Disruption: How Tesla changed automotive marketing

Mark the date April 4, 2016 in your memory. At some point in the future, this date will have huge significance. Elon Musk is also likely to roll off your tongue with the same broadly shared recognition that the name Steve Jobs from Apple does. That’s because April 4th is the day that Tesla pre-sold 276,000 Model 3 cars worldwide, with an estimate to hit over 500,000 well before production even starts. Each person parted with $1,000 down payment on a $35,000 electric car that won’t even physically be available until late 2017. Other then photos, nobody has even seen one. They are however familiar with the very expensive high-end design savvy models currently coveted by many and driven by few.

Sound familiar?

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Elon Musk has done to cars what Steve Jobs did to computing. He has disrupted everything. Although the existing premier Model S and Model X helped position the company as exclusive, no doubt the plan all along was for a major launch mid-market. In fact the survival of the company long term likely depended on it.

From a marketing perspective, the new Model 3 not only disrupts the existing automotive industry, it frankly blows it out of the water. I say that because it goes well beyond business, and enters the realm of economics, politics, and world power to have global energy not necessarily driven by oil. That shift now seems not only possible but also likely, with countries such as Norway and the Netherlands stating that they will prohibit the sale of gas powered cars after 2025.

Tesla’s disruption…

Product: Tesla makes electric vehicles only. And the cars are the epitome of art and industrial design meeting German engineering. This isn’t a pet project on the side, like their other major competitors. Nor is Tesla tied into the oil companies like some of the large existing manufacturers. Tesla has also demonstrated that they intend to build out the charging network, further altering what they are actually selling. Is it a car, or a transportation system? Will you buy charges? Get them free with purchase? Buy an annual membership? Whatever transpires, it will no doubt shake up all products and services within the automotive industry – delivery of power included.

Price: Previously Tesla vehicles were for the rich, clocking in close to $100,000 Cdn. The new Model 3 will retail for $35,000 US, putting it squarely in the range of many existing vehicles on the market. Because previous Tesla cars have been seen as so high end, and the Model 3 promises to have the same design sensibilities, it is perceived as being premium by the masses. That really disrupts the existing price structure of competing electric cars. How do they position against price now?

Distribution: Their distribution model doesn’t rely on dealers, or a showroom necessarily for that matter. Tesla sells direct. To date orders are in person or online. Sample cars are on display in a small showroom and test drives can be booked. Not that that mattered to the 276,000 people who put a $1,000 down on one recently. Further demonstrating that even a showroom isn’t needed. Truly, the cars can be bought online and then delivered.

Promotion: Taking a page from Apple’s playbook, Tesla has become a darling of the media, garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars of free global media publicity, simply by being newsworthy. What print and online they do all oozes class.

So why should we care about this type of disruption? Beyond the super cool factor of the car, how it will potentially change industries, politics, economics and world order (that’s a lofty list!)  it’s also just a great reminder that disruption represents both threat and opportunity.

How do you plan for disruption in your industry?  And more importantly, do you take time to think about how YOU or YOUR business could disrupt and do things differently? Think the 4Ps –  product (or service), price, place (distribution) and promotion. What of the four could you challenge or change from accepted convention? Perhaps you can disrupt multiples. Lots to think about for sure – but that’s the way tomorrows leaders are thinking today. What about you?

How to manage negative publicity: 5 lessons from Coors Light #BraveTheCold out of bounds skiing campaign

Somebody at Coors Light had a horrible, no good, very bad day last week. Several people at Rethink, a well respected Vancouver advertising agency responsible for the #BraveTheCold campaign, also likely had a sleepless night trying to put the breaks on creative that was set to launch that week, after negative publicity threatened to take over. And that doesn’t even credit the hundreds of thousands spent on scripting, casting, filming and editing in the first place that became unusable. Ouch.

The first ad in the #BraveThe Cold campaign featured amateur athletes competing in a crazy toboggan race. Appealing squarely to fun loving millenials, that ad went off without a hitch in February. But the second commercial that was to have launched last week, was called into question for how it encouraged out of bounds skiing and boarding. The ad featured an illuminating blue sign that doubled as a go ahead signal for the question “are you brave enough?” The signs used in the campaign were meant to promote the brand’s new temperature sensitive printed cans that feature a Coors logo turning icy blue once the can reaches optimum cold drinking temperature.

molson-out-of-bounds-ad Out on the west coast of Canada, the leaked online footage of the campaign set off a firestorm of negative media with BC Search and Rescue Associations. Members hit social media in outcry, and their concerns, picked up by newspapers and TV news stations gave the story prominence. We loose people in the mountains every winter through ill advised out of bounds skiing. They die a senseless death, and often rescuers risk their own lives in an effort to save them. There’s a huge financial, social and human cost.

