Marketing and Communications ideas – popped!

Social Media Marketing at The Grammys

I like watching major events with social media close at hand. It provides a much more immersive experience than watching alone, or with a couple of other people. It’s great to see what other people are saying, to see what’s going on behind the scenes, and most importantly (and fun!), to participate in the conversation.

As we know, shared experiences are a powerful method of making a connection. Personal connections based on shared values or experiences are a great way to make friends. Brands know this. They want to be your friend. Instead of “buy my product”, brands know they do much better saying, “hey we think that was cool too!”

Building trust is key to building a brand.

Naturally, since social media brings many people together over major events like the Grammys, brands want to be there too, sharing the experience and making a connection. They show up in droves, some making an impression, some making enemies.

pharrell-hat-590x331Anyone who watched the Grammys last night while keeping twitter open knows well what the “meme” of the night was. The biggest social media story wasn’t the Beatles semi-reunion, it wasn’t the mass wedding, it wasn’t Taylor Swift’s whiplash, nor Lorde’s “movements”. All those moments got traction, but the big story of the night was Pharrell’s hat. Inspiring non-stop conversation throughout the show, and at least a half dozen parody twitter accounts, Pharrell’s unique headwear was the darling of Twitter all night long. So much so that when Pharrell changed chapeaus for a performance, Huffington Post Style was moved to tweet:

When events such as the Grammys happen, or the Superbowl, Oscars, SAG Awards or even the Tonys, social media teams assemble in “war rooms”. They monitor the TV feed, the news media, and social media, waiting for that perfect opportunity. Oreo is famous for doing this during last year’s Super Bowl, when there was a short power interruption at the stadium.

It was groundbreaking use of social media, at the time. It made headlines, and blew the proverbial doors off livetweeting. Today such a tweet would be viewed as self-serving and “corporate”.  Now everyone tweets like that, and the real groundbreakers are the ones who make a more personal connection. The successful teams share rather than shout.

Let’s look at a couple of examples from last night.

One credit card company, which shall remain nameless, put forward a big effort, appending the #GRAMMYs hashtag to its usual mindless marketing tweets, in the vain hope of hijacking a few readers.

Delta Airlines had a team in place, graphic designers and all, to respond to big moments. They missed the boat on most of them, and instead posted carefully crafted Delta ads such as this:

180 RTs on that particular tweet, plus a few offended Beatles fans. Not a good effort.

Gain laundry detergent was closer to the mark with this one:

Over 8000 RTs, but still, photoshopping the story-of-the-moment onto your product isn’t a best-effort situation. It felt insincere and contrived. Especially since they paid for it to be a “promoted” tweet, which put it on a lot of extra timelines. Trying to interact with the parody account rather than Pharrell himself was also a weak choice.

The one that really caught my attention, and the attention of marketers worldwide, was a simple off-the-cuff tweet from a fast food chain. Someone noticed that Pharrell’s hat resembled the stylized hat in the Arby’s logo. Arby’s was quick to respond, with a sincere and simple tweet:

Slam dunk. It made a connection, with 75k RTs and 41k favs so far. Arby’s, with one simple tweet, beat the teams of graphic designers. Even Pharrell himself responded:

Adweek called it “The Tweet Of The Night!

Even marketing giant Pepsi conceded:

Hyundai too:

Sometimes, simple is best. Once you start concentrating on making a friend instead of selling something, you’ll sell way more somethings.

UPDATE: I happened across the Twitter profile of Josh Martin, Social Media Manager at Arby’s. Seems he was the Arby’s tweeter in question, and is taking some well earned bows over here.

A Brief GMail Jay Update

Poor old GMail Jay. Gets into all sorts of adventures, and can’t seem to get himself out. In our last update, received with much hilarity, we heard the tale of my multiple GMail doppelgangers. From real estate in Dubai to satellite dishes in Connecticut, to interstate movie rentals, he (and she) gets around.

