Tag Archives: Buzz

Beckham and H&M’s Tighty Whities Draw Event Marketing To The Cliffs Edge

H&M has just brought tighty whities to huge heights with their latest marketing event – projecting David Beckham images in various underwear products on the White Cliffs of Dover. The interesting part of it is that the stunt is the draw and not, necessarily, the execution or actual impressions. In this case, the brand presented a nice marketing mix of timing, placement and control – letting the buzz follow.

H&M’s timing could not be better – with the Olympics taking place and Beckham’s appeal through the roof (made even stronger by his appearance in the Games’ opening ceremonies.) And, the brand was able to leverage the Olympics without having to pay a fee like all the brands who have tied their names to the Games.

As we’ve seen with other landmarks, natural and man-made, it is tricky to make use of them for marketing purposes. The challenges in negotiating for their use often lead to ideas being dropped before they even start.  With the development of large-scale projection, a large part of the issue – hampering with the physical structures – is averted. It still remains to be seen what kind of fallout there might be when people realize that their beloved location has been usurped for marketing purposes.

What’s most interesting about this execution is the extremely small amount of people who might actually have a chance to see it in its actual form.  The limitation of viewers to anyone who might have a flight plan bringing them over the White Cliffs of Dover at night, on a night-time ferry across the channel, or a boat just passing by, or possibly being able to make it out from the shores of France being able to see it makes the actual reach of one night’s posting very limited.  But its the real reach that is making the difference.

Keep in mind that, in addition to the relatively few people who might have actually seen it, there is only one image that is circulating.  While this execution happened on Wednesday night, the 1st of August, there is still only one image that is circulating around the web as of four days later. (I actually waited a couple of days to post this in order to see if there was more than the one image.)  That one available image seems to be so brilliant that it just feels like it could be photoshopped. The most cynical could say that it was an agency’s mocked up proposal that made it out into the ether – with H&M getting the bang for the buck without having to actually execute.  Add to that their Twitter campaign using #beckhamsbriefsofdover which has people posting the same exact image.

Regardless of that, and even if it never happened, it was a smart move on H&M’s part because of the amount of control they had and how much the action is being picked up.  No matter whether people are upset or excited about it, there is still buzz.  When looking at H&M’s target demo, how much concern needs to be placed on negative feelings for this?

Kent Online digs deeper into whether it was a real execution or not, but does it really matter in the end.  What matters is that a generally positive buzz has been unleashed about a product that some could say had no business being in the news cycle.  Perhaps the only thing I wish they had done ensure that other images or video were available to support whether it was actually executed.  It will be left to the audience to determine whether they care if the execution really happened or not. What brings this marketing campaign to the edge is that it drove people to talk about a product based on an execution very people actually saw – if there was anything at all to be seen…

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JCPenney Gets The Buzz But Misses The Point

Sarah Mahoney might have incorrectly or unfairly categorized JCPenney’s newest ad as pandering to the Right in her recent MediaPost entry.  Whether it is, in fact, the company’s attempt to counter any backlash that they have received from their same-sex marriage ads or not, they might be doing more damage than good – due to the buzz they are generating for the wrong reasons. The prodding of consumers to round-up their purchases to the nearest dollar for charity – with the proceeds going to the USO – is admirable but it doesn’t really do much for JCPenney in its latest push to move to greener pastures in the sales column.  I don’t think it has to do with liberal or conservative, Left or Right, Gay or Straight – as Mahoney suggests (specifically as none of those are mutually exclusive when it comes to charity, military or the USO.)  What it does do is further remove focus from the company’s switch to lower prices across the board.

Already, a head has rolled in just the few short months since JCPenney announced its new direction with always-discounted pricing rather than asking consumers to wait for sales to come. In January, an AP interview with CEO, Ron Johnson, clearly spelled out what their revamp was. In June, their President, Michael Francis – a seasoned marketer – was fired after five months on the job.

