People love this cartoon. I love this cartoon. It’s a great reminder that consumers don’t appreciate being talked to as if they’re walking, talking moneybags. Instead, they gravitate toward brands that are honest and real—brands that try to connect with them on a more personal level (sometimes, anyway).
Recently, market trends have supported this idea, pushing brands to be more personable and transparent. Have a personality, the experts say. Be authentic. Make relationships with your customers. As a result, consumers are seeing some pretty cool brand communications, as well as some that, quite frankly, fall a little flat.
Let’s take two (semi) recent events that required advertisers to respond quickly on social media and decide just how authentic they were.
First, the 2013 Super Bowl. Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet was not only a relevant message coming from that brand, but a true expression of their quirky personality. I’d say it was received quite well—the brand got more than 15,000 retweets within 24 hours. And then there’s the Buffalo Wild Wings tweet, which absolutely earned high praise, as sports make up the very core of the brand.
Some brands didn’t get quite as much love. Jim Beam forced a connection to the power outage, and cars.com simply used the excuse to put the spotlight back on their commercial. Not exactly authentic; not exactly likeable.
Now let’s look at an entirely different kind of event: the recent Boston Marathon bombing. In the midst of news updates, opinions from friends, and updates from family members, I found myself reading brands’ expressions of grief on social media. And I wondered, is it okay for brands to play a role here? The Super Bowl has brands all over it, but a national tragedy? Definitely a grey area.
Brands like Southwest Airlines shared pertinent information that helped those affected maneuver the days that followed, and brands with no relevant ties simply stated “our hearts go out to Boston.” And then there were some brands, who just couldn’t help but shamelessly promote themselves.
So back to my question: Is it fair for brands to insert themselves in situations like these? Are they being authentic and real? Do people want to punch them in the face?
Like most things, I believe it’s best done in moderation, so I’ll paraphrase a great Disney learning: If you don’t have anything relevant to say, don’t say anything at all.
According to Nielsen’s Year In Sports report, 2012 had a 45% increase in sports programming hours across cable and broadcast over 2011. While the Olympics helped bolster that number, the availability and accessibility of sports programming and content are continuously expanding.
The combination of more volume and accessibility naturally creates fragmentation to customize sports viewing. There is already on-demand access to the most recent scores, commentary, highlights and news through any device anywhere. And with increased accessibility, does this really mean cannibalization will occur, similar to the effects of streaming video on prime time ratings and cable subscriptions?
The answer is no. Sports is different. Here’s why:
ComScore and Google reported that consumers watch on average 17% more TV when using multiple screens to consume sports content. Total time spent also increased as screens were added, with total engaged time doubling from one to four screens. And with more vendors adopting an authentication model, you’ll need to keep your cable subscriptions anyway in order to access the content (legally) on other devices.
So, sports content consumption is becoming predominantly multi-screen, and simultaneous usage across multiple channels is increasing. TV, digital, mobile, and social platforms all go hand in hand with sports content. They create a multiplier effect of total media consumption that’s natural to the evolution of sports viewership patterns. It’s rare that you can organically include yourself in consumers’ normal behavior and engage them on multiple screens without soliciting an action or being obtrusive.
It’s not a question of which screen, but how to use the strengths of each screen holistically. The focus needs to be media aggregation and message amplification across all screens. The brands that will stand apart in this space will succeed at leveraging all those strengths, not cannibalizing one for the other. Fans aren’t doing that. They are on all of them, and you should be too.
Last week I took a step out of my comfort zone and spent a day at the Florida state capitol with Ad 2 Tampa Bay as part of their annual Ad Day in Tallahassee! In case you have no idea what Ad Day is and how it could possibly involve the government, listen up.
First off, Ad 2 Tampa Bay is a part of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) and it’s made up of young professionals under the age of 32 who work in the advertising and marketing industry. They host educational workshops, public service events, networking events and social outings, and one of their main goals is to “encourage advertising self-regulation and continuous improvement to raise industry benchmarks.” Ad Day (March 19th) supports that mission and gives Ad 2 members the opportunity to show legislators who we are, what we do as advertising professionals in the state of Florida and how our work impacts the state economy. We visited the offices of several delegates within the House of Representatives. Super intimidating, but as one of my fellow Ad 2 delegates said, “They’re people, too.” So true! All of the Representatives we talked to were very down to earth, and it was interesting listening to some of the frustrations they have in their work. They’re fighting to get bills passed that help disabled veterans pump their gas, while I get frustrated when my WiFi is down at our agency’s first 22 PopUP event. Kinda puts things into perspective… The day really focused on reminding our state Senators and Representatives that we’re paying attention to our industry’s tax exemption status or other proposed regulations that could affect our business and our clients’ bottom lines.
