Instead of chasing the “BIG” idea, we’re always chasing the “EXPONENTIAL” idea. I think today “BIG” actually refers to how much the idea spreads beyond paid media. We found most ways of measuring brand conversations beyond social media to be flawed. Personally, I can’t remember what I ate for lunch, much less if I talked to someone about a brand in the past five days. Most research methodologies that measure word-of-mouth about brands ask consumers to do just that. An online survey asking people to remember brand conversations from that day, the previous day, and in some cases, the previous week is typical. Most of them also fail to really understand what sparked the conversation. So we set out to measure brand conversations as they happen, no further than 2 hours from the conversation. Using text prompts and a short WAP survey, we found that 24% of brand conversations were sparked by marketing communications. Specifically, we dug deeper to understand what those communications did to deserve the conversation. The results were illuminating. So illuminating that they led to a new strategic construct for the agency providing a roadmap for creating ideas that will spread.
1. The Mainstreaming of Latino Culture
Not only will marketers need to connect and engage Latinos directly, they’ll need to allow Latino culture and insight influence their general communications. With 60% of the US Latino population under the age of 35, they are formative force in determining mainstream culture.
Last year, U.S. Hispanic purchasing power reached $1.1 trillion, according to estimations from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. That power is projected to exceed $1.5 trillion by 2015, the equivalent to a stand-alone economy with more buying power than Indonesia, Australia and the Netherlands and of all but 14 countries worldwide. About 50 million people — 16.3 percent of the U.S. population — are Hispanics. The Hispanic population is expected to grow by 167 percent from 2010 to 2050, compared with 42 percent for the overall U.S. population.
2. Social Integration Across All Channels
“Social Media” is no longer it’s own platform or marketing channel. Social is threading itself through all consumption of media and how consumers behave. So brands not only have to commit to the space, they have to figure out what role social plays in all of their communications…from TV down to the retail experience. Every communication is social and should contain a social element. This will change how we set strategy, plan media and create effective work.
3. Marketing Is Becoming More Local
Shaping national perceptions to influence local actions will continue to be less effective. Consumers expect local solutions in real-time. While the social web has connected us globally, it has also enabled marketers to become more local. Check-ins, inventory, meet-ups, charities, product sourcing…it’s all relevant and can be very local. Every brand needs to have a local marketing footprint and hyper-target local audiences with relevant local messaging, offers and engagement.
4. The Changing American Man
Female sensibilities will continue to dominate the workplace. Skills like empathy, teamwork, negotiating and relationships are the path to success…skills inherently more present in women. Men are in a state of flux, feeling out what it means to be successful, fulfilled and responsible. More men are staying at home. They are less focused on job success and more focused on collecting valuable experiences that prove their worth and value to their friends and family. Connecting with the values of the American male isn’t as simple as it used to be. And while women still are the major shoppers, expect to see retailers appealing more to male shoppers. The Millennial Generation shows that evolution best: among 18 to 34-year-olds, 66 percent of women consider being successful in a high-paying career or job is one of the most important things or very important, compared to 59 percent of men.
5. The Potential for Another Recession
Things are slowly improving: unemployment is down, the housing market has stabilized (we’ll see). But it’s as if we’re teetering on the edge of another financial downturn. All the while, we watch countries in Europe struggle. It seems that any small act or occurrence could throw the U.S. into another recession. So while brands are doing their strategic planning based on a recovering economy, there will likely be some contingency plans if the economy turns south. Cost of goods, consumer confidence, the job market and the housing market are all being watched closely with lots of anticipation. One thing is for sure, the values of American Consumers were shaken by the first recession. If another occurs, brands will need to brace themselves for a different kind of consumerism. One that places even less value on purchasing things and more value on experiences.
Yes, CMO’s are indeed worried about more things than I’ve listed. But strategically, these are the things that should be keeping them up at night. And it should be things keeping their agencies working through the night.
Men have been a focus of our culture lately. And not in a good way. Many say that men are coming to terms with a new male identity. One that’s difficult to define, but is less macho and more about finding confidence through realism, balance and self-awareness.
Many things have caused men to question their worth and find a new role in their family and in society. The recession (often called a mancession since it impacted more male-driven jobs than women-driven jobs) has removed the security from the equation. No longer does hard work lead to achievement which leads to success which leads to security. That’s not a sure bet. Today, more feminine skills help people succeed in business, like empathy, teamwork, communication, negotiation and relationships. Clinical Psychologist David Wexler says that, “while men are under assault like never before, with a barrage of stats about how they’re falling behind women, they are embracing change with humor and equanimity.” But, men are having trouble finding their footing amidst shifting relationship dynamics. They’re trying to find a way to relate intelligently, be sensitive parents, manage their emotional needs with more consciousness and depth while still trying to feel like men.