Could it be that it was because their lifestyle ads were compelling and welcoming, but missed the point about how you could go into a store any day and find great prices on products from major designers?  Did they not focus enough on their new offering of deep discounts on the first and third Friday of every month?  Most of the buzz I heard was the flak about Ellen DeGeneres being their spokesperson, followed by the image of two mommies in their Mother’s Day ad and then two daddies in the Father’s Day version. From a liberal perspective, it might have had a warming effect.  Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to have a heating effect on sales.

This is by no means a scientific analysis of what people are taking away from those ads, but on a surface review, they just don’t do enough to present JCPenney as a true competitor to its main competition.  They are certainly not the first store to have specific lines made for them (see Missoni for Target) and they are not the only ones to permanently drop their prices (see Falling Prices for Wal-Mart.)  Even when looking at the one ad out there about those Friday sales don’t make their overall strategy clear.

Sadly, it seems that they (JCPenney) are the only ones to have lost that point in well-meaning yet unclear advertising.

Enough With The “Build It And They Will Come” Mantra!

With the winding down of the Digital Content NewFront (DCNF), one thing is clear – there is a lot of compelling video content.  The question remains – will enough people find it? Online/Mobile video providers are not the only ones confronting this dilemma. A multitude of options are available for audiences of all shapes, sizes, colors, etc. and that hasn’t changed – other than just getting larger by the day. While TV content providers had to go through a phase of dwindling audiences and learning to be able to deal with it, publishers of digital content never had anything but a diverse, wide and scattered environment with which to service. Those in the space always knew that while we could track more information and produce content more inexpensively – but it would be hitting fewer people than the broadcasters and many cablecasters were.  That scale was the first challenge that I think we have collectively gotten over.  Perhaps the biggest hurdle moving forward is the limited perspective usually found in dealing with everything surrounding the actual content creation and the driving of eyeballs to content. It was kind of understandable why many people thought they could build something cool, slap it up on the web and generate some traffic or buzz back in the day.  Before Social Media came on, that was certainly easier – not always completely effective, but more effective than it is now. Today, while many marketers talk about the need for Social integration with their brands and their digital marketing products, its frustrating to witness how many people are still mired in the ideal of “Build it and they will come.”

We see many instances of digital products that take off and generate buzz in a timely fashion, but only tick off one or two boxes out of the five that they could have hit if planned and produced fully across all channels and divisions. Many success stories are achieved almost by accident and many marketers jump on to take a part in its glory. It should no longer be acceptable for a marketing team or vendor to engage on a project based solely on a cool idea if they do not have an executable plan for reaching the right audience.  When setting KPIs or projecting ROI without a clearly defined smart distribution/seeding plan, you’re working in a “fingers crossed” capacity.  Some feel that by creating something cool and putting media behind it, they will be successful.  They will probably be more successful than if they just placed the marketing product in the digital realm, but it’s still not as strong as it can be.  And, that’s why strategy goes beyond any individual campaign and looks to leverage all existing distribution/seeding outlets.

Bringing it back to DCNF, Google/YouTube is the last presentation and will be touting the deeper opportunities with channels – where users can delineate what they are most interested in and have those videos come up in quasi-curated groupings. This might make things a little easier – especially on the video platform that serves up 3 billion hours of video a month. But, for the content creator and any advertisers who are paying for product inclusion within the content, there still needs to be some sort of engagement that actually drives the eyeballs to the content.

While it was nice to see some interesting content presented during DCNF, there’s still a huge lack of compelling discussion of how users will be drawn specifically to this content.  If they are just relying on the conceit that viewers are organically drawn to the affinity channels they most associate with, then they’ve had their eyes closed for a while.  On television, there are MANY channels that I have an affinity for. Yet, there are maybe 15 channels that I will flip through when not watching something in the DVR. Studies have shown that I’m not alone.  So affinity alone does not hold too much water when discussing the introduction of new shows and the generation of viewers.

