Top 10 online marketing trends for 2015

 

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1. Content will continue to be king
This trend will continue, simply because social media and mobile devices have provoked and enabled the growth in content available for consumption. Content can position a company or brand like nothing else, and it can drive prospects to points in the pipeline closer to becoming a customer. And creating content and leveraging it online through social media is largely low cost compared to traditional forms of advertising.

2. Visuals for short attention spans will dominate
Be it photos, video or infographics, visuals communicate a subject in a timely and simplified manner. In 2015 visuals will be hot. Just look to the explosion of Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Youtube and Vine. Visuals are also the perfect antidote for a perpetually time starved, attention deficit disorder society that we have quickly become while absorbing the content coming our way online. But the scientific reality is this: it’s human nature to respond quickly to visuals. Expect visuals to rule in 2015.

3. As Facebook matures – pay up or flee
The reach of Facebook Pages dramatically decreased in 2014, and we have now entered the era of “pay to play” on this platform. It’s really just the maturing of a media channel. Facebook is in the business of making money for shareholders. That said, of all the social media platforms, Facebook likely has the broadest demographic and geographic coverage of any, and if the selection of criteria to boost posts is done well, it can be a viable for some businesses. It’s just that you’re going to have to pay for it. Look for this trend to continue, at least for enhanced services, as social platforms mature.

4. Online communities and membership for exclusive content will grow
Niche communities already exist for the mundane to the obscure. Communities within blogs or more private groups such as subscribers to an e-newsletter or a course will be of great value to the business that hosts them, as well as participants. Expect to see more businesses harness and leverage the communities that they host through owned assets such as blogs, podcasts and e-newsletters. This will become especially important and prevalent as the reality of paying for access on social platforms becomes more accepted as those platforms mature.

5. Privacy concerns will remain high
In the age of social media, we’ve been conditioned to accept that the trading of personal information is the price to pay for free access. It still doesn’t mean we’re happy about it. And as more and more social platforms monetize the ability to broadcast, we will become even more guarded about having shared our information. Canadian Can-Spam legislation in response to email spammers was an attempt in 2014 to legislate. Expect more backlash in 2015 over privacy, and the possible growth of platforms such as Ello, that boast they will not collect or sell personal information – ever. Bottom line? Practice good ethics when it comes to privacy in 2015.

6. Leveraging influencers and brand ambassadors will be critical
Influencers and brand ambassadors are the folks online with tremendous klout within the circles that your customers travel. Having a third party endorse you has always been better than shouting from your own soapbox, but in the age of social media it carries even more weight within such a cluttered content space.

7. Think Mobile everything
Content is now consumed through the mobile internet and apps at a staggering pace. You need to consider that in planning your “real time” and “right time” marketing efforts in 2015. Think not only what should be put out, but when, and in which format.

8. Social listening will be key
Social listening involves monitoring and responding to conversations online, be it through websites, blogs, and social media or using hashtags to monitor channels of content. It could also mean monitoring competitors channels so a ready response can be made in a time of opportunity. Social listening means you are marketing in real time. Companies who get ahead of this curve will be served well in 2015.

9. #Hashtag your channel will be like claiming your URL
In 2015 brands that own hashtags will build community. Hashtags are a branding tool that cross all platforms and create a channel for those who tune in to see what is happening in their area of interest. In 2015 you want to dominate your chosen hashtag channels by consistently picking several that appear in all your online content.

10. Use digital to amplify an analogue message
And finally amidst all these digital trends, 2015 could be a year to stand out by tapping an analogue approach. I mentioned last week 2 campaigns that made my top 5 marketing wall of fame – simply because they poked fun in a clever way at how dependent we have become on technology. Both the Ikea “book book” spot and the Lululemon “give presence” campaigns held up a mirror that reflected a simpler time – when we actually read books, or put down our devices and spoke to people. They were both brilliant creative and I think they each illustrated our collective craving to occasionally escape this crazy digital world we have created for ourselves. That sentiment might we well worth remembering as an insight for 2015.

2014 Top 10 Marketing Wall of Fame & Wall of Shame

I was inspired to pull some thoughts together on this when I was approached by a producer at CBC TV to add a Vancouver spin to a national “Marketing Fails 2014″ piece they were airing by Dianne Buckner. If you’d like to view that segment, which aired Dec 29, 2014 you can link to it here.


