Let’s get weird

We’ve talked plenty about the potential power humor can have on marketing – as well as its potential pitfalls. If you’ve noticed, however, that some marketing these days is blurring the line between humor and absurdity, you’re not alone.

Indeed, over the past several years, brands like KFC, Old Spice, Emerald Nuts, Axe Body Spray and Sprite have embraced and advanced the marketing trend of “oddvertising.” Although the name renders it fairly self-explanatory, oddvertising is humor-based marketing with a decidedly absurdist angle to it – focused less on selling product or making consumers laugh, and more on getting their attention and making them say, “WTF?”

The goal with oddvertising, as you might imagine, is to drive and generate buzz for a brand among audiences who may be more reflexively skeptical to what some would consider “traditional” marketing efforts. That fever-dream of a 30-second spot will serve its purpose in getting people’s attention in the moment, to be sure, but its real value comes in the brand engagement it can drive online after the fact – shares, retweets, likes, comments, “WTF?s,” etc. That’s where oddvertising can cut through the clutter and connect with consumers who may not be easy to connect with.

Of course, the potential risks we discussed with the use of humor are exponentially greater with this type of approach. For example: The common thread among the oddvertising brands listed above? Their audience – millenials and younger. That’s an audience much more predisposed to this type of approach compared with others. And that’s why – as we’ve said more than once – crystal-clear understanding of your audience is crucial at all times.

This isn’t to say this type of approach can’t work with other audiences, of course; it’s only to say that it’s important to know how your audience thinks and consider the degree of absurdity you’re conveying – and the manner and platform in which you deploy it. You wouldn’t want people thinking you’re weird, after all.

Work of art

“Part art, part science.”

It’s a common phrase within – and description of – our industry, and one that does a solid and succinct job of detailing both its possibilities and the limitations. The challenge for us and every marketer, of course, is determining how much of each ingredient any particular recipe calls for.

The trend in recent years has been decidedly in the direction of the science portion, especially as digital marketing has grown in stature and the data tools we have access to as marketers have become more sophisticated and detailed. And, after all, marketers have to make a business case – and show a return on investment – for what we do and why we do it. Science (data) helps us do that.

So it can be easy to assume the growth of “science” means a corresponding drop in “art,” right? As we place more value and importance on data, do we place less value on design? That doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – the case, as this recent article happily reminded us. Through all of the disparate examples of major brands uniquely and creatively employing art in recent campaigns a common thread emerges: storytelling still matters.

Indeed, it’s as important as ever, and it reinforces the mutually dependent nature of the relationship these ingredients have. You can’t determine success without an objective way to define it. That’s science. And it’s REALLY hard to find success as a marketer without telling a creative and compelling story. That’s art.

If nothing else, the article serves as a refreshing reminder that art remains a vital ingredient to marketing success. Indeed, in our increasingly and incredibly fractured media landscape, the ability to cut through the clutter by creating some beautiful art may be more important than ever.

 

Twitter turns 10

Twitter is all grown up! If you hadn’t heard, the social media stalwart turned 10 recently. From a marketer’s perspective, milestones like this are a good chance to more closely examine a particular platform – what do we like? What don’t we like? And is it working for us?

After 10 years, Twitter has undoubtedly become an integral part of the social media landscape. Millions of users – and thousands of brands – consider it an indispensable part of their daily social lives.

As a platform, it’s far from perfect, however. Indeed, it may be the most controversial or oft-debated platform when it comes to marketers and where they allocate social marketing resources. We decided to look at the good and bad of Twitter for marketers:

The Good

  • Passionate user base. While its overall user base dwarfs in comparison to Facebook and Instagram, those who consider themselves regular Twitter users really, really like it. Brands successfully using Twitter regularly find creative ways to tap that enthusiasm.
  • Savvy user base. Regular users tend to be savvier and progressive when it comes to technology and trends. Brands can create a positive halo effect by presenting themselves as savvy and forward-thinking in the same way.
  • Improving content capabilities. Twitter’s come a long(ish) way from the days of 140 characters. While the character limit still exists, they’ve made it much easier for users to integrate multi-media assets like photos, videos and even GIFs into their content. This is particularly important for brands.
  • Potent customer service tool. Brands that really excel at Twitter leverage it as a conversational tool. Moreso than even Facebook, Twitter enables true one-on-one customer interaction, which can be of great value for companies.

