November 24, 2010

Evaluating Creative

When watching TV, reading a magazine or surfing the web, what is it that makes a brand's ad stop a consumer? Like art, it is subjective. While Impressionism may resonate with some, others gravitate towards Abstract and Pop Art. Similarly, the humor in an ad may be what is memorable to one, while others remember the music or unique camera angles. However, just because you remember the ad, doesn't mean that you can recall what brand it was for. When evaluating creative, on a subconscious level, consumers are probably asking themselves the following questions:

  • Does this ad make me laugh?
  • Does the ad evoke an emotional response in me?
  • Do I remember the product?
  • Am I already a fan of the brand?
  • Will I talk about this ad with friends and family?

This subject has come up on two different occasions during the past week. Sitting at a bar with friends on Friday night, one member of the group started talking about our favorite ads on the air right now. We all came from different industries ' marketing, consulting, technology. Only a few responses were the same ' Apple, Budweiser, Nike. One friend said Geico. Since there are currently three or four campaigns on the air, I was curious as to which one. His response, all of them. Whether the Cavemen, Gecko or the Rod Serling-esque announcer, he remembered that they were all Geico. And, more importantly, they all made him laugh. Does having that many different campaigns dilute their brand or cause consumer confusion? From my informal focus group of a few, apparently not.

While at a TV shoot for one of my clients, we were talking about what a brand needs to do to stand apart from all the clutter in today's marketplace. The oversaturation of marketing messages is much greater today than even a decade ago. What are the campaigns we remember and why. We agreed that the use of music in Apple's iPod ads differentiates them. The PC vs. Mac campaign's simplicity against a white backdrop is now something other brands try to emulate. The Old Spice 'The Man Your Man Can Smell Like'? campaign brings the message to life in a 360 degree way.

One thing was certain. As long as the ad reflects a brand's personality, goals and objectives, whether or not it is liked by the public is a matter of personal opinion. Ask the question the next time you are with a group of friends. Their answers might surprise you.

December 1, 2009

5 Reminders, Tips, and Lessons about Social Media Strategy from the Ad Club Panel

This morning, a couple of us had coffee and some OJ with the Ad Club and their three panelists talking about social media strategy: 'Dunkin''? Dave Puner of Dunkin' Brands, Inc. (@dunkindonuts), Tom Matlack, co-editor of The Good Men Project (@TMatlack) and Janet Swaysland of Monster Worldwide. Listening to these social media rock stars, I was reminded of a few fundamentals that all too often we forget:

Even the pros were once newbies.
Up until a little over a year ago, even Dunkin' Dave was new to Twitter and Facebook and claims, of the entry into the social media space, 'we knew there were conversations happening about our brand, we just didn't know if we would be welcomed by our consumers to join the conversation.'? The lesson? They were welcome and indeed it is still better to try to guide and be a part of those discussions that are happening about your brand. To date, @DunkinDonuts has gained nearly 40,000 followers on Twitter and over 950,000 Facebook fans. The other lesson? It's natural to be hesitant, but you have to trust (Janet's advice) that it will work if done right and know your brand (Dave's advice) and your intentions.

Don't forget to find your evangelists and show them some love.
Much like the problem child getting all the attention, it's easy to get wrapped up in the negative comments ' and you will hear them ' from consumers instead of paying attention to the people who <3 you. Remember ' your loyalists need love too, maybe even more attention than the problem child. Never forget to thank the people who share their love for your brand and remember, when things get rowdy with a negative comment or two, it's usually your loyalists that will come to your defense.
Treat each community differently.
Streamlining is great, but remember that consumers use each of the spaces differently. Think about what you personally (not professionally) do on Facebook v. how you use Twitter v. what and how you're really (don't lie) watching and sharing on YouTube. Now think about your brand's professional strategy and how you approach each of them. Are you thinking about the content you are creating (oh, and, you ARE creating content by the way) and the purpose of your brand's use of each space? Do it.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
It's easy to get excited about the ways you can use social media. OOH OOH! Customer service! Oh wait!! Recruiting! OOH we should try a direct drive to sales and share exclusive deals! Especially when getting started, be sure to prioritize and know your purpose for being there. What conversations are happening already? Are you leveraging them? Or do you want to start entirely new conversations?

