Content marketing: A strategic slow boil to sales success

Content marketing is when you produce content (articles, images, videos, podcasts, white papers, info graphics, blog posts, books etc) or earn coverage that is tied to your brand, and distributed in such a way that it positions you well in the mind of your target consumer, and over time it causes them to do business with you.

Think of it as a slow boil.

Content-Marketing

Here are 5 tips to becoming more effective at using content marketing as a strategy.

1. Know your audience. Who do you serve? You need to know whom you are speaking to, because that will drive both the message and content as well as the media choices. Is it B2B or B2C? Think demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioural profiles.

2. What are their needs? This will drive the content. If you’re selling cosmetics to teen girls you might produce videos about how to apply eyeliner. If you’re a realtor you might show before and after staging photos to sell a home. If you’re a landscaper, you might share helpful spring pruning tips. You get the idea. Content marketing should be valuable to your target audience.

3. Where do they hang out? This will drive your media choices. To a certain extent some of your choices for producing useful content will drive your media used, but this step needs to be purposeful. I suggest you consider what combination of owned, rented, earned, embedded and paid media will work best. If you want to learn more about these concepts, link here. Essentially you want to think strategically about what platforms are going to have the greatest clout with your target audience. For my particular audience it is a combination of an enewsletter, blog and several published books (owned), LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (rented), news features such as CBC, BC Business (earned), writing articles for publications Huffington Post and Business in Vancouver (embedded), and strategically boosting Facebook posts and Google ad words, as well as traditional direct mail (paid).

4. Outline your content and media-planning calendar. Once you know who your audience is, what they need, and where they hang out, it’s then a matter of mapping it all. This is where you can refine it even more. Perhaps they need certain content at particular times of the year. Diarize a cycle that you will contact media with an earned media pitch. I readily admit to having a plan and then deviating from it sometimes. I think you need the flexibility to respond to timely events that may be of interest to your audience. Ditto when pitching media.

5. Manage your time. I diarize days and time to write weekly, since that is my primary content marketing tool. What you do will vary. I also suggest diarizing when you will post content to social platforms. Tools like Hootsuite are great for helping you schedule time released content all in one go. I set my stuff up weekly and then leave it alone. Social media can be a huge time waster. I suggest focusing only on those platforms that really matter to your audience, and use scheduling and dashboard management tools to minimize the time to set it all up and monitor it. It can take time to contact media pitching an idea, but the resulting coverage if earned, can be very valuable. This is especially true once you re-purpose it through your other owned and rented channels.

Of course you might have a few other ideas to add. Feel free to comment if you’ve found something particularly effective!

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.

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.

HansBrinker_WorstHotel_book

 

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.

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?

 

 

 

When marketing goes to pot

This post also appeared Nov 19, 2015 in the Huffington Post Canada (Business section) as a shorter edited version. Click here to view that article.

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image6Like opening the window and getting a breath of fresh air, the Liberal party swept to power in Canada recently with a “sunny days” attitude. Under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Generation X has taken power, promising open communication and a team approach with an agenda for change. It would seem collectively Canada is destined to return to more traditionally left leaning social values.

One of the more potentially controversial policies promised by the Liberals is the legalization of marijuana. Whether we agree with it on not, Canada is likely to see marijuana openly available for sale within the next four years.

Pot is about to get hot.

I liken the opportunities for marijuana to the new frontiers that alcohol marketing faced after prohibition ended in the US in 1933. While there are age and legislative restrictions in place governing alcohol, its promotion is legal, and increasingly more sophisticated. Take one look at the shelf of your local liquor store or a glossy magazine and it’s a bounty of brands, stylish logos and labels, where it’s as much about defining a segments lifestyle as the actual product. I expect the same will eventually be true for the business of pot.

When I was in Colorado earlier this year on business, I observed stylishly upscale dispensaries which felt more like entering an Apple store then a place to buy cannabis and accessories. Various strains were displayed in jars, alongside tablets where customers could look up origin, medical uses, quality standards and positive and negative effects in a self serve manner, free of pressure. You could open jars to sniff and smell samples. Halogen directional lights and sparse design elements otherwise gave an industrial design feel. There was not a lava lamp, beads or a dodgy character in sight.

