Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Marketer's Perspective on This Year's Academy Awards

The Oscars were a blast to watch this year and had of the highest viewer ratings of all time (almost 43 million people). Although the show as a whole was pretty darn entertaining, a few key moments generated a lot of engagement and publicity. Five moments were fun to watch, not only in the moment, but also in the aftermath. Take a look!

1.      Ellen’s Selfie – As you’ve probably already seen, a selfie with several famous stars including Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin spacey, and Meryl Streep (what I wouldn’t give to be in that picture!) has taken over social media! Sunday night, Ellen strolled through the audience and spontaneously decided to take a selfie with Streep when 10 other famous actors hopped in. Ellen talked to the at home audience and dared them to retweet this picture to make it the most retweeted photo ever. Well, it worked… The tweet received 210,000 favorites and 871,000 Retweets (surpassing Mr. President’s “Four More Years” photo with a mere 777,000 RT). The traffic temporarily shut twitter down, rendering an apologetic “our bad” tweet from the academy. This engagement not only created buzz for Ellen and the other actors in the pic, but acted as free publicity for the Oscars, which still had a few hours left in the program. 

2.      Samsung - In addition, you may have noticed Degeneres’ choice of phone; Samsung  Galaxy Note 3, which had plenty of air time as she fiddled with the camera in preparation of the selfie. Not entirely unplanned (Samsung is a sponsor of the Oscars, and apparently that isn’t Ellen’s real phone) but it was still a great awareness play for the brand.

3.      Ellen’s Pizza Surprise – I always knew actors at awards shows were secretly starving. Ellen asked the audience on Sunday if they were hungry, and decided to order pizza from the local chain, Big Mamma’s and Poppa’s Pizza. The lucky delivery man, and part owner Edgar Martirosyan, delivered four pizzas and received a $600 tip collected from the A-list audience. The next day, Ellen brought Martirosyan onto her show and gave him an extra $1000 and even more publicity by distributing pizza to the audience of her show. The aftermath? All of our locations are crazy busy right now …We’re ordering supplies like mad, stocking up on cheese, pepperoni,sausage and boxes and shipping them out to the different stores” part owner Ararat Agakhanyan said in an LA times interview. This just goes to show how far a celebrity endorsement will improve business. 

4.      Coca Cola’s free advertising –This year, Pepsi took over sponsoring the Oscars from Coca-Cola, so understandably Coca-Cola was expected to be out of sight out of mind… until Ellen’s Pizza surprise showed multiple pizza boxes with Coca-Cola logos on them! Whoops. This advertising was not only spontaneous, it was completely free, and gained a lot of attention on social media too – almost 5000 mentions without spending a dime, with Pepsi barely edging them out with just over 5000 mentions. Although this was a wonderful surprise for Coca-Cola, both giants are already so well known that I doubt sales will be affected for either. However, this well timed and well placed (although unintentional) promotion shows how much a little on-air time can cause a stir. 

5.      Frank Underwood/ Kevin Spacey – When two-time academy award winner Kevin Spacey stepped up during the Oscars, nobody was expecting the simple southern drawl of House of Cards character Frank Underwood. It was enough to get the audience engaged, resulting in an OMG moment from Jennifer Lawrence. Although the moment barely lasted 10 seconds, #presidentunderwood was trending on twitter within moments, creating lots of free buzz and publicity for the already popular, newly released season 2 of House of Cards. Although the show is already extremely popular, the simple integration and excited response from the A-List stars might up viewership of the Netflix original series. 

These were five moments that would catch the marketers’ eye. Takeaways show that celebrity endorsement will drive consumers to your business and will create online buzz, which product placement (intentional or not) is still effective. But, if nothing else, this year’s Academy Awards just goes to show that sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Social Media Tricks and Formulas

I don’t know about you, but I've always been interested in how much of business is about formulas. Knowing which transportation method to use during different points in the supply chain can save (literally) a truckload. Knowing the Present Value formula in finance can inform an investor if buying stock will provide a high return. And understanding Six Sigma can optimize any business operation. The same goes for marketing – if you know where to look! No, I’m not talking about ROI or Customer Acquisition costs (although those are important formulas too); I’m talking simple proven tricks to maximize viewers and engagement on social media. Below are a few “formulas” to maximize your marketing returns on social media and some of my favorite places to get more tricks!

