Five keys to marketing success – learning from Target’s failure to hit the Canadian bullseye

This last week the announced exit of Target from the Canadian market was a piece of business news that dominated discussions. One does not enter a market with 133 stores and then pull the plug less then two years later without feeling an effect. That’s a lot of rent per square foot, retail sales and lost jobs you hear rushing for the drain hole being flushed from the Canadian economy. And there’s really no good reason for it to have ended the way it did. Many Canadians harboured a secret love affair for “Tar-jay” with all its chic savvy offerings and shelves of intrigue. At least that’s what they found south of the border. In Canada, the retailer seemed mired in supply chain and inventory issues, poorer quality of product, and a higher overall cost structure that was reflected in higher prices compared to competitors. They thought we’d accept it all in blind love, but we didn’t.

If anyone should have understood strategic competitive advantage it should have been retail battle veteran Target. And yet it would seem they misunderstood the competitive landscape, their target market and what was at the heart of their unique selling proposition.

All that to say, even the big guys fail. And when they fall, they fall hard.

target-logoI found the Target story an interesting backdrop for two events I spoke at last week, right in the middle of all the breaking news: A Small Business BC Marketing seminar for entrepreneurs on Friday and Mini Enterprise Conference, held at UBC on Saturday, the largest conference of its kind in Canada for grade 12 students looking to gain insight into the world of entrepreneurship.

There’s something inspiring about engaging with hundreds of the Lower Mainland’s future business leaders and those already rolling out their plans and dreams. While the questions from both groups where varied they all in some way lead back to five key areas. Curiously, one could argue, these are areas where Target also drifted when it entered the Canadian market. Let’s take a look, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Unique selling proposition: What do you do differently, that your competitors don’t, that your target market cares about, that’s not easily copied?
  1. Strategic competitive advantage: What combination of resources, systems, supply chain, cost structure, culture or product or service offering give you that unique positioning?
  1. Target market: How do they define their primary and secondary target market from a demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioural standpoint?
  1. Competitive field: Who are your primary and secondary competitors? What are their unique selling propositions and competitive advantages?
  1. Trends and external forces: What societal trends or external forces could affect your business over the next several years? And how have your prepared your business to benefit?

What makes small businesses viable and able to thrive is really no different than big business. That became very evident while discussing entrepreneurial dreams and marketing plans with the backdrop of Target’s failure with both groups.

So here’s my challenge to you this week. How would you answer the above five question areas? Can you define your answers clearly, without hesitation and with pride?

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.

Christmas ads and the power of storytelling

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for sentimental. With only a slight guilty conscience I will readily confess to harboring my kid’s kindergarten works of art, old letters from friends, and photo albums filled with childhood memories in treasured locations throughout my house.  I’ll also readily admit to being a sucker for history. I was that weird kid in high school who actually loved history class, perhaps because I had several amazing teachers who didn’t so much teach, as engage us in storytelling that was captivating. It’s with that backdrop, that we take a trip to Britain, where the competition for best Christmas ads (or adverts as they like to call them), is like sport – watched closely and fiercely fought for attention. These Christmas ads and their ability to communicate on such an emotional level is based on great storytelling techniques. As marketers we can learn a lot from that.

Best pause right now to grab a box of tissues. Both of these ads will push the emotional triggers with story, images and music.

1914 Christmas Day truce on the western front

Check out Sainsbury’s 2014 Christmas ad here. This ad captures brilliantly a piece of British world history.

Sainsbury_Christmas_advertAnchored in historical events during WWI where it was documented through letters home that the front trench lines between Britain and Germany laid down arms for a 24 hr truce 100 years ago on Dec 25, 1914, sang Silent Night together, and engaged each other as comrades, exchanging small gifts from home. I remember clearly being told this touching story in my high school history class, and this commercial authentically brings the moment to life. It was made in partnership with the Royal British Legion. You can watch a short film of the story behind the Christmas ad here. Of course the chocolate bar, appearing in a hero role, was made available in its historically retro wrapper at Sainsbury’s. But before you shout bah humbug at the retail consumption angle, you should know that profits from the choc bar, made in Ypres no less, are going to charity.

John Lewis – Monty and the Penguin

There’s a good chance you’ve seen this cute penguin ad making the rounds from John Lewis, another British retailer. Currently at over 20 million views, it has all elements of an emotionally packed segment: great music, a story told through pictures, a friendship between a boy and a penguin, and a magical ending transcending the world between childhood imagination and reality. Watch it here.