ROI is tricky.
There are an abundance of ways to measure influence in social media'?¦at AMP we call a combination of those measurements a return on engagement (ROE) or return on relationship (ROR), but a traditional ROI can be tricky ' often do-able, sure, but always tricky. Plunging into social media may require a shift in economics for your marketing plan. It's not all dollar signs, there really is a direct benefit of engaging directly with your consumers, but it may be difficult to directly measure its monetary value. Based on your goals, identify how you want to measure the effects of your brand's presence ' if your goal is customer service, then how quickly was the customer issue resolved on Twitter? How efficiently? How happy was the customer in the end? If your goal is sales, what technology are you leveraging to track this? Measurement will always be an enormous part of any social media strategy, but it's important to understand that the way you have traditionally measured success in your other marketing plans may need a tweak or two. Trust us'?¦if you can get your business into this new mindset, it will be worth it.

November 11, 2009

Crossing Moats and Scaling Castles

Here is something to think about. Consider two brands in the electronics category. Brand A has clearly defined technical superiority, a 30 year + history, as well as dominant brand awareness and distribution at retail. Brand B has an entrepreneurial bent, clear brand positioning as a 'cool' challenger brand, secondary retail placement and is a smaller business.

Brand A spends 10x what Brand B spends in marketing. Brand A focuses on traditional media; print, broadcast and newspaper. Brand A spends on digital; display and PPC. Brand A spends $0 on social. Brand A spends zero time on social. Brand A has not one person assigned to social. Brand B spends $0 on traditional. Brand B has six full-time employees dedicated to social. Brand B is measuring the efficacy of their investment in dollar based ROI.

As I approached the display at retail featuring both brands with questions regarding respective effictiveness and quality, I couldn't find an employee to discuss (brief note to thank our nation's wonderful electronic's retailers 2010 ' topic for another time). So with no in-store sales assistance, I took out my mobile, queried vark, and asked each brand's respective social presence, Facebook and Twitter specifically, and got perspectives from my own social network. I immediately received feedback from each of the brands. One gave me their feedback through lack of response. One responded back immediately. The feedback was clear, appeared honest and open to me and most importantly, was provided in my specific time of need. And that, was the difference maker. 10 minutes from start to finish, I left with Brand B.

So, Brand A spends 0% of their budget on social and Brand B spends almost 100% of their budget on social. Someone is making a poor decision'?¦I have a thought on which. Brand A is in a castle under attack worrying about keeping the castle, while Brand B is building a bigger castle right next door. Welcome to the neighborhood.

October 29, 2009

What are Market Researchers Doing in Vegas?

I just spent the week in Las Vegas. I know'?¦you're probably expecting to hear a crazy story, but remember, 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,'? so I'm just going to share a few things I learned at The Market Research Event. (Maybe you can convince me to tell you about cocktail hour or the speaker who fell off the stage another time.)

Over the course of three days, I listened to many inspirational speakers. Mega brands like Coca Cola, Toyota, and Procter & Gamble had interesting case studies to share, but my key takeaways came from a combination of sessions I attended. Here's some advice I collected for you marketing people:

Inspire brands: We as market researchers often like to play it safe, but it's okay to take risks and go where no man has gone before! Consumer insights should never state the obvious ' brands want new perspectives. We should all work together to inspire change and not just follow it.

Innovate by thinking through consumers' needs: Ideas and insights are usually very simple. For example, a few years ago, Coppertone was looking to come out with the next big thing in sun care. Consumers continuously complained that 'sunscreen is messy.'? So what happened? The brand took a look at insect repellants, hair care, and other skin care products and BAM! Consumers can now spray on their sunscreen without ever rubbing it in.

