Visual Content Widens the Branding and PR Gap

The line between advertising, branding, marketing and PR may appear blurry to some, but I believe clarity has arrived.

Interestingly enough, it is the disruptive visual platforms Instagram and Pinterest that are bringing clarity to the overall communications industry.

In a traditional sense, Public Relations practitioners have been wordsmiths; conveying written and (limited) visual messages to the public. PR pros have mainly used words and text to increase awareness and educate people about products, services, controversies, and causes.

But, 2014 has been a tsunami of visuals and images in communication. This has widened the skills gap between branding and PR. For example, research proves that press releases and blog posts containing visuals have significantly higher open and read rates than content with straight text.

Many PR executives and organizations are inserting video snippets or infographics into their press releases. Their goal is to improve engagement and news pitches to reporters. Visual tours are becoming more commonplace with PR, too. Show, don’t tell.

This is a far cry from branding and the visual web that’s unfolding in our industry today.

Who ‘owns’ a company’s brand positioning?

Not the PR department, the mavens of linguistics.

According to a post on TheNextWeb, photo and video posts on Pinterest refer more traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Google+ combined.

Storytelling with visuals is driving branding as well. Forty-two percent of all Tumblr posts are photos.

The first commercial camera was introduced in 1873. Today, there are more than 1 billion photos on Instagram.

Welcome to the visual web.

Branding, marketing, advertising, and sales are based on the psychology of influencing human behavior and emotional touch points that convert into revenue.

I don’t believe that students of PR are the most trained, skilled, or experienced  in these areas. This is a far cry from matters such as Crisis Communications, an area of expertise that rightfully belongs within the scope of PR. Public Relations is aligned more closely with media relations than it is with branding. PR has largely owned social media because it’s closely aligned with reputation management.  But the visual web changes all that. Storytelling has long been the role of the Advertising or Brand Agency.

A post on Content Marketing Institute addresses the transformation of brand experience:

Just as Copernicus revolutionized our understanding of cosmology by proving that the sun is the center of our solar system (not the Earth), marketing has gone through a transformation of focus. Historically, we placed our brand at the center of our marketing decisions, which resulted in a lot of wasted effort. Cristina Heise gyro’s Director of Brand Experience points out that we’ve now put the customer in her rightful place — at the center of the marketing universe. “Think about the human at the center and how to make it easier on them. Think about what’s concerning her, what’s troubling her, what excites her, what motivates her, what she wants to accomplish and how you and your brand can help,” she recommends.

The hub of today’s hybrid messaging and modern marketing is the visual web. Analyst Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester says a marketing strategy based around value-driven interactions is vital in meeting customer expectations.

Linguistics and text are a shrinking part of the overall picture.

As the demand for consumer engagement skyrockets, it’s the visuals that show–and tell–our brand stories.

 

(Image via)

Staving Off the Drama of Net Neutrality

Network neutrality may bring the fast lane to some but it can also lead to a slow and painful existence to advertisers who provide content.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved a first-step towards net neutrality, which would offer a two-tiered ‘fast lane, slow lane’ approach to streaming video online.

Currently, the giant providers such as Netflix, Google, and Comcast are on a level playing field with the rest of us. The Internet is free and available to virtually anyone to stream large amounts of video, ads, and content.

The FCC wants the behemoths to pay for access to the ‘fast lane’ technology which allows content to be available at warp speed without interruption and snags.

If the slow lane is reserved for the rest of us, advertisers, and brands could experience significant changes in how we reach consumers on the web.

Online advertisers and small agencies could be hurt by barely moving in second gear while the big boys are running circles around us on the NASCAR track.

A recent post on DexMedia.com explains it this way:

“This might mean, for instance, that it might take a lot longer to load a video ad than the page content around it, depending on who is paying for the better service. In addition, a tiered system could effectively redistribute audiences, making it more difficult to target them whether via online or digital TV platforms.”

For now, we still have a level playing field and net neutrality remains in place, as it should.

If the FCC is looking to discriminate, I would respectfully suggest Commissioners re-read the U.S Constitution. If the FCC wants to create needless drama, Commissioners should tune into an afternoon soap opera or reality show.

A final thought: I don’t want to be in the slowpoke lane. Do you?

 

(Image via)

Kicking Around Digital Ads at the World Cup

The 2014 World Cup is just around the corner, and there are some creative digital forums that sponsors and advertisers are beginning to launch.