I was initially contacted to provide comment from an expert marketing perspective, and by the time the story actually went to press, the Youtube channel previously displaying the video had been set to private. By the next morning the ad had been pulled, and by that evening Coors Light had apologized and promised to make a donation to Search and Rescue. Of course we all know that nothing ever really goes away once it has a life online, and the original ad can still be viewed by the curious here.

A quick Google search for “Coors Light out of bounds” reveals several pages of linked negative media coverage, including VancityBuzz, Global TV, CTV, CBC, the North Shore News, and of course BCSARA (BC Search and Rescue Association).

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North Shore News

BCSARA (BC Search and Rescue Association) Statement on the ad:

The lesson here is social media and traditional media can work for you and against you. Rethink, a darling of the ad industry, well known for leveraging social media and traditional media to the benefit of their clients quite simply goofed on this one. They’re from Vancouver and should have known better. As I noted in one North Shore News media quote:

“It’s not like they’re in Toronto and they’re talking about skiing out of bounds being off the back of a hill in Barrie. With Rethink being in Vancouver, it’s no secret to them that when you talk ‘out of bounds,’ it’s a sensitive issue, especially on the North Shore Mountains.”

This is not the first time Coors Light, under the helm of Rethink, has fallen under the wheels of the media bus. In 2014, they made CBC’s “Marketing Fails of the Year” with their “Search and Rescue” campaign, where briefcases of Coors Light where left in public spaces throughout Canadian cities, inviting people who found them to take a selfie with the case and post it to Twitter, where they would be sent a code to unlock the case of cold beer. The package at Spadina and Dundas was reported as suspicious, and caused the TTC to reroute traffic as police shut down streets during rush hour. It was a great promotional idea that didn’t execute well with increased terrorism threats.

Sometimes brands invite media coverage to leverage their message further. In the age of social media and online sharing, that tactic can be a fantastic tool to harness word of mouth, mouse and mobile. But sometimes the result can be an unanticipated negative outcome. That’s when it becomes important to act quickly. To their credit, Coors and Rethink handled the out of bounds skiing situation in a very professional manner. There were five key insights:

  1. Research is important. Sometimes campaigns tested at the concept stage can kill cutting edge creative, but research can save the expense, grief and negative publicity if a campaign goes sideways after launch.
  1. Know your market. Being from Vancouver, Rethink should have been knowledgeable that out of bounds skiing was a highly sensitive issue. Had the campaign been created in isolation on the Prairies there might have been an excuse for this lack of market awareness.
  1. Act quickly when things go negative. On this front both Coors and Rethink deserves credit. They responded quickly to complaints and pulled the ad within two days.
  1. Triage the messaging. Coors initially stated they hadn’t wished to provoke, and then acted quickly to apologize once the ad was removed.
  1. Spin the positive. Although an amount and a date when the donation will be made has yet to be confirmed, Coors has said they will donate to the Search and Rescue Association to help fund back country rescue in the future. It’s a positive outcome unlikely to actually sell any beer, but a solid gesture.

Sometimes producing great creative means taking risks. Things don’t always work out. But in the age of social media, online sharing, citizen reporting, and transparency that works at the speed of light, you’d better have a plan in place if it things don’t go as planned.

March 30 update: Curiously someone alerted me to the ad playing on the Huffington Post site beside my article on this actually being the Coors #BraveTheCold out of bounds spot. Seems they have simply updated the sign to say “Take a new run” rather then “out of bounds” when the blue light goes on. It’s a clever way to dodge the bullet of accusations, since I suppose the waiting helicopter could be a heli-ski run. Click here to watch the revised spot. Coors Light and Rethink have taken a new run indeed.

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Link here to my Huffington Post original article on the campaign. Link here for Outside Magazine‘s “Coors Under Fire for Out of Bounds Ski Ad” article featuring my thoughts as a marketing expert.

