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.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of transmedia storytelling, and what that term truly means in today’s ad climate. Are we really at a point where we still have to label things transmedia? Isn’t it a given that all campaigns need to be thought through with a definitive story leading the channel strategy?
I think that transmedia is a buzzword that gets tossed around incorrectly a lot. The definition from Henry Jenkins (author of the book “Convergence Culture,” and widely considered to be the godfather of transmedia) is: “Transmedia stories are those which unfold across multiple media platforms with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole.” The emphasis is mine; it seems that many brands overlook the “distinctive and valuable” when it comes to trying a new platform. It’s tempting: we all want to be early adopters, to be able to say we recommended Facebook before it was part of most campaigns, Instagram when it was still just a small community of people who liked photography…the list goes on and on. But in jumping onto the “new thing now” bandwagon, it’s easy to lose sight of how each platform can add distinctive and valuable aspects to a brand’s story.
So what is transmedia storytelling in the social age? It’s having an innate understanding of what stories are best told using each social platform. It’s knowing what your target consumers are looking for in their experience on any given platform, and what their motivation is for going there. The story needs to be tailored to the mindset of the social behavior, and needs to be mindful of what the consumer is trying to accomplish in that space. The story needs to remind consumers why they love your brand, without being intrusive. To inspire participation and engagement, simply. To provide a storyline that’s memorable enough to leave a mark even if the consumer isn’t fully engaged.
It’s giving branded content contextual significance, giving every piece of social content (from a wall post to a branded Tumblr to a tweet to a…you get the point) the “distinctive and valuable” litmus test. Transmedia isn’t always the answer, but thinking though the story you’re trying to tell, and making sure your content is distinctive and valuable part of that story is a good place to start.
Every night before my goddaughter Monroe goes to bed she says, “Tell me a story!” She’s only two but she insists on reading them herself (which actually makes the whole process way more entertaining).
As I was sitting through “Llamma Llamma Mad at Momma” for about the tenth time, I thought about the idea of stories. How story telling spans age, culture and race. Story telling is part of our past, present and future. Humans communicate, connect, keep legacies alive and teach lessons, all through stories. They have been told in cave drawings, around campfires, on paper and through movies.
And I realized all great stories, no matter how simple or complex, have something in common. They draw us in, keep us enthralled and, above all, make us feel something. Happy, sad, but never indifferent. And when we feel something, we are moved to action. Moved to share the story. In the most traditional sense, to retell it. But in a more modern sense, by pushing “like” or “share” or post to YouTube, Pinterest or tumblr. And when stories get shared, they become part of culture. They live beyond the moment in which they were created, and become legend.
One recent example of a story that was shared with me was written by Derrick Brown: A Finger, Two Dots Then Me . It’s powerful story and performance, enhanced with images that stir the soul (TRUST ME. It is worth the 7mins of your day!) Because I’m human I felt a range of emotions, from sadness to empathy to joy to admiration. But because I’m also a Brand Planner, I thought wall street obviously had nothing to do with this, and yet could learn a lot from it.
Why can’t brands be like Derrick Brown and create emotional connections and action through story? Instead of creating rational positioning statements, reasons-to-believe, and messaging strategies, we should be striving to be the creators of great stories. Stories that spark emotions. Stories worth sharing. Stories that influence culture and stories that turn brands into legends. Stories, like Derrick Brown’s that are: epic, fearless, human and real. So while other may be busy planning their brand, I’ll be busy telling my brand’s story.
Social media is imperative to reaching the Hispanic community. It allows Hispanics to easily connect and share information with families in their home countries, playing naturally into Hispanics’ cultural affinity toward family connections. Family is a priority within our culture, as evidenced by our time spent online and, specifically, on social media sites. According to eMarketer, 26.8% of Hispanic Internet users spend six or more hours on social media sites per day, versus 20.4% of African American Internet users and 8.5% of white non-Hispanics.
Social media strategies are increasingly a part of online campaigns for the general market, but they’re not there yet in the Hispanic market. And despite the popularity of social media among Hispanics, the number of advertisers utilizing this medium is far less than with non-Hispanics. It’s important for advertisers to understand that a social media campaign for the Hispanic market has to be focused on relevant content, and that it’s not as simple as translating the non-Hispanic message.
To achieve engagement, social media content has to be relevant to the Hispanic consumer. For example, a food-related Facebook page targeting Spanish-speaking Hispanic consumers should:
- Include Hispanic recipes, products and visual elements
- Be in Spanish
- Be managed by someone who knows the audience and the market, and knows the language
Hispanics are social butterflies. 43% of Hispanics with a Facebook profile log on more than once a day. They like to engage with their friends and family, and also with brands that offer relevant information and relate to their culture. There is a huge opportunity for advertisers to engage with this consumer through social media and increase brand advocacy among Hispanics.
