Storytelling is magic for brands


The explosive growth of social media and content marketing means more opportunities to promote your brand. With so many companies vying for attention in the digital sphere, how do you stand out? The answer lies in engaging storytelling.

Creating a story around your product allows you to shape consumer brand perception. After years of declining sales, Apple rebounded after its 1997 “Think different” rebranding campaign.


Apple relied on its outsider status and imagery of iconic visionaries to compel customers to “rebel” by buying its products. The company successfully gambled on the concept of individuality – rather than technical capabilities – to sell computers.

At its core, storytelling isn’t a sales pitch. It’s meant to emotionally connect with consumers, in the process building loyalty, attracting new customers, and increasing brand visibility.

Beyond traditional television or print ads, the digital age has equipped marketers with new platforms for visual storytelling. Social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat allow even the smallest company to gain a greater amount of exposure than with typical advertising – thanks to free or affordable posting options – with the added benefit of possible post amplification when fans share its content.

It’s key to follow a few guidelines for savvy social media storytelling.

  1. Use arresting visuals. Visual content, like photos, receive 40 times more shares and 90 percent more clicks than text-only content.
  2. Infuse your posts with personality. Use an informal voice in your writing to attract and retain your audience.
  3. Create magnetic characters. Your customers should root for your protagonist, even if it’s just short-form content, like Microsoft’s Instagram post above.
  4. Don’t give it all away. Posting teasers can lead to additional offline or mobile marketing opportunities.

How have you successfully used storytelling to sell your brand?


Superfans, content, and convenience: How the biggest brands ensure the future of digital marketing


It’s been almost 21 years since the premiere of the first web banner ad, hearkening an era of constant innovation in the digital marketing field. So what are these latest revelations? The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) Engage conference this week probed this question, with experts revealing their findings about some of the biggest brands in the world.

Superfans tell all

Online lodging behemoth Airbnb wants to ensure its “superfans” shape the future of the explosively popular company. Airbnb recently invited its top 6,000 property listers to Airbnb Open, the first conference for hosts, to learn how to keep the gigantic brand personal. UK country manager James McClure said Airbnb wants its one hundred millionth customer as happy as its tenth. The company experienced its biggest night ever just a few months ago when one million people stayed at Airbnb properties. With those numbers, keeping Airbnb personal proves to be a challenge. At Airbnb Open, company execs will gather valuable takeaways from those who know the company best. “These guys are our superfans,” said McClure, “But they also don’t hold back from telling us things we can improve on.”

Data: Enhancing or overshadowing consumer feedback?

The topic of data prevailed at IAB Engage. Analysts cautioned brands against relying too heavily on data lest they lose sight of the creative process and connecting with consumers. However, Disney CMO Anna Hill said data can be an asset as long as brands place importance on prioritizing its consumers’ interest. At this UK-centric conference, Hill said Disney employs 30 Europe-based brand researchers who speak to more than 70,000 consumers a year, all in the name of learning what resonates with the public.

For example, the company discovered an untapped market of adults interested in its brand in Japan, leading to new partnerships with fashion brands like Jimmy Choo. However, Hill believes even numbers can’t replace simply listening to consumers. “A brand like Disney is ultimately about the kids. You have to get a balance between what the science and data and what your instinct and gut tells you,” she said.

Convenience over content

From Netflix to Uber to Spotify, the hottest brands may be captains of their respective industries, but all share one thing in common: convenience. That’s right: content isn’t king – convenience is. “Brands that can help consumers easily book a hotel room or order a taxi or listen to music will win out,” said consumer psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden. Brands and agencies alike should be investigating how they could be improving their consumer relationships. How can you make your customer’s life easier? “The future of advertising is in business model innovation,” said Marsden. “It is not about the next great ad format that changes everything or the next way to interrupt people. You have to change the value proposition.”

It is certainly a brave new world for the digital marketer, all of whom can trace their origins back to a single source – that first web banner:

What does the future hold for digital marketing? Only time – and apparently consumers – will tell.