The AAF 4th District – which includes Ad 2 and AAF Tampa Bay, the latter of which is for advertising professionals age 32 and above – have been visiting Tallahassee since 1987, when the State first repealed the Services Tax. Those initial efforts paid off, so they decided to keep the tradition alive. Ad Day was previously referred to as the “Advertising Fly-In” and the “Rally in Tally.” I kinda like the “Rally in Tally,” but I guess it doesn’t make sense when there’s not always something to rally about…like this year! And that’s a good thing, because it means our industry is currently in a good place.
In addition to interacting with government officials from around Florida, we were able to tour the old Capitol building and sit in the Senate Chamber, where we listened to Pinellas Senator Jack Latvala talk about his advertising background and how he got started in the Senate. His perspective was invaluable, and we all felt pride knowing that a former ad exec is now in a position to help move our industry forward at a regulatory level.
For those of you considering joining Ad 2 Tampa Bay or AAF Tampa Bay, I highly recommend it. Ad Day was both a reminder of things we sometimes take for granted, and an opportunity to be grateful for those who fight for what we do.
Following the March 7th announcement from Facebook around the News Feed update, 22squared prepared a collaborative 5-point POV document analyzing the brand implications. The biggest note is that Facebook is taking a user-first approach to its update, and 22squared’s POV reflects this.
While our team has considered user implications as well, our POV specifically focuses on brands. This POV is intended to provide our clients and colleagues digestible and insightful context around the changes. The outline shows how we plan to proactive about the News Feed changes, so our clients and agency will create the best social executions and digital content, with a user-first viewpoint.
Despite the rapid changes seen within social and digital marketing, 22squared is prepared to interpret the changes with the most valuable insight for education and strategy. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about 22squared Social Marketing practice, please contact Juliana Bowman at 404-347-8895 or via email for more information.
Whenever I travel, I’m always in a pinch to check in before everyone snatches up the good seats. No, I don’t want to be a hero and sit near the emergency exit, that’s terrifying. For whatever reason, traveling seems to evoke this sense of panic in me, and I often wish there was someone to tell me not to forget anything throughout my trip. Enter: Delta Airlines. The airline recently launched a new app for both the iPad and iPhone that is a hyper-personalized guide to users’ entire trips. The app works in tandem with a revamp of Delta’s online marketing strategy, bringing a more digitally integrated experience to its customers. From helping you choose between flights to the moment you land at your destination, the app is intended to be tied to every detail of your trip.
In conjunction with the app, the new delta.com redesign includes a personalized sectio
n with features like My Wallet, which stores payment information and travel receipts in a digital wallet. The iPad app uses a feature called “Glass Bottom Jet,” which gives fliers a look at the route below them as they are traveling on a flight, and even pinpoints connections to your social networks as you’re flying above. That feature alone is cool enough for me, but the app also lets you download suggested content for the flight, see what your social network is saying about the destination, and find things to do while there.
With the rapid adoption of mobile devices, I think Delta hit the mark on finding a relevant, cross-platform approach to being with customers throughout their trip. By making it easy for users to plan, share, and connect their experience through social context, Delta added value to users’ entire journey, rather than strictly the beginning and end of their trip.
Let’s be honest, we have all found ourselves sitting down with our agency teams, and sometimes the client, with a fully blown-out plan or creative idea, talking about the amazing possibilities, when suddenly someone (usually the brand planner) wakes up and says “I just don’t think this is going to work from a consumer standpoint.” I know, those words are like nails on a chalkboard (shiver), but unfortunately, we all get caught in the “great idea” trap and forget the goal at hand:
We need to get the consumer to do something!
Whether we are looking for sales, social shares, word of mouth, awareness, or any number of other measures of success, the common denominator is always the consumer. Without the consumer’s blessing, there will be no success.
