Monday, December 16, 2013

I'll Opt for an Effective Video over a Viral Video

In the wake of WestJet's Christmas Miracle I've had quite a number of conversations surrounding the effectiveness of viral videos. All viral videos evoke some sort of emotion weather its humour, happiness, sympathy etc. but how many of them actually have a strong correlation to use of a product or service?

Obviously getting millions of impressions is going to lead to more conversions and a bigger bottom line. This isn't always the case. Kmart's Ship My Pants was hilarious and garnered 20 million views. Kmart has actually dropped sales by 2.5% over the past two quarters. The reason: Kmart has an awful in store experience. Dark, dingy, poorly stocked shelves. You can have the best video in the world but if all your platforms aren't up to par you're not going to do well.

Turkish Air's Selfie Shootout with Kobe and Messi has 125 million views and counting, but whats the point? The takeaway from this video "Flying to more countries than any other airline". Thats great but you can span those countries across 5 or 6 different airlines and get to the same places. Whats more ridiculous, for a service based industry they don't touch on the experience of flying at all. In an industry that is becoming more and more commoditized with aggregator sites like +Expedia and +Orbitz the best deal wins, so until you start flying somewhere no one else does you don't really have a point of differentiation to stand on.

Now WestJet did a great job with their video and though its too early to tell if it will affect the bottom line it has gotten them considerably positive PR. The goodwill they show to their consumers goes along way to building a positive brand image. It will be interesting to see how WestJet builds on this opportunity to continue building their brand image and transform that into brand equity and loyalty.

Coca-Cola's Happiness Machine is an example of a campaign that was well received and drove sales. +Coca-Cola  impacted consumers positively while they were using the product. They surround the whole experience with positive reinforcements. Though only coming in at a paltry 5 million views its one of the most effective video campaigns in the past 3 years.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why big cosmetic brands need to Think Dirty

After a nice hot shower you probably are feeling pretty clean. Well you may be more dirty than you think after using some of your beloved hygiene and cosmetic products. With the new mobile app, Think Dirty, you can find out just how dirty your bathroom really is. When you scan a product the app will give you a reading from 0-10, 0 being clean and 10 being dirty. This scale is based on carcinogenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and allergies and immunotoxicities. The app also gives you the list of ingredients with health impacts and a list of cleaner options.

With an increase of smarter and more concerned consumers, shoppers aren't the only ones who should be flocking to download and use this app. Big brands should be using this app to bench mark all their products as well. With a quick scan of my bathroom 5 of the 6 products listed in the data based received a score of 10. These products are from brands like Old Spice, Dove Men's Care, Head & Shoulders, Axe and Aveeno. Many of these products from Unilever and P&G's 'Health, Beauty and Personal Care" sections. Might be time for us and them to reconsider what we are putting on our bodies.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What eCommerce Sites Can Learn From Social Media

What do the top apps on this infographic have in common? Simplicity. Focused. Intuitive. Social media is here to stay, but not all platforms are. As social platforms grow so does the number of issues they need to solve to keep their users coming back daily. Social platforms that fall out of touch cough*Myspace*cough or don't gain traction are either too convoluted or don't understand their user base. This last point is critical to success and is exactly why Vine, Flickr and +Instagram are growing so rapidly. So how can eCommerce sites (or websites in general) learn from social platforms?

Understand YOUR users' objectives. Don't confuse your objectives with user objectives. If you ignore the user you'll never reach your end goal. Facebook and YouTube were initially ad free services, which now generate revenues in the billions. They have reached these numbers by initially focusing on what their users wanted, building their community and the conversions came quickly followed.

Don't try to be everything to everyone. Being a jack of all trades and master of none doesn't work well in this space. Especially for blossoming brands it is important stay on point, and do it really well. When you have too big a breadth of topics or products, users become confused as to what your site is offering. Once you have established your niche you can start to branch out slowly to increase your piece of the pie.

Keep it simple. The masses flock to what is simple and intuitive. You can have the best product out there but if it takes too many clicks, or too much time searching users will leave your site.  Three out of four shopping carts are abandoned in the retail eCommerce space, usually due to poor site design.

