// April 19th, 2013 // No Comments
- Press Release headlines that sound like actual humans might want to read them – not (alas, real example) desperate attempts like "[Company X] Launches SURE CHO-Mplus™ Libraries"
- Phones that use Caller ID to display enhanced information such as LinkedIn profiles or Trade Me feedback ratings of incoming callers, so that we can decide whether or not to take the call
- Glasses like Google’s, but with software that will tell us just how bad we’ll feel if we eat that cheesecake we can see in front of us (and conversely, how virtuous we’ll seem if we opt for the celery salad)
- Television news reports that don’t spend half their time re-obsessing over yesterday’s news; if we missed the story last time, just give us a web link for the backstory
- An independent ergonomic rating scale so that we can judge that stunning new lounge suite on its comfort, not just its good looks
// April 19th, 2013 // No Comments
These days, consumers do their own research long before they engage with a company representative or step across the lintel of a retail store. As Ann Handley and CC Chapman note in their 2011 book “Content Rules”:
Your potential customers are going online to search for information about the stuff you sell: everything from lawn mowers to cameras to consulting services to circuit-board solder paste to what band to go see on a Friday night.
Your customers read blogs, they google their purchases and they query followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook. They are always educating themselves by researching purchases online before they make them.
[Your goal with Branded Content should be] creating and sharing relevant, valuable information that attracts people to you and creates trust, credibility and authority (among other things) for your business and that ultimately converts visitors and browsers into buyers.
That’s precisely the point of creating killer content – to convert browsers into buyers and customers into regulars or (better yet) rabid fans, ambassadors and advocates. You do that by deepening your relationship with them over time, by repeatedly and consistently creating content they care about and want to share freely with their friends and colleagues …
And THAT is the missing Branded Content ingredient we failed to discuss in the Persil example we cited … an ongoing relationship with our customers and prospects. Traditional marketing and its evolved siblings are obliged to begin each communications cycle anew – we dare not presume that our readers and viewers have any past history with our brand, other than the general awareness that X% Reach and Y.Z frequency bring. Each conquest must be a new one. It’s not a problem, simply a reality that must be factored into each advertising campaign.
Branded Content, however, longs for continued companionship, the easy comfort of exchanging messages with regular penpals. We can direct our efforts to meeting the needs of our correspondents, not constantly recruiting. We need to understand that consumers have changed since the days depicted in Mad Men, and our goal in these more enlightened times must be long-term relationships, not brief dalliances.
Yes, of course we should expect and plan for each Branded Content piece to reach new arrivals – we want our efforts to spread and be shared, so we need to be inclusive in our communications. But since, at the end of the day, we want sales – and customers are most comfortable to buy from people, brands and organisations they trust – the essence of our Branded Content efforts simply must be to build that trust through our relationships with those who connect with us.
And THAT, in turn, is why Branded Content matters – and why it provides both challenge and opportunity for those who’ve come from a traditional marketing background.
// April 19th, 2013 // No Comments
Branded Content isn’t only about blogs and videos. Case in point: Persil. Yes, the familiar detergent.
Persil’s Russian marketers had a problem. As with many laundry brands, Persil had no resonance amongst young adults. The category was seen as functional, dull and boring and purchase was price-driven or delegated to older family members. That’s as true in Russia as it is in the rest of the world.
Cream3 takes up the story:
With increased purchasing power, young adults across Russia are taking great pride in possessions and clothes that socially make them look good.
To become successful in building any positive brand awareness among this audience, Persil had to tap into its ability to make its potential consumers and their clothes look brilliant. Persil Brilliance was therefore chosen to build engaging dialogue with this group.
Research showed that clothes washed with Persil Brilliance look whiter, especially under UV light. Therefore the brand shared this secret and launched the ‘Persil Brilliant Sensation Dance.’ The brand became a sponsor of ‘Sensation,’ a ‘go-to’ dance event for Russian youth, and leveraged the partnership to connect with its attendees.
Every year the event sees 25,000 people travel to St.Petersburg from all over the country to attend. Like all big parties, it is essential that attendees look their best, but it’s hard to get noticed when adhering to the all-white dress code. This gave the brand its solution: Persil brilliance gets you noticed at ‘Sensation.’
