Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Interactive Video Commercials!

5th Nov 2009 – Twitter Trending Topics - #TEDIndia

On 5th Nov 2009, TED launched its first conference in India at the Infosys Campus in Mysore, India. There was a live streaming on indiatimes.com with both Facebook and Twitter live feeds allowing the audience to chat and share their thoughts as they watch. I thought it was a pretty cool idea! Transparency and customer engagement – that’s the entire idea of social media right?

A lot of companies these days (especially retailers) are experimenting with the idea of live ads. In an example of click-to-chat, NeXplore launched a public beta launch of NeXplore Ads version 2.0, a search ad platform that creates paid-search ad campaigns using text ads, branded images and video commercials with built-in, real-time consumer-interaction capabilities such as video chat, call scheduling, email and instant messaging. The tool lets consumers watch a video commercial, then click to begin a real-time video chat with a contact center agent.

Something on similar lines but more in line with TEDIndia allowing customers to watch an ad and then share their opinion about the product with their friends would be great idea. Not only will it provide you customer insights but also provide you with word of mouth marketing. It’s risky true, but it’s always better to have an option to provide your take on it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Do Virtual Worlds need Facebook??

While working for my Internet Marketing project in the final leg of my MBA (gosh! Just 2 weeks to go!), I was searching for companies with great Facebook campaigns. I was surprisingly disappointed with what I found. Of course there are companies such as Starbucks and Victoria’s secret but considering Facebook introduced its Pages feature in fall of 2007, I was expecting more marketers to have perfected their Facebook campaigns by now.

I was especially appalled by the Facebook pages for virtual worlds such as ClubPenguin, Poptropica and the likes. What struck me was not the lack of activity or “Fans” on the Facebook page but the mere presence of these pages. Virtual world websites are themselves niche social networks and provide interactive community features to engage their audiences. Then why did they have to be on Facebook? There are only two plausible reasons I can think of:

1) Peer pressure – I need to be there because all my competitors are there

2) My target audience is on Facebook and hence I need to be there.

If you are the first category marketer, I would not bother telling you what to do. For the second category of marketers, there are just two easy steps to ensure a successful campaign: Establish a goal for the campaign – What is that one important thing that you aim to achieve using Facebook? Is it CRM, building awareness, launching a brand or getting consumer insights? Once you have a goal, an essential element that needs to be in place is – relevance. Make the content relevant to your goal and make sure it is interactive and engaging enough – there has to be a reason for people to participate.

As an example, multichannel retailer JCPenney's Facebook page functions as both an independent forum as well as a means of driving users to its site. Unlike other companies, though, JCPenney does not have a page dedicated to the entire company, but rather a page dedicated to its back-to-school campaign, Dorm Life. The goal of the campaign is to reach college-age users, so the Facebook demographic is a niche audience within the general JCPenney demographic. The Facebook page has a personality of its own and from an interactive user application that allows you to fool around with a picture if your friend to downloadable wallpapers and plaid and graphic theme icons (It’s theme for teenage clothing this season – SMART!) to updates on the latest teenage styles, the page speaks of all things teen!

Back to designing my own Facebook campaign for a cool new virtual world! Hope the team loves it! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NOWISM: The evolution of communication

Any idea what this number represents??

As I write this blog, this is the number of people sharing what they are doing right now, with the world! This is the power of Twitter – right here, right now!

Dubbed NOWISM, this mega trend has a huge impact on everything from customer relationship management to product innovation and marketing campaigns.

What this means for marketers? Transparency and increased consumer involvement. Real time consumers no longer provide you with the option to influence them with your version of the product. Consumers are more interested in real time reviews and what other like-minded customers and potential buyers think about the brand.

Riding on these principles, companies like Wendy’s launched its own real time ad, developed using an automated tool that works with Twitter's API to retrieve tweets about them containing a variety of keywords. This leads to increased transparency and user involvement and also portrays Wendy’s confidence in their own brand – which is more appreciated by the modern consumer. Even though these ads do not necessarily always talk about Wendy’s products, they reflect on what their target is interested in and hence also provides them with a gold mine of information about their target consumer.

