Monthly Archives: October 2011

Ripe For Dissection – Kraft’s Brain Power

Jell-O's Brain Power

Halloween is here and the temptation to just do some simple, silly post about something scary or spooky showing a few images was tempting until coverage of Kraft’s Halloween Social programs came into view.  A piece in MediaPost’s Marketing Daily by Karlene Lukowitz really focused on the key pieces where Kraft succeeded when so many brands fail on seasonal social campaigns. Many fail because their social components are too compartmentalized – whether by platform, subject or vertical. Kraft’s success is even greater because they have SO MANY products under their umbrella, the incorporation of all of them could have been sterile or disjointed.  Instead, they were able to leverage existing and new social components like a Dr. Frankenstein – if he had actually been able to keep his creation around longer than a fortnight.

Some could say it starts with brains – Jell-O brain molds – but those are really just an end product.  The success of the campaign is seen in the fact that with the stronger integration with all of Kraft’s social outlets, they are reporting around 33,000 molds have been ordered, as compared to the 12,000 flag molds that were ordered for the 4th of July.  With that, they have also seen an uptick in sales of the Jell-O products in stores. It could be that Jell-O is more synonymous with Halloween celebrations – or their brain molds – but they did also work well to incorporate all of Kraft’s other relevant brands in recipe programs, and the like, to provide a more holistic and relevant interaction with the social community.

Jell-O is not the only Kraft brand in the scary picture.  Oreos is completing its 20th year of releasing orange-filled cookies, Mallows is offering pumpkin-flavored products and Kool Aid went so far as to key into a discussion topic on their Facebook page and brought back a decade-“Dead” flavor – Ghoul-Aid Scary Blackberry.  Of course they announced that across all of Kraft’s Social channels as well.  Those channels incorporated games to unlock more treats for its users and really took advantage of a circular motion of information – not just a means to put information out to users, but taking information of what they want, in.

Too often, Brands compartmentalized their social programs that do not make for smooth transitions from one to the next and causing fans to ignore or disengage.  By forming an overall strategy that can fluidly move from season to season, product to product and buzz to buzz, all groups can be activated in relevant ways that can only help to build and strengthen those communities.  Remember too, that it is not just about your Facebook and Twitter accounts or even YouTube and other sites, but also outreach to bloggers, digital PR and traditional PR that play a key in success – whether by normal or Ghoulish means.

Happy Halloween!

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Obama Sets The Social Table

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, the Obama team used Facebook, Twitter and other digital media/social outlets perfectly to generate support in ways we had never seen in politics before.  As the President sets out to win re-election, he is reaching back into the same well – or is he?

The Obama campaign has set up a Tumblr blog that is certain to be a bit more dynamic – or at least much more peppered with dissent – than their social outreach the last time around.  It seems, so far, that they are doing the right thing by allowing complaints about the economy or negative views – enabling true communication and engagement.  Looking at the page today, there are the obligatory calls for donations and opportunities to become a part of the campaign in the right column with the running posts by people inside and outside of the campaign in the main content body.

It is certainly an attempt to connect again with those under 30.  With most of the posts having to do with young students and graduates trying to get a job, they are seemingly hitting that target – if the posts are genuine and not just plants.  The blog has only been live for a couple of days, so it remains to be seen if it can build that discussion platform to draw the under-30s back into the fold. 

There will be a lot of happy-go-lucky campaign photos and posts to soften any body blows, but it really comes down to how open the communication is to determine whether this is a success.  Ultimately, it is the campaign that gives the most people engagement opportunities that will win this next election.  As of yet, other than Obama, nobody has really come to the Social table.

So Much Easier To Get In The Game

It used to be that game production required an immense amount of money and development time – and then could only be played on consoles.  A number of years ago, gamers and general consumers found that they could have almost as much fun with the online games that popped up everywhere like wildflowers on the side of California’s I-5.  Whether it was branded games or just your run-of-the-mill-completely-turn-you-into-a-zombie-after-hours-of-play game, the availability for online gaming was endless. And now, simplified development of fun play for mobile devices is making it that much easier to get in the game.

