Tag Archives: Branding

Made for Social

What makes a campaign or an advertisement social? What is it about social that is so shareable?

These thought-provoking questions came up during a conversation I had with Proximity‘s Social Media Strategist, David Jones. He gave me a good idea to write a post on this subject, and so here I am, sitting in front of my computer screen and scratching my head. What makes things social and thus shareable?

So I drew out a mind map and came up with one of the many options of what social media is:

From looking at just this one mind map, a lot of factors play into making something social. One could suggest the following process (among others):

1. The content viewed, listened to or read moves people in an emotional way and makes it relevant, impressionable and creative to them.

2. One person feels the need to connect with others (who perhaps have similar tastes or are curious about their reactions) and thus shares with them or collaborates on user-generated content with others.

3. Content it distributed throughout the media landscape.

4. The content is eventually viewed by others and becomes, in some instances, an element of pop culture – so much so that it is enough to share with hundreds, thousands or millions more.

Let’s take a look at Volkswagen‘s “The Dog Strikes Back” commercial aired during the Superbowl, for example. You know, that beautiful dog that sees himself as overweight and subjects himself to an intense workout routine and diet to be able to run alongside the car?

This commercial has received 9,899,009 YouTube hits from that one link so far. One reason could be that we love the determination we see in the animal and connect some similarities to our own human behaviour (what science calls anthropomorphism).

But the more obvious reason is the ending, where Volkswagen takes us back to last year’s memories of the Darth Vader kid thinking he has superpowers.

The commercial makes a pun on what is essentially an inside-joke to those who saw the “prequel” – a conversation held between a few ‘people’ in a bar who argue that the dog is “funnier than the Darth Vader kid” (who later feels the wrath of Darth Vader for making that comment).

Not only was the original commercial a cute and memorable idea to connect the kid with the car, but the commercial became so lovable, so shareable, that YouTube hits have reached 50,836,938 to date. Even more, Volkswagen even created a teaser for the anticipation of the sequel release!

Volkswagen essentially made their way into pop culture through its viral-worthy content and treated their audience as movie-goers. Viewers enjoyed the content as perhaps humorous, cute, smart and real to some (as several parents may have connected on the same idea that their children pretend to have powers too… and sometimes let them think that they actually do).

Thus I think human connection, a real one, is at the root of what is social and what is shareable. Connection and the desire to seek out others who have similar tastes and needs (a term some sociologists would label as homophily) is one factors that drives virality.

As humans, we want to feel like we are in this – life – together, that we are not alone. This may even go back to centuries ago where we were bred to believe that this connection is the key to survival – it’s human nature!

But adding procreation into the mix may be stretching the idea a little too far (ya think?). Alongside human connection and emotion as part of what makes content social and shareable, I would even like to add the concept of participaction to the mix. People no longer want to just be a recipient of the brand, but they want to feel that they are actually a part of it.

The audience sees something they like and may decide to modify, add or delete aspects of a social concept to call it their own and share it with their friends (i.e. crowd-sourcing and mash-ups from user-generated content). They become the brand itself, or at least an extension of it.

Sometimes we want to be the first ones to say “I saw this first!” or “hey check out what I did to that viral hamster on a piano video!” Thus a sense of belonging and recognition builds makes its way into the picture.

There are several factors that play a part in making content sociable and shareble, including the ones just mentioned. Whether it’s something that tugs at our heart strings or want to simply belong to a project that is greater than ourselves, we want to be an active participant in creating that connection.

Whichever reason, just make sure not to mention that the dog being funnier than the Vader kid…

What do you think makes a campaign or ad social and shareable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The Top 10 Most Influential Brands in Canada

As part of AdWeek 2012 in Toronto, Ipsos Reid made their first Influence Index study about the top ten most influential brands in Canada.

Steve Levy, President Market Researcher at Ipsos, shared a dictionary definition of influence that defined it as the capacity or power of persons or things (brands) to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behaviour, opinions of others.

In the Ipsos study, Canadians rated 100 brands based on  six attributes: Leading Edge Technology, Trustworthiness, Relevance, Presence, Corporate Citizenship and Engagement.

Levy argues that it is essential for brands to “build on these six factors … if our index is any indication, the greater your influence, the greater your bottom-line success stands to be.”

Levy shared ten case studies of the top influential brands that Canadians can’t seem to get enough of:

10. Air Miles

9. YouTube

8. Visa

7. Facebook

6. CBC

5. Wal-Mart

4. Apple

3. President’s Choice

2. Google

1. Microsoft

Levy contends that for a brand to be influential, it must be fundamental to the lives of people, shape consumer behaviour, introduce something new, impact their lives and the way they shop, interact with them and encourage them to make better choices.

