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.

 

On the Go

So! Pokemon Go. If you’re not one of this runaway hit game’s increasing number of players, you’ve more than likely seen others playing it out in the wild. The augmented reality (AR) game has literally taken the world over since its release just a few weeks ago. While it may be just the next in a long and constantly evolving line of “hot” apps that take the world by storm, there are some unique characteristics of Pokemon Go that can offer some important lessons.

What helps make Pokemon Go so popular? And are they things companies can take advantage of?

  1. Simplification. The best games, the old saying goes, should be simple to learn, but difficult to master. The concept of Go is pretty simple – “Gotta catch ‘em all!” – but actually catching them all is very rare. This keeps players engaged in the game more frequently and at greater length.
  2. Gamification. Using AR technology, Go uses your phone to turn the real world into a video game, making the experience immersive – and competitive. By putting players in direct competition with those around them and in their community, it also drives stronger ongoing engagement.
  3. Physical integration. This isn’t an app or game you play sitting at your computer, or in your living room, or in the car. It forces you out into the real world, exploring – and interacting with – various locations throughout your community. And this is where the real opportunity is for retailers in particular: what can you do to draw Go users to your locations? What incentives can you provide?
  4. Social integration. This refers to your actual social network, for once. It’s not uncommon to see groups of friends, co-workers and even families out exploring and playing Go together. This makes the game much more of a shared experience than your traditional app or video game – and it creates a unique opportunity for certain companies/retailers. Again, how can you capture groups of people and lure them to your retail locations?

Pokemon Go is that rare mobile phenomenon that actually makes people more, you know, mobile. It’s also not your traditional app or social network, meaning it can be easy for companies to overlook. It’s important to remember, however, that opportunities to engage with customers and community are everywhere – gotta catch ‘em all!

The missing Link?

Most people think of LinkedIn as an individual, as opposed to organizational, marketing tool. And sure, it’s quite a potent tool for a lot of professionals – salespeople and HR teams, for example. (And aspiring motivational speakers, judging by one’s feed on certain days.)

Companies who overlook or neglect their company pages on LinkedIn, however, may be overlooking an important and undervalued weapon in their enterprise marketing arsenal.

In addition to the marketing value LinkedIn offers individuals, its company pages can be a potent tool for organizations as well. While they function most similarly to Facebook pages – content posting in a single-column, reverse-chronological feature – their features (and potential benefits) differ slightly. For almost all brands, the most important features and benefits of a well-managed LinkedIn company pages include:

  • A captive audience. People are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al, for personal experience as often as for professional reasons, if not more. Not so with LinkedIn, where users are almost exclusively focused on professional stuff.
  • Corporate communications tool. A LinkedIn company page provides an excellent secondary channel for corporate communications like press releases, product launches and links to positive media coverage.
  • Culture communications platform. Company pages can be a real asset for HR teams in their recruiting efforts, by providing a good platform for highlighting all aspects of company culture and employee experiences.
  • Industry research and intelligence source. Company pages for competitors, vendors/suppliers, trade media, etc., can be rich sources of industry trends, developments and opportunities.
  • Content marketing. Company pages are also great secondary channels for blog posts and other content you’re already generating as part of an overall content strategy.
  • Driver of website traffic. Facebook’s ultimate goal with everyone – brands included – is to keep them contained within Facebook as much as possible. LinkedIn company pages, on the other hand, can be a useful tool for driving incremental traffic to your website on a consistent basis.

It can be easy to overlook the LinkedIn company page as an important tool for brands, especially when dealing with limited time and resources. The good news? They can also be easy to integrate them into an overall social marketing plan – and almost always worth the time and resources.

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.

Social Anxiety

Company CEOs are responsible for a lot. From setting the long-term strategic future of their companies to driving their short-term health and success, CEOs play several important roles. There seems to be one role, however, too many are avoiding.

A recent study from CEO.com shows that more than 60 percent of large-company heads have no social media presence at all – not all that surprising, actually, when you read further and find how many view an active social presence as more negative than positive, especially when it comes to their brands.

Those leaders opting to stay on the social media sideline are missing out on big – and unique – opportunities, unfortunately. While still in the minority, the list of CEOs becoming active on social continues to grow – and continues to demonstrate daily why it’s a smart marketing move for CEOs and their companies:

  • It sends a message about their brand. Perception is reality, we’re reminded all too often, and usually because of negative circumstances. On the flip side, however, savvy consumers perceive CEOs who maintain an active presence on social media very positively. And that perception often extends across the entire brand.
  • It’s where your customers are. As companies grow, so do the layers of insulation around CEOs. Sometimes, this insulation gets to the point that it’s hard for a company’s leader to truly know what’s taking place on the front lines, especially when it comes to customers and their experiences. In addition, social provides a window into what customers really think about their services, their products, and their people.
  • It helps build trust, inside and out. CEOs must consistently fight against the perception – there’s that word again – that they’re removed, insulated and out of touch. An active presence on social media can help leaders change those perceptions – and build a stronger level of trust with both employees and customers in the process.

If you’re a CEO fearful of becoming active on social media, fear not! Instead, embrace it. Employ it. Enjoy it. You, as well as your customers and employees, will be glad you did.

 

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.

 

Getting in the game

It’s Super Bowl week, you guys! While most people get excited about the game, our focus is on the real stars of the show – the ads, of course.