The development of games and time to market has continued to get shorter and more refined – effectively creating a grown-up form of a lemonade stand.  Someone can have an idea for a mobile game, build it themselves in a number of weeks and then the only thing holding it back from market is the approval process from Apple or Google.  Once that’s done, your $.99 offering is out there for anyone to find, download and play.  Of course, much like selling lemonade, the corner you are on is key.  Just because you’re out there does not ensure downloads, but with the proper support, you can look to make a dent.

In fact, there’s a game that hasn’t even been released yet that is already setting up their virtual corner –  getting some buzz and already allowing pre-orders on their website.  The content of the game is indicative of how quickly a game can come to market and how it can be a timely reflection of what’s going on in the world.  In the case of Clear The Park, the player is given the role of the 1% in Occupy Wall Street saga.  Players must figure out ways to get the protestors out of the park in front of their building.  Though tongue-in-cheek, the creators say they gameplay will lead to actual protestors getting gift cards to buy sundry items.

The same development company is also promoting another forthcoming app that plays off of the news in real-time.  Is this time-relevant release of games the sign of things to come?  Are the opportunities to satirize current events no longer limited to television, blogs, videos and images?  It seems that mobile games will be a great resource to enter the fray in a more engaging way.  BUT, marketing and promotion of those games will be the key.

One way that could help get these games into the market in a big way would be through partnerships with brands and the types of shows that the gameplay is comparable to.  If treated almost like an M&A, the game could be produced and then earn money straight away as a partnership is formed with the well-known brand.  Then, there could be marketing and buzz created through that larger company’s existing outlets.

One has to wonder how long it will be until we see a Eurozone game where the player acts as Angela Merkel needing to slap government members from Greece, Spain and Italy. Hopefully there’s not enough time left in the NBA lockout to have some fun gameplay involving Commissioner David Stern and members of the Player’s Association.  Certainly, there’s too many opportunities to get in the game, just play smartly.

Crayola Sadly Not Giving Everything Imaginable in Marketing

What first started as a story about a children’s product that blends packaged goods and online enhancement to provide a shining example of using all resources to create a spectacular product, changed to confusion when I started researching further.  Believe me, the excitement began when I saw the Crayola Story Studio spot last night – giving me a clear idea of what I was going to write today – and then changed entirely when I saw how horribly the product was represented in Crayola’s own digital marketing.  This is definitely not an attempt to damn the company, but more of an exercise to learn from what was done right and what was done horribly wrong.

Let’s begin with the commercial spot.  The spot in itself was disruptive because it had an atypical placement.  Because of that, it caught my eye while I was forwarding through commercials on the DVR.  Running during one of the home-buying shows on HGTV, the spot about a new product that uses facial recognition software on the internet to “comic-book-ize” the child’s face and then inserts it into a comic book for the child to color in.  What you buy in the store is effectively the kit with the paper, binder and access code.  Everything is then printed on that paper through your home printer and away you go.

I was excited by the product because it seemed like a phenomenal way to bridge the physical and digital to bring a fun product to the home. There have been other attempts to bridge the realms, but they usually don’t fulfill their promise and then seem superfluous or lame.  This one had the promise of being so much more.  As stated above, I was impressed with the placement because it was not booked during the typical programming that is packed with toy products.  The placement was smart placement because the programming was about moving into new houses either to start a family or gain room to grow the family.  As such, they are reaching the people who can actually make the purchase rather than hitting the nag factor. 

At that point, the plan was for the post to be about the product with an aside about the marketing.  The research changed all that… 

For simplicity or clarity, here’s the list of the issues:

  • The mention of the product on the Crayola.com homepage is sort of hidden – granted, that is because of the Halloween season.  There should be more of a product presence than the rotating images in the center of the page. There is also a great video posted on the page conveying their mission statement that makes me want to bombard the world with crayola products to ensure world peace and a better life – but that too is sort of lost in the architecture.
  • When trying to find the product through the other navigation, I was not able to find it.  It could be because I’m used to large and clear product listings – especially in relation to kids products. Again, a lot of the confusion could be due to design and layout.
  • When googling what my memory of the product was from the commercial, the closest I got was the company’s press release page – where all releases were in chronological order beginning with releases from March of 2000.  Most listings are in reverse chronological order…
  • By entering “personalized” in the Crayola site search box, the product did not come up.
  • When I did find the site about the product, they did not leverage the available video to convey what the product is.
  • If you got to the Story Studio page, it had very basic information and effectively was a dead-end if you didn’t already have the code.  In the least, it should have had a link to their store to purchase.
  • In crayolastore.com, they were highlighting Halloween products at the top, but didn’t even put the Story Studio product in the new arrivals section at the bottom.