And in the eyes of Canadians, Microsoft seems to capture all of the above. Not only does Microsoft have the ability to create anticipation for their customers, but  it is a reliable and established brand. It also manages to deliver leading edge technology that continues to modify consumer choices into smarter ones on a daily basis.

Now that’s what I call brand power (and a lack thereof for Blackberry). Too soon?

Photo credit: http://blog.staples.ca

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Social In-Game Advertising

Wonderful Pistachios has turned themselves into smart food. Not just the nut, but the brand itself.

Thursday morning, in collaboration with Wonderful Pistachios, Rovio‘s popular Angry Birds game has transformed into its first branded online game: The Hunt for the Golden Pistachio. 

The game, released on GetCrackin.com, invites gamers to not only destroy pigs, but to crack open Wonderful Pistachio nuts.

The Rovio and Pistachio collaboration illustrates why having your brand partner up with a popular online game is one of the smartest moves an advertiser can make:

1. A Captured, Engaged Audience

Brand loyals who are hooked on a particular online game have your full, undivided attention. They’re in the game, they’re in the zone, and they’re participating in the quest to win to the ultimate prize: your product. In the eyes of marketers, this mean they are signing in to win.

2. Increased Awareness in Niche Markets

If you need to get creative about getting your name out there, turning to in-game advertising is another avenue to take to increase your brand’s awareness. Your brand becomes a part of the game’s objective, which exposes it to a particular niche market that you may not have otherwise been able to reach.

3. Consistent Branding That Leads to Better Recall and Recognition

When you have an audience that is totally immersed in a game that has a particular purpose, the time and attention devoted to accomplishing the game’s objective warms up their frontal lobes (i.e. the memory and cognition portions of the brain). Such concentration devoted to your brand is more likely to increase familiarization and create a link between the brand name and its performance.

4. Sharing Capabilities for Increased WOM and Virality

The beauty about social media gaming is the likelihood of generating word-of-mouth advertising, which is in itself more authentic than an advertiser trying to sell you an product. Friends who are playing and enjoying the game may suggest to their friends to get in on the fun, who will then spread the word to their friends through their social networks, and so on and so forth.

5. Unique Campaigns

In-game advertising is a unique approach to add to a campaign. Wonderful Pistachios began with a quirky set of characters, including displaying Jersey Shore‘s Snooki with a tanning bed, the Winklevoss twins cameo, and lets we not forget, the Keyboard Cat. Adding a popular social media element to your campaign offers you an edge and separates you from your competitors.

Now this is what I call smart food!

Photo credit: http://blog.games.com

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@UnitedAirlines are you even listening?

In my last semester at Texas, I took a Marketing course titled “Customer Insights” (it is just as it sounds). Throughout the semester, we were given the assignment of keeping a blog and updating it every one to two weeks based on a particular assignment provided by the professor.

One assignment required us to write about a positive or negative brand experience that had a meaningful impact, and I was almost too smitten to write about my sub par experience with United Airlines. Sorry folks, but this story does not have a happy ending. My encounter went something like this:

My first time flying United Airlines was a year ago. I got on the plane, put my luggage in the overhead compartment after finding my seat and got settled in with a good book (I highly recommend Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer), until it was brought to my attention by another passenger that I was sitting in his seat.

Just as I got up to switch seats, a flight attendant barked, “Excuse me ma’am, but you need to stay in your seat.” I told her that there was a seat mix-up and just settling into the other aisle. She gave me a scolding look and said, “Well then you will be needing to do so quickly because the plane is about to take off… Could you please hurry so we can all get into our seats?” Her sour face made frightened passengers avoid making eye contact with her, never mind asking her for water.

I figured, however, that this was my first experience with United Airlines and everyone has their off days, so maybe it was just that one flight attendant that had a bad day and couldn’t possibly represent the entirety of the company. But I spoke too soon.

One passenger was playing loud music but had his ear phones on, so no one was really bothered – except the flight attendant, who poked the man on the shoulder, scolded and embarrassed him. When he came around with water, he did not offer any to the gentleman playing the music. Even after the passenger complained to the pilot (who was somewhat understanding), the flight attendant refused to apologize and walked off.

And now for the grand finale. The last time I flew with them was last New Year’s (my parents had booked the flight for us). As we were yet again late for boarding and takeoff (their usual routine), a very angry flight attendant started screaming at the entire cabin to start moving seats to balance the plane. At this point, I was more scared of her yelling and pointing at us to switch seats as fast as possible than the possibility of having a lopsided plane…

My reaction to these experiences (second to the boycott), went something like this:

Surprise, surprise, there was no response and I continue on with my pledge to avoid the United brand in many ways as I can.

Rant over.