Of our 22 consumer trends in 2012, Attribution may be the one with the biggest implications for the future. Why? It’s a conversation brands and marketers have been having since the beginning of online advertising, a conversation that’s ratcheted up a notch since social media has become a platform for consumer conversation: how do we attribute actions customers make in the digital space to ROI? At this point; as things get more and more complex online and in mobile, an ROI “equation” that fits all brands across the board is all but impossible.
Analytics have become a crucial piece of the attribution puzzle. Both brands and agencies are discovering how important a robust analytics platform is, both to track where a customer truly goes after they click and what action they take when they get where we want them to go. Do they stay and engage? Do they immediately click off? Do they make a purchase? Do they share with their friends? These are all questions that had murky answers until recently, when analytics dashboards, tagging, and tracking started becoming the rule, rather than the exception.
Target is an example of a powerhouse brand when it comes to attribution. Earlier this year, an article in the New York Times pulled back the curtain on their analytics practices; tracking customer purchases and behaviors so closely that they could predict a pregnancy before a woman even knew she was pregnant herself (and sparking some uncomfortable conversations between a father and and a teenager when it came to a her…extracurricular activities. Read it and you’ll understand what I’m talking about). It was a great article, which I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for a primer on how brands use the wealth of data that’s becoming available through tracking and tagging.
As someone who thinks about consumer behavior more than many, the article was mouth-wateringly exciting for me–the wealth of knowledge we are afforded on the customers we’re trying to reach is becoming more and more nuanced, allowing us to strategize and craft communication that will resonate with customers in an organic, personal way. Out of big data comes consumer insight, insight that’s a helpful and interesting new layer with which to color strategy.
Although it’s something that’s been said before, it’s obvious that the era of “big data” and attribution is upon us. Of all 22 trends we’ve identified, attribution is one that may have the most room to grow: as the methods with which we attribute consumers’ online activities become more and more specialized and technologies advance, new iterations of analytics dashboards will be able to attribute extremely specific actions to customers. This will allow us, as marketers, to understand and visualize the people we’re reaching in a robust, personalized way that will allow us to effectively deepen and further consumer engagement in ways we’ve never been able to before.
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.
Brands, don’t flatter yourselves, you’re not connecting with the Millennial Mom. In order to make purposeful connections with the Millennial Mom, you first need to really understand what makes this mom tick and then create communications that resonate. The word “communications” is meant to be broad, as just creating an advertising campaign won’t convince her. She can see through the smoke and mirrors. She’s looking beyond the advertising campaign and into the soul of the companies she chooses for herself and her family.
So, who is this powerful woman and what do you need to know about her to engage her and have her on your brand’s side?
The Millennial Mom was born sometime between 1977 and 1998. She was raised in a child-centric time by Boomers, remembers 9/11 and is surviving a tumultuous economy. She has different values than previous generations’ moms and she chooses companies on different criteria. She is highly educated (most educated generation to date), self-confident, tech-savvy and ambitious. Education, technology and the feminist voice of her parents’ generation have made her feel empowered. She’s comfortable with rewriting the rules to create what fits her and her lifestyle the best. Since the Internet launched in her coming-of-age, she is a natural multi-tasker who uses technology to her advantage. She’s seeking stability and control. She’s pragmatic, loyal and optimistic. She really will give you the benefit of the doubt but she’s skeptical that you can’t or won’t follow through. You can call her an Optimistic Realist. She values tradition and talks to her mom almost every day on her cell phone. She celebrates diversity (after all, Millennials are the most racially diverse generation group) and is more accepting and less judgemental–especially of other moms and their parenting choices. And most importantly to her, she’s really into being Mom. The sense of connectivity and joy family brings is key to what today’s Millennial Mom is after.
Her key influencers: her mom and/or mom-like figures, other moms in her social circle, online moms in forums, search, tradition, nostalgia, her kids.
So, with this in mind, here are some strategies on how your brand can evolve to better engage the heart, mind and wallet of the Millennial Mom:
What are other strategies for connecting with the Millennial Mom?
I recommend all strategic/brand marketers read these three books*:
“It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for.” – Roy Spence
“Start with why.” – Simon Sinek
“ZAG” – Marty Neumeier
If I had to choose only two Planning paradigms to use forever on a desert island, one of them would be Purpose.
A lot of marketers talk about Purpose. And with good reason. It’s a brand’s reason for being.
Somet clients say the reason they are in business is to make money. To increase shareholder value. Okay. But does that story sell anything? Will customers jump on board simply to help a brand make money? No. Will people talk about that brand? Doubtful.
Purpose-driven brands get talked about.
What is a brand Purpose? Let me regurgitate a little wisdom from Roy Spence. I like his definition: It’s a brand’s reason for being, beyond making money.
Put another way, what is the change this brand aims to affect in the world?
Brand Purpose is distinct from brand values, or beliefs. Values and beliefs are passive. Descriptive. A brand’s Purpose is active. Purpose sets a brand on a mission to DO something. And therein lies its power.
