Tag Archives: MediaPost

The Best Brand Social Communication

SocialDisarray

Far too many brands fail by using social as arms of their PR team – where they announce and tell rather than join in a conversation. The reality is that probably less than 10% are doing their brand communication on social effectively. MediaPost’s post on Sprout Social’s recent study of brand response to their audience (or consumers) through social shows a dismal upward trend of not responding to social queries. More audiences are expecting more customer service capabilities via social, yet brands continue to send many more posts than replies. In the case of media and entertainment, they send 8.5X more posts than replies and, in the real estate vertical, nearly 12X. Some of the brands that better understand not only the power in responding, but the need to, are those in travel/hospitality and some in everyday-use package goods. Virgin Atlantic is one company that set the tone early in the use of social media in how they handled travel disruptions caused by volcano ash that hampered travel throughout Europe in 2010. Where other airlines completely let their customers down, Virgin Atlantic served their customers well through constant communication and grew loyalty in the process. The thing is, your brand should determine how involved you are in social communication with your audience – not the vertical.

Of equal importance is that responding to your audience via social is only part of the equation in good brand social communication. That often overlooked component is the brand voice. As with the other pieces of brand experience that are moving to the forefront of Audience Development is the consistent portrayal of your brand’s voice. Especially when maneuvering the social realm, consistency is even more important as it will usually be the most “human” relationship the audience has with the brand. The voice needs to factor the following at minimum:

Purpose – Why are you on Social platforms in the first place? What services will you serve via social and what will you not? If, for example, you have no intention of delivering customer service via social, that will greatly affect the voice.

Character – What does your brand “sound like”? As this is the must human interaction, what do you want your audience to take away from the brand socially?

Tone – What is the general vibe of the brand? If this is not consistent with character and your overall brand, your social is DOA.

Language – Determining the kind of words you use and the style of language is completely dependent on who your audience is. If you don’t have that understanding of your audience, you can find yourself actually hindering growth by using the wrong language.

All of these considerations – along with your brand’s consistent dedication to providing the needed resources – can lead to great brand social communication. Being clear and consistent with your social strategy and execution will not only lead to streamlined resources, but also consistent growth.

Sound Strategy Can Leverage Fumbles Into Wins For Smart Companies

Fumble Recovery

Too often, sports fans get upset when their opponent wins by way of a fumble recovery or one good play that enables a close victory. They exhort, “they were lucky!’ Or, “it was just a lucky bounce.” But the real truth is that the opposing team was just well prepared.  How many times are there balls up in the air for people to pounce on – only to see the ball fumbled out of play? How many times have people been faced with an opportunity, but aren’t prepared to walk through the door and take it? How many times have companies had a chance to gain a huge client, but aren’t prepared to deliver the right proposal in the allotted time? Just like the fumble recovery, preparation and strategy are much stronger determinants of wins than luck.  Gord Hotchkiss nails this ideal directly in his post about strategy on MediaPost. The thing is, he still attributes the element of luck in relation to success when the real truth is that sound strategy allows companies to create the element of “luck” by acting quickly and decisively due to preparation.

The truth is, strategy has been prepared and looked at in the wrong way for quite a long time. They are often set in absolutes with no room for flexibility or agility. They are often created by people who are too close to the product or don’t have the time to take a step back and evaluate their place in the market appropriately. And, perhaps most importantly, they don’t place the intended audience at the core of their considerations.

Creating a strategy with an eye toward what the audience is looking for and allowing for flexibility provides a key foundation that enables all members of the team to fluidly evaluate what’s going on in the environment and make moves or decisions that are based on the strategic core. It also provides the insights for the correct questions to ask when trying to determine whether that bright shiny object is the right direction or a complete waste of resources.

Once a proper strategy has been set in place, the fun’s not over. The team has to be fully educated on the thoughts and ideology behind it so that they may act on it without hesitation. There needs to be a clear understanding how it fits within the company’s ideals and mission – for if it’s not clear, maybe you need to dig back into building the strategy. All of this leads into strong leadership that enables the team to best capitalize on opportunity.

Hotchkiss provides an extremely gratifying illustration of the ROI value in the following:

Let’s imagine that two companies, A & B, both launched this year with $10 million in sales. Over the next 20 years, both companies were subject to the same rhythms — positive and negative — of the marketplace. But, because of superior leadership and management, Company A was able to more effectively capitalize on opportunity, giving it a 14% advantage over Company B. In 2035, what would be the impact of that 14% edge?  It’s not insignificant. Company B would have grown in sales to $21 million, with growth of just over 100%. But Company A would have sales of almost $290 million. It would be almost 14 times the size of Company B!