Leverage your content like a MEDIA MOGUL

One of the presentations I am often asked to do is “Think Like a Media Mogul: How to manage multiple channels and create content that positions your brand.” It seems to resonate with business owners and marketing managers who struggle with how to leverage smaller marketing budgets to get more visibility and clout.

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With special thanks to NYIT (New York Institute of Technology) for this great banner artwork featuring a quote from a recent presentation I did for them, I’d like to present the concepts for the benefit of a broader audience. Three compelling reasons to build your media empire.

1. Authority: Be seen as the expert, the one who gets the calls, the quotes, and let’s face it, the business!

2. Search: Be the most visible. You want to dominate SEO without ever paying for it, simply because of the volume and quality of your content and knowledge.

3. Engagement: Build community; generate engagement with your brand, which ultimately leads to sales.

There are four basic pillars of your media empire:

1. Anchors: These are your media assets. Your assets include things like your website, blog, enewsletter, podcast, webinar, and video. As such, you own them, which is a good thing, since nobody can change the rules of how they are used except you. And you host them within owned properties of your media empire. Anchors are key players for search, authority and engagement. Ultimately you want your other three pillars to drive people back to your anchors. Your anchors are where you will convert exposure and engagement into sales.

2. Outposts: Think of these as rented property. Outposts include social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pintrest, Vine, Youtube etc. While you customize them like your own property, often decorating them like a home and taking ownership, ultimately someone else owns them and can change the rules at any time. They could charge you more rent, restrict your access, or use your property if they want to. But before you think of them too much like a nasty landlord, you must also consider the power and opportunity they can deliver. Outpost social media platforms have the ability to broadcast and share content, and by their nature, they offer two-way engagement, which helps build community around your brand. Outposts should be used to broadcast and engage, but ultimately drive people back to your anchor content. That’s where you own them and that’s where you’ll convert the sale.

3. Earned: This is third party endorsement. In the traditional sense it is when a print of broadcast media company publishes something about your business, giving it visibility, without you paying for it. But it could also include other online media like the Huffington Post, industry authorities through their social media, or well read blogs. Since it is an earned property and it can’t be purchased, it is coveted and valued. Usually these days coverage by other media outlets includes content online, which is great, since you can feed those links back into your outpost media engines and also feature it in your anchored content. If you earn media coverage, maximize the exposure as much as you possibly can.

4. Paid: This is the strategic stuff you do to boost and promote content online to a selected audience. It could include boosting posts, Google ad words, paid featured content, pop up ads or SEO. It used to be that a Facebook Like meant that everyone who “liked” your business received the post in his or her feed. No more. Organic posts have been choked down to less then 5% of those liking your page getting exposure. The good news is, boosting can be relatively inexpensive, and offer the opportunity to be very strategic and picky about who the post is delivered to. Of all the social media platforms out there, Facebook likely represents the broadest spectrum of the population, so depending on your offering this could be a strategically good route. Be sure to measure and monitor if you’re going to spend money on paid media.

Success comes when all four pillars are leveraged together.

The successful building of brand awareness through content marketing usually has at least three and oftentimes four of the media pillars. Original content is created and shared on several anchors. Outposts are used to broadcast widely and create engagement. If earned media picks up the story, it is fed back through outposts to generate more interest and ultimately drive people back to the anchored content. Sometimes paid is also used strategically to fuel outposts and drive people to the anchors, or to generate awareness and coverage by earned media. While the pillars of your media empire are separate entities, if used well with their purpose and unique abilities in mind, they build on each other offering you incredible media content clout.

Disruption: What is your data NOT telling you?

I love disruption. Not many people can say that. Disruption is a breath of fresh air to rituals and expectations. Leveraged well, disruption is an amazing marketing tool.

Take REI in America. They chose to CLOSE their store on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year in the US.

rei-closed-black-friday-2015

While some accused the retailer of simply pulling off a promotional stunt, the concept ran much deeper. The idea of closing so their employees and customers could actually go outside and play was in keeping with their brand promise of enjoying the outdoors. It struck an emotional connection with their audience. The fact that 1.5 million people then contributed content through social media to tell how they spent their day outside, of course added to the effectiveness. The company created the hashtag #OptOutside to help channel shared content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. And the press went crazy giving them tons of free publicity for rejecting Black Friday. They became a top news item nationally. It’s an act of bravery to close 143 stores on your traditionally busiest day. But it would appear that subsequent online sales actually more then made up for it. They were reportedly up 26%.