Persil created a special platform and invited Russia’s young adults to dress in their best white outfits and record themselves dancing. Internet voting was used via social networks where people could ‘like’ their favourite dancer – the 20 winners would go to ‘Sensation’ in both St. Petersburg and Amsterdam. This was promoted with a viral video starring Persil Brilliance Polar Bears which was an instant hit.
At the ‘Sensation’ event, Persil sponsored a special ‘DeLuxe’ zone and built a photo area where guests could take pictures courtesy of Persil Brilliance, and the morning after download the photos from its website. Sachets of new Persil Brilliance Gel were also given away at the event so people could test it out once they arrived home.
We should note that MTV was closely involved as a media partner.
In many ways, the Persil campaign is not that far removed from traditional advertising campaigns. It had a media partner, a competition, sponsorship of an existing property – all things with which we’re mostly familiar.
And yet the Persil campaign had a number of triggers in common with our Blendtec example as well:
- The brand and execution were strategically aligned. Persil = White? Sure.
- It involved customers directly through the online dance competition.
- It engaged popular culture by tapping into the already-huge Sensation event.
- It took advantage of behaviour that was already established (“going to Sensation”) and used its product attributes to enhance rather than interfere with that behaviour (“going to Sensation and getting noticed with Persil Brilliance”)
- It used seeding via MTV and the Internet to boost exposure from just the 25,000 people who attended the event into a cumulative reach of four million Russians aged 16-29.
It’s a comforting thought – that Branded Content isn’t that far removed from what we already know how to do. But are we missing something?
// April 19th, 2013 // No Comments
You’re no doubt familiar with the "Will It Blend?" series of videos, wherein Tom Dickson, the founder of Blendtec, attempts to blend various unusual items in order to show off the power of his blender.
It must be tempting to claim that this was a carefully-crafted Branded Content strategy that perhaps grew out of one of those marathon all-day brand-planning sessions.
The truth is far more prosaic (and thus instantly credible). Jackie Peters reveals1 what really happened:
Before “Will It Blend,” Blendtec was just a faceless company that manufactured blenders; their consumer grade blenders run around US$400. The Will It Blend story begins shortly after George Wright began working for the company as their new marketing director in 2006. He was walking around the factory and stumbled upon Blendtec CEO Tom Dickson. Dickson was testing the new bearings in a blender by blending a 4×2 piece of wood. The company’s employees went on with their work unfazed – apparently the practice of “extreme blending” was a regular occurrence there at the factory.
George was smart enough to recognize this gem and turned it into the widely acclaimed “Will It Blend” series of videos. He simply unveiled the face that the company had all along. The videos were distributed online and Blendtec employees reached out to their personal networks to let them know. Word spread and “Will It Blend” became a viral phenomenon.
By the end of 2008, Blendtec’s retail sales were up a reported 700 percent and it had been featured on major mainstream media outlets such as The Today Show, The Tonight Show, The History Channel, The Wall Street Journal and others. Today, less than seven years after the phenomenon was launched, the Blendtec videos have collected more than 289 million views on YouTube.
The blending experiments began with glass marbles, but Tom Dickson has since gone on to grind into sometimes toxic dust many of the icons of popular culture such as iPhones and iPads, as well as CDs and DVDs by Justin Bieber.
In a white paper2, Christian Briggs of SociaLens summarised the factors contributing to Blendtec’s viral success:
The Brand and Execution were Strategically Aligned
Blendtec’s viral videos and their content aligned nicely with their brand of high-quality, technically sophisticated blenders.
The Presentation is Authentic and Credible
Tom Dickson’s charm is not his smooth presentation style. It is his authenticity.
Content Worth Sharing
Blending unusual stuff up in a blender is buzz worthy. Only a very few of us haven’t wondered “what if?” when faced with a blender/utensil oriented kitchen activity. When someone else finally answers that question for us – and particularly when that someone does so with the world’s most popular products – and in an entertaining format – we’re likely to want to be the first to tell a friend – to create “buzz.”