Keep it relevant. New social media platforms indicate the new trends. The fastest growing platforms are rich media specific. If your site/product allows try to format your content in a manner that appeals to these new trends. The trick is not to change too frequently, or drastically that it throws your following off.

Be Mobile. 86% of smartphone users use their phones in store. 55% of users search on their smartphone everyday. 89% of users search for local information, 88% have taken action on this. If you don't have a mobile, or reactionary site you are missing out a huge numbers of potential customers.

When in doubt always go back to your target consumer. If you can cater to their objectives, they will take care of yours.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This post will be long because I didn't have time to make it short.

There is an old adage "take what is being said, not how it is said". When you are reading an email, tone and context are void so you can only take what is being said. However we generally impose our own tone on the email that reflect our perceptions of the sender. Therefore the onus is on the sender to ensure their writing style is neutral, or positioned to properly relay the information.

If you think your writing style is excellent you may want to take time for self assessment so you don't fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Often enough we are introduced to new contacts via email. Just as in person, you can only make one first impression. Here are some tips for better writing practices to help improve your personal brand.

One of the best pieces of advice I have come across is write as if your reader dislikes you. At the very least this will ensure that your tone is neutral.

Madman. Architect. Carpenter. Judge.  Write down all of your ideas. Outline and categorize your ideas. Write out and connect all of your ideas. Edit your work.

Choose your words accordingly. Certain words can have negative connotations depending on the context. Describing some ones work as 'basic' can be taken as remedial, where as using 'outline' would suggest you've laid out a solid foundation for the project.

Take your audience into account. Depending on your relationship you will write differently. Don't be too formal with your friends; similarly don't be caught being too casual with your superiors or clients.

Use your time wisely. Don't spend time looking up bigger words to sound more knowledgeable. Instead demonstrate your knowledge by getting your point across in a concise, coherent manner. You will sounds more authentic and save your reader time as well.

Practice. Initially it will take more time to craft better emails, in the long run you'll save yourself time by being more direct and concise.

Proof your work. Every so often we are part of those ridiculous email chains, question after question, where the sender and reader end up getting frustrated with each other. Take the extra 2 minutes to read it over a couple of times to make sure your points are clear. Remember you're the expert, not everyone has your degree of knowledge on this particular subject.

Lastly, one of my biggest pet peeves, don't forward a chain of 10 emails and write "see below".  Your reader's time is just as valuable as yours. Take a minute to highlight what they are supposed to be "seeing", even better copy the relevant snippets and keep the chain attached in case further details are required.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The de-evolution of the Skimmer

As I look over my +feedly feed I notice a lot of things, but there seems to be a reoccurring theme among the myriad of different sites that I follow; lists. Top 5 this, 16 signs you're addicted to, 14 dogs dressed as...

In an age where 140 character wild fires spread in hours, 40 million pictures are Instagramed daily, GIFs and memes reign on tumblr and commercials are being crammed into 6 seconds, its no wonder our attention spans are fading. These platforms are developed for the masses which, unfortunately, are largely comprised of by these people.  Communication has become clutter and the reader has realized it; give way to the skim reader. 

Brands have caught on that if they want to get the full message across they need to cut it down. Lists are effective for a number of reasons: bold headlines attract attention and are quick to read, pictures/GIFs often accompany these headlines, bullet points appear shorter than full paragraphs and readers know when the article will end. 

I however believe that the attention span is making a comeback, ironically, being lead in part by the co-founders of twitter (who recently acquired Vine). Medium is a better place to read and write. It is a central hub for writers and readers to publish and enjoy meaningful, creative, passionate short stories and blog posts. Medium is brilliant because it is essentially a universally owned blog space where you always where listeners are always present to provide insight and notes. 

Another driver for creative long form content is a site that has exploded over the past year. Wattpad hosts over 10 million users who have uploaded more than 16 million books. In this free P2P sharing platform writers are able share their work, build a fan base, and receive instant feedback on their stories. With over 2 billion minutes spent on Wattpad each month it is evident there is demand for quality long form content and people are searching it out. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Internet Killed the Cable Star

After crushing 3 episodes of Hemlock Grove on Netflix last night, I realized that unless I am watching sports, I rarely watch live TV anymore.  Whether it's a show I have PVR'd, Netflix or other online content, I want to watch video when I want to watch it. I can't help but relate and agree with Kevin Spacey's Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.  I may be in the minority but I believe linear TV as we know it is on its way out. With innovation in technology, cord cutting and original streaming series leading the coup. With TV being a $350 billion a year marketing industry marketers are going to have to find creative and non-invasive ways to penetrate the on-demand markets.

