Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Customer Connection: Terms of Understanding

it is inevitable that as we move further into social media and leverage it for customer engagement that new approaches and terminology will come out to help define the strategy and experience.  Yet, it can require more than just creating a term and putting it out there.  I’ve come across this problem in a business perspective when associations and vendors come up with terms to describe technology and practices and it is interpreted incorrectly.  It causes confusion between what the customer needs and what the vendor has to offer.  It is not that different in a consumer setting.  I got to witness this in action.

I sat in the theater waiting patiently for Star Trek to start.  A gang of boys that looked to be in high school sat next to me and my husband.  The typical banter ensued: young, immature, crude, hilarious!  As the lights dimmed and the advertisements and movie trailers began, they began the annotations and comments of what they saw.  It was the perfect focus group test if you wanted to get into the minds of teenage boys.

Not having been in a theater in over a year, I took the experience in as a marketer analyzing the ads/commercials, and the reactions from the audience – particularly the teenage boys.  What caught me by surprise was the way the boys reacted to a new interactive experience for movie trailers – the hyper-trailer.  Now, I didn’t really get why I should care about it and it came across more like a video game than a movie trailer.  I didn’t really understand how ‘hyper’ was really better.  Besides, they way the announcer said the term I burst out laughing.  It just seemed frenetic and loud.  I chalked it up immediately to a generation gap.  Afterall, I’m GenX and advertising is almost never aimed at my market segment.  So, the fascinating thing is how the teenage boys next to me took it in.  They verbally abused it!

It seems that instead of ‘hyper’ meaning a positive and improved experience for a movie trailer, they associated it with a negative connotation.  Their discussion went back and forth over what ‘hyper’ really meant and how ridiculous it was.  Then, the word association game began all showing how ‘hyper’ was anything but positive.

  • hyper-active
  • hyper-sensitive
  • hyper-thyroid
  • hyper-tension
  • hyper-chondriac – so they didn’t really get this one right, but it was funny.

The point of all this is that creating new terms is an art form.  It requires more than introducing words within a concept.  It requires an understanding of initial perceptions and translation of the term by your audience.  Marketing has a knack for creating new terminology and acronyms to help generate buzz and gain mindshare.  However, it can also backfire if there isn’t concensus around the meaning or it provides an opposite reaction than anticipated within your customer base and market.  It could be a hyper-flop.

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Commercials Aren’t Dead

Communicate passion.  Tell a story.

We tell our stories through one-on-one conversation, phone conversations, texting, books, magazines, blogs, radio, podcasts, TV shows, and movies.  They are experienced verbally, auditory, and visually.  In marketing, we are spending more and more of our effort shifting to a single form of story-telling and that is verbal.  Our messages are increasingly moving towards mediums of online print over full sensory experiences.  Whether it is because budgets are smaller, resources are tighter, or social media is the ‘new’ thing to do, it is creating a smaller impression with customers.

There is certainly a decline in TV advertising as viewership is on the decline.  Digital recorders allow you to pass over commercials, and people that do watch are either not the right audience or ignore commercials when they air.  However, there is a genius to visual marketing and advertising in the ability to engage, entertain, and leave a memorable impression that can be more powerful than the printed word or truncated and symbolic creative.  While TV commercials are not as viable as a marketing vehicle as they once were, they are still powerful in other venues.

Don’t Give Up on Commercials – Transform

I was reminded yesterday about the power of visual marketing and advertising and what we miss when we don’t incorporate our stories into a fuller sensory experience.  First, there was a question posted by Leena Goswami on LinkedIn on how to inject some life into B2B marketing.  The second was stumbling upon the new Apple/PC commercial on CNN Money.

In response to Leena’s question the first thing that came to mind was a commercial Dassault Systems had produced a couple years back that aired on TV and websites.  In addition, they had secured a mention in a PBS Frontline episode on their contribution to the engineering process of the Boeing Dreamliner.  Dassault is a leading provider of product development and lifecycle management solutions.  Aerospace and defense is a major customer base.  Sales cycles are long and complex.  Relationships are decades old.  It’s a typical mature B2B market where the players are defined and heavy consolidation is happening.  So, as a marketer, how do you get your customers excited about you?  They told their story through video around the story –  “Create, share, and experience in 3D. Dassault Systems, see what you mean.”