CBC Vancouver Marketing Fails 2014: Rene Filiponne interviews marketing strategist, Mary Charleson – who comes on at the 2:39 minute mark to talk about Vancouver examples.

2014 Marketing wall of fame

1. Ikea’s Book Book
In a world of high tech, going low-tech or no-tech can be a way to stand out. Witness Ikea’s brilliant spoof on an Apple product release to preview their new catalog and its distinctly analogue features.  You can view the ad here or link to my original article about the campaign.

2. Lululemon Give Presence for the holidays
The #givepresence Christmas campaign from Lululemon gets top marks in my book for it’s simplicity of drawing attention to the obvious – our collective obsession with technology and multitasking at the expense of real connection with the person we are with. You can view the original ad here, now at over 3.5 million view or read more about it in a blog post I featured on it.

3. Westjet’s Christmas Miracle 2014
Quite simply it was the authenticity that the company can claim by supporting a community in the Dominican Republic that makes this true spirit of giving spot a winner. You can view it here or read about the campaign.

4. Sam Sung, former Apple employee auctions off his Apple gear on eBay for a cause
This isn’t a campaign you’ll find in the awards books, but it’s a winner from a personal branding standpoint as well as the simple gesture to help others. Read more about the campaign here.  Or you can get the original background story on how it is a guy from Vancouver with a real name of Sam Sung found himself working as a product specialist for Apple. You can’t make this stuff up!

5. Wren clothing’s “First Kiss” viral hit on a $1,500 budget
The idea of pairing up 10 couples, that did not know each other and filming their first kiss was edgy and original. Then toss in the fact that they just happened to be wearing Wren clothing, but that’s about as commercial as the spot gets. It was immensely shareable, tapping emotion, vulnerability and voyeurism and achieved over 69 million views in the first week, and substantial media coverage for doing so. You can watch the video here or read more about the campaign.

2014 Marketing wall of shame

And now for the ones that were memorable for all the wrong reasons…

1. Malaysia Airlines bucket list contest
A bucket list is generally accepted as a list of things one wants to do before they die. How seemingly inappropriate it was then, as a contest name for an airline that lost two planes this year. Did the term get lost in translation?  You can read more about it here. Old

2. Air Canada got #rouged
It’s never a good thing when your new discount carrier name “Rouge” becomes a trending negative hashtag on Twitter. But that’s exactly what happened when some Air Canada pre-booked seats were switched to Rouged flights and passengers were left with less leg room and no seat back entertainment. You can read the full story here.

3. Old Spice taps Moms insecurities to sell to teen boys but forgets who buys the product when they’re living at home
This is one of those ones where I actually think the creative is brilliant, but I’m just not sure it sold product. The crazy portrayal of pathetic Moms taps Freudian attachment theory and societal shifts as boys live at home longer. But while the target user may have loved it, Old Spice offended many of the actual buyers – Moms. View the spots here. And read more about the campaign.

4. Veet’s Don’t risk dudeness
While women may hate to shave their legs, they certainly don’t need their man to infer they’re a hairy beast, which is exactly the trap that this ad fell into. It was yanked promptly after consumer backlash on social media. You still view the spot here.  Or read about how a campaign that was supposedly tested got through.

5. Joan Rivers Tweets from the grave about her new iPhone 6
It wasn’t enough that Apple paid U2 a ton to be able to gift the new album to customers this year, and then had to promptly add a remove button for customers who were angered that it showed up without permission. Yes, Apple appears to have had a deal with Joan Rivers to Tweet about her new iPhone 6. Problem was, Joan died unexpectedly and the pre-scheduled tweet wasn’t deleted. Oops. Apparently Steve Jobs could not be reached for comment either…

And that wraps up the Top 10 list of marketing fame and shame for 2014. I’ll be back next week with some marketing trends and predictions for 2015. If you enjoyed this post and you’d like to receive my 5-Minute Marketing tips enewsletter directly weekly, you can subscribe here. I share lots of insider marketing knowledge and insights with content aimed at entrepreneurs and marketing managers.

Branding with emotion and giving presence this holiday season

Two much-loved global brands (with Canadian roots), Westjet and Lululemon, take the spirit of the season awards this week for marketing initiatives that stand out in a month traditionally fueled with excess and consumption madness. Hot on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Lululemon’s holiday campaign “Give presence,” as well as the third in a trilogy from Westjet’s holiday miracle series.