But men have been evolving since agencies have been targeting them. Nothing new, right? Well, not really. The real added layer of complexity that is unprecedented in history is the cultural and social stratification of men today. What should marketers do? Help them! Instead of speaking to yesterday’s male stereotypes or consoling them with inauthentic messaging, brands should be helping them feel independent, valued, respected, strong and inspired. Recognize the new Journeymen mindset. There’s no shortage of advice out there for men in the form of books, magazines and news stories from all sorts of experts. But men will find their way. And the brands that are part of that will be the brands that win.
Sources: Iconoculture, Gads of secondary reading, 22squared proprietary anthropological study
When brands strategize about how to get people talking, this is the path least traveled (perhaps with the exception of non-profit organizations who are trying to get people to change a behavior or become aware of a deadly killer in our midst). But for brands selling stuff, it can be risky, scary and sometimes controversial. As an agency, this is probably the most difficult strategy (not to mention creative) to sell to a client.
It can be extremely effective when done well. Leveraging tension can be a big win for brands. So what is tension? Dictionary.com defines it as “intense mental or emotional strain; suppressed suspense, anxiety or excitement.” Put simply, it’s hitting a nerve.
There are three ways brands can leverage tension to create WOM.
1. Solve it.
This is perhaps the best long-term play. Successful product innovations usually find some real type of tension and solve it. The result? It usually makes life easier, more exciting or more fulfilling. It involves finding real insight. Normally, this tension has been overlooked and/or accepted as convention for some time until someone brave and insightful enough comes along to solve it. A great example is the Gatorade Replay Project, turned documentary series on FSN. If you’re a player of any kind, there are always games that haunt you. That you would give anything to change. Gatorade made that possible. They solved it and people talked.
2. Embrace it.
PR sensibility says stay clean. Don’t make controversy. Shy away from it. But sometimes avoiding it is the worst thing a brand can do. Because it’s obvious when a brand tries to “smooth things over” or not alienate people by choosing a side. Two good examples of fearless brands that have embraced controversy are Dominos and Nike.
Dominos acknowledged flat out that people think their pizza sucks. And they’re openly trying to make it better. Is it better? I dunno. But they’re getting credit for facing it head on with consumers. Especially when the effort is plainly lead by their CEO. I often say that putting a CEO in the advertising is evidence that a brand is one campaign away from bankruptcy. But in this case, I thought it was bold and bright.
Nike faced controversy with two of it’s biggest endorsers in two of it’s biggest categories…Lebron James in basketball and Tiger Woods in golf. Instead of separating themselves from the controversy, they embraced it in a way that showed they’re not afraid to air out the issues of their celebrities, their sport, or their mistakes.
3. Create it.
Sometimes the brand itself can create tension. Tension usually requires a brand to take a side, pick a fight, or point a finger. This doesn’t mean trashing the competition. Brands rarely win at that and consumers typically don’t like it and/or can see right through it. It involves a brand that’s willing to go out on a limb and do something that either makes people uncomfortable and/or paints an issue in a different light.
Take Diesel for instance. They’re always creating controversy, typically through sexual innuendos. But the “Be Stupid” campaign did it right. They look at the bright side of spontaneity and free spirit while contrasting it to the dark side of being smart and rational. They created tension by challenging smart and encouraging “stupid” behavior. By making smart common and stupid uncommonly good.
However, creating tension is needs to be well calculated. For instance, Groupon’s misguided Superbowl ads, where spoofs backfired because they appeared as if they were making fun of serious causes, created more negativity than positive conversations.
For more strategies for creating talkable work, see these links:
Stay Tuned for Strategy 8: Use Scarcity
Some of the most viral, passionate, advocacy-based brands are sports teams. So I started thinking, what made sports teams so great? Was it their marketing? Not so much. For sports teams, marketing seems to be more of an ingredient that helps spur on their culture and portray it authentically… at least for the great sports teams. I explored the differences between culture and brand. Coming up with a brand strategy is so very different than coming up with a strategy for developing a culture. I think some of the best brands outside of the sports world have unique cultures. Makes me think about brand strategy a little differently.
