It seems like every week there’s a new story about how Facebook or Google is crossing the lines of online privacy and infringing on users’ rights. The online privacy debate is a complex issue that involves many different parties, which makes it hard to find a perfect solution that benefits everyone. But fear not! I’m here to break it down for you.
The debate starts with cookies (as most debates do). Cookies are small bits of data that are placed on your computer as you move around the Internet. These do great things and make the Internet very easy to use, but they also contain information about your activity online.
Why They’re Awesome
- Cookies make the Internet much easier to use by saving us time from logging in to our most visited sites and personalizing the information we see on those sites – so if you just bought “Batman Begins” on Amazon, you might get a suggestion to buy “The Dark Knight” as well. (And let’s be honest, who buys “Batman Begins” but not “The Dark Knight.” Am I right?)
- Publishers and marketers need cookies to optimize their sites. Cookies tell them which sections of their site are the most visited and which products are the most viewed as well as what kinds of users are visiting their site.
- FREE STUFF! Cookies provide information about you to advertisers that allow them to serve you ads tailored to your interests. But advertisers are willing to pay much more for that information. These increased dollars from advertisers allow publishers to operate their websites free of charge (or at the lowest possible cost) to the end user.
Why They’re Creepy
- There are tons of cookies on the average user’s computer that were put there by any number of data companies, ad servers, ad networks, publishers or research companies. I spend my whole day working in the online advertising world and I didn’t recognize every cookie on my computer, so for the average user it’s basically a bunch of faceless companies tracking your activity.
- There’s no easy way to control your information. There’s no way for a user to set limits on what gets shared or for them to allow certain information to be passed and prevent other info from being shared.
I do want to point out that no information that’s passed in a cookie is personally identifiable. That information is stripped out and the only thing advertisers can ever see is that they’re targeting a 21-34 year old male who like sports, lives in Dallas and (not so) secretly wishes he were Batman – but they would never know my name is Tommy Kircher.
As you can tell, this issue is complicated, as the thing that most people are concerned about online (their information being passed with no control) is also what supports the Internet and makes it as awesome as it is. As consumers get more worried about their information online, the government keeps proposing new legislation. There are currently six or seven different pieces of legislation on the floor of Congress – some want to standardize a few best practices while others will dramatically change the Internet ecosystem.
The advertising industry is caught in the middle of trying to satisfy consumers’ concerns while also trying to avoid government regulation. The solution in place now is an icon in the upper-right corner of ads that have used browsing information to target a user.
That icon lets people see why they were served that ad and opt out of being targeted based on their browsing history. Some companies even let you choose which information you want to share with them. This is a great first step, but it can still be tiresome to have to click each and every checkbox to opt out of each company. And this solution is cookie-based itself (which I find very ironic) so if you ever clear your cookies, this one gets deleted as well.
Another solution that’s starting to be rolled out is a central place on your browser where you can check one box that tells every site you visit not to track you. This is currently only available in Mozilla Firefox, but it’s a quick and easy way to tell every site not to track you.
Both of these options are relatively new, and we should expect to see more adoption as they become more widely known. At this time, however, usage for both options is very low.
The main problem with all these options is that they fail to educate users on the value they’re getting in exchange for the small amount of personal information they’re giving up. Even though we’re giving up some of our information, we’re getting the benefit of using the Internet for free (or low cost) each day.
The information given up by visiting a website doesn’t come close to the amount of information we give to companies when we sign up for their royalty programs, where they often have our email, home addresses and purchase histories. But people still sign up for those programs because they understand the value exchange in that transaction and understand how that information will be used. They’re getting added benefits in the form of special offers or information that is not available to the general public in exchange for that personal info that is used to (you guessed it!) send them advertising messages.
Well, I think that’s all I’ve got for now. Hopefully, this whole online privacy issue makes a bit more sense to you. The key to solving this problem is going to be educating users about the value exchange of giving up that information, being more open and honest about how that information is used and then, you know, actually providing those users with the extra value that they wouldn’t get otherwise.
While others label my generation as a narcissistic bunch of navel-gazers, as self-absorbed participation-trophy-in-tow whiners, today’s media landscape provides little evidence that we are not the center of the media universe.
Others will gladly outline how this happened and why it is an abomination; this post is an exploration of one small piece of how this new generation of consumers will change your approach to advertising. While this may sound extreme or overly simplistic in cases, this is what your customers (or the customers that you will soon have) are expecting of you. This post is about what you are competing with for attention and the shifting of eyeballs away from programmed content toward curated content.
In the old video consumption model, content had clear delineation as to which device it had been created for: premium and live content was developed for the traditional television, and short-form or catalog content was reserved for the Web where die-hard fans could seek it out if they so chose.
However, the line is no longer so clear. Netflix, YouTube and Hulu are all developing exclusive scripted content for their own platforms, and traditional broadcast networks are releasing their content directly to laptops and other web-connected devices.
So now, how do I choose what, and where, to watch? It is an important choice for brands and advertisers to consider, to efficiently target an impactful message to connect with potential customers. But most importantly at this stage is to recognize that this choice exists and to understand why choosing content first, device second has become a widespread behavior.