The world’s largest sporting event kicks off in Brazil’s capital city of Sao Paulo on June 12, and runs through July 13.

One sponsor, Budweiser, has created a microsite to serve as a hub for a weeklong series of events and content. The ‘Rise as One’ platform assures that digital media takes center stage over traditional advertising.

“On top of TV and the more traditional [parts], digital is the lead component of this campaign,” Ricardo Marques, Budweiser’s global advertising director, told Adweek. “One of the things that we wanted to ensure was that we understood the specifics of each platform and made sure that we have content tailored to each platform.”

Adweek’s Lauren Johnson writes that during the games, Budweiser will use Twitter Cards to let fans vote for their favorite players, called the FIFA Man of the Match.

“The beer brand will then award a player after every match and will buy Promoted Tweets to drive traffic to the content. Promoted Posts will also be used on Facebook that direct consumers to the campaign’s microsite to vote,” explains Johnson. “As far as video, the campaign includes two Web series that Budweiser has created with Fox Sports and Vice. The Fox Sports content spans 80 countries for a global push, and the Vice video includes a six-part documentary series.”

Over at Coca-Cola, the company’s largest advertising campaign in its history comes to fruition at the 2014 games. A special logo for the World Cup has been designed by James Sommerville,  VP-global design. He first sketched out the ‘World’s Cup’ logo on a napkin in a restaurant. The logo will be the cornerstone of the campaign, which runs in 175 markets.  “We give the markets creative freedom, but actually they’re all working off the same ingredients,” says Sommerville.

While Budweiser and Coca-Cola are official World Cup sponsors, this tidbit just caught my eye. MarketingLand.com reports that Nike, Samsung, and Castrol are dominating the social video playing field. “That’s according to a report by video metrics firm Unruly, which ranked brands by the total number of shares their World Cup-targeted videos have received on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.”

Nike and Samsung are not sponsors, so it will be interesting to watch how their respective campaigns evolve.

Martin Beck explains on MarketingLand.com: “As of May 22 when the snapshot was taken, Nike led with 1.28 million, and Samsung (971,504) and Castrol (962,206) had just shy of a million. Fourth-place Coca-Cola was way back with 353,067.”

In addition to videos and promoted Tweets, other brands are including Google+ Hangouts and gaming in their media and marketing efforts.   We must not forget mobile.

Let the games begin!

(Image via)

 

Tide’s Colorful Twitter Celebration of the NFL Draft Shines

Clean, crisp, and colorful.

That’s how I like to describe the creative and collaborative approach that Tide has taken in its sponsorship of the National Football League draft.

The recent draft in New York featured a beautifully orchestrated marketing campaign on Twitter that was fan and customer-centric.   

Pulling together all of the elements to make the campaign pop, Tide focused its theme on colors, and what they represent to fans, communities, teams, and players alike.

The detergent company, owned by Procter & Gamble, got buy-in from one player on each of the league’s 32 teams. According to a press release from Tide, designated players—dubbed ‘Tide Color Captains’—served as real-time photojournalists during the draft.

“I know from personal experience that our fans make our team better, get us pumped and give us that extra edge out on the football field,” said Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. “There’s nothing better than pulling up to our stadium or running out of the tunnel and seeing that sea of black and gold. It’s something that every player loves. That’s why I’ve partnered with Tide, to show fans how much we appreciate their support and dedication.”

As fans and supporters proudly displayed their team colors, Tide brings us back to the clarity, vibrancy, and richness of celebrating (clean) colors and the big moments that make up big events.

Those following the draft and picks—and the Tide campaign—spent a good part of the evening on Twitter, engaging with @TideNFL and #ourcolors.

The multi-year sponsorship that Tide secured with the NFL in 2012 proves that when brands pluck themselves out of the marketing mix and allow the public to be front and center, there’s nothing better than building momentum organically.

A press release on NFLCommunications.com states: “Tide’s NFL sponsorship allows us to tap into the huge passion America has for the NFL and the emotion that more than 180 million fans have for their favorite teams,” says Sundar Raman, North America Fabric Care Marketing Director at P&G. “The NFL is the ultimate test for a laundry detergent and we’re proud that our brand is one the equipment managers trust to keep uniforms clean.”