Moving away from video and focusing on digital marketing products, it’s the same thing. A close friend of mine, Jo Oskoui, told me about an experiment his team just completed that speaks directly to this dilemma.  His company, Oskoui+Oskoui, will be publishing a study that delves deeper into the specifics, but the gist is that they had produced a piece of content and originally posted it only on their blog.  They posted the piece in Q3 2011 when there was a lot of buzz about the related product – a product with a huge cultural value that happened to have a major consumer product release at the time. Their blog gets decent traffic for a blog of that type, but they wanted a limited posting and then see what happened. The basic creative element got less than 50,000 views since posting on their blog – OK but not much.  More than six months later, they completed their experiment by engaging their proprietary social distribution and seeding network to distribute the same exact piece of content and were able to garner over 3 million views with a high rate of re-posting in only one week.

This exemplifies the importance of having a whole plan surrounding any digital marketing product launch. There is too much happening in the digital realm – without even get into the today’s crazy buzz about George Zimmerman’s legal defense team launching a site and social media outlets – nobody can rely on just placing content in the digital realm and expect people to find it.

The good news is that there are many cost-effective options for creating that holistic marketing execution. In fact, I would push vendors to not only come up with the creative idea, but the sound executable plan for generating the distribution that’s required to make a difference (and establish the parameters of success.)  Many companies already engage separate vendors to do creative production, social strategies and implementation, and publicity, but they don’t do a great job of keeping every group up-to-speed – leading to less effective campaigns and wastes of money. So, even if the creative agency isn’t a one-stop shop, that doesn’t preclude the marketing team from engaging all groups internally and externally to set the stage for a whole campaign.

We know that we won’t strike gold every time, but we’ll certainly do better if we go out with a smart strategy and ensure that the strategy and products are communicated across all parts of the company – not just putting content out there and crossing our fingers that people will find it.   FIELD OF DREAMS is a fictional story and we know that the famous line,”Build it and they will come”is just a piece of dialog – we just need to act like we know that when launching our campaigns.

Begging the Question – Is Questionable Execution Worth A Good Buzz?

Just like most marketers, I’m always looking for innovative ways to draw attention and get the message out.  Sometimes, a bunch of buzz is generated for an execution that seems – on the surface – like it is a brilliant use of the technology.  Unfortunately, when you actually check it out, it leaves a little to be desired when it comes to actually conveying the product’s narrative.  One such case is the French adventure/outdoor products company, Quechua, and the Facebook Timeline piece they launched yesterday to launch their new commercial. The concept was cool, but in practice, the experience was clunky and actually acted counter to the product they were trying to promote.  It certainly begs the question whether buzz about marketing products is good even when that execution is not all it can be.

The Quechua Experiment is getting buzz specifically as the “First Scrollable Commercial on Facebook Timeline.”  I don’t know how much people were waiting for that feat to be attained, but the buzz it’s generating is technically correct. In this case, is that such a cool thing or just a media hook?  When a user goes to www.facebook.com/QuechuaExperiment, they are asked to scroll down on their timeline and push the equivalent “more” button 15 times.  Once at the bottom, press both the SHIFT and SPACE buttons to start the frame-by-frame movement upwards through the images in the Timeline.

Essentially, they are trying to explain the benefits of their 2 second tent with a web mechanic that, annoyingly, takes much longer to experience. When you look at the “video”, it provides beautiful imagery that makes people want to camp out in the wilderness and, at the end, shows how simple it is to break the tent down when you are done. It’s frustrating because we always talk about how interactivity makes the experience deeper for the user – yet this interactivity takes away from the original source of the information, which is the beautiful video.  If all you are getting is another version of the video, is it worth it? It should have been as quick and simple as the “flick of a wrist” that it takes to set up the tent…

Courtesy of Quechua

The company seems to be cutting-edge in general – not just in the materials they use, but in their marketing.  One such example is a beautiful commercial for their products – melding the campers and the environment beautifully – and then enabling a rich behind the scenes environment through technology to explore more. I give them and their agency, Fred + Farid credit for trying new things with this Facebook Timeline execution, but I think the actual mechanics of it miss the mark.