Lululemon holiday campaign values presence over presents

I received a link to the Lululemon video last Monday from a loyal newsletter reader Jill, who said it hit her like an emotional brick that morning. Jill notes, “I had spent the day at work in front of two computer screens and my cell phone. At home I found myself with the TV on, laptop open, iPad and iPhone in each hand, catching up on emails, social media, and grabbing up Cyber Monday deals online for Christmas. I went to bed feeling overwhelmed.” I wonder how many of us can relate? And when she woke, she found (yes somewhat ironically since it was shared on social media), this video from Lululemon about giving presence instead of presents. It was a mirror resonating truth.

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The #givepresence campaign features a number of yoga and meditation instructors and asserts that the greatest gift you can give this holiday season is your undivided attention. My favourite quote is by friend Daniel Laport, who states, “Everything that’s on your plate, you said yes to.” Isn’t that the truth? The video is currently sitting at 3.4 million views.

In a world of personal devices, and multi layered conversations online, it simply asks us to look up and give the moment you are in, your full presence. It seems like such a simple message, but one easily been forgotten in our busy and connected world. What makes it so powerful for the Lululemon brand, is that it is congruent with their existing brand values. Make no mistake, it is a marketing play, but they own the position with some authenticity, having wrapped the brand in their “Manifesto” of statements such as “Dance, sing, floss and travel” and “Friends are more important than money” since they launched. Individual stores are being given the freedom to envision how to embody the spirit of the campaign. That could be as grand as offering a customer a flight home for the holidays if they mentioned they weren’t seeing family this year, or something as simple as offering coffee to a guest on a cold day. They are also using unbranded hand addressed greeting cards to help spread the message of #givepresence.

Westjet:

After striking holiday gold with their Christmas miracle campaign last year, Westjet is back again for a third year, this time bringing presents to people in the Dominican Republic. But you could argue that they too were bringing presence, since the move is far from just a shallow marketing ploy. Westjet has been supporting the communities in the Dominican for some time building houses and giving back. Their “presence” in the country is genuine. Although I had spotted this one early in the week, once again a loyal newsletter reader, Victoria, had alerted me to it. Seems she had a soft spot for Westjet too, since the company supports the Global Initiatives program at Carson Graham, a high school in North Vancouver that has students participate in building homes in the Dominican Republic also.

If you somehow missed the 2013 Christmas Miracle, you can view it here. Last year, guest boarding a plane were given the opportunity to talk to Westjet’s blue Santa on screen in the departure lounge, and tell him what they would like for Christmas. Once the flight departed, Westjet employees at the destination city frantically shopped and wrapped the gifts, so they could be delivered down the baggage carrousel to the surprise and delight of passengers at the arrival city.

westjet-christmas-dominican_horseThis year they bestowed gifts to the people of Puerto Plata, one of the four destinations Westjet services in the Dominican Republic. Airline staffs have been visiting the community for several years to build houses in partnership with Live Different. This year they staged a beach party for locals, where after having talked to Santa electronically the previous day, they were treated to the arrival of gifts. What made the gifts so touching is how they differed so dramatically from the flat screens of last year (although I’m still getting over the guy who asked for socks in that campaign). This year, we see the arrival of a washing machine, a car engine, and a horse.

Westjet_Dominican_washingMachineThese are all items that arguably will benefit many, and in some cases fuel the well being of an entire community. At the end, blue Santa reveals one last gift, a playground for the community’s children. The campaign is centered on the company’s ties to the community. That is what makes it genuine. View the 2014 Dominican campaign here. It had posted over 2.5 million views within the first 5 days. It’s also interesting to hear the back-story on why they did it. View here: “Why we did it” video.

Three commons themes run through both of these campaigns:

  1. Both companies owned the positioning and values portrayed with authenticity. Their actions were congruent with their history, making it more than just a marketing ploy.
  2. The campaigns touched an emotional trigger. Share of mind is good, but share of heart is better.
  3. Both campaigns are about doing something for others, which inadvertently benefited them, but that wasn’t necessarily why they were doing it in the first place.

As increasingly businesses realize there is value in positioning around social responsibility or charity, I think it’s critical to note the importance of authenticity and actions being a reflection of existing company values. Well done Lululemon and Westjet, two Canadian global brands that can do us proud!

 

From creation to consumption, sharing, engagement, lead generation & sales

Our American neighbors have just celebrated Thanksgiving this weekend. In honor of that, during the week leading up to festivities, I shared a blog post through social media called  “What would the WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Drop episode look like in the age of social media?” While I have blog readers from all over the globe, and 20% are Canadian, the largest group is from the US, representing 30% of site visits. I had written the piece back in October, originally for Canadian recipients of my newsletter, but I saved it for a blog post until last week because I knew it would resonate with a large portion of my audience the week leading up to American Thanksgiving. Read the original post here.

turkeys-awayAnd it made for an excellent example to illustrate the importance of the four pillars in building your media mogul empire.

The power of one-to-one-to-many
I have to admit, I initially thought the Turkey Drop in the age of social media piece was pretty fluffy. It was meant to be purely fun and entertaining, while positioning me as knowing something about social media. But that appears to have significantly contributed to why it was shared so widely. Simply put, I gave people something that they could turn around and share with their connections that would make them look insightful and funny. But the selection of the content was also somewhat strategic in that it self-selected itself with a certain age demographic that shared memories of the original episode in 1978.

The power of tagging and timing
The timing of the piece was critical. I knew that this past week would be full of Thanksgiving anticipation. I tagged the content with #thanksgiving #turkey and other social media and marketing words. That ensured it showed up in some major feeds on Twitter. I also knew that the days leading up to Thanksgiving in the US are typically full of travel time as folks try to spend time with family over the holiday. Tied to that assumption is the understanding that there would be time to kill waiting in airports, being a passenger in a car, train or bus, and the desire to read and share entertaining news on mobile devices.

How the four pillar plan unfolded
Last Monday I posted the piece to my blog, which is anchor media. I own the space. I then went in and used my social media outposts to broadcast the content. That’s where I “rent space” but don’t own it. Those properties are my broadcast network. There were single posts to Facebook and Google Plus. I made several scheduled posts through the week on LinkedIn with different headlines. And I made 4-5 scheduled Twitter posts per day with different rotating headlines throughout the week. Content was tagged on all platforms for hash tag search words. I went in and tagged Twitter handles of certain influencers on marketing and social media channels that I frequent hoping they would share the content with their followers, which most did. I monitored shares, retweets and comments on all platforms and responded to build engagement with anyone who had liked the content. I also monitored site visits, retweets, likes and shares throughout the week, and adjusted the final last two days with the most successful headlines used to date. Anchors and outposts were used exclusively in this initiative, but the content achieved earned media when a radio broadcaster south of the border shared it. There was no paid boosting of the content.

Twitter_WKRP_linkHow metrics measure success
There are a couple ways I measure the success of a media post: consumption, sharing, lead generation and ultimately sales. Think of it as a broad funnel at the top, which eventually leads to business.

  1. Consumption: The measurement of views, downloads, email opens.
  2. Sharing & engagement: The number of tweets, likes and shares. But also measuring engagement through interaction on comments, email or direct messaging. Engagement is not just a quantitative measure, it is also a qualitative one, since it leads to the next step.
  3. Lead generation: This is where the funnel usually starts to close in, but where the magic happens. A lot of companies never get past the first two metrics. And some try so hard at selling in this phase that they turn people off. This is where you measure things like online registration, browser cookies, email sign up, direct connection on other platforms like LinkedIn and direct messages, or phone leads.
  4. Sales: This is where you measure revenue or profit as the result of a lead generated.

As I’ve noted, a critical component within the sharing stage is engagement and the use of two way correspondence to build rapport and trust. A lot of companies get this wrong and either one way blast, or think that a simple like or share is engagement. What I’m really getting at here is being personable, authentic and yourself in replies and comments. As in dating and building a relationship, engagement requires a series of commitments and delivery. You’re getting to know each other. Ultimately we buy from those we know and trust. That’s how consumption, sharing and engagement turns into lead generation.

Back end analytics for “What would the WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Drop episode look like in the age of social media?” indicate 2,040 views of which over 650 were from the US. There many tweets, likes and shares, and it generated several new email sign ups and requests to connect on LinkedIn. In one of those cases, a direct message resulted in the request to submit a proposal for an event in Tampa. Plus as mentioned before, it generated coverage from a radio station, which further fueled views of anchored content. The piece itself was pretty light and fun, but I could also see from back in analytics that numerous viewers had gone on to view other more meaty marketing content.

Overall, I’d call it a four-pillar media success, and a clear demonstration of how to leverage content creation for positioning and sales. If you’d like to go back and review the basics of becoming a media mogul through the four pillars of content, you can view it on my blog here.

Curious how this might work in your organization? Contact me mary@charleson.ca Maybe we can apply a structure to what you are currently doing to make it more effective.

Trim your social media platforms for 2015: when having less is more

I put out an article a couple weeks ago titled, “Are you a slave to social media?” Evidently it struck a chord, since it was my most highly shared and Tweeted piece this year. It also earned me an invitation to contribute to Social Media Impact, the top trusted social media news site out of the US http://socialmediaimpact.com/slave-social-media/. So I thought we’d follow up on it this week and dig a little deeper for valuable insights going into 2015.

Social_media_overloadDid you know that the average B2C business is now keeping up with seven social media platforms? And they’re spending an average of 20 hours a week on marketing. Much of that effort is the result of an explosion in online marketing choices. Link to the Content Marketing Institute study here.  Or the small business trends study by Constant Contact here or more interesting facts.

On the receiving end of all this is the overwhelmed consumer. With 58% of American adults owning a smart phone, the digital culture has permeated almost every aspect of our lives. According to Nielson, the average American spends 11 hours a day with electronic media. Granted the majority is still anchored in traditional platforms such as TV and radio, but on average 2hrs and 8 minutes of our lives are spent on the internet or mobile device. It’s safe to say that many sub groups of the population are much higher than that. I’m thinking my teenager’s likely hit that daily average before breakfast!

What does all this tell us?

We’re wired more than ever before. And we’re busy with being wired.

Frankly many of us are overwhelmed. A UK study estimated that over 1 million workers fail to take their full allotment of holidays primarily because of anxiety over the work waiting for them upon their return. You can bet that the email inbox with over 1,000 unread messages has something to do with that. So here’s my prediction for social media and content marketing in the future:

2015 will be the year businesses are granted permission to kick under performing social media platforms to the curb.

Instead of chasing everything for fear of missing the next big thing, 2015 will be the year we focus on what works – the 2 or 3 channels where we know our customers reside and where they will share our content. We’ll strategically focus our content, BUT we’ll also strategically focus our channel. If that sounds like a trip back to the future, it is. It’s really no different than picking the most suitable newspaper, magazine or radio station from a mature market where there are many, many offerings in each category. The challenge with social media has been the steady emergence of platforms in such a relatively short period of time. Think of it as similar to trying to buy every newspaper or radio station out there for fear of missing something. That would be utter insanity. I think we’re approaching that saturation point with social media. Of course there will be many new platforms that will continue to emerge, offering micro targeted access to specific markets. But we’ll start to assess them strategically. Rather than just jumping on board, we need to step back and pick what is well aligned with our target market.

A good start is to be very clear about your business purpose and whom it is that you help.

Once you’re clear on those two points, it becomes much easier to focus your conversations. The same principles can be applied to your social media platforms. A narrow well targeted approach with one or two platforms used frequently by your target audience will beat a broad multi platform play any day. Of course creating content for properties you own, such as your website, blog and enewletter, should be your top priority before reaching out to social media, your outposts, to broadcast and engage.

I think 2015 will be the year that platforms shake out and business and consumers rush to stop the insanity, by critically assessing where to spend efforts. It’s time to be strategic and forget about the rest. I’m not necessarily advocating that you pick two platforms and dump the rest. But you could certainly focus 80% of your effort on those two that are well aligned, and put the others you’ve established in maintenance mode – updating basic info from time to time.

So relax and breathe. Feel your inner Zen when creating content. And simply give yourself permission to only focus on what matters.

Did GAP goof? Remembrance Day Sale goes wrong in Canada

GAP appears to be retracting big time on a promotional email put out by head office on Monday Nov 10, that didn’t go over too well with Canadian customers. The offer was on a “puffer vest” for $19.99 on special during a Remembrance Day Sale. Seems many Canadians took issue with the company provoking commercial gain, on what is universally accepted as a somber day of thanks and remembrance, not one to go out and spend just because many have the day off. Gap_goof

 

 

 

 

 

Americans as a whole seem more desensitized to the commercialization of holidays. The practice of having sales on Veterans Day is reasonably common place there. I suspect this comes down to subtle cultural differences between Canada and the US, and a decision originally stemming from US marketing directives at Gap. While it’s easy to believe Canadians are similar to Americans in many ways, sometimes US retailers ignore the subtle differences at their peril. In this case, there is not a rich history of commercializing
Nov 11 in Canada. In fact, many retailers with American head offices such as Starbucks
have fallen under criticism for putting up Christmas decor immediately after Halloween,
and not honouring Remembrance Day first, which had historically been a Canadian custom. I also think that this year, Canadians are perhaps hyper sensitive to giving true significance to Remembrance Day, given the targeted hit of two Armed Forces personnel on Canadian soil recently, and our now active involvement in the Middle East. What do you think about all this? CBC Vancouver is doing a piece on at during the 5pm news tonight. I was asked to be interviewed for my thoughts about it, but couldn’t make it. Watch @AndrewChangCBC tonight and chime in with your thoughts!