Of course, you can’t talk about visual marketing and advertising without Apple.  As much as they put their commercials on TV, they are also placing them on websites, their own website, and up on YouTube.  Their latest web commercial for iLife transformed the banner add from a click to entertainment.  It’s already spreading across YouTube.

In both of these examples they not only tell a story and communicate passion, the fact that they are traditional commercials and incorporate visual and auditory aspects makes the experience more memorable.  It sticks.  Apple commercials are so good they are shared.  Dassault’s commercials set them apart from lack luster and dull communications of their competition allowing them to freshen their image and show they were a leader.

Commercials have gotten a bad wrap of late due to lack luster results from traditional TV placement and concepts that are more art interpretations than stories.  However, that doesn’t mean they are not viable and in certain cases more so than even social media marketing for awareness and reach.  Permission marketing is certainly important and preferable, but there are times when you need to get your message out and certain venues allow this without asking permission.  In an age when time is everything, permission marketing and social media marketing can be too slow.  There is quality, and there is spam.  If you are going to disrupt, make sure it is appreciated and not irritating.

Tell a story, communicate passion, know your customer.

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Creating Endurance in Social Media Marketing

Endurance

Social media marketing is about endurance, not the blips and clicks you watch daily.

As a runner, I think about this constantly. Now with spring starting, I hit the pavement for the first time this weekend since snow started falling. This point of endurance resonates with me as I think about how to get back on my game. I move along my route listening to my body to determine how I’m doing: too fast, too slow, do I need to change my stride, what is the next landmark in my route, can I go farther today?

Social media marketing is the same, as is marketing in general.

You may have sprints through your marketing vehicles, but it is how you create endurance through your total efforts that is the real pay off. Social media marketing has a variety of tools to use: blogs, networks, micro-blogging, advertising, etc. Each one is your sprint or a segment of your run. Combining these vehicles you create your long distance run. Think about the fact that you have different levels of success across various vehicles and there are peaks and valleys. What you are shooting for is that through a combination of vehicles you marketing efforts increase the connection to your audience over time and drive your business.

Relationship building takes time. You’ll get initial successes as you enter the market through social media because what you offer is new. It is how you continue to provide value in the conversation and engagement that will determine if you social media marketing efforts will continue to provide ROI. After the launch, do you maintain your engagement levels and grow them? Or, is there a drop and leveling off? Is there a drop and then nothing? You have to continue to focus and work on it.

Some of the things that I’m looking are measures that tell me that I’m building trust and relationships. These measures are based on trends rather than points in time.

  • Subscribers – Is it increasing? What are the retention rates?
  • Comment trend – Is it increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same?
  • Readership trend – Is it increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same? Are readers going deeper into additional content (more views)?

One other thing I’m thinking about is the steepness of trends. You may get a big benefit from a steep and fast growth but, it may be better to be slow and steady. It’s the runner’s pace. Until you reach leader status and have the reserves and resources, it sometimes pays off to create a pace that is aligned to your resources that will let you stay in the race rather than peak early. Peaking too early may deplete your resources and you are left without the ability to sustain the relationships you were acquiring.

For social media marketing, think marathon, not the sprint.

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Personal Brand and Sponsorship: Test Against the 4 C’s

sponsorship

Blog sponsorship is a tricky thing for those that have built a livelihood around personal brand.  Forrester sees social media sponsorship as the future.  There has also been much talk about Chris Brogan and his sponsorship of Kmart.

The other thing that got me thinking on this futher is a post from Annie Petite.  She asked this question on LinkedIn.

“What’s worse on brand equity?  Huge market share and everyone hates you, or Teeny tiny market share and everyone loves you?”

Putting this all together makes me wonder if blog sponsorship is really a good idea when you spend a significant effort creating personal brand.  Your personal brand after all is about you and your expertise, capabilities, and ability to stand out from the crowd.  When you decide to leverage that personal brand and sponsor people/products/companies, it has the ability to tarnish that image.  Personal brand can be good, but it can also hurt you.

The success of a personal brand lies in 4 Cs.  Sponsorship should fit into this mix to enhance rather than detract from your brand.