I am in no way saying this means you should test everything. Testing is not always helpful. Consumers are usually going to react differently in real-life situations, and we all know that what we say and what we actually do can be two very different things. Instead, it is important you really understand the consumer, and yes, try to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes (sorry, I tried not to use a cliché, I promise). This is important throughout creative development, media plan creation, and everything else you are working on for a brand.
So, I have a feeling you are currently saying to yourself “Well, this talk bite is stating the obvious.” You were, weren’t you? With that, I say “Well, then stop forgetting about the consumer!” Oh, and here are three tools beyond formal research that have worked well for me over my years as a student researcher, a brand planner, and even a retail manager:
1. Talk to the people you know.
Listen to who the target is. Beyond demographics, who are they behaviorally? What are their values, their beliefs?
Who in your life are those people?
Talk to them. Understand them.
Something they say may just give you an idea.
2. Take yourself back and then bring that “you” to the present.
Were you once this person (e.g. were you ever an angst-filled teenager)?
Think back to that version of you. What did you care about? What did you not care about?
What if that version of you were around today? How would you be different? What would you respond to?
3. Go to them.
Is there a place where these like-minded consumers can be found en masse?
Go there. Participate. Observe them. Talk to them. Just don’t be creepy.
If you begin to incorporate these tools into your process and actually take your learnings to heart, your ideas will get better and the brand will be more successful. Why? Because, when you know your target this well, you are better equipped to create campaigns that get their attention and get them buying, sharing, and talking. And when your consumers like your brand so much that they are talking about it, your brand starts to become a part of their culture.
In the spirit of competition, we started our conversation disagreeing on whether Super Bowl ads should be shown before the big game. But after considering some key takeaways from the past few years, in context with today’s media landscape, we can both agree that not taking the opportunity to build consumer engagement leading up to the game would be a big mistake.
There is no audience as large or as “tuned in” as Super Bowl viewers. Audiences have grown +25% from 2002 to 2011.
In an era of skyrocketing costs and risk-taking, brands are tasked with the dilemma of whether or not pre-seeding a Super Bowl spot is worthwhile in calculating the overall success of the investment.
Super Bowl Surprise:
Back in the day, it was the big reveal. Commercials were first shown during the Super Bowl and the measure of success was TV ratings. Interestingly enough, Monday morning talk was about the commercials; we just didn’t realize this was social. There was no internet, and conversations did not go “viral” in the same way they do today. Those first memorable spots for me are still talked about today: Coke and “Mean” Joe Greene or Pepsi and Cindy Crawford.
Super Bowl Spoiler:
But today, key performance indicators reach far beyond TV ratings and unmeasured “water cooler” talk for brands. Video views, social engagement and many other factors now fuse together to create a “check-list” for Super Bowl success. With the proliferation of technology in the past decade, users are now given tools to seek out content they want to receive on demand, rather than sitting down through game breaks to ensure they won’t miss everyone’s favorite commercial. And let’s face it, are you really going to get up during the game to refill your drink and snack plate?
It used to be that Super Bowl commercials were like the “secret ingredient,” safeguarded until the big game. Now, brands are realizing that showcasing teasers or even entire spots before the game doesn’t detract, but actually provides a forum for engaged consumers. Whether the teasers/spots or conversation occur on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, brands are now afforded an additional layer of consumption to benchmark themselves for success.
And the numbers show a compelling argument that there’s an advantage to gain by pre-launching your Super Bowl campaign. In 2011, Volkswagen broke through with their “The Force” spot, debuting it on YouTube before the game. In 2012, 34 of 54 national advertisers previewed their spots or teasers before the Super Bowl. In that same year, YouTube pre-game videos of advertisers who chose to showcase their content before the game averaged 9.1MM views each, as compared with 1.3MM for those who waited until the Sunday launch. And in 2013, all advertisers were doing pre-game support. In addition, content aggregators YouTube and Adweek have partnered to provide a comprehensive Super Bowl hub for commercials before the game even happens.
At the end of the day, content remains king when word-of-mouth and social sharing are your benchmark for success. However, a spot still needs creative quality and brand relevance to inspire engagement and increase positive ROI.
