Just as the leading Oscar nominees waged an all-out behind-the-scenes battle for the votes of the Academy in the months leading up to Oscars night, the biggest tech players in Silicon Valley are waging an all-out war to be crowned as the new “it” brand in the technology sector. Now that Apple appears to have stumbled, companies such as Samsung, Google and Twitter are attempting to follow Apple’s example and cultivate a brand known for “coolness” and “hipness.” But it’s not just about aligning your fate with red carpet celebrities — as companies such as Blackberry will find out — it’s also about showcasing how your latest technology dovetails perfectly with the current cultural zeitgeist.
So what better time than the Oscars to show off the ways that you’re particularly attuned to the cultural zeitgeist? After all, the Oscars have now become one of the biggest nights in social media. In the run-up to the Oscars, Twitter rolled out a new Oscars index, which claims to track online sentiment about the actors, actresses and films drawing the most viewer buzz ahead of Oscars night. Not to be outdone, Google launched its first-ever dedicated Oscars site, filled with the latest whiz-bang features, such as the ability to film an Oscars acceptance speech with your friends using Google+ Hangouts. There’s even something Google calls “pre-party fun.” (Yes, like it or not, Google was invited to your Oscars party this year)
In many ways, the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley now resemble entertainment companies more than technology companies. They relentlessly promote their new product launches in splashy new ways and shamelessly court Hollywood star power. They realize that being perceived as “cool” and “relevant” is just as important as being perceived as technologically sophisticated.
Remember the day when Silicon Valley wasn't cool and Google didn’t advertise at all? Now, Google is making expensive television ads and crafting online viral videos. The company’s latest tactic was to collaborate in the film “The Internship” starring Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson, centered around the company’s internship program. (College kids don’t want to work for lame, past-their-prime tech companies) Even the latest Google Glasses launch for developers, as the Post's Emi Kolawole pointed out earlier this week, was actually an extremely clever, buzz-building advertisement for the new product that dovetailed quite nicely with the company’s subsequent announcement that it would be partnering with the ultra-stylish Warby Parker of New York City in the production of these Glasses.
And, there are even more subtle ways that the biggest companies of Silicon Valley are attempting to insert themselves into the popular zeitgeist. They are closely watching which ideas and memes make it into the mainstream, and adjusting their messaging accordingly. For example, companies such as Amazon are diving into the fray with ads that show they "get" same-sex marriage. And, after a presidential election cycle in which Nate Silver made it cool to use data to call the race early, Twitter and Google duked it out in the battle for predictive bragging rights on Oscars night using — yes — data. Twitter claimed that tweet density is the single best predictor of Oscars success, while Google claimed that search volume was the single best predictor of Oscars success.
What it all means is that the biggest companies in Silicon Valley were turning into the Oscars on Sunday and watching carefully. They tracked the memes with legs that emerged on the red carpet, they monitored which up-and-coming stars appeal to the hipster set. In the relentless battle to be seen as hip and relevant, the Oscars have become the see-and-be-seen event of the year for Silicon Valley.
Read more news and ideas on Innovations: