Friday, May 29, 2009

Popularity sells.

Carl Bialik's article in the Wall Street Journal on the influence of Top 10 lists questions the wisdom of crowd-sourcing, but also highlights a proven tactic that marketers should consider to help drive incremental sales.

Popularity metrics abound online: Top 10 emailed stories on Most downloaded songs on iTunes. Yahoo's Top 10 user searches. Studies show that people decide what to do in part by following others. We are pack animals at heart, finding comfort in the herd.

Bialik's article cites instances in which marketers were able to dramatically shift customer preference and behavior by calling out those items and choices preferred by other customers.

Amazon has employed this successfully over the years ("people who bought this book also bought..."). However, Amazon makes this recommendation after you've made your initial selection. The dynamic Bialik reports on is the influence popularity has on the initial purchase decision.

I could see ways of applying this to many different categories. Ford dealers could post a sign on the roof of a Fusion letting me know that 63% of current Fusion owners bought the new Fusion. Best Buy could let me know that 57% of people who bought this flat panel combined it with this blu-ray player. United could tell me that 68% of people booking the JFK-SFO flight I'm considering purchased a one-day Premier Travel Option.

Timely and specific suggestions of what similar customers prefer can lift sales. How do I know this? I heard other people saying so.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What does your brand oppose?

I usually don't think of mayonnaise. That's probably why I like Miracle Whip's new campaign. After spending years trying to tell me what Miracle Whip is, and an equal number of years of my total lack of interest, the brand finally got my attention by telling me what it isn't.

In its new TV spots, Miracle Whip seems to be against conformity and playing nice with other condiments. It demands to be heard through the bread. In fact, it thinks mayo is a wuss.

This campaign reinforces a theme I've been exploring lately -- the power of brand narratives. Great brands tell great stories. They are the lead character on an inspiring journey. They have a clear sense of true north. Importantly, they know what they stand for and what they oppose.

Miller High Life's delivery guy campaign is another good example of a brand that defines itself by clearly stating what it's against. High Life celebrates blue-collar common sense by railing against high-minded nonsense.

Across the pond, Nestle’s Yorkie candy bar is famously marketed as being “not for girls”, with appropriately tongue in cheek advertising.

Dove breathed new life into the brand by harnessing the tension between what it stands for and what it's against. Its highly successful "campaign for real beauty" positioned the brand as an advocate of women’s self-esteem battling the falsehood of media-defined beauty.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the blueprint for this type of branding strategy -- Apple.

Next time you're defining your brand strategy, don't settle for simply declaring what your brand stands for. Define what you oppose, your proverbial line in the sand. Consumers will reward you with their attention.

I could go on an on about this. But I'm for brevity and against long-winded dissertations.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Think like a storyteller, not a marketer.

Ad Age this week is reporting that Budweiser is returning to the type of emotional advertising that was its trademark in its halcyon days.

I hope the brief goes deeper than that. Emotional advertising is not a goal, it's an outcome. What characterized the great Bud advertising was a keen sense of storytelling and empathy. The brand was a reward for a honest day's work.

As I've posted before, stories are a very potent form of communicating. Stories help us understand. They convey meaning. And in an overwhelming and fast moving world, meaning trumps information. The most enduring stories are built upon several essential elements, including archetypal characters, the hero's journey and resolution of conflict

Storytelling has been a hallmark of the campaign BD'M creates for United Airlines, giving the brand a very distinctive message in a category that normally defaults to commodity service claims.

In the beer world, I tip my hat (and my glass) to the folks at Dos Equis. The "most interesting man in the world" campaign is a classic narrative in the making. They've nailed an archetypal brand personality and convey keen sense of what the brand believes in as well as what it opposes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

@kogibbq...a tasty success story

Kogi BBQ is an interesting case study on many levels.

First, it's an inspiring story of a guy who has a 4 a.m. epiphany about how delicious Korean BBQ would taste on a taco and then has the courage to follow through on his idea, resulting in a hugely successful SoCal food business.

Second, it's an instructive story about the role that social media can play in creating a grassroot phenomenon.

Kogi BBQ has no fixed location. It is a roving truck that announces its location via twitter (@kogibbq). Flash mobs of Kogi fanboys (and girls) drop what they're doing to go and wait for the Kogi-mobile to show up.

Similar to yesterday's post on T Mobile's campaign, Kogi offers another example of what's possible when social media is at the center of the brand idea, not an ad hoc extension.

I often find that some of the most interesting marketing happens at the local level. Large national marketers could learn much from studying best practices from companies like Kogi, not McDonalds.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Social media is mass media.

T Mobile's new flash mob campaign is a good example of a media mash up. Is it a TV commercial? A viral video? Social networking? Blogging? The answer, of course, is all of the above.

This campaign illustrates what's possible when we put digital and social marketing at the center of the idea and not treat it as an extension of a TV spot.

T Mobile used teaser videos, social networks and good old fashioned word of mouth to summon over 13,000 people to London's Trafalgar Square last week to sing a fairly in-tune rendition of Hey Jude.

The result? A fun TV spot and, more importantly, thousands of posts, texts, tweets and YouTube videos from people who attended the event, and even more chatter from people like me who heard about it online. Moreover, when you get Perez Hilton's stamp of approval, you know you're doing something right in the pop culture zeitgeist.

The days of simply putting a TV spot on YouTube are over. Marketers need to map out a social media strategy at the outset of a campaign and not leave it to chance. Hope is not a strategy.