Groundswell

Groundswell, pictured here, and Euflora are already doing this in Colorado.

So what might the future of this industry look like in Canada once pot is legalized? And what marketing insights might there be for businesses unshackled by legislation as they grow quickly in the age of digital?

To get some insight I interviewed two industry leaders in Colorado. Chris Sams is the CEO of Marijuana Marketing Guru, an arm of Jemsu , a large SEO company in Colorado. His company specializes in marijuana advertising, search engine optimization, “cannabusiness” web design, and analytics and reporting. Olivia Mannix is the Co-founder of Cannaband, a niche marketing agency created as a specialized off shoot from their parent company Marca, a general marketing agency. Canabrand specializes in branding and identity, market selection, and ensuring all parts of the brand are congruent and on strategy. As such, both CEOs saw an opportunity for specialized marketing services to the industry when Colorado legalized marijuana in January 2014.

While sale and distribution is legalized, there are still many restrictions. But they have found that those restrictions present creative marketing opportunities. Chris Sams noted that the use of social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is limited, since marijuana advertising is prohibited on those platforms just like the promotion of pharmaceuticals and alcohol. But since a lot more consumers are searching online for information, having a strong website and being optimized for search is key. The company has also had success partnering with blogs to do advertising on sites. He sees the combination of a push strategy through ads and blogs and a pull strategy through SEO as progressive digital marketing opportunities. Olivia Mannix at Cannabrand, sees the broad reach of media and publicity as a key component to maximizing exposure in a restricted environment. She sited her client Neos, and their cannabis infused vapourizing pen, as an example. Since the sale of cannabis is restricted to those over 21 in her state, they had found an ABC affiliate TV station in Colorado where 70% of the audience was over 21 years. The “Adventurous Life” TV spot they produced was lifestyle focused and didn’t show the product, appearing to meet all legal restrictions for advertising. When the spot was pulled at the last minute they were able to create a PR story around it, which was picked up by Bloomberg Business and its outreach to national news outlets, creating 250,000,000 media impressions within a week. Cannabrand has also been successful getting New York Times and 60-Minutes coverage for their client Mindful, as they shifted the branding from a medical use position to the recreational user.

Beyond the promotional opportunities created by restrictions and the obvious opening up of the distribution chain through dispensaries and online, there were three other marketing trends they observed.

1. Segmentation. There are two broad segments, medical use and recreational. Both executives saw growth and greater acceptance in the medical use of CBD products for pain management, appetite control and cell generation involved in the treatment of cancer, MS, epilepsy and Aids. But they agreed that recreational use held the greatest growth opportunity.

2. Targeting. “We definitely see segmentation in the industry and capturing a wider audience across all segments,” noted Chris Sams of Marijuana Marketing Guru. Within the recreational use segment, these were the areas where both interviewed saw growth.

  • Women: Whether we’re ready for suburban Mom’s on a “rocky mountain high” it would seem they are a prime target for expansion beyond the traditional youth, or Cheech & Chong stoner market we are perhaps predisposed to think of first as users of marijuana. Notes Mannix, “Women are the new vertical growth. Vaping is of interest since it is discreet, there’s no odour, they can control the amount of product, and there’s no calories like alcohol and edibles. Plus lighting a burning a flower appeals to women.” She also noted that women like to get together to try products, they are prime targets for high-end accessories, and they are a natural for spreading word of mouth in their networks.
  • 25-35 year old urban professionals: Sams noted that the 25-35-yuppie market prefers the upscale and professional branding approach, which has emerged as a way to present product in a legal and appealing way. Dispensaries have popped up in locations to better serve this market. And services such as “Bud & Breakfast” stays for $500/night are clearly targeting an upscale market.
  • Athletes: This target group is a blend of medical and recreational use, seeking CBD products for cell generation and healing properties.
  • Baby boomers: Mannix referred to this group as “Those over 50 who were coming out of the cannabis closet.” This was the original hippy generation who had a high likelihood of experimentation in their youth. Now largely with grown children, not needing to set moral standards, or frankly seeing the benefits of legalizing an industry to protect youth from indiscriminant producers, they have become more accepting of legalization. And with that, they are seeking relaxation and perhaps a revisit to their youth.