Not everyone can be a winner under the new conditions. Pre-launching a spot that does not receive any traffic can spell doom for the brand. After pre-launching their spot earlier in the week, Century 21’s “Wedding” commercial had garnered only 35,000 views on their dedicated YouTube channel. In juxtaposition, the Kate Upton Mercedes commercial generated over 6 million views even before the spot was showcased in the game.
Perhaps the most compelling argument in response to this inquiry is the fact that the user still owns the right to choose. Isn’t the breadth of media options all about choice? Whether you are a proponent of the “Super Bowl Surprise” or the “Super Bowl Spoiler,” each can have its way. Users can choose to engage with a brand prior to the Super Bowl, or wait for the “big reveal” on game day.
In the end, we both agreed that Super Bowl experiences would always be different for everyone. Leveraging the hugeness of the game, the conversations and coverage that happen before, during and after the event are beneficial to brands that fully take advantage of the opportunities that exist.
Humans are social creatures. They have an innate desire to be with others. To belong.
Facebook, Skype, Twitter are technologies that have tapped into this basic human need. Developing services that are creating a more social world of interactions. A world where it’s easy to find and tap into a group of likeminded people no matter how niche the topic of interest may be. And in this social world of interactions, consumers are less and less interested in brand relationships. Instead they are more satisfied with relationships with other people. Case in point, Millennials and the fact that they’re less materialistic than generations past.
This focus on social interactions and desire for “human” interactions has ushered in a new era for marketers: The Era of the Kinship Economy. A time when marketers are freely calling out relationships between people rather than relationships between brands and consumers in their advertising. They are still talking about their brands. But instead of just listing out product or experiential attributes, brands that have embraced the Kinship Economy are talking about social attributes. Brand is secondary to the social attribute it’s touting to the consumer. And these social attributes are turning into compelling sources of differentiation for these brands. Check out work from Publix and Budweiser where relationships are front and center.
Here are 3 simple exponential ideas that can springboard your brand into the Kinship Economy.
For decades, it’s generally been accepted that all great advertising campaigns sprout from a single “Big Idea” – We Try Harder. The Lonely Maytag Repairman. Ring Around the Collar.
However, in today’s ever-changing media landscape, are we outgrowing the concept of a single Big Idea that sells our product to anyone and everyone lucky enough to hear our message?
Media consumption today is evolving into an ever-more-personalized experience – digital retargeting and behavioral targeting remind us of the shoes we placed in our shopping cart and ALMOST clicked the “Buy” button to obtain…Smart TVs now connect our TV watching to social and digital experiences. Even radio is becoming more and more customized – stations and groups of stations on digital radio (and wired directly into our phones and newer car models) that reflect EXACTLY what we want to listen to at any given time.
As the media landscape becomes more and more cluttered AND targeted, there’s an opportunity to build campaigns that, instead of driving home the same message to a mass customer base, speak to our customers as individuals, reflecting a message that’s relevant both to our product AND to the customer. Beyond the paid landscape, part of this can be achieved through the owned and earned avenues – publishing stories that read more like content than “advertising” messages, and offer added value that reflects the context of what our consumers are engaged in. There are a few campaigns out there that are starting to use this mentality successfully- the US Department of Defense, for instance, has its own TV network (The Pentagon Channel); photojournalists creating content for Flickr; print journalists creating content worthy of publishing in newspaper and magazines; and podcasts for the general public. One such weekly podcast is entitled Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military; the goal is to make modern military science more accessible to the general public.
To get through to today’s excessively busy, information-overloaded audience, we need to take advantage of the targeting and information we have available to us – and, as Shel Holtz recently put it, “be inspiring, clarifying, funny, useful or just plain interesting.” Move away from trying to force one slogan, one brand attribute, one message down everyone’s throats, but rather think like our audience, and help them understand that there is something about our product that they truly need.
Skype is on a mission to put humanity back into the way people connect. Skype has released a provocative new campaign, “It’s time for Skype,” putting Facebook and Twitter directly in the cross-hairs. The ads suggest the social networking sites are “degrading humanity” with impersonal communications of 140-character limit and wall posts.
By identifying an enemy, Skype has created a talk-worthy campaign that not only communicates a point of difference in a world of bigger fish, but creates a greater purpose that goes beyond the digital realm. Whether you think it’s too vicious, bitter or brilliant, we can all agree that the world could use a little more humanity.