Early on in their process, Blendtec sent an email to their customer base asking for recommendations for things to blend. They still accept suggestions today via an online form. This open invitation allows the community to participate in the process.
Engaged Popular Culture
Will It Blend, by blending up popular items such as Nike shoes, a Halo video game, a Rubik’s Cube, and of course the iDevices, has created a strong web of cultural references which make the videos likely to catch the attention of the various sub-communities of fans of each of the products. By then tagging the videos with the names of other high-profile items, Blendtec has also maximized the likelihood that the videos will be popular in Internet searches.
We’d also add:
Shock and Awe
Blendtec often applies the blender to items that are both expensive and in hot demand, such as the various iPhones and the iPad. That can trigger incredulity (“They’d really do that to such a valuable item?”) and even perhaps outrage (“How dare they destroy that when I can’t even get my hands on one?”), both of which are likely to drive sharing – “wait till you see what they’ve done with …”
Behavioural Pattern Dissonance
Blenders (even Blendtec’s) are not supposed to be abused the way they are in Tom Dickson’s videos. We expect items to be used a certain way. And we expect company owners to act a certain way as well: perhaps to be conservative, responsible and even a little stuffy. Tom’s behaviour, and his treatment of those poor blenders (to say nothing of the fate of the subjects of that ill treatment) disrupts our preconceptions and breaks the normal patterns of expectation. In short, Blendtec’s efforts stand out precisely because they do things we never expected.
With more than 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, it ain’t easy to get noticed. Only a very few are unique enough to survive the information tsunami. Blendtec needs all the above triggers to make an impression (and has to keep raising the ante to get noticed next time).
The Initial Seeding
Even the most amazing video ever made won’t get seen if no-one knows it’s there. As noted above, Blendtec employees first needed to reach out to their personal networks to share the initial video before it could go viral. Other research suggests that a few super-connected influencers are needed to get the word out fast; we suspect that the same phenomenon had a part to play in Blendtec’s initial success.
Fascinating stuff. Which leads us to ask the question: what would YOU have said, on your first days in a new job, if you’d stumbled across your CEO using a blender to systematically demolish a piece of wood?
// April 19th, 2013 // No Comments
Branded Content has now become one of the top global marketing priorities of 2013, according to the latest Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing (Econsultancy and Adobe, January 2013). 39% of client-side marketers nominated the practice as this year’s most important goal, more than chose other marketing hot buttons such as Conversion Rate Optimisation or Social Media Engagement.
Other indicators point in the same direction. More than fifty percent of marketers plan to increase their Branded Content budgets this year, according to an Ad Age survey of nearly 600 marketers conducted in late 2012. And more than 90% of marketers believe that content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months (Econsultancy and Outbrain).
So what is Branded Content exactly?
Wikipedia always has an opinion:
Branded Content … blurs conventional distinctions between what constitutes advertising and what constitutes entertainment. Branded content is essentially a fusion of the two into one product intended to be distributed as entertainment content, albeit with a highly branded quality. Unlike conventional forms of entertainment content, branded content is generally funded entirely by a brand or corporation rather than, for example, a movie studio or a group of producers.
Andrew Canter, CEO of the U.K. Branded Content Marketing Association (yes, inevitably there’s an association for the discipline), offers up this perspective:
Branded Content is defined as a brand funding content, created to communicate with customers in an entertaining, engaging, relevant way across any chosen media channel, achieving brand marketing objectives. Or more simply put it is editorially-led marketing.
So why are marketers suddenly (or, as we’ll see in a moment, for some not so suddenly) turning to Branded Content? Perhaps think of this new direction as marketers changing their own behaviour to match the evolved lifestyle of today’s consumers. The People have spoken: they don’t want their lives interrupted by intrusive, irrelevant “look at moi, look at moi” sales pitches.
Marketers are belatedly responding, many turning to Branded Content as a stealthy alternative. Some are proving themselves adept at mastering the style; others, not so much.
Branded Content, also known as Content Marketing, is not new, even if it’s suddenly fashionable. As Rebecca Lieb points out in her book “Content Marketing: Think Like A Publisher”, the practice dates back at least to 1895 when agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere first published a custom magazine The Furrow and distributed it to U.S. farmers.