It was a clever disruption.

But here’s the real insight. Data analysis would have told them this was a crazy idea. According to REI analytics, visits are preceded by one of more digital experiences, especially using mobile. Getting people to the site and keeping them there is the end goal for REI. Putting up a closed sign on their website ran counter to everything analytics told them. So too did putting up a closed sign on their 143 store location doors for the day.

But what data can’t measure well is emotion and values. Data gives you tracked behaviour, but creativity and disruption allows for justified leaps of faith. In this case, REI realized that the message to reject consumerism for the day would resonate, especially if they were encouraging people to step away from online, and to get outside and connect with nature. It also played out well for how they valued their employees in giving them the day off.

Data is about the past, but it is often used to predict the future. And it can do a good job to a point. But the one thing for certain about data is that it can also blind you to leaps of faith that allow an emotional connection based on values.

Have a think on that the next time you get tangled up in the reeds of numbers and analysis.

Marketing disruption: Hans Brinker Hotel claims “worst hotel” status

Disruption can be a powerful tool.

The Hans Brinker Hotel in Amsterdam claims to be the worst hotel ever. In fact, an official line from one of their ads claims, “The Hans Brinker Hotel in Amsterdam. It doesn’t get much worse.” Without apology, they have made a successful business out of being awful. Click here for a first hand look at that housekeeping commercial. It will give you a whole new perspective on changing pillow cases! The assumption of course is that there is not a lot of competition to own the space of being bad. Check out their website here.

Apparently curtains double as blankets at the Hans Brinker, and their propensity to not replace light bulbs regularly and to leave the heat turned down, is simply billed as “being eco-friendly.” You get it. The Hans Brinker is something to be endured. Survival offers bragging rights, and that frankly is part of their “blue ocean” strategy.

HansBrinker_curtain_blanket

The Disruption:

To truly understand how they can do this however, requires you to grasp who their target audience is, their competitive environment, their strategic competitive advantages (this may require a stretch), and how all of that can be successfully leveraged.

The target market for this hotel should be pretty obvious – students and youth in their 20s, single, budget minded, international travelers visiting Amsterdam, attitude of adventure, curiosity and risk tolerant. A one-night stay at the 127 room hostel will run you $35. Advertising slogans warn of no hot water, sparse rooms and filthy conditions. Guests are encouraged to dry off with the shower curtain to save on washing.

The Hans Brinker owns awful. Nobody generally wants to be the worst when it comes to travel and hospitality. But vying for the best is a crowded space. They recognized that their target market just might love their honesty and irreverent attitude. This position has allowed them to not only stand out from most hotels (admittedly that was the easy part), but it also allowed them to stand out against other budget accommodation options (the harder part).

Word of mouth & going viral

The best way to ensure powerful word of mouth is to give people something that makes them look smart, funny, insightful, or connected to an inner circle in some way. At the heart of word of mouth is powerful storytelling. The Hans Brinker is a story begging to be told, whether its as a travel tip, a survival story, or simply something that begs to be shared for pure entertainment. To that end, the company made visually sharing their story easy. They have a Youtube channel, where their commercials are posted, and they also encourage customers to post their own awful experiences. Certainly turns customer rating sites like Yelp on its ear – don’t you agree? Here’s their Youtube channel.

Recognizing that Instagram and Facebook were social channels heavily used by their target, they regularly post to those platforms, and encourage their customers to as well, tagging them #hasbrinker.

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Choosing channels to leverage media

When picking a channel it’s important to consider your audience, the reach, and your personality.

The Hans Brinker heavily uses Instagram, Facebook and Youtube since their customers frequent those social media platforms. But they also know their customers, armed with mobile devices, will help with the heavy lifting of telling their story and personal experience. If you Google the Hans Brinker, the results and resulting earned media dominate the first 10 pages. Their approach is a model of anchors, outposts, earned and paid media.

The company has even published their own book on customer service – appropriately displayed on the floor to prop up a table leg, rather then with pride on a bookshelf.

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The 4 pillar media approach

Anchors: Website, enewsletter and blog. The Hans Brinker publishes regularly to all of their owned platforms.