Click here a link to the Toronto CBC TV news at 5pm piece.

A campaign to make the fur fly

I remember well a day back in 1988 when the advertising sales department at the Georgia Straight, Vancouver’s urban weekly where I was working at the time, fell in the cross hairs of activists on behalf of the inhumane treatment of animals in the commercial fur trade. You see, long before desktop publishing, newspapers were constructed like puzzle pieces – ads created and then placed along side other ads and editorial from a layout mock up based on sizes purchased. What had inadvertently happened was an ad for a well-known local fur company had been placed directly beside an ad for the Humane Society. They both no doubt had been inserted by a dreary eyed graphic artist late at night, and had gone off to print. The juxtaposition of the fur coat sale placed beside a photo of a baby seal was not lost on our readers, nor did it escape reprimand by both clients once they opened the paper.

The battle between the fur trade, fashion and animal rights activists has been going on for some time. While real fur has fallen in and out of fashion over the years, it appears its use is on the upswing once again. And that is what is at the heart of a clever new international campaign that launched today. The Montreal SPCA, the Association for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals and LUSH Cosmetics have launched #Makefurhistory, an international campaign against the fur industry. The campaign was imagined and created by Republik.

At the heart of the campaign is the objective to raise awareness on the issue of inhumane treatment of animals, and to change consumer behaviour towards real fur. The creative team, led by Jeff Lee, realized that current awareness was high amongst the converted – those that already supported the cause. The challenge was to get the attention of those who were driven by fashion, and at a pivotal point, as the temperatures in northern hemispheres dip and consumers reach for warm and fashionable attire. They decided to tackle the fur industry on its own turf, by launching a fake e-commerce Website: furdiscounts.com – a new destination for exclusive deals on fur coats and accessories. The fake e-commerce website was launched with a full-fledged advertising campaign that lives on the web, on social platforms and on billboards and public display areas in many Canadian Universities.

Furdiscounts.com campaign visualOnce consumers landed on the fake website, they were in for a surprise as their first click redirected them automatically to makefurhistory.com, the campaign’s official website, and a reveal video about the tragic truths in the industry.

Fur_history

Cosmetic retailer LUSH fully supported the campaign through 200 stores across North America, since they were in a unique position to help educate the target market through the message about the inhumane treatment of animals in the commercial fur trade.

In addition to out of home advertising, there was a significant online component supporting efforts to spread the message through a customized Facebook and Twitter page where they Tweeted at @furdiscounts and then use the hashtag #makefurhistory to channel comments.

MAPPING_OBOX-MASHABLE1The campaign was effective for a couple reasons, most notably the combined use of traditional print and outdoor fashion advertising along with online platforms, leveraged by social media and photo sharing. A retail support partner with a broad reach to the target demographic further expanded the reach. It was also a brilliant use of #contentmarketing to seed awareness and evoke consumer response towards a cause, rather than a purchase. Well done!

 

Content marketing is hot, but is it time to kick a few platforms to the curb?

Pass the Louisiana Hot Sauce, cayenne pepper or Tabasco. “Content marketing” is hot.

The Content Marketing Institute (yes, there is now an institute devoted to the study of this thing that didn’t exist a couple years ago, that we all now need), defines content marketing as: “A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Keep_Calm_Create_contentContent marketing has been facilitated by many changes, most notably growth of the internet, mobile devices, tablets, social media, and the impact of the financial crisis on budgets and traditional media spending. Really, it was the perfect storm.

So this week I’ve pulled some top line insights from a very interesting study on content marketing, that I wanted to share with you. And I’m going to make a case for how to use those insights to dominate your niche by doing LESS. Interested? Read on…

The B2C Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America study was produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs and sponsored by EnVeritas Group. The global study was conducted in July and August 2014, with 5,167 recipients representing a full range of industries, areas and company sizes. The report findings I’ve used in this piece represent findings from 307 respondents who were B2C marketers in North America. You can download a full copy here: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2015_B2C_Research.pdf

77% of B2C respondents were using content marketing. Clearly, content is now king. Here’s a summary of the effectiveness of various tactics, how success was measured, what platforms were used, and how often new content was published.