In the last post, I outlined how the first of eight strategies for creating conversation-worthy communications: Make New Rules. This time I’m writing about a different strategy: Creating Belonging. People have an intense desire both to stand out and fit in. Feeling a part of something is often how people form their identities, express their interests/values and form relationships with others. Brands can capitalize on this by being part of the identity of a specific tribe of consumers. When the success of a brand depends on it being adpoted by a specific consumer tribe, then this is a good strategy to employ. Marketing to a tribe is different than marketing to many individuals. There’s power in numbers, and when consumers feel a part of something, when they collaborate or unify, they can create true change. And that change will be a tide worthy of riding.
So what’s important to know when trying to create a sense of belonging for a brand?
First, identify the tribe(s) of consumers that must adopt the brand for it to be successful. Understand everything about them: What drives them? What binds them together? What are their aspirations? How do they want to be perceived? What do they want to achieve? A keen understanding of the tribe is a must.
Second, the brand has to give them a way to act together. This could come in many forms. It could be a movement that consumers in the tribe can join. There can be a collective goal that the brand enables them to reach. The brand can enable the members of the tribe to better connect with each other. Or, it could give the tribe a platform from which to speak or gather. Organizing collaborative consumption can create a sense of belonging and connect the tribe.
The Great Schlep: A movement created by Droga 5 targeting young Jewish Democrats with grandparents in Florida.
Nike Plus: Nike targeted runners and gave them a the means and the place to compete, share and connect online.
Levis: With its “We Are All Workers” campaign, they helped a small city while connecting with a nation of struggling workers.
Buffalo Wild Wings: Acts as a social hub for sports fans who want a place to hang out together.
Brands who serve as platforms for connection and belonging earn WOM from both their customers and consumers. Next strategy for making consumers the media: Market a Belief. Stay tuned (via RSS feed or whatever).
Credits to David Yeend and Anna Lipmann.
Here at the agency, we’re formalizing a strategic tool to ensure our work creates conversation. The kind of conversation that makes it easier for brands to earn trust and advocacy from consumers once they’re customers. In my last post, I outlined how most advertising is designed to grab attention, but often sets brands up for failure by overblowing claims and preying upon consumers’ fear, guilt, pride, worry or doubt. We developed/researched 8 strategies for creating talkable work. Here’s the first of 8 strategies:
#1 Make New Rules
Sometimes you have to change the game. Steve Knox elloquently frames it up in the psychological construct of disrupting schema. Jean-Marie Dru and TBWA called it Disruption: Overturning conventions and shaking up the marketplace. The popular book Blue Ocean Strategy outlines many principles for making new rules.
Changing the rules is bold. It takes a bold new marketing approach, and sometimes, a bold new product/service. When are brands bold? When they’re about to die, when they’re challenging larger brands, or when they’re entering a category that has remained unchanged for a long time. But changing the rules isn’t just about being wild, crazy or unexpected. It’s a calculated decision and is often the only path to conversation-worthy work. In a crowded market with steep competition, making new rules is often the only way to succeed.
But, how? Here are two approaches:
A) Create a new space. This is often rooted in a truly different approach to communicating. One that goes against the grain of existing options. The key is to be original and go away from the competition. Do something that has never been done before.
Best Buy Twelpforce: Turned their associates into a business-changing digital connection.
Truth Campaign: Gave the anti-cigarette message something it had never had before: an enemy in big tobacco.
My Starbucks Idea: A first for them and their industry; an unprecedented listening-to-action effort
NOTE: This approach takes courage. It also requires brands to take a step back and question the conventions of marketing in their category. You have to adopt the “find-a-way mindset” in order to do new and meaningful things.
B) Break a convention. The key is finding an existing convention and shattering it. Identify the existing psychological understanding that people use to make decisions in the category. Most often, they’re not thinking about their choice, rather they’re deciding based on some gut understanding or established idea.
Axe: Before, deodorant was something that made men not stink. Axe made deodorant something that makes men impossibly attractive.
Jack in the Box: An unwritten rule of having a spokesperson: don’t kill him. They killed him.
Lincoln Financial Group: Instead of a “retirement calculator” based on a ficitious future number, they made the future personal, helping people plan through real-life events. (Disclaimer: client of 22squared).
NOTE: This approach takes insight. It requires brands to find a convention and break it, to identify a schema and alter it.
Of course, Making New Rules isn’t the only path to talkable work. Stay tuned for 7 other proven strategies.