s personality. They are your chance to become the life of the party! 
 
The tricky part is that these content opportunities are unexpected. Despite our best efforts to plan a content calendar and get ahead, we can’t predict what becomes popular. That’s why content creation requires us to be agile, well-informed, and quick-witted. 
 
But there’s a right way and a wrong way to insert your brand into trending topics. Here are some considerations to help you avoid a social media party foul. 
 
 

 

Know your audience. 

We spend a lot of time understanding our audience’s demographics like age, location, or income level, but the magic happens when you know their interests. Research what your target customer likes to watch, listen to, or read. 
 
The beauty brand, Tarte Cosmetics, connects with their followers by live tweeting during The Bachelor. 

 

 

Listen.

Create a routine that helps you catch up on the latest trends, current events, or headlines. This can be as simple as listening to a morning radio show while sipping your morning coffee, subscribing to a daily newsletter, or browsing trending hashtags on Twitter. Google Trends is also a helpful tool for monitoring popular search queries. 
 
When the ESPN documentary #TheLastDance became a national trending topic, DiGiorno knew their followers would get kick out of this live tweet. 
 

 

Do your research.

Sometimes, a topic may be trending for complicated reasons, or to highlight a sensitive subject. Before you jump into the conversation, make sure you understand its sentiment and context. You don’t want to associate the brand with a subject that can hurt your reputation. 
 
In light of Britney Spears conservatorship battle, the hashtag #FreeBritney has been trending in recent months. The Framing Britney Spears documentary also brought it to life and started conversations about mental health, misogyny, and abuse. Frontier Airlines saw this as an opportunity to develop a self-serving and tone-deaf promotion. 
 
Frontier Airlines developed a tone-deaf promotion where anyone named Britney flies free

 

Use your judgment.

Unfortunately, marketing decisions aren’t always black and white. Don’t contribute to a pop culture topic if it feels forced. Also, if there’s a chance your content can seem offensive, insulting, or insensitive, sit this one out. 
 
Burger King should have thought twice before inciting the wrath of Taylor Swift fans with this tweet. Many accused the brand of being sexist. They responded with a promo offer to “shake it off”. 
 
Burger King tweeting a sexist comment about Taylor Swift
 
 

Have a team in place.

When the perfect opportunity arises, speed and efficiency matter. You don’t want to be late to the party. Be proactive by assembling a team and assigning roles in design, copywriting, and community management. 
 
Joe Biden’s campaign team could never have predicted a fly would land on Vice President Pence’s head during the vice presidential debate. The team quickly swooped in and saw this viral moment as a unique fundraising opportunity. They shared this tweet with the perfect photo and a link to donate. 
 

 

Think bigger.

Without a doubt, great content can make a splash. Your post may garner thousands of likes, comments, or retweets, but ask yourself if you can do something more. Pop culture doesn’t only happen within the walls of social media. Can do you something bolder by stepping offline? 
 

A perfect example is when Nathan Apodaca went viral on TikTok for his skateboarding video, featuring Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac’s song, “Dreams”. The brand surprised (and delighted!) him with a brand new truck in cranberry red. That’s a way more powerful response than a tweet.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Ocean Spray (@oceansprayinc)

 
 
Although participating in pop culture and trending topics can help you build a bond with your audience, it can also induce pressure to be “always on.” This is your reminder that sometimes the timing won’t be right. Evaluate each opportunity to see if it’s worth shifting your priorities. Trends come and go, and it’s okay to pass. Join the party only when it makes sense.  
 
What the Spice Girls Teach Us About Brand Purpose

What the Spice Girls Teach Us About Brand Purpose

If you were a young girl growing up in the ’90s, you pretty much had no choice but to love the Spice Girls. They were absolutely EVERYWHERE. If it weren’t for them, I certainly would have had a much harder time making friends on the playground.
 
I owned the CDs, saw Spice World in theaters, and had school supplies with their faces on them. My only regret is never having seen them in concert. 
 