Since we last spoke, GMail Jay has been busy indeed. He went shopping at Nordstrom’s in Honolulu and conveniently had the receipt emailed to himself so he wouldn’t lose it. He has also, frustratingly, restarted his real estate career in Dubai.

gmail-logoFascinatingly, GMail Jay also appears to be on the negotiating team for several CUPE Locals in Toronto, who it seems are gearing up for several important contract negotiations with the City Of Toronto. The team thoughtfully sent me a pile of confidential briefing notes, and didn’t respond to my explanatory notes explaining they had the wrong Jay. I jokingly sent them a note saying I would forward the briefing materials to The Toronto Star if they didn’t stop. They did. (I had long deleted the obviously confidential documents without reading them.)

Most recently, GMail Jay seems to have become involved in the music industry. He has been asked to provide thoughts on an album cover for an emerging artist. “Behoward” sent the cover along with a note that he didn’t like the font. It was a good observation. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

I know two other people who have GMail problems similar to mine. However, where they each have one person mistakenly using their address, for some reason I am blessed with 20 or more. Long ago, when an old friend tracked me down on Facebook, she said, “do you know there are 173 Jay Lawrences listed”? I hadn’t known my name was so common. Now I do know indeed.

Which brings me to my point:  If your business uses email marketing, or even if it uses email to communicate with existing customers, have you looked at your systems to make sure people can get out just as easily as they got in?

If not, you are creating the potential for a negative impression every time someone mistakenly gets signed up.

Justine Sacco: An angle you haven’t thought of yet.

Everyone’s heard of the curious case of Justine Sacco. The communications professional who was apparently born without an internal filter. The woman who tweeted what has been called, “The Worst Tweet Of All Time“. I’m not sure if it was the worst of all time, but it is likely in the top 10.

It really was the perfect storm of internet rage. The tweet went out just before Sacco went wheels-up on a long Christmas flight to Africa. The rage was immediate, but since she was at 45,000 feet enjoying packaged cookies, limited legroom, and carefully screened movies and television, she did not have the opportunity to respond. She didn’t have the opportunity to re-think her tweet, and delete it. She didn’t have the opportunity to apologize for her apparent lapse in sanity.mob

The fallout was predictable. The longer she didn’t respond, the angrier the hive mind of the internet became. In one thoughtfully written article, the folks at Buzzfeed were accused of fanning the flames even further, even dumping gas on said flames. The pitchfork squads formed in dark corners of the internet, and they marched on Sacco’s employer, typing as fast as they could, hashtagged placards waving wildly.

Poor Justine Sacco got off the plane 12 hours later, and did something she probably still regrets. She turned on her phone. She discovered that she was the most hated woman in the world, and that her employer had publicly fired her while she was on her fifth episode of “Big Bang Theory”.

Sacco made a very bad decision, and paid a large price. However, the mob mentality that formed around this incident is really the scary part of the story. The fact that her employer knee-jerked, succumbed to the mob, and canned her without discussion, is a sad comment indeed.

The Sacco case has been dissected ad nauseum since Christmas. Analysis is plentiful. Social media tips about personal branding have flourished.

I have but one question: Do you think Justine Sacco would still have her job if her twitter bio had included a disclaimer reminding everyone that “tweets are my own!”, or “views do not reflect those of my employer!”.

Of course she wouldn’t. Her life would still be in ruins.

Your views absolutely do reflect on your employer, disclaimer or no.

People who still put these useless disclaimers in social media profiles thinking it gives them some sort of license are, to put it mildly, fooling themselves. These disclaimers have no legal force, look silly, and are, most importantly, wrong. Social media disclaimers are the present-day equivalent of the old Facebook “post this status to protect your privacy” chain letters.

Your views, your actions, your tweets, all reflect on people, brands, and companies that choose to be associated with you. Or hire you. Justine Sacco learned that in the worst way possible.

A huge marketing mistake, and how not to make it

cut-cableI was skimming twitter a couple nights ago, when a comment caught my eye. It was a light conversation about television, and someone mentioned cable, and then one person said, “who has cable anymore?”.  Since lots of people have cable, I was motivated to write this:

Giant Marketing Mistake: Assuming your personal opinions are universally shared.