The Bad

  • Labor-intensive. Utilizing Twitter well can require a lot of your time. It’s fire-hose delivery requires near-constant monitoring and observation.
  • Short content shelf life. The rapid-fire nature means your social content has a very, very short shelf life comparative to other platforms. This feeds directly into the issue with it being labor-intensive and requiring constant observation to maximize engagement.
  • Relatively small user base. It may be passionate, and it may be savvy, but it’s still relatively small comparative to the other major platforms. When so much of what determines success in social marketing is driven by data and sheer numbers, Twitter’s small audience can make it hard to justify the effort when compared with the outcomes.
  • Steep learning curve. Twitter pales in comparison to counterparts like Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat when it comes to attracting and retaining new users. This is because figuring out how to use Twitter – despite the platform’s best efforts – is still pretty much a nightmare. Those that tough it out and stick with Twitter almost invariably end up loving it. It’s just those are still a small percentage of people who actually try to do so.

As you can see, Twitter can be a dynamic and important platform for brands – but it is not without its challenges. It is certainly growing up before our eyes as a marketing tool through the continuous addition of new features and benefits – but we’re still not sure if it will ever grow up enough to truly play in the big leagues.

Range of emotions

Back in September, we discussed how Facebook was considering giving users additional options to react to posts beyond the thumbs up / like button. As you probably heard last week, they finally did it! And just like the new feature itself, users – especially marketers – had a range of reactions to the development.

Most importantly: The long-anticipated change wasn’t simply a “dislike” button, as many had hoped for and requested. Instead, users can now select from a range of emotions – love, anger, stress, etc. – to better convey how a post makes them feel.

This has some marketers clicking the Stressed emoji. As we explained in September, their biggest fear is that Facebook has made it that much easier for users to react negatively.

Instead – as we also mentioned back in September – marketers should be welcoming the new system. For starters, they’ll get exposure to a richer and broader data set than they could previously access.

Secondly, it creates richer and broader opportunities when it comes to content strategy. Too often, marketers turn Facebook content into fishing expeditions, looking to lure in as many likes as possible. The new system lends itself to more versatile storytelling and more opportunities to connect with audiences on an emotional level – and, in turn, strengthen the emotional connection to their brand.

Bottom line: Like most things in life, the new system is not without its challenges and potential pitfalls. This doesn’t mean it should be feared by marketers, however; it should be welcomed as an opportunity to broaden their content strategy and tell more compelling stories. And that, as we said in September, deserves a big thumb’s up.

You can read our full post on the topic from September.

Mad science

Marketing, the saying goes, is part art and part science. Good marketing, the saying also goes, is determining how much of each part a client or campaign requires. Social media, it turns out, is becoming increasingly valuable when it comes to figuring out how much science is needed for success.

Of course, amassing and mining all that data used to be a Herculean – if not impossible – task for most in the marketing world. Social media has made the process of data analysis much more accessible, efficient and effective. You just have to know how – and where to look.

After all, each like, share, comment, retweet and regram on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc., adds to the growing, valuable pile of social data attached to your cumulative social presence. Facebook Insights, for example, makes it easy to see and understand everything about your activity and presence. That includes making it easier to answer the questions most commonly asked by marketers:

  • Are we connecting with the right people? Social sites make demographic data of your followers available, which helps to ensure the people you’re talking with on social media are the people you want to be talking with – your customers and other key audiences. Further, they are getting increasingly sophisticated at providing psychographic data as well.
  • What’s generating the most interest and engagement? You can view data attached to the content you’re sharing on a post-by-post level to determine which types of content generates the most engagement among your audience. Better understanding which content is most effective – and which content isn’t – helps you answer the next question.
  • What do we need to change? The additional beauty of social data is that it enables you to make changes or refinements to your strategy in real-time. If we find content that is performing markedly better than everything else, how can we adjust our content strategy to increase its role? Conversely, how can we minimize or eliminate the content that isn’t working? This can apply to every detail and aspect – even to the days and times you post.
  • Is what we’re doing working? Answering this question is the ultimate goal when leveraging social data, and answering each of the questions above, ideally, makes it easier to answer this one. It’s important to remember that this question – and how you answer it – is fluid and ongoing. Set touchpoints on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly) to sit down, dive into the data on a deeper level and reach this conclusion.

Data plays a crucial role in understanding the science part of the marketing game. Social media has democratized the process of compiling and understanding data – and using it to positively impact your overall marketing strategy and business success. That’s where the art comes in.