And, of course, let’s not forgot the “soap operas”, so-named because of the sponsorship by soap manufacturers of many early TV and radio show.
As production costs ballooned in the latter half of the twentieth century, Branded Content became more occasional.
Then came the Internet. And free blogging software. And PDFs. And YouTube.
Suddenly, the cost of distribution of content plummeted towards zero. Meanwhile, production costs also dropped precipitously as typesetting went from specialist craft to simple font download, photography got digital and mobile phones grew smart, video-capable and ubiquitous. Now anyone can be a content publisher – and more and more marketers are signing up, aiming to use Branded Content to increase the effectiveness of their wider marketing communications.
Branded Content – what’s not to like? All you have to do is create some content, plug in your brand name every few sentences, toss in some logos (a bit bigger than that, please) and post it to your website and Facebook page. Your loyal customers will enthusiastically share your stories with their hundreds and thousands of friends, your products will flood off the shelves and everyone lives happily ever after.
Sadly, just as the invention of moveable type didn’t turn everyone into Shakespeare, the easy availability of content production and distribution tools doesn’t mean that marketers have suddenly become J.J. Abrams. For every Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” runaway success there’s a thousand lonely videos languishing unwatched, a million blog posts unread, countless white papers slowly turning a virtual grey.
What can go wrong?
Try these on for size:
- Your content is boring. Even your partner or significant other would fall asleep trying to read it.
- Your content is stale. It wasn’t news when you created it, and it’s not even up to a guest appearance in the fish and chip shop now.
- You’re SHOUTING at your customers. There’s no place for the hard sell in Branded Content.
- You’re not original. Where’s the angle? Where’s the new thinking or the creative twist?
- Your content isn’t related to your brand. Far too many ideas go viral — but fail to take the advertiser along for the ride. Just because grumpy cat and cute baby videos are hot won’t drive interest in your products.
- It’s not relevant to the recipient. People without canine companions don’t care about dogfood formula breakthroughs; the bald simply don’t want shampoo advice.
- It’s simply not worth sharing. People only share stuff that will be of interest to their friends — and that will make the sharer look good along the way.
So what’s an aspiring Branded Content marketer to do?
// December 5th, 2012 // No Comments
As we’ve just seen, one of the ways to ensure that recipients are happy with their gifts is to give them Gift Cards or Vouchers. But are these seen as a desirable alternative to receiving actual products, and what sorts of people are likely to choose this gifting option?
A 2011 US study by FirstData.com http://www.firstdata.com/downloads/thought-leadership/Gift-Card-Insights-WP.pdf shows that gift card recipients perceive gift cards to be significantly more valuable than a traditional gift. When asked whether they would prefer a gift with a value ranging from $20 to $45 vs. a $25 gift card, the vast majority preferred the gift card—even compared to a gift at a higher price point.
- 87% would prefer a $25 Gift Card to a gift valued at $25
- 79% would prefer a $25 Gift Card to a gift valued at $30
- 52% would prefer a $25 Gift Card to a gift valued at $45
The results may seem counter-intuitive at first glance; but this finding clearly indicates consumers’ overwhelming preference to choose their own gift — sixty-five percent of gift card recipients said they enjoy receiving gift cards for that reason.
What Types of Consumers Purchase Gift Cards or Vouchers?
A follow-up report from that same FirstData study http://www.firstdata.com/downloads/thought-leadership/GiftCardInsights2WP.pdf split gift-card purchasers into five different segments:
- Budget Tamers (16% of gift-card purchasers) — “Gift Cards Help Me Control My Spending”
High-volume purchasers who buy gift cards for others as gifts and for themselves as a way to manage their budget.
- Card Enthusiasts (24%) – “I Love Buying and Receiving Gift Cards”
Enthusiastic gift card buyers, mostly female, typically in their mid-40s and married. This group is simply passionate about gift cards as the ideal solution.
- Helpful Husbands (25%) – “My Children Like Gift Cards”
Older, male consumers who don’t have strong opinions about buying or receiving gift cards but who typically buy them for their children.
- Convenience Shoppers (18%) — “Gift Cards Make Shopping Easy and Fast”
Busy shoppers, typically female, married and in their late 40s, who value the time savings and convenience of the gift card buying experience.
