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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 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.)

Marketing Yourself in an Election: A Primer

Election campaigns boil down to a lot of marketing messages crammed into a month. It’s cluttered and messy.

Our province is just heading into municipal election season. The campaign has been running on low heat for a couple of months, but with all the nomination deadlines this week, high gear is now on.

As with business, standing out from the crowd is the key to getting noticed. Follow these tips for a better chance at sticking out like a sore thumb. (Hint: these tips also apply to your business)

Campaign Signs: The subject of much debate. Are they necessary? Do they work? Are they just colorful litter? In most cases, no, no, yes. Most campaign signs look exactly the same as the ten signs next to them. Like any outdoor marketing medium, signs need to make an impression in seconds. You have that long to stand out from the cluster of signs. Be clean and simple, and keep information to a minimum. Be different than the others. Make sure the sign is high-contrast and can be easily seen.

326px-Vote_icon.svgWebsite: have one. Like the sign, it needs to be simple. Include information on how voters can contact you. Engaged voters are more likely voters! Clearly state your goals, your positions, and a little about yourself. Make sure, no matter what else you do, that your website has a mobile version. If you direct people to a website from your outdoor marketing, a lot of voters are likely to access your site via a mobile device. If your website is unreadable on a smartphone, you’ve lost the opportunity to make an impression.

State your case: clearly. Make your goals clear, attainable, realistic, and measurable. A campaign promise to “engage residents” is meaningless. How do you plan to engage those residents? “Improve services” similarly says nothing. What services would you like to improve, and how are you going to do it? The more specific plans you lay out, the more those plans will connect with voters.

Youth: find a way to connect. Older people are more likely to vote. That’s a given. That’s why candidates for every election visit every community center and retirement community possible. However, the youth vote is a huge, largely untapped market. If you’ve got an idea to connect with younger voters and actually get them out to vote, you will have that group all to yourself.

Shake hands: it works. Meeting people, looking them in the eye, and asking them to vote for you is still a great way to make an impression. It seems shallow, but people will vote for you if they like you.

Running in an election is the same as marketing a business or product. It’s just that the product is you. Be different, be clear, and connect.

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