 3. An explosion of products and services. Of course there is an expansion of dispensaries, but it goes far beyond that. With push back sentiments from anti-smoking, the two biggest product growth areas were with edibles and vaping. CBD products for medical use were also a large growth area. But even within traditional weed, there are strains and brands with different properties and benefits. Then there’s the paraphernalia like pipes, vaping pens and infusers to further round out offerings. And not to be out done, services have also gotten into the offering with pot tours, events and festivals, growing schools, marijuana cooking classes, and smoking lounges and social clubs. “I’d say that the diversity of products, now that it’s recreational use, have quadrupled in the last two years,” notes Sams. “It’s no longer a dispensary system, there are new products across the industry.”

So is Canada ready for this?

Cannabrand just announced a plan to expand their brand into Canada. Olivia Mannix, Co-founder notes, ” We’ll be looking for strategic partnerships with talented creative shops and PR firms in Canadian cities.” It seems Colorado, having seen the future, is ready to prosper here. It’s quite clear from a business and marketing perspective, that the opportunities for the industry are endless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Marketing SOS: 5 Tips to minimize distractions

SOS is an international code signal of extreme distress used especially by ships at sea. But the SOS I want to talk about here is “Shiny Object Syndrome” in particular as it relates to our limited attention spans, constant interruptions, the need to chase down endless links online, monitor social media push notifications, and in general spending our days multi tasking in endless distraction. Let’s face it, it’s a nasty environment to try to stand out and get noticed in your marketing efforts. Collectively our target audiences are incessantly chasing shiny objects daily.

SOS_logoSo how does that play out on your business website and in your social media?

Are you spending your marketing efforts to land people to your website, only to entice them with a shiny object that chases them away? Framed more directly does your website contain countless links to videos hosted on YouTube, articles hosted on other media sites, or an endless parade of social media buttons that beg to be pressed? On one hand we want lots of back links to content, in particular content hosted on reputable sites, as links since it boosts our SEO. That article in the Huffington Post or New York Times immediately rockets you to the top of the respect list, but once there, do your readers return? And haven’t you been told that you need to get more followers, friends, subscribers and likes because it builds a following? But the very act of enticing folks to those pages, away from your site, also increases the likelihood that they will become further distracted while they’re chasing the next shiny object. We’ve all done it – linked to Facebook for an article, checked our newsfeed while there, and “poof” off we go looking at some other new piece video or quiz result. My fellow speaker friend Jane Atkinson calls these phenomena squirrels chasing nuts. Once they’re gone, they are not coming back to your content.

So how do you stand out, fuel search, build a following, while grabbing and holding the attention of an increasingly distracted audience? Frankly it’s a quandary.

The secret may lie in simplicity.

I got a glimpse of that earlier in September when Vancouver was hit by a massive windstorm, knocking out power to over 400,000 residents in the Lower Mainland. We personally were without power for 3 days. While it was an inconvenience for sure, many people I spoke to actually remarked that they enjoyed the serenity of being forcefully unplugged. Some played board games. Others made dinner on the BBQ and then sat around a family dinner table by candlelight and talked. We got out Scrabble and played for several hours. We made our own music with voice, piano and guitar. It was all so simple and there were no distractions.

What if your marketing could land in an environment of few distractions and one of peace? Here are a few ideas to achieve that.

1. Pick personal engagement media and be consistent: One of the reasons I stand by a regular newsletter is that it is one-to-one communication and personal. It’s permission based. Readers have granted me the key to their inbox and it’s an honor. I know I’ve got their undistracted attention for 5 minutes each week if I keep up my promise of providing value and arriving with predictable consistency. For my readership, the weekend, and Sunday morning in particular is a time of less distraction, one where they’re still thinking business, just in a less hectic state. Depending on your audience, I don’t think the date so much matters, but the consistency once chosen. (*If you’d like to view sample back issues of my newsletter or sign up yourself, click here to check it out)

2. Schedule social media posts to arrive at times when your audience is more apt to be receptive: Scheduling can be done within Facebook for business pages for example, but a more time efficient method is to use a dashboard service such as Hootsuite, where you can schedule posts for all your social media platforms for an entire week.