 

Escape from Marketing Island

As marketers, it can be easy to feel like we exist on an island. To bury ourselves in our work and maintain an exclusive, almost laser-like focus on…well…our marketing. Because that’s what we do. The same can be said of salespeople – existing on their own island, maintaining their laser-like focus on…well…their sales. Because that’s what they do. But what if working together – building a bridge between those two islands – made both sides better?

Sales and marketing are often lumped together in terms of how a business operates, which makes the seas that can rise up between these two islands all the more surprising – and disappointing. Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, after all, and neither does sales.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Indeed, as this recent article helpfully reminds us, “by collaborating with sales reps during the content development process, marketers can create content resources that will better meet the needs of salespeople.” And, in turn, such collaboration means salespeople can help marketers more effectively create such content.

How? Well, as the same article explains, there tend to be six levels or degrees of personalization when it comes to content marketing. These cover the full spectrum, from generic (no personalization) content to lead-specific (highly personalized, one-on-one) content. Marketers can often see the most productive use of their time spent at the more generic end of the spectrum – delivering the most content to the most people – while salespeople often want to spend the majority of their time at the more personalized end of the spectrum – building and maintaining individual relationships with customers and prospects. How, then, can we bridge this divide?

For marketers, the key is to move further down the personalization spectrum. While true one-to-one content marketing isn’t always feasible or practical, making content more segment- and audience-specific can empower sales people by providing them with a marketing asset that’s more personalized and targeted.

Equally important is the ability of marketers to train, equip and support salespeople to either personalize existing content, or create individualized content for their end of the spectrum. “The conventional wisdom,” the article continues, “has been that salespeople should not be spending their time developing content.” There are certain types of content, however, that are best left for a member of the sales team to develop.

Salespeople can help marketers become more effective in developing more personalized and targeted content. And marketers can help sales people become more effective in developing content of their own in the right situations. This is where collaboration between sales and marketing – bridging those two islands – can be so valuable and profound.

Push and pull

We talk a lot about social media, content strategy and digital marketing ‘round these parts. And for good reason, of course; an active and engaging social presence, backed by a high-quality website, provide your audience a high-profile destination befitting of a leading brand like yours. This very important aspect of your overall marketing shouldn’t exist in a vacuum, however. After all, what good is a great destination if no one knows it exists – or how to find it?

In the marketing world, we call it having a healthy balance of “push and pull“. The “pull” comes from your destinations – those platforms you manage (website, social channels, etc.) The “push” is how you proactively connect with your audience, promote your pull presence and, ultimately, drive them there.

It was this article, in fact, that got us thinking about push and pull – and about ensuring that “push” in particular is a key component of your overall marking effort. The important question, then: What are some ways we can push awareness of our social media and digital presence and pull them to it? Here are a few for you to consider:

  • Email marketing. An incredible, outstanding example of which you’re reading right now! Odds are, you have an impressive database of email addresses for current customers, prior customers, vendors, suppliers, etc. Email marketing – developing and delivering an informative/education email on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, etc.) – is a great way to both demonstrate your company’s industry expertise and to drive them toward your social/digital presence.
  • Email marketing. Wait, what? Didn’t we just cover this? We did, but there’s also an easier way to use email to drive awareness of your social and digital presence – include it in your email signature. While, at first thought, it may not have the same impact as the email marketing discussed above, consider the cumulative effect of everyone in your organization including links to your social presence in their email signatures – and then how many emails you send on a daily basis. That can drive a lot of awareness.
  • Everything else. Do a deep, comprehensive audit of all the many different touchpoints you have with your current and prospective customers – business cards, print ads, signage, product packaging, on-hold messaging, etc. How and where can you drive awareness of your social/digital presence on any or all of them simply by adding links and/or logos?

From your own email marketing strategy to simple email signatures, there are a number of effective ways you can drive awareness of your social presence to your key audiences and pull them in. All it takes is a little push to get started.

 

Chief Executive Cheerleader

Much is discussed about the importance of brands identifying and engaging with key influencers – the prominent customers and other leaders that stand tall in their respective industries – and turning them into social advocates on behalf of its products and services. And for good reason – their support lends an authenticity to your marketing that is hard to produce otherwise. We so often cast our gaze outward when identifying these influencers, however, that we sometimes forget the most powerful ones may be right in front of us.

Creating brand ambassadors and advocates out of our own employees offers significant upside for brands. After all, as this column recently reminded us, employees are a company’s most valuable and important asset. Beyond that, however, they are often regarded as its most trusted influencers.