I can’t fault them as they are getting buzz about it. I’m just saddened when a good mechanic is not optimized to become a great marketing product.  With the emphasis being placed on being the first ones to try something, you really want that “first time” to be something really special.  I don’t feel they’ll get anything negative from this and I definitely wouldn’t have known about their products had it not been for the buzz – so that’s a positive for them.  I’m just looking at it as a marketing product, and the full mechanic didn’t convey the product benefits as best it could have. I almost would have rather them had a tongue-in-cheek message that it will take longer for the user to experience the marketing than it would to either set up the tent or take it down.

In the end, I would rather the good buzz support a good marketing mechanic – something that better conveys the product. Additionally, except for in the most extreme cases, buzz is mostly good for a product. I’m always up for some good buzz – I just get disheartened when it leads to a marketing execution that is not all it could have been.

Fear Forces Social Television To Grow Up

TV Guide just released a survey about Social TV and the Mass Market and while I don’t know how many people were included in the survey, one thing that stood out was the top reason for people to share what they are watching.  When asked “Why do you share what you’re watching,” the leading response was not “To tell my friends which shows I watch.” Leading the way with 76% was the reasoning that they do it to help keep their favorite shows on the air.  That’s a huge component – and not a new topic on the list (it was second last year) – that points to the growing maturity (and perhaps cynicism) of the audience. When fans are using social media to try to manipulate the business behind their favorite shows, it’s a sign of growing up that evokes the sense of nostalgia or loss a parent might have when their child starts realizing that Santa, the tooth fairy and leprechauns don’t exist. If the numbers are true, it’s too bad that social media surrounding television has grown up with a bit more fear than innocent discovery.

There has been social outreach that has led to shows being saved in the past (Friday Night Lights and Roswell come quickly to mind.)  A few months ago, Daisy Whitney wrote about the correlation between social buzz and ratings – with the report from Nielsen that, for the 18-34 age group, a 9% increase in social relates to a 1% increase in ratings. But, neither of these directly relates to the fan’s somewhat bizarre use of social to trigger business decisions.  much like parents would not want their children to engage in the family finances, should the providers of television content want the viewers to feel that they have to do anything but love (and interact with) the show to keep it on the air?

With the viewer’s time investment in shows that have no assuredness they will actually remain on the air, perhaps the social action is something they can do to feel that they are affecting the eventual outcomes. And sadly, it seems they feel  that they have to do such a thing as somewhat of a defensive tactic.

There are so many opportunities for social buzz as it relates to celebrating – and even extending the narrative – for beloved shows. With the growing periods of time between seasons for a number of series, there is a need for more social programming to keep the audiences engaged.  Three Showtime series (SHAMELESS, HOUSE OF LIES and CALIFORNICATION) had season finales this past weekend and will not return with new episodes until winter of 2013 – that’s a long time to keep interest up.  Maintaining a flow of social content could help keep interest there. With an even shorter hiatus of nine months, the season 2 premiere the series, THE KILLING on AMC only brought in 1.8 million total viewers. While those numbers are still decent in this fragmented world, its a half million less than the amount who watched the season finale on June 19, 2011. Again, leveraging social to keep viewers engaged rather than letting them fend for themselves could have helped to generate more awareness.

I’ve always felt that social could be a better tool for exploration rather than maintenance. The thing is, there’s often a responsibility tied to the narrative of the show and the question of who “owns” that progression.  In most cases, the show runners or owners would not want to give that control to the users.  Without opening up the opportunities for conversation beyond the latest episode or a show’s “Who Shot J.R.?” question, there’s not really a lot users can dig into during the hiatus.