Outposts: This is their “rented” social media space, which includes: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. The hotel publishes content to these platforms that leads customers back to their anchored website, where the goal is to convert them to customers.

Earned: Because they have such an unusual position and funny story, they have earned print and broadcast media globally. Even travel rating services such as Yelp and Trip Advisor list them for all the wrong reasons.

Paid: The Hans Brinker does traditional paid advertising including print, broadcast, and outdoor. But the primary focus is digital, where they amplify their message through sponsored content directly to their target audience on mobile through Google ad words for search, and sponsored content on Facebook and Instagram.

So what insights might you draw from this example? (other then where NOT to stay next time you’re in Amsterdam)

  1. Disruption cuts through the competitive clutter. It’s a blue ocean strategy.
  2. Disruption can happen in the form of: price, product or service, promotion or the way you distribute.
  3. Disruption gives you a story to tell. Stories are at the heart of word of mouth.
  4. Disruption feeds content for your owned and rented media.
  5. Disruption will earn you media.

What do you think? Is this an effective strategy? Have you ever stayed at the Hans Brinker Hotel? (and are willing to admit it!) I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

What 3 words will focus your 2016 efforts?

Welcome to 2016! For many of us the New Year brings promise and anticipation of opportunity. While I’m not a big believer in New Years resolutions, I do sit down each year and write out business and personal objectives and then break them out into smaller “to do” items. I then note those items in my calendar. It’s a remarkably simple system, and one that I’ve used since 1987. While I don’t have my notes from that year, I do have sheets dating from 1994, including a couple “10 years from now” vision sheets. I know it’s kind of crazy to actually have all of these in a folder, but it is absolutely remarkable to go back a review them annually to see how much can actually be accomplished when you engage this process.

Something that I have recently added is the idea of picking 3 words to guide the year. I learned this technique from Chris Brogan, and I love it! Rather then a resolution, it’s a theme for my objectives. For 2016, I’ve chosen the words share, leverage and celebrate.

3words Share: By nature I am a teacher. I love sharing knowledge with others, whether it’s in the classroom, the boardroom, on the podium, or at the keyboard writing. I’ll continue to share marketing insight through the spoken and written word as one of my themes for 2016, because sharing is at the heart of how I grow my actual paid income. My theory is that people buy from those they know, like and trust. Sharing is the gateway into that sequence. But the sharing theme will also expand into sharing more time with those I love, and energy and financial resources to support projects that I value –both personally and professionally.

Leverage: I’ve decided that 2016 is the year to stop trading time exclusively for money. There are only so many hours in the day, and there is only so much I can do personally. Leveraging will be about combining all parts of my business together to create income even when I’m not present. While I’ll certainly be maxing out the available hours to do what I love – speaking, writing, teaching and consulting, I intend to capitalize on being a marketing thought leader, and create several of my own courses. I figure after years of resisting the “teacher” label, I might as well just accept, and own it! But rather then trading my time for money exclusively speaking for a client or teaching a course, I’ll take the best of what I know and leverage the content. These courses will be aimed at business leaders, structured for the adult learner, and delivered in a format that works for that audience. In keeping with that focus, I’ll continue to drive the further growth of my list by sharing content. Last year the list grew by 80% while still maintaining unheard of loyalty at close to 50% opens. Leveraging the list and leveraging the marketing thought leader position will be a major focus for 2016.

Celebrate: I thought long and hard about the third word, since I wanted something that balanced both business and personal aspects. Celebrating is about achieving goals but also about savouring experiences. Celebrating is about knowing what you’re good at and accepting it. Celebrating is about being grateful, embracing the moment, and creating memories. As a theme, celebrate also goes beyond an individual focus, and allows you to celebrate others. I like that.

So here is where I toss it back to you. What will be your 3 words for 2016?

Leave a comment and share below, or email me directly. The process of thinking about them and selecting those words will guide tremendously both your business and personal efforts in the coming year.

If you liked this article, you might really enjoy my 5-Minute Marketing Sunday morning e-newsletter tips. It’s the insiders tribe where I teach business leaders to be more successful through innovative marketing. View archived copies and subscribe here.

How #WestJetChristmas Miracle 2015 earns authenticity in the jaded airline space

Leading brands know who they are, and more importantly who they ARE NOT. They are conscious of what matches their style and resonates with their audience. They find authenticity in the space that they occupy.