Here’s one example. We recently evolved one of our brands; we had been saying they stand for “spontaneity.” Now they stand for “Thrill.” These two words are related, but “spontaneity” wasn’t a mission. It merely described the shopping mindset they hoped to deliver on. Calling it Thrill makes it more active. This brand is out to Thrill you, in every channel, even in little ways. (Lucky for us, the brand delivers on this operationally; its own bit of difference in a crowded parity category.) To Thrill was a bigger ambition.
Other (better) examples of Purpose-driven brands are all around us. Look at the most inspiring startups; many are born out of Purpose. Take Kickstarter. It’s purpose is to fuel creative projects. Is it making money? Nobody cares; we’re all talking about how the ARTISTS are making money – that’s Kickstarter delivering on its Purpose. Even Facebook never set out to make billions. Instead, it set out to change the world. In his IPO filing letter, Zuck wrote, “We don’t build services so we can make money. We make money so we can build services.” Dear CMOs, CEOs, and CFOs, think about that.
These Purpose-driven brands get our attention, our conversations, and our fandom.
Let’s take a step back. When planning your brand, there are many ways in. Such as, cultural context, targeting influencers, earned media, creating killer content, choice architecture, challenger brand marketing, blue oceans, changing habits, participation marketing … the list of constructs goes on and on. But before a brand gets to any of that, it must first know itself, and what mission it’s on. It must start with a Purpose. Why does this company/brand exist? To change what in the world?
A clearly articulated answer makes everything else much easier. Since marketing budgets are never big enough to do all want, we have to make choices. A brand Purpose makes these choices easy. When we cooperate with vendors and channel partners, or even other brands, a clear brand Purpose makes it easy to brief them; your partners understand exactly what you’re trying to do, and they can run with it. Internally, a clear brand Purpose will inspire lateral thinking, and loosen your process from incremental year-over-year comp planning. It will breed original strategies, and tactics your competition wouldn’t think of. These become “exponential ideas.” They lead to exponential results.
Purpose gives a company a reason to act, and it gives its customers a reason to talk. Put another way, people don’t get very excited about features, benefits, and copy points. They’ll get excited about a brand on a mission.
So, how do you decide on a brand Purpose? There are a few useful tools. In the book ZAG, the Different/Better matrix, and “The only …” mad lib exercise. Or, follow the many great examples in Mr. Spence’s book, from brands like Southwest Airlines, BMW, WalMart, and the PGA.
My advice is to go ahead and be lofty. Yes, anchor it in your category/core competency, but your Purpose HAS to be emotional. It has to fulfill a fundamental human need. (For a short list of 5, check Jim Stengel’s book, Grow.) For example, instead of your purpose being “To consistently deliver the widest assortment of widgets to Moms,” try something more elevated, like “To turn a woman’s closet into the place dreams come true.” Or more realistically, “To eradicate disappointment from every woman’s closet.” (Given a few days of C-level thinking, these start to get better.)
Another tip: when you write a brand Purpose, don’t phrase it as a goal. “To become the #1 top of mind widget-maker in America” is not a Purpose. Your Purpose is different than a measurable objective. Think of Purpose as a rallying cry. Something that will inspire your customers and employees alike. The brand’s raison d’etre. If your objectives are the finish line, the Purpose is why you’re running toward it.
Why do we root for the athlete who’s family member is sick or dying? Because they aren’t merely playing to win. They are playing with Purpose, and we are riveted. That story becomes THE story. Same goes for brands. If you’re playing with a Purpose, people will watch, and talk. It leads to the kind of support that moves the bottom line exponentially.
Dear CMO, if you haven’t articulated your Purpose, please go back. Do yourself a favor. Take the first step first. Dear marketing strategists/planners, do the same. If you do it well and refer to it often, it will give your brand not only direction, but momentum as well.
For more thoughts on how to frame a brand’s Purpose, click HERE. (“The 3 Sizes of Purpose.”)
* There are many other good books about brand Purpose, but I like these ones.
** The other would be Disruption/ZAG. Together with Purpose, a brand has a one-two punch that puts it leaps and bounds ahead.
A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force and a Planner’s strength flows from embracing these 6 essential habits.
Anticipate: ask “what’s possible?;” practice peripheral vision
Think Critically: question everything; reframe problems; challenge current beliefs/processes
Interpret: don’t assume (you know what assuming will cause); synthesize info before forming a viewpoint; be rational; build and test your hypothesis
Decide: avoid “analysis paralysis by: using process to your benefit, not worrying about perfection and taking and owning a stand
Align: foster open dialogue & build trust; take time to really understand others’ agendas; don’t bury tough issues instead bring them to the surface and hash them out
Learn: continually grow and improve and don’t ever think that you’re too good to get better
Thanks for the reminder, Inc. Now, go forward and use the force.