  • competence – in topic area
  • credibility – to believability of brand
  • consistency – to brand definition
  • connectivity –  to your customer’s expectation

A really good use of personal brand is to look at golfer Tiger Woods.  He has built a reputation around sports excellence, golf.  It is not a difficult leap for consumers to recognize that if Tiger Woods sponsors Nike golf attire consumers are going to buy Nike golf attire to feel more like Tiger Woods.  In addition, Nike is all about sports excellence.  This brand partnership is an easy leap because there is continuity.  Later, Tiger sponsored Chrysler.  While this had nothing to do with golf, it did have something to do with pairing a luxury car with accomplishment, which is exactly what Tiger had achieved in life.

Extending your personal brand into sponsorships that conflict or is unrelated to the image and story you have created tarnishes can have a tarnishing effect.  At the very least you don’t help the one you are sponsoring because your pitch is unbelievable.  For you, you can be perceived as selling out and loose credibility.  Your sponsorship can be incongruous with your customer/audience base’s values and belief systems causing customers to re-think your value and integrity.  At a small level, consider the situation when you would be a reference.  You only want to be a reference when you truly believe that a person/company is of value and quality.  Otherwise, it can hurt your reputation in the process.  The same should be true when lending your personal brand to a sponsorship.

The tenet of social media is to change marketing and advertising from being the interrupter to being relational.  Sponsorship done well should also have this quality.  Don’t interrupt your personal brand with sponsorship make it enhance your brand.

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It’s Social Marketing and You Don’t Even Know It

If you are trying to figure out how to integrate social media into your marketing mix, there are some great media properties to turn to for inspiration.

pbs1Traditional media has owned social marketing before we even coined the term social media.  If you think about it, PBS started it all.  They have shows like This Old House which engaged and educated you in home renovations and showcased products and services you could buy.

hgtv2Take this to current day and you have entire television networks dedicated to this like HGTV that have interactive sites, reality TV shows, and shows dedicated to blatant advertising in walking you through home shows or enticing you with items you must have.

oprah1Oprah through HARPO is another media outlet that has such a following through the TV program, website, and magazine that it can shape political opinion.  Audiences are active participants in the show through Skype, contributions through website outreach, and book clubs.  As Oprah brings information for women to better their lives, books are promoted, favorite things are showcased, movies are recommended, and personalities and experts are brought to rockstar status.

espn1The best example by far is the sports industry and ESPN.  Leveraging fantasy sports they have increased viewership and expanded their audience profile by engaging women through an interactive relationship that drives ad sales.

What I think other industries can learn from television networks is the primary rule of social media, relevance and engagement.  In each instance, PBS, ESPN, HGTV, and HARPO provides value to the audience then aligns advertising to the interest.  While traditional disruptive advertising still exists through commercials, the 40 or so minutes of programming per hour is still advertising and customers are engaged.  The advertising is so tightly woven with the experience, the audience is ignoring it at a conscious level but internalizing it so that what they’ve learned about products and services has shaped their purchasing patterns.

Even if specific brands aren’t provided, certain products get a huge lift in sales like commercial appliances and granite countertops did for kitchens. Secondary outlets like websites and magazines support the brand further, encouraging more participation and engagement, and provide additional avenues for advertising.  The networks are sustained through word of mouth of favorite programs and personalities.  In addition, they create word of mouth for products.  Audiences gain entertainment, advertisers gain exposure and sales.

The key for other industries that tend to leverage media outlets as opposed to owning them, is to create a similar experience for the customer.  Today, this is owned by bloggers and personal networks.  But, there is no reason why an industry like consumer packaged goods couldn’t provide micro networks.  I think the issue at times with many forays into social media of these brands is that they still approach them as ad placement tactics.  In addition, the goal of social media is not always a business objective but is, “get people to come to my fan page or follow me on Twitter”.  Also, non-related gimmics are used like points or sweepstakes to get promotional items.  Let’s take an example of a sports drink.  Instead of working on driving people to a fan page on facebook which either provides you with drink bottles, baseball caps, poor quality games, or worse, just a wall of promotion and fan one-liners, the page could help visitors to explore and discuss sports nutrition and fitness methods.  Sports groups could be available.  One for runners could have tools provided to share routes and events.

In the end, if you want people to interact with your brand, you need to give them a reason why.  On top of that, the reason to interact should also align to the reason why they are or should be interested in the brand in the first place.  Provide value in the experience, allow collaboration and personalization, relevance in the interaction, and you have a mechanism that will tighten brand affinity and add to the bottom line.

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