Shop a song with eBay

eBay just unveiled a delightfully creative online ad campaign to showcase its endless wares. In these “Shop a Song” spots, products playfully dip in and out of the screen as a tune plays, each item somehow matching the lyrics. In the “Only the Good Die Young Collection,” when Billy Joel croons, “You got a nice white dress and a party for your confirmation,” the video shows in quick succession a white formal dress, foil party poppers, and a rubber “Confirmation” stamp.

Five tracks comprise the campaign:

• “Riptide” by Vance Joy
• “My House,” by Warren G.
• “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel
• “Shine On” by Florida Georgia Line
• “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha

The spots nicely highlight the site’s offerings in a manner that’s short, palatable, and, most importantly, fun.

Watch below:

What do millennials want?

Image via Adweek
Image via Adweek

Speakers from four of the biggest companies in the digital sphere – Facebook, Pandora, Snapchat, and Twitter – offered expertise on marketing to those elusive millennials during a panel at ZenithOptimedia Group’s Mobile Day in New York on Tuesday.

Why the specific focus on this age group? While earlier generations were receptive to traditional print, radio, and television marketing, today’s young adults have eschewed regular channels in favor of social and streaming media.

The speakers at Tuesday’s event suggested learning about millennials’ digital media preferences would assist companies in building more effective ad campaigns.

Here are some of the panelists’ insights:

1. Maintain authenticity by marketing locally

Young adults hate feeling like they’re being marketed to, according to Steve Hwang, Snapchat’s Director of Operations and Strategy. Instead, they want to follow content their friends post.

“Authenticity is really important, and I don’t mean in terms of pretending to be [someone’s] Facebook friend,” said Hwang. “There’s a ton of opportunity for brands to be involved on a more local level in the real world.”

Snapchat’s Live Story feature, for instance, curates users’ similar content into a single stream for other Snapchat users to follow. Earlier this week, the company presented “Mecca Live,” combining content from users who traveled to Mecca during Ramadan and allowing non-Muslims – who aren’t permitted in the city – a rare glimpse inside.

2. Determine your creative strategy with data

Tamara Bedrosian, Pandora’s SVP of Consumer Packaged Goods Sales and Strategy, opined that data should determine the direction of an ad.

Should a campaign run on mobile or desktop? To answer this question, advertisers could learn that young millennial women like to listen to YouTube violinist Lindsey Stirling on Pandora, and the vast majority are listening on Pandora’s mobile app. By tracking data like this, a company can gauge the best platform for a campaign.

“We don’t go out with mobile-first or mobile-only strategies,” said Bedrosian. “Tailor your creative message to the environment and mindset.

3. Seek out new social celebs

“[Social media stars have] followers and a social graph that is far bigger than any celebrity out there,”  said Stephanie Prager, Agency Development Lead at Twitter. She added that these are the figures with whom brands should align when advertising.

Big brands get it. This year, Toyota tapped YouTube stars Rhett & Link to film stunts in its redesigned Camry. In about six months, the video had garnered a mere 75,000 views on Toyota’s YouTube channel, but the online celebs further increased brand awareness when they mentioned the new Camry during six episodes of their daily Good Mythical Morning YouTube talk show, gaining an additional 10 million views.

4. With video, think seconds, not minutes

Videos on Facebook are set to auto-play by default, so advertisers have precious few seconds to grab users’ attention. “You have maybe the first three seconds to stop people in their feeds to get them with a piece of content,” said Trevor Johnson, Director of Facebook’s Global Agency Team. Because of this small window of opportunity, Johnson advises marketers to create four-, eight-, or 10-second videos. Users activate volume once they click on a video, making it more likely they will watch longer clips if interested.

While all the panelists had varying methods of targeting young adults, one of Johnson’s sentiments summed up the direction of marketing in this era: “Millennial behavior… is really driving social and technology behavior going forward.”

It appears the coming years will bring audiences ever more innovative ways to consume advertising.

Vegetable paint and homemade computers: one company’s eco-friendly campaign

An organic food retailer recently launched an ad campaign as fresh as its wares.

It was into a high-tech, CGI-ed world that French company Biocoop loosed its carefully crafted lo-fi marketing efforts. The brand’s top priority is environmental responsibility and executives wanted messaging to embody this concept, charging Paris ad agency Fred & Farid with the challenge.