To be clear, this post was not a space created for the sake of crying over a bad United Airlines experience. Not this time. Let’s bring it back to social media. If we are to examine the definition of social media, in simple and blunt terms, the obvious dead give-away is the word social, which is what people often take for granted when managing their social network accounts. Case and point? United Airlines.

I cannot tell you the amount of negative (and harsh) Tweets and Facebook comments I’ve read from both friend and strangers about the bad customer service/lack thereof United seems to be striving for. Most complaints begin with customers reaching out – and lashing out – to United through social media (if face-to-face doesn’t suffice), with the result of their concerns being ignored.

The idea of social media is being social. It’s not about the ratio of how many people are following you and how many people you follow on Twitter, or the amount of friends ‘liking’ your wall post. It’s about the genuine, naked interaction and engagement between companies and their customers. At least pretend to be an emotional human being that has empathy for others instead of a cold, invisible corporation hiding behind a big, red curtain somewhere in Kansas (props to those who got the Wizard of Oz metaphor).

Even at the micro level, companies really have to be careful about who is managing customer service relations, including their content management systems on social networks. I was really impressed to read a positive experience a customer had with Dunkin’ Donuts. The gentleman recounts, “No sooner had I grabbed my coffee from the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru attendant, it spilled all over my white dress shirt and brand-new car. An improperly secured lid was about to impede my morning meetings.” And so, he needed to vent:

In 140 characters of a Tweet, Mr. Lerner received a reply in five minutes, notifying him that @DunkinDonuts was following him on Twitter: “Five more minutes and they had tweeted at me to send a direct message with my phone number. Five minutes later they called, asking to know which Dunkin’ Donuts this happened at and what my experience had been. They took my address and a week later I received a $10 gift card.”

This is what we call not only great customer service, but it reflects the definition of what social media is. Listening. Understanding. Responding Appropriately. Following up. Not only do the rules of marketing apply to the Web (the customer is always right), but there was an immediate response to fix whatever was ailing the customer at a given point in time.

Handling negative reviews in this way helps to turn complaints into a new product, service or brand experience to make it more enjoyable, which makes you more reliable, responsible and trustworthy as a brand. Not only will you be able to build and maintain a strong relationship between you brand and the customer, but you will hopefully retain your loyal customers.

We could all learn a thing or two from both United Airlines and Dunkin’ Donuts experiences – and it’s not just learning that you have to pay $5 for that jelly-filled snack on the flight next time. If this attempt at reaching out to United through a social venue doesn’t get their attention, I might have to resort to making one of these:

Photo credit by http://www.ruizmcpherson.com

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Schools on Social Media (And Some Longhorn Pride)

When choosing between grad schools, it all boiled down to a face-off: Boston University versus the University of Texas at Austin. Although I considered a variety of factors, including school ranking for Advertising programs, cost, overall reputation, and other assets, school personality was something that needed to match my own character… otherwise the school wouldn’t be a good fit.

I went on several websites, including College Confidential and TheU.com, where I got a more personal feel and “experience” for student and academic life from students sharing their stories online. When it came down to student life and college personality, connecting with students through social media helped me to reach my final decision to, as they say, stay weird in Austin (and become a proud Longhorn)!

It seems as though traditional information booklets about schools aren’t going to cut it in today’s socially-driven society. Social involvement online through university websites are what students are turning to to get a better feel for where they want to study (ahem… and party). And especially for those international students who may not feel giddy enough to spend a couple thousand dollars on a flight and accommodations to visit the campus, social networks are instead offering another alternative for students to save money through virtual tours.

Social networks not only offer a faster and easier way to connect with a university; they act as extensions to a university’s brand. Brand development, however, is dependent upon how well schools use them.

During my third semester at UT Austin, I had the pleasure of working with some very intelligent peers on the social media team (you know who you are!), and one of the key factors to maintaining a strong brand is consistent engagement. Interacting with your audience on a continual basis keeps them updated with valuable, relevant content (which hopefully you are producing!) so schools develop their own, unique voices and personalities. It works just like anything else in the advertising world.

But it is not enough to Tweet once about a football game and Tweet again a week later about some party you had a great time at. You also don’t want to overwhelm students with bombarding Tweets, Facebook messages, LinkedIn posts and Google plus ones about every little detail going around on campus and then some. There needs to be a balance, and it definitely helps when you work with content management systems, like Radian6 or Spredfast, to manage and time your content. When a lack of effort and care starts to show, or you become a little too pushy with your content, they will bring more wear and tear to your brand image (which will eventually need a lot more fixer-uppers).

