Tag Archives: Social

American Express Taps Into A Legendary Community?

All brands are looking for ways to tap into large communities.  In some cases, it is simple enough to buy your way in through advertising, sponsorship or promotions. In some, there’s a number of hurdles a company would have to jump through in order to associate themselves with that coveted community.  Imagine working to tap into a highly-coveted group of 30+ million millennials who are part of a passionate community that has defied normal convention by building via social and word of mouth.  It’s no longer hard to imagine as Riot Games is allowing American Express to tap into their League Of Legends community with branded pre-paid Amex cards.

AmexLeague

 

While American Express did create a co-branded card for a program with Zynga in Spring of 2012, many would argue that Zynga’s games were open to such intrusion of branding since corporate logos had been incorporated into gameplay since the beginning.  We don’t even know how successful that program was and how many points were recorded through the branded cards. A relationship with Riot is completely different and exciting.

Riot differs from Zynga in that they have not incorporated logos into their actual gameplay.  There is brand incorporation via sponsorship of their competitive eSports teams – where teams of five get together to compete in round-robin tournaments for major prizes and international coverage. But that’s almost an entirely different experience than the 5 million-plus daily players experience. In effect, Riot is taking a big risk here as such a large corporate partnership could possibly lose favor among the deeply entrenched players – those who are more interested in an unblemished world.

Something that Riot has done extremely well is build on the idea that it is created by gamers for gamers. As such, there is a community pride in the fact that you could play a very long time without spending a dime, so therefore, they are willing to put some money in (a lot of money in) to enhance their experience.  But, that “consumerism” is all in the spirit of gameplay and community.

Will this partnership turn on deaf ears – even with loyalty rewards being offered? Or, will this be a huge play for penetration into the highly-sought millennial market? That is where the excitement comes in.

If American Express is able to penetrate this community, it would be a huge win for them as they attempt to increase brand awareness and loyalty for a finance firm that traditionally plays to much older audiences. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and whether they tap in or trip out.

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Privacy Irrelevance?

Another season and another Digital Hollywood ended yesterday and is officially in the books. While there were a couple of recurring themes – social, Netflix, Big Data, social and social – one of the larger “Eureka” moments was the clarity on the idea that debates on privacy and social or browsing are somewhat irrelevant. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that conversation will come to Privacy when discussing Big Data and the growing opportunity to gain insights from the many bits of data collected on every one of us.  One stat bandied about was that most adults already have amassed 2-3 Terra-bytes of data and will continue to drive 1TB for every year forward.  When you think about that on its own – along with the omnipresence of tracking-enabled products from entities such as Google, Microsoft and others – there is more than enough reason for people to have a growing concern. But, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, those concerns of relevant to the invasion of personal privacy might not be what they seem.

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There are a few elements to consider when determining how concerned we should be about Privacy:
– The make-up of the data packs,
– The proper use of that data,
– User Differences by Generation,
– and what should be done to protect ourselves.

Before getting into details, the company line across the board is that security of data is of the utmost importance. But, as we’ve seen, that accounts for little to those who really want to breach security – just ask the US Veteran’s Administration, credit card providers and, just last week, Living Social (whose data was breached to the tune of 50K users’ information.) In all of these examples, None of these examples are tied specifically to social activity, or browsing history, or targeted advertising. When the politicians or privacy experts start railing against privacy in big data for use in targeted media, remember that.

The Data Packs

Those TB of data per person mentioned above is a LOT to parse through on an individual basis. It’s effectively counterproductive to draw up pictures of individuals for targeted media as it’s too much work to get to the numbers you need for an effective campaign. In the case of Big Data, the data packs need to be broader in order to be effective. Could some government look to use the specific data for nefarious or “1984-ian” means? Sure.  But remember, credit card companies have effectively had more telling data on us over the past  40 years.

The Proper Use of Data

When you poll most people about their use of the web and mobile, the majority will say they are sick of ads that have no relevance to them.  As those data packs come into play for more targeted media plans, people will receive content and advertising that is more aligned with their interests.  As long as that placement is not uncomfortable or “Big Brother” like, most people will find those well targeted pieces beneficial and the content distributors/advertisers will appreciate their optimized impressions.