Advertising in the Super Bowl is a wee bit on the pricey side, if you hadn’t heard; an average 30-second spot in this year’s game is now pushing $5 million. This astronomical cost helps to explain why so many advertisers want to get the most out of their spend by creating ads that will go viral, extending their shelf life indefinitely online. It also explains why most brands are eliminated from participating in advertising’s biggest day of the year – well, officially, at least.

This is mostly because a growing number of people don’t just watch the game – and its ads – on their TVs anymore. Increasingly, they’re bringing a second screen (phone, tablet, laptop) into their viewing experience. This second screen enables them to discuss and debate in realtime with their social networks via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. It creates a conversation around the single most watched that is instantaneous, intimate and entertaining all at once.

It also creates ample opportunities for enterprising marketers. Sure, you may not be able to drop a couple million on a 30-second spot, but you can still take advantage of the most captive audience of the year, using your brand’s official social media channels. Here are a couple of relatively easy ways to bolster your brand during the big game:

  • Offer your opinion. So you couldn’t afford an ad yourself. Big deal! You can still share your opinion on the all the ads shown throughout the game. Use humor to discuss what you like about each spot – and keep a running list of your favorites to share after the game wraps.
  • Home in on hashtags. To take full advantage of the sizable second-screen audience, observe which hashtags are “official” or most widely used, especially when it comes to the game’s ads. This extends the reach of your tweet or Facebook post or Instagram post beyond your traditional audience in an exponential way.
  • Put out a little play by play. Sure, we’re partial to the ads, but some people like watching the game, too! Offer commentary about the game, especially on big plays. As Oreo showed a couple of years ago, you can make a social media splash even when the lights go out.

It may cost you some time out of your Sunday evening, but marketers can score a touchdown for their brands in front of one of those things that are increasingly hard to come by in today’s decentralized media world – a massive, captive audience. And it won’t cost you $5 million.

Search mission

For marketers, Facebook does a lot of things well. One thing it doesn’t do well for anyone, however, is search. Using the search function to actually find anything of value on Facebook – especially anything outside one’s own network of friends, family and page likes – has long been an exercise in futility for most, if not all, users. All of this all should change for the better very soon, as Facebook recently announced some big updates to its search function – and they could be of great help to marketers on the site.

Here’s the most important feature of SearchFYI, as Facebook is calling its new and improved tool: now, search results include posts from the entire Facebook universe, which is more than two trillion posts to date. Users will now be able to see search results across the entirety of content on Facebook, making it more of a true, Google-like search engine within the platform’s walled-off world.

Will this be a good thing for marketers? Absolutely. How and why? Well, that remains to be seen, especially as SearchFYI is just getting up and running. Even if it’s real implications for marketers aren’t fully clear just yet, SearchFYI does offer some immediate opportunities and reminders:

  • Content is king (forever and always, amen). As if you needed another reminder. Knowing your Facebook content will now be viewable to all users should emphasize having a solid content strategy and ensuring your page content is relevant, valuable and targeted.
  • Conversations in the key of life. With access to the full Facebook universe, marketers should be able to get a fuller, more comprehensive picture of conversations taking place around the keywords and phrases important to them. This includes keywords for their own brand/products/services, of course, but can also also include keywords for competitors, industry topics, thought leaders, etc.
  • One big ol’ happy focus group. Opening up all of Facebook to search gives marketers access to an amazing amount of input, feedback, insights, complaints, etc., about their products, services and brand. It will be ongoing and in real-time, making it the best kind of focus group you could imagine.
  • Facebook is still really, really important. Well, duh. This seems obvious, but it reinforces Facebook as a core foundation of just about any social media strategy for marketers.

A stronger search function on Facebook will not only help marketers be more successful on the platform; if they utilize it correctly, it can also help them be more successful marketers all-around and across all touchpoints.

 

Just in time

Just in time

As you may have heard, the Pontiff is in town this week! Pope Francis’s historic visit to our fair little country has dominated local and national media coverage almost nonstop. In our fractured media landscape, such instances of a singularly dominant news event are increasingly rare – and even more rarely are they for “positive” news.

As such, the opportunity to connect themselves to such an event and position themselves brand in front of such a large and captive audience is obviously very enticing to a lot of brands. Just because you can do something, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

The rise of social media has fueled the increase of “real-time marketing” – the ability for brands to market in real-time based on popular and/or high-profile events. The big deal used to be – and still is, to some extent – who had the best Super Bowl commercial, for example; equally important nowadays is who has the best tweet based on actual events taking place during the game.

It’s an exciting proposition. Again, with our media landscape as fractured and decentralized as it is, it’s a big deal to be able to take advantage of so many people in the same “place” at the same time. A perfectly timed tweet or Facebook post can positively position your product in front of a massive, rapt audience.

As with anything, however, there are potential downfalls. Even with a captive audience, it can be hard to cut through the clutter. And you can come off as overly opportunistic or woefully out of touch if your product (or your brand) isn’t even remotely connected to the event or topic. Sometimes, it’s better to be quiet than to be obnoxious or tone-deaf. (We call this the “9/11 Rule.” It’s fairly self-explanatory.)

For some brands – like Fiat – it’s easier to capitalize on the Pope’s visit than it is for others. Like anything, successful real-time marketing requires a healthy combination of circumstance, observation and, most importantly, discretion. The event – and the opportunity it presents – needs to be more than just big. For your product and your brand, it needs to be right.

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