- Last Resort Consumers (17%) — “Gift Cards Are Too Impersonal”
Primarily married women in their late 30s and early 40s with slightly lower income, Last Resort consumers are the most reluctant gift card buyers. They find gift cards to be an impersonal, “last resort” gift, which may be why they are more likely than other consumers to give them to people they don’t know well.
The two segments that together represent nearly half of all gift-card purchasers (Card Enthusiasts and Helpful Husbands) were also far more likely to purchase Gift Cards than the other three segments:
It’s clear from this data that:
- gift cards are not merely tolerated by recipients but are actually seen as a more desirable alternative to physical products
- most of those who give gift-cards actually do so as a conscious choice, not just because they can’t think of anything else to give or because they’ve run out of time to buy anything else
Those two findings represent important insights for those who offer gift cards, and should encourage card issuers to promote their cards/vouchers as smart, highly desirable gift options rather than last-minute substitutes when consumers can’t find something better.
// December 5th, 2012 // No Comments
Men are the worst culprits when it comes to last minute Christmas planning, according to a 2011 Axa Wealth Self study, with almost a fifth (17%) leaving their shopping to just a few days before Christmas. The study found that 32% of consumers only complete their Christmas shopping in the last available week, with an even riskier 12% of the population leaving it till the last few days.
That’s consistent with an Australian National Retailers’ Association 2011 study which shows similar gender-based shopping patterns (women shop earlier, but then men account for far more of the shopping in the final run-up to Christmas):
Overall, women have shown themselves to be better prepared for the Christmas season, with 23% confessing that they typically shop several months in advance, compared to just 11% for men.
One of the reasons cited for women’s earlier approach to Christmas shopping, at least according to the AXA research analysis: risk aversion. 72% of women (compared with 64% of men) feel ‘quite uneasy’ or ‘very nervous/anxious’ at the prospect of taking a risk. “Shoppers who leave it to the last minute run the risk of being greeted by empty shelves, overcrowded shops and general sense of time running away from them.”
We’re not quite sure we buy that conclusion; we prefer the ten reasons offered up some years ago by blogger Grant MacDonald http://grantsgraceland.org/topten/chr2002.html, as to why men tend to leave their Christmas shopping until the sleigh is on its way. Here are some of our favourites:
5. By ignoring the shopping frenzy until the last possible moment, we men are better able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas!
4. Life is so stressful these days because we have to constantly make choices. Why not look after ourselves and beat the holiday stress by limiting our choices to what’s left in the local pharmacy at 6:30 pm on Christmas Eve?
3. The best shoppers are those who examine the trends to see what gifts are “in” for this year. Obviously, the longer we wait, the more definitive the trend. Is it our fault that we are so thorough in our study that the “in” gifts are sold out when we go to buy them?
2. How better to enter into the Christmas experience and share in Joseph’s feeling of panic when he found out there was no room in the inn, than to hear: “There is no more stock on the shelves?”
1. And, of course, the male condition: It’s a hunting and gathering, survival of the fittest, genetic thing!
// December 5th, 2012 // No Comments
- Much, much, much longer Christmas music compilations for stores and malls, so that shoppers and staff minimise the migraines from too many repetitions of White Christmas.
- Improved air traffic control of reindeers and sleigh on Christmas Eve – with the global population continuing to grow, the Big Red Guy needs all the help he can get to reach all those destinations before daybreak.
- New, mandatory re-gifting guidelines – some of those evil-smelling colognes and uber-kitschy plastic trinkets doing the rounds (thanks a bunch, Aunt Doris!) should be consigned to the fires of Mount Doom, not unleashed again onto some unsuspecting relative.
- The Twelve Days of Christmas shortened to ten – really, who can spare twelve days at this time of year?
- Christmas eCards banned – where’s the effort and sense of commitment?
- Special Grinch zones where cynics can gather and mutter as much as they want about all the things they don’t like about the holiday season.
- Plain packaging, for those presents which can be harmful, especially in the hands of big kids that never grew up (you know who you are!)
- Peace on Earth and goodwill to all