Finally, I couldn’t resist ending this post with this observation: Looks like this marketing and advertising campaign has passed with flying colors.

 

(Image via)

3 Ways to Keep the Real Score in Social Branding

Too many marketing, branding, and advertising pros are going into social campaigns with a lot of information, but are confused when asked the following fundamental questions:

  • Why are you conducting this social media campaign?
  • How will you know if it’s a success?

Yes, these may seem like rudimentary questions, but the answers must be extremely clear to every single member of your team…before the social campaign gets underway. As business leader Napoleon Hill said in the 1940s, it’s all about definition of purpose.

This takes us beyond just watching the number of followers or likes that have accumulated on Facebook or Pinterest. These tallies are good for our egos but they fail to bring the conversions that are at the heart of marketing campaigns, the conversions that drive revenue and business.

It’s time to look deeper into three aspects of the data that is available to us:

Know the value of a visitor. How long does a visitor stay on your website or blog? What was their point of entry and where did you lose them? A person who is on and off the page in 12 seconds cannot be quantified the same as a return visitor who spends 1.5 minutes on your site and registered for a free catalog or white paper.

Look at where your paths cross. By fully understanding consumer behavior, you will be able to pinpoint where your brand intersects with consumers. How did the consumer find you? Was it a search engine, link from another site, or a referral from a trusted friend? Marketing and branding professionals must have access to data (and understand it) as it relates to consumer habits across content, social, mobile, and search.

Disseminate information quickly. Real-time analytics will prove vital to your campaign as data enables you to listen, react, and respond in just moments. Certainly this is important in customer service as consumers take to social channels to air their delight or disgust with a brand, product, or service. But, companies that use free tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and BrightEdge, can monitor keywords and multiple social channels to engage with the public as conversations unfold. Consider it a softer side of customer service.

We are living in the age of the connected consumer.

We must be able to dissect the information that’s going on inside the data.

According to best-selling business author Seth Godin: “The essence of marketing today is to tell a story to people who want to hear it, in a way that resonates with them so they are likely to either respond or connect to you, or tell their friends.”

 

(Image via)

 

How Big Brands Are Using Apps to Reach Consumers

Several big name brands are turning to mobile messaging apps to touch consumers.

In February, Facebook announced the acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion. That’s when advertisers began paying close attention.

Apps such as Snapchat, Kik, Tango, and WeChat aren’t simply alternatives to avoid the cost of texting. These social portals are turning our industry upside down and inside out, a trend that will likely define 2014’s digital advertising landscape.

Let’s take a look at Taco Bell’s foray into Snapchat.

Mark Bergen writes in AdAge:

“Taco Bell announced it would premiere its newest taco on the popular ephemeral app with a short movie, a first for Snapchat. By letting companies create pages as regular users, Snapchat allows brands to toy around with its playful format.”

Armed with i-Phones and a mobile editing van, a creative team from Taco Bell filmed its short movie on the MTV Music Awards Red Carpet.

The Taco Bell foray is detailed in a new report from IPG Media Labs. While the report cautions that Snapchat offers no analytics beyond seeing the number of followers, it’s worthy of a closer look.

Nick Tran, Taco Bell’s social media lead, explains the impetus for using Snapchat. In this two-minute video on AdAge, Tran says the fast food chain has been using Snapchat for the past year.

How did they know what kinds of content Snapchat users craved? They asked, said Tran. And then Taco Bell launched ‘Snapchat Fridays.’

It’s what many marketing and advertising pros had previously called ‘focus groups.’

The Evolving Messaging Space

What role can brands and media owners play in the conversation?

“The answer lies in understanding a fragmented industry landscape dominated by a few key players with strikingly different philosophies, product offerings, and geographic and demographic strongholds,” according to IPG. “If you think apps are just a cheaper way to text, you’re missing their potential: they’re content portals enabling 1:1 interaction with friends and fans.”

A Demanding Marketplace

In new research, media analysts David Edelman and Jacques Bughin at McKinsey and Company, write that advertising will evolve in many ways that no one can predict. “But the trend towards ‘on-demand’ marketing is already clear and is placing new demands on marketers’ leadership and skills. Marketers cannot afford to wait until 2020 to be ready.”

Stephen DeAngelis, CEO of Enterra Solutions, agrees. “Digitalization and mobile technologies have placed the consumer in the driver’s seat and have changed the face of marketing forever,” says DeAngelis.