Even More Giant Marketing Mistake: Basing business decisions on an opinion you believe is universally shared, but isn’t.

Opinions are so very diverse. So many people, however, fall into the trap of assuming everyone feels the same way they do. Let’s look at the cable comment. Yes, TV subscriptions are certainly declining as the Internet is connected to more and more televisions. Research differs, but with 11.8 million TV subscriptions in Canada, “who has cable?” is not really an accurate premise. It’s a growing issue, but it is certainly not universal. The original tweeter (name kept confidential to protect the guilty) seems to indicate that because he may not have cable, no one else does either. It’s what I call “living in a bubble”.

I’ll give you another example, this one music related. How many times have you heard, “everyone hates Nickelback”? No one will admit to liking Nickelback or their music. Radio stations get complaints by the bucketful, about how, “No one likes this band – stop playing them now!”

All these people apparently hate Nickelback

All these people hate Nickelback

The thing is, lots of people like Nickelback. Lots of people, in fact, love Nickelback. I know this because they have sold millions of albums, and have sold out stadium-sized concerts. How can this be if “no one” likes Nickelback?Imagine you’re a concert promoter, and you have the opportunity to book Nickelback at your local stadium. You refuse, saying, “Ugh, I hate Nickelback!”. You’ve lost the opportunity to make a buck by rising above your own assumptions.

Chad Kroeger is a smart business person. He provides a product that makes his business a lot of money. If he went by the reviews, he would have given up long ago. Instead, he did what worked, instead of what “they” said would work.

The lesson is this: research issues carefully before making business decisions. Make sure the research is impartial and is set up to give you an honest answer. Then, if the way forward seems to lead to success, take it – even if it conflicts with your personal opinion.

Don’t assume!

The Starbucks User Experience

I had a meeting at Starbucks this morning.

As is my custom when meeting anyone at a coffee shop, I arrived very early. I like to sit, to people watch, and to use the WiFi to catch up with the happenings online. Today I arrived, got my preferred hot beverage, and found a comfortable seat by the window. I took out my iPad and connected to the free WiFi. Like most public WiFi users, I have become accustomed to getting a splash page and having to acknowledge a set of terms and conditions to get access.

What came next surprised me.

starbucks-wifi-logo-mdInstead of the usual, “Welcome to Starbucks” splash page, I got a video ad for American Express. An ad which, if I did not watch in its entirety, would prevent me from using the WiFi connection. I was mildly annoyed, both with Starbucks, and with American Express. Not a big deal, but it caused a minor frown.

When I finished “watching” the ad, to which I paid rapt attention you may be sure, I fired up Twitter. Coincidentally, the very first thing I saw was this tweet from Steve Jones of Brand Like a Rock Star.

The age of customer ‘service’ is over. We’ve entered the age of customer ‘experience’.  #marketing #business

Smart brands know that marketing today is about experiences. About feelings. Smart brands, like Starbucks, look at every aspect of the experience their customers have, and refine it to increase business. Everything from the chairs, to the fireplace, to the ultra-friendly baristas who will customize your beverage to your personal exacting specifications, is planned and designed to engage you. To get you to come back. To get you to remark on what a great experience you had. There’s even a new marketing buzzword, “UX”. People with “UX” on their business card are charged with crafting that experience.

This aspect of the User Experience didn’t seem to fit with the usual Starbucks experience. Indeed, while extremely inconsequential and minor, it had struck me as a negative about the brands. I admire Starbucks for trying to monetize a commodity like WiFi that is usually free, but the execution felt wrong.

If I were advising Starbucks, I would say this: Yes, sell sponsorship of your WiFi. However, do it with in-store signage and the Amex logo on the WiFi splash page. Even mega-site Youtube lets you skip ads. I would also pick the nit that WiFi that requires you to consume advertising is not technically free.  A minor annoyance is still a negative brand impression.

If I had to guess, I’d say this is a trial balloon for Starbucks, they will get a few mildly annoyed customers, and they will be back to a sponsored splash page before long.

(PS: Steve Jones is one of the finest marketing minds in the country. Buy his book.)

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