Effectiveness ratings for B2C tactics

  • Enewsletters 66%
  • In person events 63%
  • Photos 59%
  • Social media content – other than blogs 58%
  • Blogs 54%
  • Videos 54%
  • Articles on your website 53%
  • Mobile apps 49%
  • Webinars/webcasts 46%
  • Online presentations 45%

Tools used to assess content marketing success:

  • Website traffic 66%
  • Sales 54%
  • Higher conversion rates 39%
  • SEO ranking 39%
  • Time spent on website 38%
  • Qualitative feedback from customers 35%
  • Subscriber growth 34%

B2C Content marketing social media platform usage:

  • Facebook 94%
  • Twitter 84%
  • Youtube 76%
  • LinkedIn 71%
  • Google + 68%
  • Pinterest 59%
  • Instagram 49%

How often B2C marketers publish new content:

  • Daily 17%
  • Multiple times per week 31%
  • Weekly 16%
  • Multiple times per month 11%
  • Monthly 10%
  • Less than once per month 9%

42% of B2B marketers publish daily or multiples times during the week.

B2C marketers are now using an average of 7 social media platforms to distribute content, compared with 6 last year. All platforms experienced some level of increase this year, except for LinkedIn, which stayed the same. The average company is now creating content for 7 (yes, seven) social media sites? No wonder everyone is so exhausted, and taking a sip from Twitter feels like blast from the fire hose! Quite simply, I don’t think it is possible to dominate a niche with your content marketing by focusing on so many channels.

Social_media_fearThis study clearly demonstrates the value of content marketing, but it also show how we are all running with the masses, afraid to not jump on board, for fear we are missing the next big thing. But really, maybe it’s time to step back and assess and kick to the curb the underperformers. I think our efforts might be better spent picking the top 2 or 3 platforms where our target audience spends time, and then developing great content that they will share on their platform of choice. Having a focus is king in content marketing. Maybe it’s time to have a focus not only on content but also on the platform for delivery?

Five steps to fuel word of mouth: Learning from Tim Horton’s recruitment pop-up store

Suppose you need to get the word out about something, don’t have a huge media budget, and you want to stand out from competitors. Sound familiar? It’s a challenge that pretty much every business has faced, but now, more than any other time in recent history, we actually have the tools to accomplish it. Enter social media, the increasing popularity of photo and video share platforms, the prevalence of mobile devices, and traditional media hungry for eye catching stories in order to stay relevant. Add a dash of creativity on your part and mix with human nature’s craving for story telling and sharing, and voila! It’s a recipe for success. So how do you do it?

Let’s look at a real life example from this past week: Tim Horton’s

While many Canadians are still reeling from the news of the imminent arranged marriage of their darling to US based Burger King, a suitor with dated plastic décor, seemingly oblivious to health trends with heart stopping massive burgers and a creepy plastic faced “King” mascot, they understand that to grow, financing and distribution inroads are needed. Of course the real challenge will be in growing the Tim Horton’s brand in the US beyond Border States, but in the mean time, the company is shoring up strength in the homeland.

Enter the campaign to find employees as quickly as they can to open restaurants. Tim Horton’s is looking to hire 5,000 new employees nationwide, of which 2,000 will be in Alberta and 250 specifically in the Calgary area. The communications challenge was simple: generate interest and excitement to work at Tim Horton’s in Canada. The traditional approach would have been through recruitment ads in store, online and in newspapers across the land – expensive and of questionable ability to actually deliver.

Tim_Hortons_pop-up_houseInstead the company created a pop up restaurant overnight in SW Calgary at 303 Oakfern Way in Oakridge. Literally, they transformed a home in a family neighbourhood into a Tim Horton’s restaurant overnight, with the objective of being open 6am-12pm Sept 23 only, and generating as much publicity around the surprise event as possible. The distributed gift baskets to the neighbours, conducted random acts of kindness, such as raking leaves, and of course treated the hood to breakfast with free coffee and donuts (the Next door-nut) with the message, “thanks for being our neighbour”. They had treats for dogs and their early morning walkers, and even used street chalk art to send the neighbourly message to come on down for breakfast. Promoting the use of #TimsNextDoor hash tag, photo sharing was encouraged to get the word out on social media.

