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Foursquare from Hachi’s Perspective

13 May

Hello. My name is Hachi and I recently earned my badge as mayor of PetSmart in the Lakeport Commons. My master is working on a final project for IMC 619, so he’s letting me write this post about a super-cool development in emerging media. It involves a dog food company and Foursquare.

Social media is fun. Why aren’t more companies using cyber-tactics, like the recent outdoor campaign launched by Granata Pet brand dog food, to get the attention of my fellow canines? For years marketers have tried reaching us via mass media—humorous TV spots with dogs sliding on waxed floors en route to the kitchen or dramatic close-ups of my furry peers attacking a bowl of kibble. But GranataPet is the first company to bring relevant advertising to social spaces where dogs and our people like to go.

GranataPet placed sidewalk billboards with built-in dog food dispensers, urging dog owners to “Check in!” to Foursquare and “Snack out!” Upon successful check-in, the dog food dispenser releases samples of GranataPet dog food. No delayed gratification here. Our people can watch us devour the sample and realize how much we like it. This kind of positive reinforcement is sure to keep dog owners on the look out for GranataPet—on the street as well as in the store.

The strategy to combine outdoor signage with location-based social media satisfies a dog’s need for sustenance as well as the need for social interaction. This company really gets who we are and gives us a voice in pet product marketing. We’ve become so good at letting our people think they are the decision makers that most marketers fail to recognize our influence in the final purchase. The people pay for our food at the register, but we encourage those choices when we eat certain foods and reject others.

GranataPet and Foursquare make the online experience enjoyable and relevant for dogs. It’s difficult to engage in regular social media via computers and smart phones due to limited visual perception and poor paw dexterity. I hope other marketers are paying attention and monitoring our responses. Maybe they’ll collect enough data to develop an accurate profile and suggest relevant treats, toys, and other canine accoutrements. Move over Pavlov. Today’s marketers are conditioning dog owners to do tricks like check-in on a regular basis. Get with the program and get more dogs online!

Telling Your Story: Part 2 Building A Charismatic Brand

3 May

Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation at Liquid Agency, has contributed one of the most significant pieces of literature for aspiring marketers and advertisers in the past decade. The Brand Gap successfully communicates the essence of brands and the implications of branding for marketers, designers, and advertisers in an easy-to-read whiteboard overview, only 147 pages long (plus extras).

Neumeier’s first discipline in bridging the gap between business strategy and design is ‘Differentiate’. He gives us three simple questions:
1) Who are you?
2) What do you do?
3) Why does it matter?

The first two questions are much easier to answer than the third, but compelling answers to all three are necessary to communicate an irresistible brand. Whether a communication problem involves marketing products and services online, or building an online community these questions offer a glimpse of brand personality and character so that consumers can decide if they want to belong to its tribe.

Neumeier uses John Deere to demonstrate a brand that gets differentiation. Here are their answers:
“We’re John Deere.”
“We make farm tractors and related equipment.”
“It matters because generations of farmers have trusted our equipment.”

According to Neumeier, brands that want to achieve “charismatic” status—any product or service for which consumers believe there is no substitute—it is fundamentally necessary to get this discipline right. In emerging media, such as online marketing and blog communities, consumers are taking more and more control of brand conversations. For this reason it is imperative for brands to tell their story in compelling and transparent ways that build trust with consumers.

What makes Neumeier’s suggestions compelling to me are his consistencies in regard to differentiation and telling brand stories since his earliest conversations about branding. In a 2003 interview he said, “A thing doesn’t need a circle-R to be a brand. It just needs to be differentiated in a way that has meaning in somebody’s life.” For online communications to avoid the failure of branding exhibited by dot-com companies in the late 90s, they must begin with an understanding of what a brand actually is. Then answer three simple questions in a compelling and transparent way.

Telling Your Story – Part 1: Does Your Audience Trust You?

25 Apr

Some bloggers spend a lot of time on tactics that drive traffic to their site, but it won’t guarantee visitors will return. Once traffic arrives, the difference between one-time visits and a long-time followers may be how well the author tells their story. Blogs have become a viable tool for individuals and companies to build positive brand equity through the development of online relationships. When authors tell compelling, transparent stories and allow visitors to comment, the blog becomes an intimate environment for brand experiences.