Smart strategy (and strong leadership) doesn’t dissolve the need for luck, but it does provide that preparation and foundation for the leveraging of whatever comes your way to turn a possible fumble into a win.

Aside

The growth and breadth of items showcased annually at CES has led to the attendance of more than sellers of electronics – it’s caused an ever-growing onslaught of entertainment marketing folks to jet over to Vegas. Wayne Friedman of MediaPost … Continue reading

Lessons From SXSW About Authenticity

At the SXSW Tech Conference, downtown Austin was flush with participants pitching their products and more people clamoring for and chasing insights into those products and more. Steve Smith points to the search for Authenticity in his MediaPost blog – Chasing Authenticity At SXSW.  While he was talking about Authenticity in relation to products and their intended users, the same lessons hold true for communication.

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Essentially, Smith captured statements from Walgreens and HBO executives about the development of their companies’ Apps.  In the case of Walgreens, they found that people didn’t care about games – they just wanted to do core activities like simple filling of prescriptions. At HBO, consumers wanted to view original content on the HBO Go App.  In both instances, the companies were able to build user-base solely on the core features and then they were able to expand to other functionality. They realized that they couldn’t hide their “authentic” product to build excitement for something that didn’t make sense for their intended audience right off the bat.

Too often in marketing, we see messaging that is spun too far from the truth.  Or, we see products from publishers, companies and organizations that just don’t ring true to what we believe them to be. We’ve all been there – where we might be too heavily immersed in a product to take a step back and ask the right questions. The right question is not always “Will anyone care/buy?”, but “Does this product make sense coming from us?”

We’ve referenced the common occurrence of utilizing campaign products that are the shiny-object-du-jour and how marketers should really analyze whether that makes sense.  Sometimes, you’ve got to bite the bullet to present what management asks for.  But, we should all be striving to present the authentic core of what our companies represent. The litmus test for any product development or campaign is whether people will immediately understand why you’re releasing/communicating this.  If its not immediately clear to the end user, then you might need to reconsider.

The business world is awash with terms like “optimize” and “leverage” and that’s for a reason.  Sadly, many don’t follow through with the core elements of each. Subsequent campaigns and communications are that much easier when they are derivative of the core values or message.  Through that authentic development and communication, you’ll make bring the right products and campaigns to market with the strongest economic benefit and upside.

Tread Upon Our Content? We Won’t Take It! Or, Will We?

Last night, I caught the premiere of NBC’s new game show, TAKE IT ALL, hosted by Howie Mandell and had a little fun with it. While I absolutely enjoy narrative shows – sitcoms and dramas – more than game shows, it seemed that the bells and whistles were more reserved and made more sense with the context of the game show than they do on the other content I watch on broadcast and cable. Those bells and whistles I’m referring to are the incessant promotional graphics that come up in the lower-third, upper-third, corner or even full screen.  They are sadly more invasive than ever – partially due to DVRs, but seemingly more due to the lack of consideration for the content. How much will viewers stand to suffer as content is tread upon by messaging?

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

David Goetzl wrote about the intrusiveness of networks over programming as a response to DVRs in his MediaPost entry this morning.  While focusing on the encroachment of promotional messaging within a network’s shows, he posits that actually selling overlay advertising inventory may be right around the corner. I shutter to think how much that will diminish the actual content that provides the platform advertising relies on.

Back at the turn of the century – remember 2000? – product placement for television was not effectively seen in Primetime. At that point, it consisted of a bottle of Mountain Dew given to the winner of a SURVIVOR challenge. There was a debate between networks and producers while trying to figure out who would make the money from those “promotional considerations.”  Since that point, the integration of products with shows has reached – and perhaps exceeded – the high science of product placement in motion pictures. Back then, it was still reasonable to assume that the network could make their bucks through commercial inventory sales.  But, is that opportunity window closing to the networks with the growing penetration of DVRs?

The line marking who profited (network/producer) from what type of integration has certainly blurred, but profit participation becomes secondary when when weighed against diminished content by distracting overlays.  An argument could be made that promotions are a different beast with the belief that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” and all shows benefit from the promotion of other shows on a network. But as Goetzl writes, our time-shifting sort of makes that argument moot. Either way, if overlay inventory is actually sold and an item is distractingly pitched over important narrative content, the network might have the short gain of a sale, but the long-term risk to the actual content (and its viewership) being greatly diminished.