Less is more. Brand logos don't always need to be present: Martin Lindstrom, author of 'Buyology'? blew my mind with his presentation about Neuromarketing. Brands are finding ways to stimulate consumer's minds without ever revealing who they are. Consumers can identify brands through scents, sounds, and other visual cues. Studies have proved that if you show images of rugged cowboys or even camels to cigarette smokers, the 'craving'? part of the brain gets stimulated and consumers don't even know it.

Know your consumer AND your shopper: Dr Pepper Snapple Group pointed out that clients are often way too focused on the target consumer. Sure, the consumer is important, but he or she is not always the one shopping for our client's products. For example, take Mott's apple juice. Moms are the ones buying it, but their kids are the ones consuming it. When conducting research, it's important to know how Mott's can appeal to kids, but it's just as important to understand how to get mom's attention on store shelves.

Test concepts and messages - overexposure to a brand does not necessarily drive purchase: If an offer is not compelling, multiple exposures to that message won't influence a call to action. It is extremely important to test messages with consumers before spending thousands of dollars on an advertising campaign. A good ad motivates consumers to do something the first time around.

The next time you're drafting a survey, writing a creative brief, brainstorming, or figuring out how to market a product, keep these things in mind. To be the best, sometimes, we just need to stick to the basics.

September 14, 2009

Personal Revelations through Gossip Girl

Throughout our lives, there are pivotal moments where we get to know ourselves a little better. Generally, we learn through our relationships with other people, our life experiences, our trials and tribulations'?¦ but for me, it came through a Gossip Girl marathon.

Gossip Girl promotes a life that is not typical of the average American teenager. There are generally no vodka martinis, fancy brunches, masquerade balls, or jet setting to another country in a private plane to get over a bad breakup. However, it's such an enviable way of life, and people will do whatever they can to live that way with the means provided to them. If you can dress like Blair Waldorf, then why wouldn't you? I've noticed in recent back-to-school catalogs that retail chains are selling their clothes with images of Gossip Girl¬-style characters so people will connect with those images and buy whatever will make them look like someone on the show.

And by 'people'? I mean 'me'?.

Watching the show made me realize just how easily I can be persuaded to buy certain brands. If I have a crush on someone on the show (is that creepy? I mean, they aren't actually teenagers'?¦) then I'm more willing to buy a brand they promote. If one of the girls is on the cover of a magazine talking about her secrets for perfect lived-in waves ' I'm all over it.

And it's not just Gossip Girl, I've always been this way without knowing. I'd wear berets like Cher in Clueless and drool over the Oscar de la Renta gowns and Manolo Blahniks that Carrie would wear in Sex and the City. It amazes me how strongly the consumers are affected by even the slightest product placement or endorsement in the media. We all like to pretend we're immune to advertising and marketing, but it has a way of biting us whether we like it or not.

Especially undercover 13-year olds like me.

Editor's note: GOSSIP GIRL® is a registered trademark owned and controlled by AMP's parent company, Alloy Media, LLC

June 15, 2009

Buy or Cell?

Imagine a world without wallets, money, cashiers, or anything else slowing you down from buying stuff (read in summer blockbuster movie trailer voice for full dramatic impact). Instead of greenbacks, duckets, dolla dolla bills, wampum, cash money, or your monetary expression of choice, all you will need to pay for your stuff will be your cell phone. I'm not making this up ' this is not part of a futuristic Hollywood screenplay where Bruce Willis saves the economy and the world with his cell phone, although that would be AWESOME. Someone somewhere please make this happen. The reality is that with a growing emphasis from brand marketers on shopper marketing tactics, the increasing number of consumers with smart phones (roughly 15% of the cell phone population), and the rise in mobile online shopping in its current format, this day could actually be coming to a store, or theater, near you sooner than you think.