It then comes down to economics.  Networks have the model of promoting a show when it is actually on the air. The owners of the shows are in the best position to activate campaigns that bridge the gap because they control the show narratives, but they usually don’t have the budgets set up to handle any such campaign. There are many reasons this should change – beyond just retaining fans through long breaks – that we’ll dig into in a later post. I guess it comes down to who needs those viewers more, the show or the network. The answer is probably shared right down the middle to some extent.

So, at some point, the kids caught on to how the adults were doing things and innocence was lost. Some would argue that its hardest to foster true creativity and connection from fear. It would be better for all involved if the fear of a show being cancelled was not the top reason, by a large margin, for people to be involved in a show’s social activity. Time and again, it has been proven that people relate and connect to things that have a narrative or emotional hook more than those with just mechanical activities. The “saving the world” narrative might work for some shows’ fans – probably for limited periods of time – but to truly maintain and build a fan base, there needs to be a shift from fear to celebration/engagement in terms of social media and television.

The Silly Demand Dance

Will the strategy of limiting supply to generate buzz ever end?  In this age of “Everything I want, I want immediately”, will people stand (or fall) for trickling distribution of an item that can’t get to market quickly enough? It seems that Apple is leading the category in anticipation through limited supply – with the latest example being the iPad 3 – oops, the new iPad. It just seems to be such a silly dance we do with Apple annually where the demand can’t be meted by the supply.

We smartly gave up on the clubs with the velvet-roped lines outside and barely anyone inside as we realized it was all about buzz.  But we’re still collectively mesmerized by Apple. When one of the largest distributors of devices continues to run out of product at launch, we put up with it for who knows what reason. I agree that their products are phenomenal, but do we all need to have them on day one?  Perhaps because of the Samsung ads poking fun at the people who wait in line at Apple stores for new product releases, many more people pre-ordered so they could have the product on the first day.  Alas, they have run out of those devices and cannot get them to consumers who didn’t get in on the first phase of pre-orders until the following Monday at the earliest. And, if you haven’t pre-ordered yet, don’t expect one to get to you for weeks.  The funny thing is that units are in the cities where they are supposed to be delivered, but were put on hold at the Fedex locations so that they would not be delivered until Friday.  A friend who pre-ordered early enough to get his set for delivery on Friday actually got an email saying that his product was picked up in the local Fedex hub and would be delivered yesterday – only to get a follow-up email that it was placed on hold for that Friday delivery.

Courtesy of Washington Post

From a stockholder’s perspective, I’m sure the demand and buzz is great as the price shot up $20 a share in the past three days of trading. This brings us back to the point of strategy.  Is it Apple’s strategy to greatly limit supply at the beginning to drive buzz and stocks higher?  Was it also their strategy to push delivery back on pre-orders to drive people to the lines when they recognized that people were getting wise and pre-ordering because they didn’t care to spend any more time in lines?

I don’t know that I buy the thought that it was unexpected or that the supply chain wait is a product of that demand.  They are releasing day and date in a few other countries – a reasonable excuse for greater demand. In this age, there are so many ways to gauge interest and projections based on numerous touch-points.  Additionally, with Apple’s finger on the pulse of their consumers could not have been this amazed about the demand for the product. Not having a sense that your product is going to be a huge seller doesn’t seem like a good business plan for me – especially for a company like Apple.

Sadly, other technology companies are following suit with limited supply and distribution – seemingly in order to build buzz.  Most recently, the demand for the Leap Pad left a lot of people without the holiday item they coveted.  I can more understand Leap Frog’s surprise about demand and its subsequent scale than I can Apple’s.  I don’t know that I give Leap Frog that much credit for playing off scarcity to build buzz, but who knows?

I do hope that Apple doesn’t pull the same thing if and when they ever release the iPhone 5 (June?) as the dance is getting pretty boring.  I can buy the excuse that you just can’t build enough units quickly enough.  I don’t buy the one of shock about demand.  The dance is just getting overdone.