·         Visuals work:
    o   Photo or Video posts are the most important posts for a company to use – Posts containing photos get 50% more likes than those that don’t include photos.
·         Timing matters:
    o   Saturday and Sunday have 17% more engagement than weekdays, and Tweets with #hashtags receive twice the number of engagement than those without
    o   The end of the week or the weekend are the best times to post on facebook
    o   Many users will be on Twitter during their commute time, or between 7 and 9 am!
    o   The most e-mails are opened between 2 and 5 pm, likely when people are getting off work. 
    o   70% of viewers read blogs in the morning, and Mondays are the highest traffic days for blogs
·         Ask for a RT:
    o   A tweets retweet rate increases by 12X when the tweet specifically asks viewers to RT or “Retweet”

For more fun stats, here are a few suggested places:

Friday, February 28, 2014

(Practically) Free Texting for Everyone

When you want to reach someone what do you do?

Post on their Facebook wall?
Send a Facebook message?
Like their photo on Instagram?
Shoot a text message?

Interestingly enough, none other than our good friend Mark Zuckerberg owns each of these options. Facebook now controls most channels of communication that people use to connect with friends. After a small fee of $19 billion, Facebook bought WhatsApp, a messaging app that bypasses any SMS form of texting fee. So, why is this important? To tackle this question, let’s start by understanding the app.

The goal of WhatsApp is to offer a free solution to text messaging and voice calling that bypasses the need for phone plans and fees. The app is free for the first year and only $0.99 per year after that, a large difference from the $100 billion cell phone plan industry! Countries that cannot afford the expensive plans have caught onto WhatsApp and are able to bypass those fees as well. You do not even need to have a smart phone to have the app! There are 450 million active users of the app, with 19 billion messages sent and 34 billion received per day. The discrepancy of "sent" to "received" messages is because of group messaging, where one message sent to ten people translates to one sent and ten received. This level of engagement is actually higher than Facebook itself. Most importantly, while not widely used in the U.S., WhatsApp has 40 million users in India and 39 million in Brazil. Those countries are highly coveted by tech companies seeking to expand their global footprint. And little old me thought the app was obsolete…

We can now see where the attraction came from to acquire WhatsApp. Facebook already has a grasp on many mediums of communication. Its mission is to make the world more open and connected and to help create affordable and accessible Internet to the two-thirds of the world that is not connected. With WhatsApp they transcend to the entire mobile population. This was Facebook’s largest investment and will enable Facebook to control communication throughout the world.

The impact internationally will be most important and exciting to see. The WhatsApp team believes that neither cost nor distance should prevent people from connecting with their friends and family, which aligns with Facebook’s vision. Other tech companies will no doubt follow suit and fight to penetrate this now tapped market. Facebook has almost guaranteed that one of it’s apps will hold a place on every phone in the world.

Lastly, I wonder how the telecommunications industry will react. Facebook has entered into this industry where before they were only social media communication. It can now consider itself a competitor with the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and other mobile service providers.  Will Facebook be able to keep up? What is next, a Facebook mobile phone preloaded with it’s apps? Is connecting the mobile world worth $19 million? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Top 5 Commercials after the Superbowl

It's not too late to discuss the highly watched Superbowl commercials of this year! Although they were the most watchable part about this year's Superbowl, the ads left fans feeling disappointed. Critics complained that commercials had a slower pace and focused too heavily on emotional appeals.  Funny commercials tried too hard or went too far, and the majority of commercials were released pre-Superbowl, sacrificing the element of surprise. More commercials have been released this week, including a plethora of Coca-Cola commercials withheld from the Superbowl. However, there were some standout moments of last week, the best of which may surprise you! 

5 - Budweiser: "A Hero's Welcome”
A best Superbowl commercial list would not be complete without a Budweiser commercial. The commercial "A Hero's Welcome" features Lt. Chuck Nadd coming home for overseas. Little does he know, Budweiser, his girlfriend and his mother have planned a huge parade for him to celebrate his return. The result is a heartwarming and inspiring commercial celebrating our troops overseas. Seeing the emotion of everyone's faces connected with the audience and was a nice reminder to salute and thank our troops.

4 - Wonderful Pistachios: Stephen Colbert
After last year's Gagnam Style disaster commercial, Pistachio bounced back with my personal favorite ad of the Superbowl. This year, their commercial featured timeless Stephen Colbert, a bald eagle, and lots of green. The first 15 second segment features Colbert in a black suit and a lime green tie claiming that "I am wonderful, pistachios are wonderful, so they will sell themselves... I think we're done here." After a false break, it is evident that "sales for pistachios have not skyrocketed in the last 30 seconds due to a lack of branding," so Colbert goes on to say “Pistachios” 10 times before cracking his own head open to reveal… a pistachio. A little over the top? Maybe. But this commercial was certainly talked about.