The big picture idea here is that brands will be able to serve you offers directly to your phone via in-store signage using a technology called Near Field Communication, and customize the offers based on your past purchasing history, as well as your location in the store. When you go to purchase the product(s) you will be able to hold your phone up to a scanner at the register to both redeem the branded value offers, as well as pay for your products. Pretty Jetson. And perfect for a generation that has never clipped a coupon.

There are a myriad of things currently happening in the mobile retail space that seem to indicate we could see this in the next few years. The first is the advancement of mobile couponing. A recent study by Juniper Research suggests that by 2013 over 200 million consumers will receive and redeem coupons via their cell phones worldwide. Retailers like Kroger and Stop & Shop have tested in store mobile couponing models, and now ShopRite in conjunction with Unilever are jumping into a test program as well.

The second big evolution is the growing market of mobile shopping. According to a recent Nielsen Mobile poll, approximately 9 million US mobile phone subscribers reported using their handsets to pay for goods or services. Victoria's Secret is the latest brand to launch a mobile e-commerce site that enables people to 'get sexy anywhere'?. I guess you never know where or when you need to get sexy, so it seems like a smart, sexy idea. And I know about this only because of all the press they've received, I SWEAR.

So the natural evolution of mobile shopping would be paying at retail with your phone. Consumers are already somewhat pre-accustomed to this behavior pattern with the prominence of Speed Pass for gas/convenience stores, and a number of different transit passes, such as EZ Pass, providing contactless payment. Security will certainly be a big hurdle to clear, but consumers eventually got over their fear of ordering stuff online, so I would imagine with some time, great marketing, and maybe Bruce Willis it could happen.

June 11, 2009

Deciphering the Greek of Sampling Online

I rarely make a shopping run to my local Trader Joe's grocery without trying their sample of the day. So last week when they offered me some Greek Tzatziki Sauce paired with my favorite pretzel slims it was a no-brainer. Yes, I bought a tub of it on the spot, devoured it at home and Tzatziki Sauce now owns a permanent spot on my grocery list.

A perfect case in point of a brand using sampling to effectively create trial which in turn drives purchase and eventually advocacy. So what can we learn from Trader Joe's Tzatziki sampling tactic? And how could we even improve it?

The biggest lesson here holds true for all sampling - find your people and get their attention! Seek out those who are pre-qualified and generally inclined to try your product and then be at the right place and right time to capture their interest. Tzatziki worked for me because it was paired with something I purchase already, it met my requirements at the time, and I was in a mind-set to try and purchase new foods.

But what if I hadn't been in Trader Joe's that day, how could they have connected me to my new favorite Greek sauce? Like many folks, I spend a lot of time online. So is Tzatziki online too? Turns out it is. (Try a quick Google search and you'll find people talking about the sauce on sites and blogs.) This is a good start for getting the word out but not enough to reach a larger group ' and it wasn't enough to reach me.

So how can a brand use the digital space to spread the word and reach even more consumers that fit their target profile? Simply by giving samples out and facilitating conversations!

At its core 'Digital Influencer Sampling' is about finding your people and getting their attention. The people involved in this sampling method are bloggers, posters, contributors and editors. And the best way to get their attention ' and this should come as no surprise ' is to simply reach out to them. In a nutshell what holds true for offline sampling holds true for online sampling: step one, find your people, step two engage them, and step three give them your goodies for free to encourage trial.

There is a lot of nuance at this point in the discussion that comes into play and ultimately makes the difference between a great digital sampling campaign and an ok one. From selecting your influencers to how you communicate through keeping the conversation alive. And the job of a great agency and smart brand is to properly facilitate all that with the aim at growing relationships past 'hello' and into the stages of brand advocacy.

But once that dialog has begun most 'digital influencers' are like those consumers at Trader Joe's ' hungry to engage, try something new and willing to spread the word about what they like. And when all goes well, that small group of Tzatziki fans chatting online will grow into a larger one and soon they'll have reached me and other target consumers like me who are waiting for someone to connect the dots and get something new into their hands to try and fall in love with.

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