(Image via)

Big News! The Small Screen is not Shrinking

Despite conflicting opinions and research, millennials continue to watch a lot of Television. Yes, TV viewership among young adults has lessened over time…but the decrease isn’t significant enough to warrant widespread panic. There’s also no need to compete for advertising dollars, thanks to a new technology that syncs the two screen consumer experience.

But first things first.

According to Deloitte, in March, 2013, 54 percent of leading millennials watched TV on any device.

During the last quarter of 2013, Nielsen reports that TV viewership among young adults isn’t fluctuating as much as people think. (Source: MarketingCharts)

“Nielsen’s most recent study indicates that Americans aged 18-24 watched a weekly average of about 22.5 hours during Q4 2013. That was a 47-minute drop-off from Q4 2012, which in turn had been down more than 2 hours from the year before.”

Other highlights from MarketingCharts reveal:

  • In the space of two years, Q4 TV viewing by 18-24-year-olds dropped by three hours per week
  • Most of that decline came between 2011 and 2012
  • The decline in viewing between Q4 2012 and Q4 2013 amounted to less than 7 minutes per day
  • Percentagewise, traditional TV viewing among 18-24-year-olds in Q4 2013 dropped by only 3.9 percent year-over-year

Clearly, Nielsen has a vested interest in TV viewership numbers, so we must seek balanced and fair research from numerous and non-biased sources.

Stop Fighting for Ad Dollars

How can the chase for billions of TV advertising dollars come to an end?

Andy Nobbs is CMO at Civolution, a technology provider that manages and monetizes media content. He writes on TheGuardian.com that syncing the consumer experience with automatic content response technology can benefit both TV and digital.

“ACR technology and content triggering allow applications running on second screen devices to automatically recognize the content being played on the television screen and synchronize the displaying of a digital ad unit in real time. So the man in the city who wants to drive the exotic car can locate the nearest dealer and even schedule a test drive right at the moment of piqued interest – just as the TV ad has been viewed. The marketer doesn’t have to go through the costly process of re-locating this potential buyer on the internet—and the potential buyer doesn’t have to “remember” that empowering feeling of theoretically rocketing the sports car through the doldrums of the daily commute. What applies to the sports car can also apply to everyday consumables as well – anything from a pizza meal to video-on-demand.”

Nobbs goes on to explain that everyone can win because advertisers and brands ensure their content is seen rather than skipped, content providers can sell ads more effectively and appropriately, and viewers can move that much more quickly to act on that stirring instilled emotion: aspiration.

I have to agree with Nobbs when he says Television can make people take action unlike any other medium.

There’s no small screen shrinkage here.

4 Topics Every Marketing Pro Must Embrace

Trends twists turns editedThe advertising and marketing arenas are bursting at the seams, and for good reason. The transformation of consumer behaviors based on technology are exciting…and yes, sometimes chaotic.

Are you keeping up with the trends, twists, and turns?  Here are some recent news stories that amplify the shifts in consumer marketing.

Advertising

Long-Form Digital Ad Views Skyrocket

Tumblr: Yahoo Overhauls Advertising Model to Leverage ‘Data Insights’

Dermablend Moves Beyond Shock and Awe of Zombie Boy for an Emotional Connection

Online Auction Site Ganklt.com Expands National TV Media Buys

Facebook to Marketers: Expect a Drop in News Feed Distribution

Brand Voice and Engagement

Big Opportunity for Social Media Campaigns with Emotional Appeal

Can a Payment Tech Company, Visa Canada, Create a Buzz and Shift Consumer Spending Habits?

Is Nike Paying Too Much for Superstars and Endorsements?

Future of Brand Marketing/Tech/Mobile

Mobile Startup Jana Launches New Tool to Reach Next Billion Consumers Via Mobile

Apps: The Future of Marketing

Mobile and the In-Store Customer Experience: How ‘Showrooming’ is Helping…or Hurting

Social Media Marketing Tips for Highly Regulated Industries

Visual Hashtags and Big Brands

Metrics

In Defense of Advertising’s Gross Rating Point

Trends to Act Upon: Avoid the Vortex of Valueless Marketing Metrics

Finally, Chobani Yogurt’s Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Peter McGuinness says that part of marketing is innovation. “You have to keep pressure in the marketplace to keep things exciting.”