The takeaway from all of this is that the product seems pretty cool and they did smart media planning – at least with that one spot – but they are making a big business error in how the product is supported online.  As consumers are first seeing the product on-air, they are still going online to find more information. Companies need to make sure the products they are supporting in one form of media are also supported across all other relevant platforms.  The official site and store site – regardless of design or architecture – are absolutely relevant platforms and need to reflect the media flights.  If seasonality gets in the way of that clarity, something’s got to give.

In the end, Crayola is effectively letting the steam out of the campaign and diluting the opportunity to really gauge ROI.  For something as new as this – buying a product that must be completed via a computer and web-connection – all opportunities for the consumer to bail have to be removed.  Crayola didn’t do that.  As such, even those people who were interested in the product based on the spot might never convert to purchase because it seemed too complex or hard to find.

Hopefully, Crayola can rectify the situation and have a successful product because that could lead to more of those types of products – bolstering the continued demand for packaged goods rather than just digital.

Worst case scenario is that Crayola does not even follow through on its own tag line and Give Everything Imaginable…

Delivered With An Artisanal Kick

Certainly, buzzwords are key to marketing and successfully introducing new products in a glutted market. Many of them, like “Organic” afford the opportunity for the producer to charge even more – regardless of what the term actually stand for.  In that realm, it is refreshing to see a large brand giving the buzzword a kick-in-the-pants while still drawing the financial benefits from it.  In this case, the word is “Artisan” and the glorious offender is Domino’s Pizza.

They are actually treating it the perfect way for their brand – their customers would have left a long time ago if they actually cared about highfalutin pizza gastronome.  Domino’s management seems to know it and they are having fun with it.  The tag-line of “We’re Not Artisans” above the call-out to buy their Artisan Pizza clearly presents the tongue-in-cheek treatment of the branding.

Perhaps the toppings are higher quality, but I doubt it.  As you can see on their site, consumers can purchase a Large for the same price as the smaller square Artisanal version.  But that’s not what it’s about either.  It seems to be about having fun and providing an opportunity for consumers and employees to share in that fun as well.

When you order one of these pizzas, the box will be signed by the person who made it.  How much more exciting can it get?  Certainly, it should add at least some sarcastic fun for the employees.  Is it a matter of time before people start posting the weird names that are signed by the Domino’s Artisans?

More power to Domino’s for working in some of those crazy buzzwords into their campaigns to liven things up – and make a few extra bucks…

Design is Great But Not Everything

Lisa Wehr posted a solid listing of The 7 Deadly Sins of Facebook Page Design on iMediaConnection today.  There are a number of valuable tips and, while it is clear that the focus is on design, don’t forget that content is key.  There is the ubiquitous question regarding all forms of media as to what is more important – presentation/delivery or content.  In reality, it is not an either/or question, but a matter of both.  You can have the most beautiful page that conveys nothing.  You can have the secrets of the universe on a page that is not designed well that also, effectively, conveys nothing.

The only point that is missing from the post – other than the fact that it does not clearly call out the need for strong, relevant content (and the strategic communication that lays out its release)  – is some guidance on the best treatment to highlight the newest, most important information on your page.  Her strong suggestion regarding not pointing to the wall, but to a landing page is perfect when you have a large promotion like Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy Balls promo. But, what if your brand or company is in-between those big promotions – or your company is not the type to have those types of programs to begin with?