Generational Differences

The general perception of the older generation about the younger one is that of disbelief about what people are sharing about themselves. A simplified perspective on the difference in generations is found when looking at mobile; the Brick phone (Motorola DynaTAC 8000X) was introduced 30 years ago and mobile phones that were cheap enough and small enough to sort-of fit in pockets were introduced 20 years ago. Those who are in college or just graduating high school have never been bound to their homes in order to communicate with others who were far away. That difference is just one of many leading to a completely different consideration of privacy.  In fact, ever since any one of us got our first mobile phone (or credit card, for that matter), we should have been concerned about privacy for that matter.

Which brings us to the second part of this element and leads to the next one. What do we care to share and what don’t we?  The beauty is that each platform provides the choice of participation and security settings. The sad part is that some make it harder to refine security settings than others. It comes down to personal consideration of how much benefit one can derive from the information they are sharing. And, looking into the future, everyone needs to consider what they can stand to have on on the internet in perpetuity.

Many older generations question youth (Millennials) and what they share, but shortchange youth on their social intelligence and savvy. As these mediums are ones that they’ve never lived without, they intrinsically have a better beat on how to get around things.  That could be in the platforms they use. Or, the act of children leaving their mobile phones at a friend’s house during a “sleepover” while they head out to have fun. Or, self censoring what they share and how they share it.  In all cases, young and old, we can’t really control who we share it with. Leading us to…

Protecting Ourselves

Just as we wouldn’t step into the street without looking both ways, we shouldn’t be interacting via digital platforms without recognizing where we’re going.  And, just as we can’t decide not to cross the street just to alleviate risk, we can’t disconnect from all devices and still hope to remain connected and vibrant.

Marketplace Tech from American Public Media ran a segment this morning that illustrated exactly what we can learn from the younger generation (listen to the audio as it is not in the text.) While most of Jeremy Hobson’s interview with New Jersey high school students focus on the platforms they use and why, they do end with suggestions for “their parents.” Those suggestions convey exactly how this younger generation understands exactly what the long-term effects of sharing and data are.

That request is that parents need to consider what images they post of their kids as there could be nothing more mortifying than seeing images of yourself as a child on a beach popping up when you are 17.

In the end, the concerns about privacy in the era of Big Data are effectively moot as that ship has already sailed. As systems and algorithms are refined, people (or users) will find content served up to them where they will consider seeing irrelevant content to be as annoying as being tied to the home phone or digging around for coins to feed the payphone.

All through time, the conveyance of personal information has been a personal decision.  Those who want to be more secretive work hard to do so.  Those who don’t care, don’t. The only thing that has really changed might be what people consider to be truly personal information and how that information is used.

In the past, we didn’t have the bandwidth to parse that information to target at scale. Now we do.  There are certain sensitivities we have to be conscious of, but as the interview with the high school students shows, those concerns about data privacy are becoming less and less relevant.

Off-Color Spots Find A Home On The Internet

More brands and agencies are finding that the opportunity to generate video views cheaply online are only part of the equation.  The online video platform is allowing marketers the opportunity to present some targeted creative that might have otherwise been considered out of bounds and accesses a new audience.  A case in point is Ragu’s new campaign “A Long Day Of Childhood” for their pasta sauce products.

Courtesy of Ragu Facebook Page

They launched a series of online videos with their strongest one.  Each of them deal with the trials and tribulations of being a child, but the first one about a boy entering the parent’s bedroom is quite funny. It’s subject matter could be a common one in the home, but could only be expressed on the internet.

The drop in views found in the subsequent videos show how the creative execution drops off from that first one, but it is clear that we are no longer left to waiting for that TV special showcasing international ads in order to get our fill of funny and risque spots.

On another note, Ragu was smart to do a social program that asked users to submit their own recollections of childhood “hardships.”  They even do a nice job of creatively representing some selected user submissions, but they did all of this on their main Facebook page – which seems to be working off of different campaigns all at once.  It is confusing and probably stunts the social activity tied to user-submitted memories.  It is interesting that longdayofchildhood.com is available – yet Ragu didn’t use it.  I don’t know what Ragu’s url and social strategy is, but they could have (or should have) used that to drive traffic and more fully frame this campaign.  Even the images they created (like the skunk one above) could have had the vanity url placed on it to enable it to be posted many places and drive back into Ragu’s site.  At this point, if someone were to see that image outside of the Ragu/Long Day framework, they would have no idea what its all about.