At the same time, enabling employees to become brand advocates is not without its risks and potential pitfalls. To ensure employees are not just enabled but empowered to act as social advocates, marketers need to make sure employee advocates:

  • Know the rules. Establish an official social media policy for anyone and everyone who may represent the brand in any capacity via social media, and make sure everyone clearly understands it.
  • Know the story. It stands to reason that employee advocates should clearly know your brand’s voice and personality to ensure consistency of voice across all communications and touchpoints.
  • Know the game plan. Educate employee advocates on your marketing strategy – especially the role social plays in it – so they have objectives and goals in mind when developing content and engaging with audiences.
  • Are supported. Creating and/or curating high-quality content that reflects positively on your brand ensures employees are armed with the resources necessary to be consistent, compelling and sustainable in their activity.

The thought of ceding control to employee advocates can understandably make some marketers nervous. Done carefully and with proper planning and preparation, however, turning employees into social story-tellers can be a powerful, long-term marketing tool.

Can we be friends?

For companies of all sizes, a successful social media presence is predicated on understanding your audience. It’s not enough to understand your audience, however. You also have to grow it.

First, an IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE: Growing the number of likes or followers should not be a strategic objective in and of itself, of course. And when it comes to audience, quality is just as important as quantity.

That being said, you should should always think about growing your social audience on a consistent basis. The more people you engage with overall, it stands to reason, the more successful you’ll be at meeting your strategic objectives and growing the bottom line.

How, then, do you grow your audience? How can you effectively increase your likes, followers, reach and, most importantly, engagement? As this recent study shows, there are myriad ways for companies to increase audience. Below, we highlight some of the most effective ways, listed in order from easiest to, well, less easy.

  • Ask. Making sure your audience is aware of your social presence and then asking them to join you there can be surprisingly simple and effective! The real work is in identifying all the external touchpoints you have with customers – email signatures, product packaging, website, etc. – and then ensuring it’s easy to find and connect with you socially.
  • Entice. Running periodic product giveaways and prize promotions can also be an effective way to drive up the size of your audience in short order. It’s keeping them there after the promotion is over that becomes more difficult, yet so important.
  • Entertain. We’ve talked before about the value of humor in your social presence. Whether it’s sharing/repurposing widely popular themes or finding your own funny bone, humor is often the quickest way to an audience’s heart. This works for inspirational content as well.
  • Educate. Content is king for a reason – it may not be easy working your way up to the throne, but it sure is worth it. As the study mentioned above shows, nearly 80 percent of brands say producing useful content is the most effective way for them to attract customers to their social media presence.

The best approach to growing your audience, of course, is a healthy balance of all of the above, underscoring the importance of a living, breathing content strategy. Growing your audience is not the goal itself, but the process can certainly make you more effective in achieving your overall marketing goals.

 

All apologies

Company apologies are never easy. From mea culpas to individual, disgruntled customers to worldwide “whoopsies!” for major blunders or scandals (hello, VW and BP!), the company apology is a treacherous road for brands to navigate. Done poorly, they can cause companies to come off as callous and indifferent – or, even worse, open them up to excessive liability and legal action. Done right, however, they can also be an opportunity.

We’ve been thinking about this more and more as the VW scandal in particular continues to expand. While that one is quickly reaching the level where no amount of apologizing will atone for the damage done, it’s the exception to the rule. For the vast majority of company miscues calling for an apology, an effective utilization of “our bad” can turn be a unique chance to humanize your brand – and, as a result, strengthen the connection your customers have with it.

So what makes for the right kind of “we were wrong?” Generality speaking, a successful apology will be based on these tenets:

  • Be honest. This should seem obvious, no? And yet, many are the examples where a crisis can’t be contained because the company wasn’t fully and completely forthright in its scope from the outset. (VW is a glaring example of this unfolding in real-time.) Damage can be contained more effectively if information doesn’t continue to drip out slowly at irregular intervals.
  • Be genuine. An apology should have just the right amount of emotional quality to it. It should be heartfelt and feel authentic.
  • Be brief. Internally, make sure you know everything about the issue at hand. Externally, be direct and to the point. You can be honest and transparent while only sharing the most relevant details of an issue.
  • Be positive. The best kind of apology puts the transgression in perspective while pivoting toward the positive features and benefits of a particular product or service.

The path to a proper company apology is full of potential potholes, to be sure. Handled thoughtfully and thoroughly, however, a company can make sure it’s not sorry it said sorry.

 

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