For all organizations thinking – what if they say something mean about my brand? Guess what? They are going to do it whether you are listening or not! Wouldn’t you like to have a chance to have a voice?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Book Review: Tribes by Seth Godin

The book Tribes by Seth Godin is one of the more interesting and thought-provoking leadership books I have read this year. Though not written in the form of conventional chapters, Godin provides some interesting food for thought about the new modes of leadership emerging within an ever-changing cultural and social landscape.

Godin lays the foundation of his thoughts by describing tribes as a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea. An idea that inspires their passion engages them and brings them close to one another. This automatically reminds me of Barack Obama and his tribe – a tribe of people tired and yearning for a change. And what brought about that change? Was it just a successful media campaign or was it more?

‘Leadership’ is what Godin would say.

The spread of the internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger. And more importantly, they’re enabling countless new tribes to be born. But as with Barack Obama and his tribe, these tribes are all longing for a leader. The web can do amazing things but it can’t provide leadership. That still has to come from individuals. Seth through his book encourages the reader into thinking how we can challenge the status quo and lead both in our personal and professional lives.

In my opinion, Seth’s ideas move beyond the obvious and encourage us, as marketers to look into our businesses with a new angle. Some of his insights into leadership can seemingly be used by marketing managers to lead a tribe for their brand.

1. Faith and Belief: According to Seth, belief is a brilliant strategy. Belief leads to change. The modern consumer has decided to spend his time and money in what he believes in. Thus, we as marketers need to have faith in our product/service. This faith transfers into a culture of honesty and transparency transfers into a tribe around your product/service. A tribe that believes in your brand.

2. Be a leader not a manager: A leader is different from a manager. A manager directs while a leader connects. Seth encourages the reader to be a leader – to communicate your vision of the future, to create a culture around your goal and to involve others in that culture. For your brand, this means to communicate your vision for your brand, to create a culture around it and to make decisions based on that commitment.

3. Create a Movement: Seth quotes Bill Bradley’s definition of a movement that contains three elements: a narrative that tells a story about the group and the future it’s trying to build; a connection between and among the leader and the tribe; and something to do. Most important of these elements is to connect and empower the tribe members to communicate and not command. Once we have created a tribe, we need to believe in the power of the tribe and its ability to lead a movement. This is easier to say than accomplish. Most companies fail in letting go and believing in their tribe. It is important to remember that your tribe is your must successful advertising. Being a leader, if you believe in your brand and the power of your tribe, they will lead a successful movement for you. Seth explains this point further by giving examples of Skype and Twitter and how they were successful in creating a movement by encouraging communication amongst the tribe members.

4. Tightness: A leader can improve his/her tribe on two dimensions – its size and its tightness. While most leaders focus on size, sometimes a smaller but tighter tribe works better. It’s about knowing your niche, respecting your tribe and not trying to be all things to all people. There can be many strategies for tightening a tribe, like creating rituals, introducing people to one another, and providing a communications platform for tribe members.

5. Creating a Micro movement: Seth shares a step-by-step approach of creating an online micro movement:

· Publish a manifesto

· Allow followers to contact you

· Allow followers to contact one another

· Realize that money is not the point of a movement

· Track progress

With ‘social media marketing’ being the buzz word of the time, Seth’s approach to creating an online micro movement provides a simple yet a powerful approach to developing a powerful and leading online brand portfolio. Social media marketing is not a cheaper channel to push your goods and services to consumers. It’s about building a tribe around your brand with the social networking sites serving as mere channels of communication among the tribe members. Its not about having a million fans on your facebook page but about leading a tribe of even a mere 1000 fans who believe in your brand and serve as your brand ambassadors.

While critics argue that Tribes lacks “concrete data”, in my opinion the power of Seth’s ideas do not come from directing people to do things his way but by encouraging them to “lead”. There is nothing in the book that many of us don’t already know. All we need to do is to lead a tribe connected with an idea we believe in. The rest all falls in place. For me the idea was creating a leadership position for your brand.