Omni-device consumption
Whether its scripted or unscripted television users are increasingly using their devices to look up info, interact, and talk about the show they are watching while they are watching it. With subscription based on-demand services, users are able to pause, look up or interact how they want without missing a piece of the action.

With technology already allowing us to get deals and other information from brands on our second screen via smart tone technology, there are unlimited possibilities on the horizon for the viewer. Networks will be able to automatically engage your mobile device with supplementary content further adding value to your viewing experience. Using the new tech the second screen may become the most inviting method for advertising and promotion. More consumers are purchasing over mobile so why not give immediate access to their favourite TV character's consumer goods?

Cord cutting is on the rise
Younger demographics are quicker to adopt technology, this is likely causing them to become the largest group of cord cutters. The biggest group of only TV watching users is the 45+ segment. As that demographic diminishes the streaming segment will only increase. Couple this with the emerging market of Smart TV apps, consumers will be ingesting video content at their leisure and not at the mercy of the cable schedule.

Pilot seasons hamper quality
When you have the ability to produce an entire season at once you can develop a deeper character and storyline by developing them over time. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the like are signing on for full seasons of shows, which is leading to quality content. House of Cards received 9 Emmy nominations and picked up 3 wins along the way this year. Orange is the New Black was well received among the critics. This summer Amazon's instant video service 'Prime' picked up 5 original series that will air in early 2014.

Having worked with video producers and creative for the past month, they want the flexibility to flesh out projects. By allowing them to develop a story over the full project you will likely get a deeper, more complex quality product.

With the current and inevitable decline of cable subscriptions and the traditional commercial, brands are going to have to come up with ways to keep the consumer engaged with their products and services and the second screen might be the best way to do it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

TD is Totally Disconnected

TD Canada Trust has released a new spot on TV for the fall and its taken targeting the boomers to the next level. Unfortunately the commercial isn't up on the web yet but here is the gist: In this spot the father is displeased with his daughters choice of life partner. This is depicted by a late 20 something male who dresses on the curve and it's implied he does not make enough at his living to adequately contribute to his future wife's happiness. This young soon to be husband is a typical Gen Y'er. TD has been targeting boomers for years so what is so special about this spot? Their previous ads didn't openly disapprove of the Gen Y lifestyle. The issue here is that TD is stereotyping an entire generation that is a $200 billion a year industry. A generation that falls between early twenties to mid thirties when people start families, buying cars and houses. A generation that by 2017 will have the largest purchasing power of all segments. Today businesses need to adapt to the changing economic landscape and right now TD is falling out of touch. It will be interesting to see the response from Gen Y and how TD trends their ads over the coming years.

Friday, September 20, 2013

BlackBerry - "Expect us to let you down"

BBM will be released on Android
and Apple this weekend.
 Has BlackBerry severed its last leg to stand on? With the announcement that BBM will be available to Android and iOS devices this weekend, the one time communications giant is raising a lot of questions. In the consumer smartphone era BBM was one of the main reasons for BlackBerry users to remain loyal, however with the launch of iMessage, WhatsApp and other communication apps came a hoard of Android and Apple converts.

Why there is still hope. BBM still has one redeeming quality, years of paid research and development leading to a clean, crisp communication app. Between old BlackBerry faithfuls and users who are just looking for a cleaner, more encompassing, user friendly experience, you can expect a large number of downloads. This might explain the Saturday download time for Android users and Sunday slot for Apple owners. Kudos to BlackBerry for being optimistic and planning ahead, the last thing they need is for a server overload on this crucial release.

If a large rate of adoption is seen among the masses for BBM there still might be potential for BlackBerry to survive as a secure server/software company. Their days as a hardware provider may be running out though. With declining sales and stock piling up of the Z and Q10 devices, users just aren't seeing what they need in a consumer unit. The decline in Q10 sales is especially concerning for BlackBerry as it indicates those that were qwerty dependant are willing to go touch for a much broader app experience.