Using major brands as examples of the right thing to do is fine for broad explanations, but what about the smaller companies or brands – the ones that comfortably list 10,000 fans or likes and not 1,000,000 or more?  Those large brands have one or more people specifically assigned to social (and perhaps to Facebook only).  They also have the resources to build out great design. The trick is how the smaller entities program to keep the interaction and community fresh.

For those who have no internal or external resources to do this, it might take even a few hours to brainstorm with whatever departments exist to throw out all the different forms of communication are available and set up the release strategy.  By having all (or most) of the content laid out ahead of time, the structure (both release schedule and design) becomes that much more solid.  You can then have a groundplan for releases so you don’t inundate fans with waste and you can also lay out relevance.   This exercise also helps guide the design or layout that will best highlight what you want highlighted – which could be any of the 7 keys Wehr laid out or others.

As it is becoming clear across the board, fans don’t really mean much unless the numbers in themselves are press-worthy.  The real value is found in engagement and interaction.  I would even take that a step further – emotion.  With that, there are few ways that are better at achieving emotion than the seamless marriage of strong design and content. 

Whether it is in company updates, insights, videos, images, testimonials or any other things that can be effectively placed in your Facebook page, well-executed weaving of design and content are sublime, effective and necessary.

Valuing Brand Ambassadors

At the Digital Hollywood conference yesterday, there was a solid panel titled, Who’s Running Your Brand.  Of course, the main point of the panel was the fact that nowadays, much is left in the hands of fans.  Certainly, brands can do as much as possible to get their talking points and product information out, but the fans are gaining more and more control every day.  It doesn’t do a company any good to police what is being said and try to combat the bad press.  They should be doing whatever they can to enter the environment in a natural way.  The rules of “natural” differ slightly from vertical to vertical, but it should always be thought of as being an enabler, not a dictator or pusher.  In all ways, though, the natural thing is to be relevant and add value.

What many of the panelists talked about was the need to engage influential bloggers and social media trend-setters.  Each one had examples of how they had done it well or how others were doing it well.  There were also a couple of examples of how they were being done horribly – providing a reminder to not under-estimate influencers.

The biggest opportunity for brands to position their social is to engage or entice influencers (or even just active social participants) with opportunities to get something relevantly valuable in return.

For a time, there were incentives to engage that were sort of simple and dumb – “get this ticky-tacky item by participating” or “jump through these hoops for the chance to get something huge.”  Those things worked until there was too much of the same glutting the social market.  Influencers are smart AND have a lot to do in their lives, so they don’t just jump at any carrot that is put before them. But, in either case, they aren’t always simple, dumb or bad.  The determination of whether they are lame or not really relies on relevancy and the target user.  As a brand, you owe it to your fans to offer something of value if you want them to be ambassadors (and your actual product doesn’t lend itself to that all by itself.)

Some examples discussed were Fox Theatrical’s invitation of key X-Men bloggers to an event in Cannes where they were able to interview the cast and production team on the same level of the traditional outlets – leading to much more coverage and excitement than initially expected.  The same basic idea was used for the release of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – where more types of influencers were invited to meet with filmmakers to find out more about the film’s emotional core.  In the APES example, the film opened extremely well because of the buzz surrounding the fact that it was not just a sci-fi movie.  The same ideas had been mentioned for the music industry as well as for tires and other CPG brands.

In all examples, there was a true value add for people to participate.  It was not just a lazy offering in the hopes that people would bite and blog or tweet about it. Engaging and honest interactions between brands and influencers will lead to much bigger returns.  (We’ve already covered this in the blog from September 7th.)

They also refered to the program that Lenovo just launched targeting teenagers in the hopes that it will drive brand identity for future consumers.  In their Spacelab program, they are generating community and content by offering the opportunity for students to present their ideas for experiments in space.  Not only do the 2 winners have their experiments completed in space, but there are other prizes such as training at the Cosmonaut training center or flights on the zero-gravity planes.  This just launched, so only time will tell if it works, but it seems that they’ve offered something of real value to their participants that will drive higher engagement.

There are other examples where all it took was a moment of clear thinking and not a “rush-to-market” on a program that led to absolutely cost-effective fan and ambassador engagement.  The lack of proper consideration and planning is just plain dumb.