Westjet is one of those brands.

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Westjet has been doing the Christmas miracle since 2012, an annual feel good campaign of sorts, that spreads good cheer in their community. There’s certainly no denying that they also benefit strategically from the effort in terms of publicity and earned media, but that objective is not the sole root of the exercise. Or at least it doesn’t appear that way.

Here’s a little primer for those who may not be familiar with the entire Westjet Christmas Miracle history.

In 2014 they helped an impoverished town in the Dominican Republic. Check out a video about the campaign here.

In 2013 they surprised guests flying from Toronto to Calgary with gifts that they had wished for earlier while talking to an online Santa in the boarding lounge. Those gifts famously rolled off the luggage carousel upon arrival in Calgary. View it here. 

In 2012 they did a flash mob at the Calgary airport, surprising passengers taking the red-eye to Toronto. This campaign was their Christmas Miracle venture. View it here.

Even Air Canada got in on the philanthropic act in 2014, with their own version of feel good marketing, when a couple pilots entered a well know Canadian expat pub in London, and bought a round for the crowd – literally a round trip return ticket home to Canada for the holidays for everyone in the room. Check out that video here. The Air Canada campaign was heart felt, meaningful, and no doubt deeply appreciated. I fly Air Canada often, frankly because they have a better schedule to some destinations, and also because their Star Alliance points program is linked to global carriers. But here’s the thing. Air Canada did not authentically own the “Christmas miracle” promotional space. Westjet did. Authenticity can’t be bought; it is something that must be earned. Individuals and companies earn authenticity through everyday actions, which collectively allow them to claim the space over time.

And that’s why this years #WestJetChristmas Miracle 2015 featuring employees carrying out 12,000 mini miracles in 24 hours was so powerful. Westjet empowered their 12,000 employees to commit random acts of kindness on December 9th, and then record them through words, photos and video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pintrest. There were flights home for Christmas given away, a family vacation to Disney World, but also donations to dog shelters, food for soup kitchens, help for a senior to clean their apartment and put up decorations, random candy canes, toy donations, and many more. The campaign kicked off in London UK early morning, and carried on through 38 airports and cities through out Canada that the airline serves, as well as US destinations, the Caribbean and Hawaii. The company also encouraged citizens to commit their own random act of kindness and to share it on social media with the #WestJetChristmas hashtag. In encouraging others they boosted the reach up to 31,793 mini miracles from their 12,000 employee numbers. That’s pretty awesome. Now one week after the Dec 9 Mini Miracle day, Westjet has released the summary video. Within the first 12 hours of launch, it had achieved over 92,000 views. Watch it here.

Why does all this matter?  I think it all comes back to authenticity. Campaigns like this resonate with a target audience when they come from an authentic place. There’s something to be learned in that for your own marketing efforts. Know who you are, and more importantly, who you ARE NOT. Forget about trying to emulate your competitors. Customers will see right through it. And never loose sight of what you do well, and own it. Westjet owns friendliness and compassion in the airline space. That’s a valuable position, and not something easily earned. But they’ve done it through consistent actions.

So here are three questions to reflect on for your own marketing efforts: What do you do well? Why do you own it? How are you authentic in that space?

What does Amazon’s move to open a new brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle signal?

It’s been said that everything old becomes new again in time. But has the time come for the online bookstore to go back to its roots, with actual physical locations?

Amazon opened a physical bookstore in Seattle in early November 2015.

The store is located in University Village, an upscale outdoor mall that is already home to thriving Apple and Microsoft stores. The company calls the location a physical extension of Amazon.com. Books are displayed face out and each contain an Amazon.com customer rating and review card. Books are selected based on popularity, sales and pre-orders. Prices are the same as online. The heart of the offering encourages what other stores fear – browsing then buying online. It’s retail showcasing but with a twist. The company doing the showcasing owns the well-established online business. And they’ve got a solid supply chain management system for delivery, whether digital or physical, through their growing network of warehouses, courier contracts and soon to be drones.

Many in business, and in particular the book business, were a bit mystified by Amazon’s move to open a bookstore in Seattle at the beginning of November. And they seemed quick to dismiss the move as having little impact on other competing bookstores. Link here for USA Today news coverage of their opening.