John_Lewis_pneguinSo what might be the marketing take away from these two segments, other than to keep the tissue handy? I think what’s really at the heart is the incredible power of storytelling. Both ads featured a classic storytelling formula:

 

  1. The intro
  2. The hero versus the villain
  3. The low point
  4. Overcoming the villain
  5. The climax
  6. The outcome and resolution

They both told the story vividly through images and music, featured characters that we could immerse ourselves in for their point of view, and they were rich in the recording of everyday gestures, habits, manners and details. Really, when you analyze them from a cinematic point of view, they were mini movies.

I think there’s a powerful lesson there for marketers if we embrace it. Storytelling works. Good storytelling is riveting and universal, which brings me full circle back to that high school history class and why I loved it so much.

So here’s my question to you: What is your business or brand story? How would you make it into a 2-3 minute movie? How would you tell it in a 1-minute pitch? Those are the thoughts I’ll leave you with over the holidays.

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.

Lululemon_give_presence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The four pillars of your media empire

Wouldn’t it be great to have the media clout of Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, Rupert Murdock, or Mark Zukerberg? While all these icons have carved out substantial media empires on broadcast, print and online platforms, never before has there been such opportunity to leverage your own content and channels in building awareness and a brand position. If you’ve got expertise and knowledge, you should be building your own media empire.

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!
  1. 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.
  1. Engagement: Build community; generate engagement with your brand, which ultimately leads to sales.

'You fancy yourself as a press baron, don't you?'

The four 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.
  1. Outposts: Think of these as rented property. Outposts include social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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. Since going public and needing to show revenue, they have closed the “Like” funnel down. Current estimates are that 7-10% of content gets through to the folks that like your page. To reach the rest, you need to boost your posts. 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. I’d suggest experimenting and then measuring with analytics to see the effects on site visits and links. Overall I’d exercise caution and only go with platforms your audience uses a lot, and monitor closely what works and what doesn’t. Gone are the days of not knowing what works. 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.

Ever wonder what the 1978 WKRP in Cincinnati “Turkeys away” episode might look like in the age of social media?

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! Website analytics tell me that while this blog has readership worldwide (which is totally awesome!) 19% is from Canada and 30% is from the US. So I thought in honor of Thanksgiving stateside, I’d invite you to reflect and speculate on how an iconic WKRP in Cincinnati episode might unfold in the age of social media… At the very least, you’ll have something entertaining to discuss over the turkey dinner with family and friends!WKRPinCincinnati

Those of a certain age may well remember the “Turkeys Away” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. If this classic piece of retro TV pre-dates you, take 5 and watch it here. I’ve cut the video to the last bit of the show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf3mgmEdfwg

The scene opens with hapless correspondent Les Nesman reporting live about a helicopter dropping live turkeys from the sky. Adorned with a banner reading “Happy Thanksgiving From WKRP,” the advertising stunt quickly goes wrong as the poor birds plunge to earth like sacks of wet cement, taking out car windows and people in their path. This promotional brainchild was the creation of station manager “The Big Guy” Mr. Carlson wanting to gain recognition in the marketplace for the new formatted rock station.

sanders1stI got wondering how this episode would unfold in the age of social media…

- Less Nesman might well be reporting, but so too would the citizens of Cincinnati with their cell phones. Thousands of them, all poised to the sky snapping photos and video as the live tragedy unfolded.

- Video of turkeys hitting the deck would be posted within minutes to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.

- Animal activists would be tagged in posts, and authorities would be on it before Les even returned to the office.

- Photos of dented cars and broken windows would be posted to Instagram and Twitter.

- There would be hashtags #TurkeyDropGoneWrong #TurkeyBombsCincinnati #HappyThanksgiving??? #WTFWKRP #SomeoneIsGettingFired

- It would quickly trend on Twitter and all Cincinnati TV, radio and print outlets would be racing for coverage.

- The TV and print coverage would fuel more interest online and folks search for photos, video and write-ups online.

-  There would be international coverage since the internet quickly spreads news of the weird to all corners of the earth.

- And of course there would be selfies. Selfies of people covered in feathers. Selfies of people pointing to damaged cars. And selfies with Les Nesman – just because.

Oh how times have changed!

So when you’re carving that turkey next Thursday and it slips off the platter and heads for the floor, just quote Mr. Carlson, and his last line of the episode, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” Depending on the age of the guests, you’ll likely get a few laughs!

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.