My personal blogging experience is limited, so I often look to the wisdom of experienced marketers for their thoughts on this critical component of brand development. Seth Godin is the author of thirteen bestsellers, including ‘Permission Marketing’ and ‘Unleashing The Ideavirus’. He is also a renowned speaker and entrepreneur, previously the VP of Direct Marketing for Yahoo. In his book ‘All Marketers Are Liars’, Godin offers some practical advice for story telling.

After reading the book, he suggests we ask ourselves the following questions:

“What’s your story?”
“Will the people who need to hear this story believe it?”
“Is it true?”

All Marketers Are LiarsAccording to Godin, many brands fail because they don’t ask and answer these questions. He recently changed the cover of this book by crossing out the words “Are Liars” and adding (in hand-written type) the words “Tell Stories”. This change reflects the real meaning of the book, which is two-part. First, people believe what they want to believe. For example, if you think Apple makes the best computer because it is user-friendly, then you more likely to believe it is user-friendly when you buy one. Second, when marketers are busy telling stories to an audience that chooses to listen to them, there is a temptation to tell lies or be deceptive. Godin warns us to refrain because it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out and gets talkes about (online) until your reputation is destroyed and you simply fade away.

Kyle Lacy, the founder of Brandswag, writes about building trust in brands through social media. He puts content at the top of his considerations—it needs to be compelling. Among his 40 ways to build trust in social media are being honest and cultivating integrity. He concludes by saying without integrity customers and traffic will not have confidence in anything you say.

Blogs provide a powerful tool for telling brand stories. Be sure to tell your story in a way that reflects the brand’s personality, remembering to be honest and believable.

Look for Marty Neumeier’s perspective in Part 2…coming soon.

When Life Gives You Lemons Make Short Films

18 Apr

‘Lemon Drop’ is a ten minute short film that offers lots of entertainment and very little advertising. The piece was created by TBWA/Chiat/Day New York, but it resembles the stylings of popular Quentin Tarantino films (e.g. – ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Kill Bill’) because of it’s retro styling and 70s hallmarks—a sexy heroine, sleazy villain, and unique camera angles. The production quality is amazing. It has what it takes to capture the attention of a wide ranging adult audience thanks in part to high-profile actors, Ali Larter (‘Final Destination’ and ‘Legally Blond’) and Martin Kove (‘Rambo’ and ‘Karate Kid’).

The full-length film was released on September 10, 2010 on the Absolut Facebook page. Several tactics were employed to drive traffic there, including the release of a 30-second movie trailer, print ads that appear to be movie posters, billboards, and bus stop graphics. The trailer was seeded on YouTube shortly before the September 10 release of the film; print and outdoor elements hit about that same time.

Absolut made this an effective campaign by creating an interesting film that most viewers would find entertaining and pass along to friends. Early interest was secured with a trailer and multi-channel advertising. Launching the film on Facebook added to its effectiveness. To view the full-length film, viewers must “Like” the ad page. Upon liking that page, viewers are rewarded with access to the film and other freebies—desktop wallpaper, movie posters, and the Absolut Lemon Drop drink recipe. Overall, this is a good execution of buzz-building through short films and a combination of traditional and emerging media.

Should Brands Be On Twitter?

11 Apr

The Twitterverse

There are those who welcome brands to the Twitterverse and those who wish they were banned forever. The reality is brands are part of Twitter conversations and will most likely be part of its long-term success as a social media platform.

The argument against brand accounts on Twitter is that social media space should not be a place for marketers to bombard users with selling stories. Comments range from “this is where I go to get away from advertising” to “I want to talk to a person, not a product.” Find an article that talks about this subject and you’re sure to find a few heated comments from members of this camp.

Those who think brands should be allowed on Twitter realize that they’re going to be talked about—whether they’re on Twitter or not—so they should be allowed to join the conversation. Furthermore, brands provide a means for Twitter to survive without charging fees to regular users. The introduction of Twitter advertising models (e.g. – Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends, Promoted Accounts) finally provide a much needed cash flow.