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But that opinion may be missing the point entirely. Selling books is not the path to riches. This only appears to be about books. They’re the test. Seattle is well known as a research area for Amazon. This is where they premiered Prime before rolling it out globally. I think the same could be true of this new approach to “showcasing”. Although Amazon started with books for their online sales model, the company now sells pretty much everything. Indeed their competitive advantage is in the online mass merchandising of items and the efficient delivery system that they control from tip to tail. I think this is about experimenting with the showroom concept and then applying it across all their product lines – far beyond books, and potentially with far reaching global applications.

The secret I believe lies in discovery and tactile touch. As humans we crave this process as part of the shopping experience. And as choices become more complex and online offerings grow exponentially, it becomes harder and harder to discover organically. We start to look to those who will curate the content for us and show us what is worthy of our time.

Curating physical content and assisting discovery is what this new move from Amazon is all about. And it could signal a very disruptive move across all industries as online shopping matures. Many stores are already frustrated with browsers who access product knowledge of staff, view the product in person, and then go online to purchase. In 2013 an Australian specialty food store started charging a $5 just browsing fee to enter the store. If customer bought product they were refunded the fee. I don’t think penalizing customers that way is progressive, but it certainly signals frustration at loosing sales to online after educating customers.

So might showrooming be the way of the future? Does Amazon’s move signal retail disruption?

 

 

 

Russian disabled parking campaign uses 3 components of great storytelling

It’s hard to believe it’s Nov 2nd. I was out last week on a pumpkin retrieval mission with my daughter leading up to Halloween. Last year I left it too late and the only thing left was an oversized and overpriced green and white squash, which we carved into Casper the ghost, given its kidney shaped figure. After three stops and sold out pumpkins, it was starting to look like a repeat of last year.  The outing seemed doomed to failure; it was taking too long, it was raining and my head felt like the size of the pumpkin we couldn’t find, with a head cold moving in.

It was in this state that I pulled into a disabled parking spot to be able to quickly snatch what appeared to be the last pumpkin on the north shore. We had spotted it driving by.

I need to preface this with the disclosure that this is not something I would normally do. When I’ve had the occasion to drive for those requiring assistance who have disabled parking privileges, I’ve developed a clear understanding of the need to be close to the entrance, and the extra space for things such as walkers. The decision to park there briefly was a lame move clearly made in the fog of a head cold and a need to get home to bed.

Call it karma, when this clever campaign to combat this exact problem, popped up in my Facebook feed Friday morning! Seems I’m not alone. At least not in Russia, where apparently 30% of drivers routinely park in disabled spots. This has to be the cleverest campaign I’ve ever seen. You HAVE to watch the video!

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The video shows how a hologram appears over disabled parking spaces when able-bodied drivers try and park there. The hologram features different people in wheelchairs berating drivers with things like, “Yes, I’m real. Please find another place to park.” The installation was courtesy of Moscow-based advertising agency Y&R on behalf of a Russian charity, Dislife.ru. The installations appeared in shopping malls and business centers in Moscow including the largest mall in Europe. But beyond the installation, the point was to film how it worked, and capture driver response. Then allow those photos and video clips to become news. That was the power of this campaign.

But at the heart of it, was something more. Why was it so effective? This campaign contained three components of great storytelling:

  1. It tapped emotion. It wins hearts then it wins minds.
  2. It was unbelievable. While holograms may have been introduced in Star Trek, they are not a common occurrence in everyday life. The application of technology is fascinating. Unbelievable becomes instantly shareable in the age of social media.
  3. It shared a universal truth. Each of us everyday sees disabled parking. It is a story we can all relate to. This is especially true if we, or someone we know need to use those spots legitimately.

So what’s the lesson in all this, other then “don’t mess with karma” and respect the proper use of disabled parking spots?

Good marketing uses storytelling at its heart. Stories are memorable and shareable. A year from now your customers are unlikely to remember the details of your current offering, but they will remember your story, and how you made them feel. And if that story in some way taps emotion, is even the slightest bit unbelievable and raises their curiosity, and is at its heart something they can relate to, you will have struck marketing gold.

