Thursday, April 28, 2011

Going mobile.

I've long advocated that marketers view mobile as an opt-in response device and not as an advertising medium.  Let's agree on a simple truth:  everyone has their phone in hand or nearby all of the time.  Sad perhaps, but undeniably true.

The huge potential of mobile is captured in this infographic, courtesy of Microsoft.

By including a mobile call to action we blur the tired distinction between offline and online; between traditional and nontraditional; between one-way and opt-in communications.  Is a QR-enabled print ad in Fortune traditional or nontraditional?  Is an outdoor poster with an SMS invitation offline or interactive?

I believe mobile response is best used for bringing sight, sound and motion (an amino acid of brand marketing) to otherwise static media.  For example, for United Airlines BD'M included an SMS response on airport banners to enable smartphone wielding business travelers to watch a video of the airline's new first class sleeper suites; for Compellent we embedded a QR code in their brochure to enable IT managers to immediately see customers raving about "Fluid Data."

The jury is out on the effectiveness of QR codes vs SMS.  I believe simple solutions that require less fiddling around will always win (aka, Occam's razor).  Some people may want to snap a photo of a mobile tag, but most may find it more natural to send a text – something they already do dozens of times a day.  (To that end, check out, a service that makes it even easier to create and own "vanity" numbers which are more memorable than most short codes.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Repositioning a brand in a nonlinear world.

Let's admit that the AIDA model of awareness –> interest –> desire –> action is dead

Brands exist in a nonlinear world of social media, SEM, viral and, yes, advertising. This is why I coined wikibranding — more than ever before, brands are defined by consumers, via peer influence and first-hand experiences, and less so by linear brand marketing.

Here's a personal case study: Buick.

I remember when I moved to America from Ireland as a kid seeing Buick ads that featured a catchy Mad Men-esque jingle, something along the lines of "wouldn't you really rather drive a Buick...than any other car this year?"

Through the years my answer to that question was a resounding "no." Buick's gray styling, quality and customer profile placed the brand squarely in the "I'd rather eat prunes" mental filing cabinet.

As of last week, however, I now would consider a Buick Regal and advocate that my friends do likewise. Did I suddenly become aware of the redesigned Regal? No. My Buick Regal journey didn't follow the AIDA model.

I experienced the car first-hand, by accident, when I rented it at National. I was impressed by how well it drove — precision and road-feel, balanced with Lexus-smooth transmission and suspension. It's interior styling was premium and smart, as was the exterior.

I was so surprised by the Regal that I posted my epiphany on Facebook.  The ensuing skepticism of my import-driving friends further reinforced the challenge brands like Buick face — it's hard to change perceptions when your image is trapped in time (and a social media echo-chamber).

Later that week I was driving through Laguna Beach when a good looking car cut in front of me; I stared at it because it didn't look immediately familiar – yet again, the Regal. My earlier driving experience caused me to impute positive perceptions on a car that I would otherwise have ignored.

A day later while flipping through Wired I noticed an ad for the Regal that invited me to photograph the ad with Google Goggles to view additional video content.

I'm quite sure that Regal and its ads have been trying to get my attention long before my first-hand experience. But all these efforts were invisible to me because our brains are the original spam blocker.  My positive first-hand experience made me more open to listening to Buick.

So what are the lessons learned for well-established brands like Buick that seek to change perceptions?

Rethink the role of brand repositioning advertising. In a nonlinear marketplace, I no longer believe the objective of a repositioning campaign is to build awareness – its true function is to reinforce newly formed perceptions brought on through first-hand experiences. Think about it: if a consumer knows they don't like prunes, running ads that make prunes seem hip and cool isn't likely to work. Accept the truth that the consumer knows what they know. After decades of dismissing Buick, the last thing I had time for was reading one of its ads.

Create experiences that allow the consumer to reach their own conclusion — e.g., sampling, trial offer, public displays, 3D immersive experiences online with like/dislike review options, in-person demonstration, trusted peer reviews.  This is the root of wikibranding.

Embrace new behaviors, not just brand imagery. Consumers judge brands by what they do, not simply by what they say. Media can play a huge role in redefining a brand by signaling new behaviors. Buick's ad was in Wired, not Golf Digest, where I would expect to find Buick. That brand context, combined with the Google Goggles interactivity, helped me see the Regal as a tech-savvy brand.  No amount of copy would have had the same effect.

I will be the first to say that this model may not apply to a new brand which desperately needs awareness.

But for brands that need to recast their positioning and perceptions, awareness can be a ball and chain (i.e., "I know you and know that I don't like you.")  For these brands I would suggest that instead of AIDA, we let consumers practice EOIS – experience –> open mind –> investigate –> share.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Multicultural is the new mainstream.

The 2010 Census data released last week further underscores why marketers must begin blurring the distinctions between the general and multicultural markets.

In marketing terms, the multicultural effort is often managed in a silo, funded with the money left over from the general market campaign.  Those days must fade away – population trends and good business sense demand that we think differently.  Multicultural marketing must be central to our thinking.

In many states across the U.S., multicultural markets are increasingly mainstream – not just in California and New York, but also in states like Delaware, Maryland, Louisiana and Nevada.  In each of these states the white population accounts for about two-thirds or less of the total.

If you want a glimpse of the future, look no further than the ethnicity of the youth market:  among people under 18 years old, whites make up only 57% of this cohort.  Millennials have grown up during a time marked by dramatic growth in immigration and racial integration.  Multiculturalism is simply a fact of life for this group, reinforced early on by Sesame Street, and later in the classroom, as well as in film and music.

Moreover, those who view multicultural marketing in black and white terms need to think again.  The 2010 Census shows that the U.S. Hispanic population jumped 42% over the past decade and now accounts for 1-in-6 Americans.  Hispanics are now the dominant minority group in 191 of the nation's 366 metro markets – and not just in the Sun Belt.  This trend will likely keep growing, if for no other reason than the simple fact that the median age of Latino women is 28 years old, whereas the median age of white women is 42.

This multimedia tool from USA Today offers a nice summary.

(PS:  penned by a Pakistani-born son of Irish immigrants...aka a census category of one.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Anantomy of a successful viral video campaign.

Guess which brand's YouTube channel gets more views than BMW.  Even more than Disney.  Did you guess Orabrush?  Nah, didn't think so.

The story of Orabrush's success with its YouTube video campaign is very instructive.  Even the NY Times has covered it in an attempt to decode its success. 

Orabrush's YouTube channel has received more than 33 million views and is the seventh-most subscribed channel, beating brands like BMW, Disney and Nintendo Wii.  Why?  After reading the NY Times article and viewing a bunch of Orabrush's videos, I think their success in going viral can be attributed to a few factors which many marketers would be wise to consider:
  1. Be funny, even slightly outrageous.
  2. Don't be slick.  YouTube is not TV or web.
  3. Be prolific. Program the channel. Make a lot of videos and release them over time to build a following.
  4. Cede creative control.  Persuade the community's "alpha-producers" to make parodies of your video.
  5. Be authentic.  Don't let the dark magic of Madison Avenue be seen or felt.  
  6. Cross your fingers.
Relatedly, check out Ad Age's list of the top viral videos, with commentary on why they were so successful.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Is Facebook becoming The Internet?

I read a couple of items tonight that helped bring into sharp focus the sheer magnitude of Facebook's market influence.

First, some data and insights from a talk given by NYU professor Scott Galloway :
  • Facebook now accounts for 10% of all time spent on the internet.  More people around the world spend more time on Facebook that any other site.
  • "People are leaving the internet and spending more time on social media platforms.  There's an emerging generation for which Facebook is their OS.  They don't leave it all day."
  • Currently, Facebook has 580m users.  If we apply Moore's Law to this we can envision this user group doubling in 18 months to 1 billion – perhaps exceeding 20% of all time spent online.  And as we've witnessed so far, as Facebook gets bigger, it tends to grow even faster.
  • If Facebook were to account for 40%-50% of time spent online, then effectively Facebook has become the internet.
Then there's this factoid from today's Wall Street Journal: In February, more than one-third of all online display ads in the U.S. appeared on Facebook – more than 3x Yahoo, its closest rival.

Perhaps this is why I chuckle every time I receive an email from