Ragu’s strategy is not a bad one – the spots are cute with one being really funny and their usage on Facebook is OK.  But, it allowed for many holes to be realized in the campaign. You’ve got to wonder what kind of opportunities might have been missed by not providing the fullest platform to tie all of the pieces together under a clear and concise umbrella.

All in, this campaign is an example of something that is fun inexpensive to pull off.  I would imagine the entire campaign was done for much less than it would have cost to produce one broadcast commercial.  With it, they were able to reach a specific audience in a way that brought the brand to mind for an audience AND they were able to do some quantitative research at a nominal cost.

Whipping Products Together To Form A Fan Frenzy

There’s not much that’s truly original nowadays.  While titles of shows and movies may change, their stories are quite often very similar to something you’ve seen before.  Games and toys are generally revamps of items that have been around for decades (or even centuries).  And, if you check out fashion, there is an uncanny bit of style that comes back around every three decades. Sure, there’s usually some twist, but how do you get people to buy into your new product when it seems we’ve been there before?  The NFL doesn’t have the specific problem that others have – as it’s a sporting event and comes with its own built-in fan-base – but they are making great use of existing products that can help to separate themselves from the pack.

Promotional Unit from NFL

In anticipation for the new NFL season (when everyone can hold hope that their team might actually be good before proving otherwise on the field) the NFL network has announced a cool program surrounding their slate of Thursday night games airing on NFL Network. Engaging the fan community, NFL Network is asking fans to submit videos of themselves singing the chorus for the new Cee Lo Green song (based on The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”) that will kick off each Thursday night’s coverage – beginning September 13th.  To refresh memories, the song is the one with the repeated calls of “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!“.  Green will certainly add his artistic touches, but the videos of fans singing the well-known chorus will be spliced into the 90 second intro.

This engagement choice is strong because it seems like such a no-brainer.  They’ve provided the platform to bring Social Media to a new height – at least in terms of broadcast video.  The residual ability for fans to drive viewership of the intro – once finding out that their videos were selected – means that there should be a larger life for the intro videos than there would have been if fans were not incorporated.

This program’s components point to the additive benefit of Social Media.  Even the social features are derivative of other programs that have been done before, but their packaging is what brings it to another level.  Will more people tune in at the beginning of broadcasts to see the Fanthem?  We’ll see, but the NFL should definitely drive more interest both night-of and following on sites and social networks.  If Monday Night Football’s Hank William Jr’s song was able to energize the fan-base, this Cee Lo Green mashup with The Ramones using a strategic package of social media platforms should right whip them into a frenzy.

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.

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.

Groupon Deals Lead To Bad Reviews?

Besides the possible new customers, transactions and, hopefully, loyalty that might come from doing Groupon deals, there’s another by-product that businesses should consider. That by-product is the reviews left on social media sites. I just came across a study that was done by a Boston University computer sciences associate professor, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale and a Harvard University computer science professor and the study is thorough but not pretty. John Byers (BU), Georgios Zervas (Yale) and Michael Mitzenmacher (Harvard) researched a huge amount of data over a six month period and they found that the reviews that could be tied to the Groupon deals were not as strong as those that weren’t.

They monitored 16,692 deals over six months in 20 cities and also collected data on Facebook, Living Social and Yelp and found that those who used the word “Groupon” or “coupon” gave “strikingly lower rating scores.”

It got me thinking further about the connotations that might come from a business running a deal on Groupon – is it now being considered an act of desperation to drive revenue by consumers? Do they feel that they are getting cut-rate services for the cut-rate costs of those services or experiences? Perhaps businesses need to think deeply about whether they want to risk consumers thinking they are struggling as opposed to just marketing their product. Or, could it be that their staff is providing a different experience for those who are coming in with Groupon certificates? If the experience is not the same, than you have absolutely negated your entire reason for offering the deal in the first place.

Whichever way you look at it, this is just one more consideration that needs to be made when determining whether your business should be offering Groupon deals. Be sure to weigh how you are representing your business in relation to Groupon – or any other deal site – to make sure that your original intentions don’t backfire.