 

10 reasons why “Sid and Nate: Drive thru rookies” went viral

This week Tim Hortons uploaded a series of commercials to Youtube featuring Nova Scotia hometown boys, Sidney Crosby and Nate MacKinnon serving up coffee at the Dartmouth Tim Hortons Drive Thru. The stunt was called “Sid and Nate: Drive Thru rookie”. The pair bumble their way through orders, charmed surprised patrons, and peppered their speech with just enough “sorry’s” to make something already pretty Canadian, even more so. It’s a series of ads destined to be aired more widely, but not before the chain ensures they garner lots of word of mouth plus a good dose of media tossed in. If you haven’t seen the spots, have a look at the Youtube link here.

The original stunt was conducted and filmed back in July. Here is a tweet from July 28

Crosby_TimHortons_TweetIt garned CBC TV coverage at that time. Have a look here.

But the timing to leverage additional WOMMM + M (word of mouth, mouse & mobile + media) was now, because that’s when hockey season is set to ramp up. Plus, as the weather turns colder and Canadians head to the rink, coffee is perhaps more on their mind then in the summer.

Here’s a sample of media received just this week:

Huffington post

Global TV

Toronto Sun

So, weaving all this back to lessons for word of mouth, mouse & mobile + media, let’s consider why this campaign works so well.

  1. Strong visual: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts with visuals helped fuel the initial WOMMM + Media. But it was arguably the Youtube video that injected the latest round of coverage. All these media had strong visual components. So did TV and newspapers that got on board. And let’s face it; Crosby and MacKinnon are not hard to look at. Plus they’re hockey heroes. Any picture with them will garner interest.
  1. Use of a #hashtag: Normally things that go viral have a #hashtag. I’ve looked, and as best I can figure on Twitter and Instagram, this campaign DID NOT receive one! It screams for a #DriveThruRookies. Perhaps a missed opportunity by Tim Hortons? I’m pretty sure their ad agency would have suggested one! Hashtags help channel content so that people who hear about it through media or WOM can quickly tune into the conversation.
  1. They understood timing: While WOM is subject to timing for tapping when people might care more, the media is absolutely governed by it. Media looks for stories that play out well for when their audience will care. Canadians care about hockey at the end of September. Back in the summer while camping and travelling, hockey was not top of mind. There is far more mileage to this campaign uploading those videos and generating media now then back in the summer.
  1. It got the attention of powerful social media users: Tim Hortons has over 350,000 followers on Twitter, over 120,000 followers on Instagram, and over 2.7 million likes on Facebook. There are about 10,000 subscribers to their Youtube channel. Simply by promoting it through their social channels, they got immediate exposure. Add to that, some well-known sports and media folks in those databases, and the exposure became exponential.
  1. Media monitor online media for stories: Both online and traditional print and broadcast media monitor online for stories to cover. Twitter is heavily used by reporters to find breaking news. Because they are in the business of gaining readers, listeners, viewers or followers, they need to know when something is “hot.” Twitter is their tool to find stories and detect if they are growing. Online feeds traditional media, and traditional media such as print and TV or radio broadcast, in turn feeds online again. It becomes a vicious circle of momentum building. That cycle explains why the story got exposure back in July and again gained momentum this past week.
  1. Discredit authority, poke fun at a hero: It’s fun to watch two guys who are stars playing hockey mess up the simplest of orders. The heroes are made humble, which makes them more personable.
  1. The use of humour: Of course the spots are heavily edited, but that was done to make them fun and entertaining. I have a hard time believing Sid the kid is that funny all the time. The repetitive “sorry’s” left me chuckling.
  1. Media craves the bizarre or unusual: Driving up to a Tim Hortons Drive Thru is pretty usual for most Canadians. Being served by your hockey hero is not. In the face of ISIS terror, faltering economies or an election campaign running a marathon, lighter news sells. This one delivered surprise and everyday Canadians response. We lapped it up.
  1. The use of celebrity: Not only did the spots feature celebrities, they tapped their social media circles, which had extensive reach.
  1. The power of storytelling: It’s human nature to love a story. This one had classic story composition: A hero or villain, a tragedy or challenge, a climax and resolution. The people entering the drive through were characters that helped flush out the richer details through their reactions and responses. They became heroes along with the hockey stars. It’s a story that will continue to unfold, as the people who were filmed continue to tell their story of meeting these hockey stars at the drive thru.

Ultimately it was a very Canadian feel good story. A perfect match for the Tim Hortons brand in Canada. And it followed the 10 point formula for going viral perfectly. Here’s my question to you: How could you tell your story using these 10 points, to generate more word of mouth, mouse, mobile plus media?