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.
James O’Gorman is testing a new type of cross-pollination. Raised on a farm in the UK, James watched his mother tend to more than 25 hives over the last decade. Now, @seamusmacgormain wants to bring the centuries-old tradition into the present. Combining the ancient art of beekeeping with modern drone and cloud technology, James hopes to refine hive management and crop maintenance for beekeepers everywhere. James is turning his idea into reality during this year’s Microsoft oneweek Hackathon. To learn more about James’ Hackathon project, visit http://msft.it/beekeepers
- Use arresting visuals. Visual content, like photos, receive 40 times more shares and 90 percent more clicks than text-only content.
- Infuse your posts with personality. Use an informal voice in your writing to attract and retain your audience.
- Create magnetic characters. Your customers should root for your protagonist, even if it’s just short-form content, like Microsoft’s Instagram post above.
- 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?
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.”
What does the future hold for digital marketing? Only time – and apparently consumers – will tell.
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.
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.
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?
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:
Visit California has unveiled a sleeker site for the state’s direct marketing organization (DMO). As a former California girl myself, it’s refreshing to see the digital portal align itself more closely with the natural beauty and excitement of the Golden State. Visit California will be the crown jewel in a media marketing plan costing $100 million a year.
A curated gallery of California’s abundance of experiences, the new VisitCalifornia.com offers compelling content that better embodies our dreamer lifestyle… The site includes big, bold images that bring the California experience to life, showing consumers the abundance of what the Golden State has to offer. –Caroline Beteta, president & CEO, Visit California.
This is the website’s first overhaul in 10 years. While online travel agents remain the most popular source for travel planning, destination websites are the second most-used source for researching leisure travel in the United States. The new site represents a commitment to establishing the California brand in the digital space. The new model also serves to lure international visitors to the state.
[It’s] a vehicle we can use to inspire people and convert, especially in international markets, such as Brazil and China, where they typically have limited understanding of California beyond Hollywood and Disneyland. [We want to] show people sides of California they haven’t seen before, and to do so in a way that’s shareable. – Lynn Carpenter, vice president of marketing, Visit California
Marriott, following a PR disaster in which it briefly blocked personal wifi hotspots, strives to win public favor once more by introducing access to Netflix, GoPro, Hulu, and Pandora at select properties. There’s a catch, though – guests must already have a subscription to some of these services.
In a pilot program at eight locations, Marriott guests will be able to stream content from Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora through the rooms’ high-definition TVs.
Guests will explore their inner Spielberg at 17 Latin American and Caribbean resorts and hotels – here, visitors will receive access to GoPro HERO4 cameras to document their adventures. The hotel brand encourages guests to share their creations on social media using the hashtags #GoPro, #travelbrilliantly and #viajegenia, with a chance to be featured on Marriott’s Travel Brilliantly website.
What’s in store for the travel advertising industry in 2015? If there’s one thing we love here at Strauss Media, it’s a good infographic. The folks at Expedia Media Solutions and PhoCusWright did not disappoint.
In 2015, expect to see:
Robust Growth: Travel display ad spend will top $395 million in 2015, compared with $366 million in 2013.
Increased Social and Video Advertising: Eighty-five percent of advertisers are using Facebook to reach consumers; a clear win when you compare it with statistics for Foursquare/Twitter promoted tweets (46 percent) and Twitter lead generation cards (45 percent). Additionally, the number of travelers who used online video for travel planning has steadily grown, reflected in the tripling in social and video ad budgets between 2011 and 2015.
Trends on the Horizon: Social ad targeting and retargeting technologies will be on the rise. Forty-six percent of marketers claim social media is effective at generating brand awareness, while 28 percent of marketers identify social media as useful in driving leads or purchases.
Cut-and-paste is a marketer’s worst nightmare and the very cradle of “dark media,” or digital content sharing that can’t be tracked using traditional methods. For example, if friends are making travel plans in a group chat via text, Mike might cut and paste a link to ABC Tropical Resort into the group text. The rest of his friends will follow the link and just like that, ABC Tropical Resort’s marketing director is unable to track the origin of these new clicks.
An overage of 93 percent of internet users share content via dark media. What does this mean for the marketer? The ABC Tropical Resort marketing director won’t be able to accurately measure the true reach and engagement of her digital marketing campaign – and neither will you.
What’s a marketer to do? Put plainly, you can’t prevent dark media, but you can adapt to it. Realize that your statistics will never completely represent your outreach and focus on leveraging your existing strategy. A few action items can help:
- Embrace dark media. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Shed light on dark media by highlighting this method in your communications and encourage sharing among your audience.
- Continue focusing on your email strategy. Ensure there’s a subscription link so when people forward your email, their interested peers may also subscribe.
- Encourage the engagement of your choice by creating a contest and directing your audience to take certain actions (i.e. share your website using a specific code across their social media channels).