Along with the BBM announcement BlackBerry unveiled the new Z30. This may be their final attempt to revive their lost stranglehold on the business world and finally bring forth something appealing to the average tech consumer. Though with Apple and some Android devices being certified to the minimum security standards of government use, the hardware security features is becoming less of a draw for potential business clients. Have we seen the last hardware launch from BlackBerry? I'm suspecting we have.

UPDATE - Monday Sept. 23

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice and I'm a sucker.  I have once again been duped by BlackBerry failing to release BBM on Android and iOS platforms this weekend. An Android version was leaked early Saturday morning which apparently received over 1.1 million downloads, however this leaked version brought to light some issues with the app which halted the roll out. BlackBerry officials have said that they are working tirelessly to correct the issues. They have not announced a new date for the release. I suppose at this point in BlackBerry's downward spiral of a life cycle I should have known better to believe this launch would roll out with minimal friction. I guess I figured a brand in such turmoil would stop at nothing to create a perfect rollout for their last landmark property. Once again with all eyes on them they have let their faithful (and those just rooting for the Canadian underdog) BlackBerry followers down. With yet another delayed release on the roster BlackBerry has permanently damaged their brand by embedding the promise "Expect us to let you down" in every BlackBerry product. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting Your Game On

Gamificaiton is defined as applying a game-like scenario to engage users to solve a problem. It sounds like fun putting a game spin on all of your problems, but is it always the best solution?

Gamification is nothing new to the marketing industry. Cereal companies have been using games to drive engagement with kids for decades, but as technology changes so does the game. The industry has come along way from mazes and crosswords on the back of a cardboard box, however there is still a ways to go to creating meaningful engagement among target audiences to increase acquisition and retention.

In order to be successful to help brands break through the clutter, gamification needs to create added value for users, give a unique experience or change behaviours.

+Foursquare was one of the first organizations to use gamification successfully by presenting users with badges after certain check-in milestones were reached. Receiving badges has become ubiquitous across branded games. Foursquare has recognized this and has moved to an information based model. Simply offering badges or points without creating added value basically renders these rewards insignificant. Starbucks is a shining example of achieving the status quo. This app revolves around the in store transaction and doesn't create any ongoing engagement. Also having to collect 30 points to receive one or two free drinks the following year doesn't exactly keep me running back there every chance I get.

Gamification shouldn't be solely based on driving your company's sales or driving traffic to your partners.

+JetBlue's True Blue Badges app is a prime example of this. A large number of the badge rewards require you to visit a partner's site, share a flight on a social network or actually start a service with one of their partners.  A loyalty rewards program doesn't feel too loyal when you are continually being pushed to interact with other brands.

Some of the best examples in gamification are in the education, health, and food industries.

+Khan Academy is a non-for profit organization that uses gamified tutorials to encourage on-going learning across 18 subjects. This free web service creates an engaging, unique experience not found anywhere else. Khan Academy launched in 2006, today has over 1.2 million subscribers and has received substantial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.

For a couple of years now +Chipotle Mexican Grill has been priding themselves on using local, sustainable farming. They have returned with another viral animation hit "The Scarecrow" in promotion of their mobile app Scarecrow that was released last week.  Where Chipotle succeeds with this mobile app is it's an engaging way to suggest a behaviour change to start choosing sustainable, healthy food options. With minimal branding, they are creating a non intrusive experience that drives the story around the behaviour, not the brand.

+Nike's fuelband and Nike+ applications encourage you to exercise through goal setting, challenging friends, achievement milestones, coaching tips, and finding new routes to run. This is a fun, healthy and interactive way to create positive engagement within a community that Nike created on its own.

Possibly the most innovative example of gamification to date is +Lexus Italia's "Trace Your Road"experience. Lexus  has taken gamification to the next level by creating this truly unique experience for 10 of their Facebook fans.

Just because a trending method is available doesn't mean it is the right option for you. If you are looking at gamifying an experience ask a few questions first. Does this create an engaging experience outside of the transaction? What is the added value for our users? Can this help create and sustain our own branded community? Are we creating a unique experience, or are we just following suit?