Stark Opportunities For Companies To Help Pay It Forward

Last night, I was given the option of “rounding up” on my bill at Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que as a donation to charity – and I jumped at the opportunity. In addition to being thankful for being given the opportunity to give, I wondered if it is helping from a business perspective as a builder of loyalty.  It seems to play no part in their marketing as an opportunity to draw in new customers, but what if it did?  Looking at this and some other recent opportunities to pay it forward – like Jonathan Stark’s Starbucks card – poses the question of whether establishing or promoting simple ways to pay it forward can make a difference to a company’s bottom line in a positive way.

Round It Up America is a program that works with companies to allow customers to effectively and easily donate some change with every purchase.  The program was formed by the chain, The Yard House, in 2009 and has been slowly adding other restaurant partners since then.  They are currently represented through seven restaurant chains in roughly a dozen states.  It seems like a strong program that benefits the local communities where the restaurants are actually located with a reserve kept for national emergencies. I couldn’t find any proof that any of the chains were actively promoting the partnership beyond the mention on the receipt, inclusion in a simple press release or listing on Round It Up America’s site. 

I came upon the opportunity by accident and felt good about giving the money – perhaps forming a stronger loyalty for the restaurant I participated in and looking to sample other participating restaurants.  All of the participants can stand to do more work to spread the word about their involvement.  If only on their site, Facebook page and/or blog, it might not be enough as those visitors are already fans of the establishment.  There are numerous opportunities to reach people who are looking to engage businesses who support their own community. And if you ask most people, the only thing holding them back from donating to organizations is the simple secure opportunity to do so.

In a bit of a different twist where paying it forward becomes a human by-product rather than the actual plan, Jonathan Stark’s Starbucks card made the rounds in August of 2011 before being closed due, in part, to its own success.  What supposedly started as an experiment became an opportunity for people to pay it forward in a completely virtual way.  Stark first published the image of his Starbuck’s card app with a $30 balance and the request for people to use it as they wish.

Instead of being quickly depleted, it lasted for weeks with people adding value to the card.  It became a version of leave a penny, take a penny.  Ultimately, it generated enough buzz that there was coverage and that was when things started to go awry.  You can find more information about what happened, but in a nutshell, someone wrote a program that enabled them to transfer the card’s value to their own card – effectively stealing from the general coffers.  Upon discovering this breach, Starbucks closed the account.

What was interesting about this “experiment” is that people took advantage of the free component, but also felt inclined to give more than they received.  The communal fortune and sense of belonging was stronger than the initial joy of receiving something for free.  Again, it was the opportunity to give that made the difference.  It was the equivalent of yelling “Drinks are on me!” in a loaded bar, but in a much more palatable scale.  Though Starbucks was not the sponsor of this event, they truly benefitted from the buzz and its subsequent sampling of both the coffee and the benefits of their app without spending a cent.

If only a company were able to tap into these communal benefit mechanics or something similar and actually leverage them effectively, who knows what kind of growth there can be in loyalty and bottom line.  The major challenge is in pulling it off without seeming to be manipulative or dis-ingenuine.  Customers will sense it instantly. There are many companies that donate money or time to organizations.  There are many that specify that a percentage of a purchase will go to charity, but not many put it in the hands of the customer like the two executions above show.  I imagine that corporate sponsorship of a program like this has been done before, but these just exemplify how they can be done on a simple small scale. If promotions is done properly by the right brands/companies/retailers/restaurants there could be huge upside while also making a considerable difference in the world – or at least the community around us.

In the case of Stark’s Starbucks card, the site and its Twitter account live on sort of in the capacity of showing how people are paying it forward in the way his radical experiment uncovered.  Perhaps the time is right for companies to tap into that sensation and provide the opportunity for everyone to give back and pay it forward…