Oftentimes, it gets a little monotonous when students have to read the same content through various social networks, which can appear slightly robotic to some students. Producing relevant content that is appropriate to the network is something to consider when talking to your audience. It is crucial to maintaining an integrated brand and having one voice threaded through each platform. Without an integrated communications plan, it may sound like there’s too many cooks in the kitchen, which eventually leads to no voice but people shouting and a really awful-tasting clam chowder.

But it seems like UT Austin is doing well for themselves. According to Student Advisor‘s Top 100 Social Media Colleges, the University of Texas at Austin falls into 10th place! It seems like we have a pretty good idea of what we’re doing out there, which is one of the reasons I came to the school in the first place!

Oh, yeah, and one more thing… Hook ‘Em Horns!

Photo credit by http://blog.ourchurch.com

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Snoop Dogg on Social Media

Snoop Dogg, one of the rap industry’s music moguls, has learned a thing or two about what it takes to building a brand online. Through a mix of social networks, including Twitter and Facebook, Snoop has made an even bigger name for himself with his peeps, or what he likes to call his “family.”

According to Seung Chung, president and co-founder of Cashmere Agency in Los Angeles, Snoop’s personal touch in the social media realm is what connects him to his audience and enhances what he does in his daily life routine. Relevant content is added as an extension of himself, which inevitably strengthens his brand.

“My recipe is just being me: I’m up front; I’m up close and personal. My fans don’t have a wall between me and them,” Snoop says.

Videos, for obvious reasons, are especially important to music artists (didn’t it almost kill the radio star?). Platforms like Viddy.com, where users can upload and filter their own video content online, as well as Chill.com that lets users collectively watch and comment in an open discussion forum, are creative networks that allow users to interact and actively engage with a brand.

Chung argues that the breadwinners of brands are the early adopters. This audience is more likely to spread the word about a new product, service or brand and even become your number one fan. These are the people who you can learn from, serve, and remain loyal to (as long as they are loyal with you).

Moreover, if you’re going to be as hip as this Snoop to the D-O-Double-G, you want to have a solid, integrated communications plan (i.e. keep it coherent and persistent). Content should be routinely posted to encourage interactions with your audience. Through this message, you can build persona and give it a voice.

Who knew you could learn a thing or two about branding from the Doggfather? Drop it like it’s hot.

Based on Shira Lazar‘s A Lesson in Social Media From Snoop Dogg

Photo credit by http://cursebynature.deviantart.com

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Facebook Uses Friends as Brand Power

Who are you most likely to listen to? A stranger throwing an ad in your face or your best friend? Well, according to Nielson Research, 90% of people trust their peers‘ recommendations over an advertisement. As a result, talking to your friends about how much they liked that new Gaterade flavour made it more convincing for you to try it than an online ad did (which is only trusted 24% of the time) – no offence to advertisers.

Because word of mouth is so powerful, it exposes brands to friends or, friends of friends, in a seemingly natural way (and maybe even at a faster rate). It helps to not only introduce brands to people who have never seen or experienced them before, but it also may even show the brand in a new light. Peer power can reach new waves of people by means that advertising may not even be looking for in their target audience, which could eventually enhance viral distribution.

And for this reason, Facebook is yet again helping users reach new levels of power. The new advertising strategy Facebook is implementing forces brands to create better content pages in their ads so they can increase their chances of attracting more fans through viral campaigns. Brands will no longer be viewed as spam but, essentially, as a friend.

And so, you might be thinking that Facebook already has brand metrics to measure popularity of pages, brands, links and the like (and also “Likes”… no pun intended). But the ever-changing functionality of Facebook is inventing new means to enhance the network, including their new addition called “People Talking About.” This functions allows user activity is measured on Pages of brands and media sites, including posting your activity to a wall, commenting, asking or answering questions, “liking,” and sharing content.

The idea behind this new function is measuring how much more effective friend recommendations will be as opposed to online ads to magnifying a brand’s reach. Users will be able to locate high volume traffic and pinpoint what content is most talked about. Brand and media pages can now calculate the number of friends you have, the total reach people have linked to or posted something about your Facebook page each week, the number of news organizations referencing you and how much online distribution your Page receives.

So, what does this mean for advertisers and content creators? For one, more creative and relevant write-ups will be in higher demand (and this is not just a lesson for Facebook marketers). For the most part, social media and SEO has been about content, with many marketers going the lengths of writing repetitive content (and some downright gibberish), just to attract numbers (also known as people) to their site. Now, people are demanding a more personally relevant (and human… not robotic) approach to be heard. Branding is not about guessing what the people want; it’s about listening, connecting and cultivating what people are saying and delivering them answers to their questions, wants and needs. More power to the people, right?

Based on ‘s article Facebook’s New Advertising strategy is Brilliant and Unexpected and Facebook Launches New Metric: People Talking About.

Photo credit by http://unblockfacebookinchina.info/

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