But as an adult fan looking back on the Spice Girls’ legacy, I think about what I learned from them. For one, they taught me how to be a good friend because your girls always come first. But secondly, they were the first to teach me about brand purpose… I just didn’t know it yet.
 

What is a Brand Purpose?

It goes back to what Simon Sinek says in his popular TED Talk and best selling book, Start With Why.  
 
Your brand purpose should directly answer “Why does this brand exist?”
 
Sometimes, brands go wrong when drafting their purpose and they make it about them. They think it’s about selling lots of products, boosting their bottom line, or filling the pockets of their C-suite executives. But a brand purpose is never selfish.
 
It’s not about the things you sell, but about what those things can do for people or the planet. It’s how your brand can make the world a better place. 
 
 

 

Here are some examples of brand purpose: 

  • Crayola: to unleash the originality in every child
  • Southwest: to connect people to what’s important in their lives
  • Dove: to help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look
  • Nike: to bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world
  • Google: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful
 
You’ll notice a pattern here. When writing a brand purpose, it should always have a powerful verb, because it’s what you do for others. There is an action. In the examples above, we saw verbs like unleash, connect, and help. Simply following this format will strengthen your own brand purpose. 
 

 ‘Girl Power’ as a Brand Purpose

In their quest for fame and superstardom, the Spice Girls knew they wanted their music and careers to be meaningful. They didn’t approach their work with the goal to sell millions of albums or concert tickets. That may have been part of what they wanted to do, but it wasn’t their WHY. 
 
Instead, the Spice Girls existed to unify young girls and inspire them with the confidence to do anything. It all started with their well-known mantra, ‘Girl Power’.
 
 
Its meaning may seem implied, but when asked about ‘Girl Power’ in 1997, Scary Spice said:
 
“It’s about spreading a positive vibe, kicking it for the girls… It’s not about picking up guys. We don’t need men to control our life. We control our lives anyway.”
 
This purpose was consistent in everything they did, including the lyrics to their songs, like Wannabe. Also, in the Spice Girls movie, Ginger Spice scares off a suitor by mentioning the word feminism.
 
The ethos of ‘Girl Power’ clearly resonated with the Spice Girls’ millions of fans. They sold over 100 million records and topped every major albums chart around the world. It gave their music and work a deeper meaning, which created a deeper connection with their fans. 
 
Not to mention, the Spice Girls embraced individuality, with each member having their own style and unique personality. This gave their young fans someone to look up to and identify with as they established their own social circles. For what it’s worth, I always loved Ginger Spice.
 
Their strong brand purpose led to even more Spice mania, with the group being named ‘the most merchandised band in history,’ according to Wikipedia. The article went on to cite a quote from John Mckie of BBC stating that while other stars had used brand endorsements in the past, “the Spice brand was the first to propel the success of the band”.  
 
The Guardian‘s Sylvia Patterson also wrote of what she called the Spice Girls’ true legacy: “[T]hey were the original pioneers of the band as brand, of pop as a ruthless marketing ruse, of the merchandising and sponsorship deals that have dominated commercial pop ever since.”
 
Fun fact: The Spice Girls dolls are the best-selling celebrity dolls of all time. 
 
spice girls dolls in boxes
 

‘Girl Power’ – From Lyrics to Copywriting

If it weren’t for an ad for an “all female pop act” published on March 4, 1994 in the British newspaper, The Stage, we may not have the Spice Girls. The want-ad called for women ages 18 to 23 with the ability to sing and dance. Over 600 girls responded, 400 auditioned, and only five were selected. 
 
And then, the Spice Girls’ very own feminist movement began. They started living out their purpose. 
 
Although your brand may not have lyrics like the Spice Girls do, you still create messaging. You don’t sing to your audience, but you communicate. You are empowered to share a brand purpose.   
 
The takeaway: make sure your message is rooted in something more meaningful than your brand itself.