How you use scheduling will vary by audience. An entertainment company might use Thursday evening for people planning their weekends. A healthy food take out company might use the 3-4pm window weekdays, knowing that busy Moms and Dads will be on smart phones waiting to pick up or drop off kids and be looking for a solution to dinner. A client targeting downtown business people might consider having posts show up during morning commute, for those riding transit, or during lunch time – both times when folks tend to be focused on scrolling their smart phones.

3. Host content on your site as well as offering links for SEO: By all means post videos to your YouTube channel for search and organic discovery, but consider hosting the really important ones directly on your site as well. Then visitors can view the video and remain on your site undistracted. I’d suggest a similar approach for media coverage and article links. Hosting the content on your site ensures it can be read or viewed without leaving, but also providing a link to the media site where it appeared gives the authority angle while also boosting back link SEO.

4. Tame down or remove unnecessary social media distraction buttons: This one is a little contentious. You want visitors to be able to like and follow you on social media, but you don’t want it to be the first thing that causes them to immediately leap away from your site. A measured approach would be to make them easy to find, but not the equivalent of a neon banner when they first land.

5. Consider the use of non-digital to engage: Digital by its nature is distraction friendly – a dine and dash rather then a full course meal. We read differently on digital platforms – skim reading rather then taking more time. We expect links as we search for that next meal to graze. Non-digital media such as direct mail offer far less distraction. Tell me this – if you received a hand written post card in the mail tomorrow, would you not read it? A handwritten note by mail is a rarity these days. If you’re looking to be personal and not compete with other distractions, that’s about as simple as it gets. Kind of like having the power go out!

So beware how SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome) can foul up your marketing. Perhaps it’s time to consider the time, place, media and context of your message from your customer’s perspective, with the goal to hitting when there are fewer distractions.
 

 

What Iceland and Sweden can teach us about social media marketing: Trust & authenticity

Trust and authenticity.

You can’t buy it. You just have to earn it. And the only way to earn it is through being yourself and not hiding behind corporate speak or bureaucracy. That can be a challenge for some companies as they grow and figure out how to manage their message online using social media.

Enter Iceland and Sweden. Arguably, they aren’t corporations, but they are countries with a lot at stake. Tourism is a major industry in these far reaching northern areas, and nobody jets off there for a weekend like going to Vegas.

This spring, and continuing into this fall, Iceland is targeting global travelers with the help of a few friendly Gudmundur’s. 4,000 of them to be exact. Apparently there are 4,000 guys and gals named Gudmunder in Iceland out of a population of 329,000. Go figure. The Gudmunder’s have become “the world’s first human search engine.”

#askgudmundur

Launched as the #AskGundmunder social media campaign highlights the diversity of year-round experiences in the country by allowing people to submit questions on Iceland’s social media channels using the #askgundmunder hashtag, and one of 4,000 Gundmunder volunteers will respond to the question – unedited, and with authenticity. It’s a really cool initiative based on trust. Would you be willing to give the keys of your social media to 4,000 employees? Too scary? How about 5-10? I’m willing to bet for many readers, that is still scary enough. The approach is based on trust, and you know as a potential tourist, you’re getting the authentic goods. You can read and watch more about the campaign here.

Three years ago, Sweden launched a campaign called “The Curators of Sweden” where the country essentially allowed different citizens each week to tweet as the manager of the @Sweden Twitter account. The idea was to bring the voice of Sweden to Twitter. Arguably Sweden is a progressive country and socially liberal, but it was still an incredible act of trust to make such a move. It played out politically well too, as a demonstration of free speech in a world increasingly muffling citizens in many countries. You can learn more about the campaign through this recent NPR radio interview celebrating the third anniversary of the campaign.

But it’s what both of these campaigns have in common that really intrigues me: Trust and authenticity. Is there something to be learned here in our approach to social media for business? I think so. The more human you are, faults and all, the more authentic you will seem. People buy from those they know, like and trust. Authenticity is a huge part of that equation.