What’s the idea for your tribe?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Games for Marketing – What’s the deal?

In my last post I talked about the emerging trend of using social games as a marketing channel. In this post I will talk about the points to keep in mind before taking the plunge and if it’s really the right strategy for your company.

Firstly, the in-game experience should be related to your brand positioning. It should deliver the right message to the right audience. If not done strategically, it can really hurt your brand image and turn off even the most loyal consumers who might not want to be related to your brand anymore. Some of the key questions to ask before taking the gaming path are:

Who is the target audience of the product?

What does the target audience expect?

What existing behaviors do the target audience already have sticked to their brains?

What are the media consumption habits of this audience?

Who are the purchasing decision makers for this audience?

Based on the answer to the above questions you need to decide if Advergames (social games used for marketing) are a sound investment for your organization e.g. If the target audience for your product is mainly women or baby boomers, then getting into Advergames is probably not worth the money as research shows that these consumers are not active users of social games.

Secondly, the game needs to engage the user with your message. Your message needs to be relevant to the game at its core and your product information should be as closely tied to the game goals as possible. One of the companies’ that has done really well in this area is Adidas in Power Football. The Adidas Campaign truly realizes the full promise of the in-game advertising medium. Gameplay attributes are assigned to each of the Adidas shoe models that the player chooses from. Corresponding gameplay attributes match the brand attributes of each shoe, delivering product education and virtual sampling.

Lastly, the game needs to be fun. This might sound na├»ve but it is surprising how many games miss the point. According to a recent study by Forrester, 18% of the serious game players in the US find Advergames as being “not fun” and boring. If it’s not fun enough to keep the user coming back for more, it will hurt the duration of exposure to the message and the brain will not retain the information.

And yes, being a marketing professional how can I forget the ever so useful analytics and usability studies. Look at the key user metrics – the click through and application download rates collect user experience feedback on the interface and game flow. For those who have not played you need to understand why they have not and what could motivate them to play. Use the data, evolve your campaign to adapt to the data, re launch the campaign and play on!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Games for Marketing??

Ferrari California - 4.3-liter direct-injected V8 engine, 454 horsepower at 7,600rpm, top speed of 193mph, acceleration to the 62 mph benchmark in less than 4.0 seconds

Before you think I am a hard core racer, these are the words of my 5 year old nephew – ‘A Generation Z’er’ and a games-freak!

This generation was born into Facebook, iPhone applications, Virtual worlds and on-line gaming (I am really not as old as you might be thinking by now ). Being a marketer, I wonder why Ferrari is targeting a 5 year old kid? Did they lose all their B-school knowledge in the corporate board-rooms?? Apparently not!
It figures, Ferrari, McLaren and recently Best Buy and MTV are using games to exploit what
Taylan Kadayifcioglu calls the Relevance* Stickiness factor.

Humans as competitive creatures put relevance to anything that puts them ahead of others. When playing a game the drive to get ahead pushes us to concentrate. Any information linked to that motivation receives our utmost focus. This presents a great potential opportunity for marketers to effectively utilize the undivided attention and occupy a space in the mind of the consumer. The eagerness to win also gives rise to what is called the stickiness factor. It triggers self-engagement and repetitiveness from the user while having fun. According to recent brand impact studies, associating a brand with the fun of gaming is known to lift brand metrics such as brand awareness, message association and purchase intent. After playing a game consumers are more likely to remember not just the brand or product itself, but to associate specific brand attributes with it.

If utilized effectively, this combination of relevance, stickiness and fun results in unusual levels of user retention and knowledge about your brand. Something virtually impossible to achieve with the old framework of ‘reach and frequency’.

Sounds logical and easy? Not really! A number of companies have burnt their hands in the process. So what does it take to have a successful ‘gaming’ campaign? Let’s leave the discussion for the next blog. Till then, welcome your comments and inputs.