Going back to TAKE IT ALL, the ability to DVR proof promotional items within a game show is certainly a solution – but not something everyone can do. We saw how devastating game-show-full schedules can be to viewership in general (check that same turn of the century period) so a solution for narrative programming is required.  Is that solution a widespread jump to running advertisements on top of narrative content?  Absolutely not. That would lead even more viewers to stop watching or switch to the pay-TV programming that has gained ground on Showtime, HBO and Starz or shift to streaming options – definitely not good for broadcast and basic cable networks.

Whatever the winning decision is, my hope is that they don’t tread on the content and destroy the television programs that have been the height of storytelling in the past few years.  Enjoy the show, TAKE IT ALL, but don’t encroach on the content and Take It All away.

 

NBC News’ Confusing Destruction of Demographics

I’ve been quite bullish on the need to move away from straight demographics in marketing and media from some time.  And I haven’t been alone.  We see in research that a person’s age or sex isn’t always the best marker of what the consumer is interested in.  Even some products that historically might have been limited to a demo or sex are seeing a bit of change.  One example of that is where we are seeing more stay-at-home fathers who are responsible for buying the diapers – and they’re not into the same programming that a mother might be into.  I understand that the example is nowhere close to becoming a norm, but it illustrates the point. What concerns me more than the slow move to affinity marketing from demographic marketing is the opportunity for publishers to bring bogus solutions to market that only make the transition messier. The latest affront can be found in a MediaPost exclusive with NBC News Digital’s confusing move towards a “Persona” structure that seems even worse than straight demographics.

Before getting into the details of NBC’s move, its important to point out that the shift from affinity to demographic sales from a publisher prospective might not be such an easy thing.  Even if a publisher perfectly hits a demographic segment, we know that not everyone in that segment is interested in all things exactly the same.  As data and algorithms are refined, there will be ways to define the buckets and deliver to them more easily.  But, at this time, the easier way to target may well be through smart social media targeting. And traditional publishers shouldn’t be too far behind – unless they go in the wrong direction.

Which brings us to NBC News.  Their direction is confounding.  Instead of breaking down their affinity into what their users are specifically are interested in, they are effectively playing off of how much their users are interested in. Instead of Demographics, they want to move to Persona.  That’s great if they want to hit those who are more interested in more granular buckets like political, entertainment, sports, local and more.  But they are basing their four buckets on how much news they read.  From the description, they don’t glean much about the individuals based on these segments ranging from avid digital news readers to spotty or traditional news consumers:

  • “Always On:” Consumers who are constantly connected to news feeds across  multiple devices throughout their waking day.
  • “Reporters:” A slightly smaller segment of “digital natives” who grew up  consuming news via online and mobile media, and who have manifested the behaviors of news disseminators, taking pride in their ability to break  important news to their friends via their own social media postings.
  • “Skimmers:” Consumers who are not passionately connected to news.
  • “Veterans:” Consumers who primarily rely on traditional media as a trusted  source for news.

NBC News Digital will be focusing on the first two Personas, but as a media buyer, I really don’t have an idea about what any of those groups are interested in.  I understand that the “Reporters” might be most likely to share news information with friends, but does that mean that they care about what branding comes along with it? Do the CPMs I pay mean more when it reaches “Always On” readers more because there is the assumption that there are more impressions? Or is it worth less because those readers may be much more adept at tuning out the ads those who are not always checking online for the latest news?

Perhaps the solution for the latter issue is based on sponsorship opportunities.  But, such an engagement is even more challenging in the news environment due to the accepted separation of editorial and advertising.

I couldn’t find much more information about the program – other than MediaPost’s piece on it, so I don’t know what NBC is looking to do. Sadly, it looks like NBC may have garnered a headline, but ended up diminishing its proposition because there wasn’t enough within the article or supporting it.  With the input the group has from research teams and other organizations, I’m hopeful that there is more sense to this than can currently be seen. Otherwise, it is just another in a long line of curious announcements that miss the especially engaging aspects of digital media and flattens them almost to incomprehension.

At the speed in which we are moving forward and the challenges of selling in concepts and practices to clients and management in that same expedited time, we collectively need to be thinking more clearly about the products and measurements we introduce. Decision makers are too quick to pass judgement that it still causes many to shake their head when half-baked or confusing concepts are presented to the marketplace. The true shift from media planning for demographics to affinity needs to happen – and can happen – but we can’t be placing obstacles in our own path.

 

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.