If you believe that people initiating brand conversations are more ethical than brands initiating them, you can simply choose not to listen. The opt-in nature of Twitter gives consumers an opportunity to vote with their engagement. If you don’t want to hear from brands, don’t follow, re-tweet, or favorite them. Just don’t be surprised if you’re in the minority. Many users appreciate the access Twitter gives them to brand news and information.

Smart brands realize the rules are changing. Consumers control most of the dialogue in social media and if brands want to participate, they must earn an invitation. Brands do belong on Twitter, but consumers will decide how much they engage.

Website Aesthetics: Turning Traffic Into Fans

4 Apr

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles online discussing aspects of effective websites for online marketing. Many of them address the issue of driving traffic through organic SEO and pay-per-click strategies. Not to take anything away from these important elements, I would like to touch on the importance of building personality through aesthetics.

Aesthetics will influence your visitors’ perceptions and responses within seconds of reaching a landing page. First impressions are critical in gaining attention and keeping visitors on the site. A poor impression risks losing them indefinitely. Stephen Anderson’s article, ‘In Defense of Eye Candy,’ makes a compelling case for NOT dismissing the role of beauty in a user interface (UI). First, he addresses the question, “how do aesthetic design choices influence understanding and emotions, and how do understanding and emotions influence behavior?” Then provides reasons and examples to back his argument.

The evidence of aesthetics’ influence is seen in its affect on the cognitive process, feelings and emotions as well as its ability to define personalities which influence perceptions. UI design, like product design, can be used to create personality and affect how users shape positive or negative responses. Anderson points to Dodge (below-left) trucks as an example of how aesthetic design reinforces brand personality. The visual design of their trucks imply “durability.” In another example, the Mini Cooper (below-right) has been designed to reflect its “zippy and fun” personality. A truly integrated campaign should include websites that reflect the same personality as products and traditional advertising.

Products with PersonalityTrust is also a product of visual appeal. Consumers perceive that companies paying attention to aesthetic details on their website also pay attention to product details. Anderson isn’t the only one making a strong argument for the value of aesthetics. Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap, says aesthetics are a hallmark of “charismatic brands”—brands for which consumers believe there is no substitute. According to NeumeThe Brand Gap—Charismatic Brandsier, aesthetics are the language of feeling, and people value feeling more than information in our information-rich and time-poor society. To demonstrate the powerful effects of aesthetics, he cites the example of how Morton turned a commodity (salt) into a premium product.

So, by all means do whatever necessary to drive traffic to your site, but don’t underestimate the importance of visual appeal. Making a website aesthetically pleasing will increase the time visitors spend there, and developing a personality that aligns with your brand will increase trust and loyalty.

Reaching Children Online? Don’t Forget the Parents.

28 Mar

Marketing to children is a growing part of emerging media strategies. Young children—once an illusive audience for marketers—are becoming regular targets through online games and entertainment. Gone are the days when brands could only reach young children through cereal boxes and Saturday morning commercials. Now they lead them to websites to watch videos and play games with all kinds of brand impressions.

The rapid rate of children’s marketing warrants a look at the ethical components of these tactics. Online games, no matter how ethical the content, may contribute to sedentary behavior amongst a growing population of obese children. Some marketers create games that include active participation, including partnerships with Wii, but they are the minority. Future attempts to create active games may depend upon parents and advocacy groups pressuring marketers to provide healthier online options. Currently, many parents seem content to let media and marketers decide what’s best for their children. Don’t expect this to be a long-term trend.

Marketing to children isn’t a new concern for advocacy groups. In an article published In 2000, Rebecca Clay writes about the impact of advertising on children’s materialistic values. She points to psychologist Allen D. Kanner, PhD, who describes the “narcissistic wounding” of children—where advertising convinces children they are inferior if they don’t have enough new products.

So what’s a marketer to do? If you want to build authentic relationships and long-term trust with children, follow some old advice. When reaching children, frame the message in a way that speaks to both children and parents. After all, parents ultimately pay for the purchase. The key to keeping your tactics ethical is obtain parental consent.


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