3 - Cheerios: “Gracie”
The "Gracie" commercial has been getting a lot of love, and rightfully so! The delightfully short commercial featured parents with a sassy daughter and a soon to come baby (and puppy!). Using the cereal to visualize a growing family, Cheerios emphasizes the brand identity of family. The commercial was short enough to be attention grabbing and funny enough to stand out.

2 - Budweiser: "Puppy Love" 
If anyone was going to make the list twice, it’s Budweiser. The geniuses at Budweiser seem to come up with something more adorable and heartwarming every year.  Like in years past, puppies and horses were the magic formula. A Clydesdale and a puppy share a special bond, such that the Horse chases down a car when the puppy gets adopted and brings the puppy home to his farm. All set to the recent hit "Let her go" by Passenger, this commercial had everyone on the verge of tears with a stupid smile on their face... just like last year, and every year preceding.

1 - Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion: Luge

Surprisingly, the best commercial of the week was not from the Superbowl! Leading up to the Olympics, Russia passed an Anti-Gay law, spoken of by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. In a brilliant, creative response, the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion quickly released the “Luge” video. The spot features two male lugers in a slowed down video featuring the song “Baby” by The Human League in the background, giving the sport a sexual spin. As the lugers launch, the line “The games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep them that way” appears. Bravo, CIDI. Bravo.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Perception is Everything. Even When it Comes to Big Data

Big data is a funny concept.

On the one hand, it's a marketers dream. We have the ability to understand our consumers like never before. Aggregate collections of consumer data gives us insight into all sorts of behaviors from purchasing, to browsing and social posting. Using tools like attribution modeling, we can even understand the complex pathways by which consumers initially find brands and later make purchases. It truly is an incredible byproduct of technology.

On the other hand, big data is terrifying! We as consumers can be tracked so thoroughly through our use of technology. Privacy concerns are nothing new, but as technology gets more advanced people seem to get more wary (or so they claim). Recently, many major tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook have come under fire for potential ties they may have with the NSA and it's massive and controversial terror monitoring protocols. Whether it's true or not, people believe that companies and governments are collecting their data and actively searching it, keeping tabs on where they're going and what they're talking about. Though typically most of these monitors are using complex algorithms and programs to sift through data and create aggregate metrics, or in the case of the government, flagging potential threats, what matters is that people think that their private lives are no longer private.

recent study coming out of McCann shows that it's not actually the act of collecting the data or the data that's collected that's the issue, it's how consumers think you're using it that's the problem.

The study showed that perceived threat for brands like Google and Facebook is increasing, while the threat from Amazon, another of the top online data collectors, remains low. Why is this? All of these companies collect massive amounts of personal data and, for the most part, are not shy about showing you how they're using that information. According to McCann, the experience a brand creates play large roles in whether consumers are threatened by a brand's use of data or not. Think about the differences between these three companies:

  • Google uses your information across an ever-growing number of platforms to serve you the most relevant search results and advertisements that it possibly can. 
  • Facebook uses your information to tailor the contents of your news feed, increase your social circle, and provide you sponsored posts and ads from various other brands.
  • Amazon uses your information to tailor your shopping experience, finding you items related to the one's your searching for and constantly bringing you one step closer to the product you need.

The analysis states that consumers perceive a difference between "owning" and "using" their personal information. Much of this subtle difference is determined by what the company does with this data once they've obtained or observed it. The most observable action that the companies like Facebook and Google take with data is using it to serve up targeted ads. When you think about it, this seems like a much more selfish, non-user-centric approach even though it's more complicated than that. What people see is the company using their data to make money, even though the reality is that ads are how they keep their services free and so they try to make them as relevant as possible.

It's such a fine line between a positive and negative experience! Facebook and Google also use people's data to tailor search results, content recommendations, and more. Those brands also make good use of their customer's data, but unfortunately most of this happens on the backend and is generally taken for granted.

What this study tells me is that we need to be extremely sensitive to what data we're collecting and how we are leveraging it when designing brand experiences. When we capture data, we can tell registrants why we need certain information and what we plan to do with it (and I don't mean with a lot of fine print). Though typically, at least in pharma, we mainly use the data we collect to assess eligibility and segment follow-up communications, we should always be thinking of how, after requesting this personal information, we can personalize every part of the experience. Are there tools we can tailor to a specific person? Can we streamline a certain search? Can we include loading or waiting messages that explain how it takes time to customize results? Can we send out messages that aren't product related but build a personal relationship like a happy birthday message?

Consumers are sensitive in this strange time where the lines of privacy are blurring and clearly we walk a fine line between loyalty and distrust. By being transparent with our data policies and ensuring that we are leveraging that data FOR our customers rather than only for ourselves, I think we can foster relationships that allow us to fall on the right side of that line.