The entire production left the smallest of carbon footprints. The team:

  • Shot prints with a pinhole camera
  • Wrote taglines in vegetable paint, untouched by Photoshop
  • Printed ads at 25 percent the usual size, which later gained a second life as bags
  • Constructed a computer in a crate
  • Recorded music in one take
  • Designed the website almost entirely in ASCII text

To announce the campaign, employees took to Twitter. But they didn’t even create new tweets; instead, they used “recycled” tweets by retweeting other messages in a new order.

“La Campagne Éco-Responsable” is a terrific study in a brand aligning its messaging and practices. How does your marketing stack up?

Dial a local business… via Facebook ad

Score one for the little guys: As part of its “local awareness” objective, Facebook today introduced a new feature allowing its users to telephone a business through a “Call Now” button on newsfeed ads.

When the initial campaign launched in October 2014, local businesses who bought Facebook ad space could target nearby potential customers. With this latest addition, mobile users interested in contacting the business can tap the “Call Now” button, which opens a user’s phone keypad and automatically dials the number listed.


Previously, businesses could include “Get Directions” and “Like” buttons on their pages, but the “Call Now” button is Facebook’s first feature to truly connect consumer and local business owner.

Ricky Gervais urges Aussies to watch Netflix. Or not. He doesn’t care.

In an inspired ad campaign to herald Netflix’s arrival in Australia, broadband and cable company Optus recruited comedian Ricky Gervais to deadpan his way through a series of short ads to promote its partnership with the video streaming service.

Karen Phipson of Optus explained:

“Key to the strategy was to approach this through a lens of entertainment and let Ricky interpret the message in his own style. The result is content that will drive social media conversation whilst delivering our core message of Optus and Netflix, which has become part of Ricky Gervais unique comedy.”

This “truth in advertising” strategy seems to have worked. Notes one YouTube commenter, “The first time I saw this was on a YouTube commercial before a video. I was going to skip it, but then it had me hooked on how different the ad was and I watched it all. Possibly the first time I’ve watched a YouTube ad in its entirety without wanting to skip it.”

The tongue-in-cheek campaign was created by APN News & Media’s content marketing division Emotive in conjunction with Fuel Communications and M&C Saatchi.

Want more? Check out Ricky’s whole set of commercials (so far) below:


Multi-device mayhem: two-thirds of Hong Kong travelers book trips on three devices

Image by Toyotaboy95, en.wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Image by Toyotaboy95, en.wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0

If you’re a travel marketer, you’d better get your cross-platform strategy in order – and fast. A recent study found a whopping 65 percent of travelers in Hong Kong used three devices to book their flights.

Market research company GFK conducted a study among these travelers who would be making a trip during the following three months. The company sought to understand buyer behavior. How did the consumers purchase their tickets? How much time did they spend research their trip? What touch points were used?

Here’s what researchers discovered:

93.2% of respondents used a desktop/laptop to book their trip, two-thirds used three devices – but only 6.8% used just a tablet or mobile.

– Travelers spend five hours researching their trip, averaging 92 visits to 22 travel-related websites and apps before completing a purchase.

– Google’s the name of the game, as 91% of these travelers used a search engine to start their travel research. Touch points during the flight purchase path included travel aggregators and information sites (83%), travel booking sites (79%), airline websites (69%) and social networks (38%).

74% of respondents took action after they saw an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine. Over half of respondents said their travel plans were triggered by TV or radio ads. That’s your cue, marketers! Time to come up with some brilliant copy.

Need some ideas to jump-start your cross-platform marketing strategy? Get started with these gems:

  • Understand audience demographics driving each platform to tailor your content. Hint: Instagram is where the kids hang out and Facebook is friendly with the over-30 crowd.
  • Gauge the popularity of your content by tracking web and social media statistics. What links did your audience click on the most?
  • Activate campaigns that connect with actual people. Everyone likes an inventive marketing ploy, especially if they can enjoy it again and again on YouTube.
  • Empower marketing teams to pursue best practices. Get those high-impact creatives in gear to engage your audience.