Neighbour_donutAnd of course they invited traditional print and broadcast media to cover the event. In short, they generated buzz for the brand, which extended across the country courtesy of social and traditional media, and created an atmosphere of inquiry about working for the iconic brand. As a stand-alone stunt, it was no doubt expensive to execute, but I would argue the value of word of mouth, mouse and mobile via social media and traditional media could not have been purchased.

Link to Global BC news video coverage: http://globalnews.ca/news/1577925/calgary-home-transformed-into-tim-hortons-for-a-day/ This news piece alone generated 32,000 Facebook shares within a day, and over 600 Tweets. And that was just one news organization among hundreds. Print and broadcast outlets went crazy for the story because of the human-interest value to Canadians, and frankly the curiosity of the story.

What can we learn from this example about generating word of mouth these days?

  1. Stage an event that can be wrapped in a story: It’s human nature to want to share entertaining stories.
  2. Tap emotional triggers: In this case patriotism, and being a good neighbour were used. Humour is also a great trigger.
  3. Remember why people share: It’s about them, not about you. Give something to make them look connected, insightful, and in some way on an inner circle of knowledge. This piece got shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds because people wanted to be the first to tell their friends the crazy story or document the fact that they were there.
  4. Make sure the event is visual: With the increased prevalence of smart phones and photo and video sharing social media platforms, you want to invite sharing. Make it visually appealing and invite easy sharing and tracking with hash tags.
  5. Seed social media initially, but leverage traditional media as the second punch. Know that the reach of TV, radio and print will generate exponentially more online sharing, so make them a critical part of your media plan. News outlets need content, so be newsworthy.

Of course all this seems simple enough, but obviously having the creativity to come up with an idea is key. Well done Tim’s. And thanks for still spelling it “neighbour” in Canada despite those new American owners!

iKea’s iBook Book – Brilliant marketing

Amidst the marketing flurry around the latest announcement from Apple about their much-anticipated iPhone 6 and wearable technology, comes a brilliantly timed piece of marketing from Ikea.

In a world of high-tech, sometimes going low-tech or no-tech is the way to stand out. With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I’d like to acknowledge how Ikea has taken a “page from Apple’s playbook” with the release of their 2015 catalogue.

Enter the bookbook. Or as I’ve decided to call it the iKea iBookBook.

iKea_iBookBookIf you have yet to see it, you MUST have a look at this ad. It is brilliant in it’s use of hyperbole to emphasize the attributes of the 2015 catalogue, framed from a play on technology perspective, meant to yank us back to the reality of enjoying a good old fashioned book, or in this case, a catalogue.

View the ad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOXQo7nURs0

The spot opens with, “Once in awhile, something comes along that changes the way we live, a device so simple and intuitive, using it feels almost familiar…” It then goes on to note that the new device has no cables or power, comes fully charged, uses tactile touch for navigation to browse, has no lag time loading images, and can be downloaded free through your mailbox or in person.” So why does this ad work so well?

  1. Timing. Make no mistake, in the world of advertising, this was a well-timed execution, meant to go viral on the tails of this weeks announcement of much anticipated new product from Apple.
  1. Parodies work. Especially when a company with a lot of online traction and social followers such as Apple, is the object of the joke. The parallels and poking clever fun at the way the product features are announced compared to an Apple commercial are striking. Parodies go viral because they are usually funny and entertaining, two key components for getting material shared.
  1. They zigged when the rest of us where still zagging. While it seems many brands jump on board the latest trends, getting caught up in technology and social media, Ikea was different by drawing attention to the old fashioned attributes of book browsing. In an age of ebooks and online everything, it made them stand out. Plus it called out the elephant in the room, the fact that people still like to browse a catalogue to shop, and it made it socially acceptable to admit it. Well done.
  1. It was optimized for social media. Of course this ad could have been placed on TV, but when the objective is to make it viral, allow your army of Ikea followers to use their media channels, and to no doubt generate free publicity and pick up from traditional media such as TV and print, why would you? Putting it on Youtube and making it easily sharable through social channels was a brilliant media strategy.
  1. Simple works. The communication is simple and the visuals are simple, in an iconic Ikea design sense. Even though the audio is in English, and much of the play on words rely on this, the concept of what is being communicated can be understood through visuals.

Well done Ikea. This is brilliant marketing.