At its essence, this behavior is not about convenience, it’s about curation. It is about spending your attention on the content and platforms that best express what you are looking for at a given moment, rather than accepting the limits of what networks have programmed. And that is why web pundits are declaring the death of TV. Curating and personalizing content have always been a strength of digital media – from the AOL or Yahoo! home page on through to Instagram and Pinterest – the Internet enables people to build a media platform around themselves.
The Internet, and especially the social web, is built upon platforms and publishers that are continually pushing personalized content and experiences to users.
According to Steven Rosenbaum, content curators are the real superheroes of the Web: “Curation is the act of individuals with a passion for a content area to find, contextualize and organize information. Curators provide a consistent update regarding what’s interesting, happening and cool in their focus. Curators tend to have a unique and consistent point of view – providing a reliable context for the content that they discover and organize.” Because of the efforts of content curators, both human and algorithmic, the Web is becoming the new prime time.
But Aren’t People Watching More TV?
The counterpoint, however, is that people are spending more time watching videos than at any other point in history. According to Nielsen, the average household still watches almost five hours of video per day, but the share of time spent watching live television continues to decline. Granted, live programming through a traditional TV still makes up the vast majority of time spent watching video content; for younger viewers the “best screen available” will soon be replaced by the “best experience available.”
As Seth Godin puts it: “the only way your business wins in Google world is to be the best available option, where ‘best’ means best for the person searching for an answer, and ‘available option’ means everything.” And for those who hope to reach people by advertising, they need to understand both where and how they are interacting with media. Today’s viewer is choosing content first, then finding the device that offers the best experience available.
The technology that will most likely help bridge the gap between the rise of personalized, professional-quality video curation and live programming already exists: tablets. According to a study by Viacom, among tablet owners 15% of full-length television is being watched on the handheld (or lap-held) device. That is in addition to the various short-form clips being consumed on YouTube and Vimeo. Ultimately, this goes to show that viewers will easily adjust to watching content on the device that makes the experience suit their expectations, regardless of whether it is supposed to be a “second screen.”
Now that people have started to embrace their power over programming, TV is trying to adapt by integrating second-screen experiences into the mix to create more engagement with premiering or live content. There are some really exciting opportunities emerging in this space, but it remains to be seen if they will be able to stop people from shifting viewership to a more familiar channel.
So really, if the media world, the online world and education are all built around us – what else should we think? I am the Center of My Media Universe.
For more on the convergence of online video and television, see Alex Kenney’s and Cheryl Huckabay’s predictions in our Trends to Watch in 2012.
Alex Kenney, Watching TV, Tweeting and Chewing Gum: http://trends.clickhere.com/tv-tweeting-and-chewing-gum/
Cheryl Huckabay, Buying Audio and Video: http://trends.clickhere.com/audio-and-video/
Nielsen, “The Cross-Platform Report: Q4 2011” http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports-downloads/2012/the-cross-platform-report-q4-2011.html
Traditionally, the Super Bowl is the biggest night for TV advertising, but Sunday night’s Super Bowl was a big night for digital, too. Trends from the 2011 Super Bowl were back, with advertisers releasing ads online prior to the Super Bowl in hopes of increasing viral spread and integrating mobile ads with the TV campaigns. In fact, this year over half of advertisers released ads online before the game, looking to draw on Volkswagen’s success last year. And mobile upped the ante from last year’s Anheuser-Busch iAd with a QR code in Go Daddy’s spot, linking to discounts off Go Daddy products. But this year, the digital showing went even further.
Shazam announced just before the big night that the entire Super Bowl, the halftime show and many of the ads would be Shazamable. Viewers could Shazam the Toyota spot for the chance to win two Camrys, download an MP3 from Bud Light, watch a music video from Pepsi, vote for their favorite ads, access music content during the halftime show and check out stats about the plays and players during the game. While QR codes connect print to the digital world, Shazam is blazing the trail for connecting TV and audio to digital content. Shazam has not released exact participation stats, but has noted that with “millions” of viewers participating in the Super Bowl integration, 2012 will be “the year of the Shazamable TV ad.”
Chevy invited fans to “experience Super Bowl Sunday in a whole new way” with the Chevy Game Time mobile app, which allowed viewers to play trivia, take polls and enter to win one of 20 Chevrolets or other prizes.
This year, the Super Bowl was streamable both online and from mobile devices. Verizon cut a deal with the NFL to exclusively stream the Super Bowl on iOS and Android devices with the NFL mobile app, and for the first year the game was streamed on computers. Live streaming is a testament to the changing landscape of TV: the Super Bowl is the biggest moment for TV every year, and yet it’s recognizing the growing trend of streaming TV online. The live stream had 2.1 million unique viewers, making it the most-watched sports game online. While there were limitations (such as a lack of live commercials), online streaming allowed for embedded live streams from Facebook and Twitter, further enhancing the experience with social engagement.
And speaking of social, perhaps the biggest story of the night was in social media. Viewers are no longer relying solely on their witty Super Bowl party friends for commentary, but are turning to the second screen for live running commentary about the ads, halftime show and plays. At the end of the game, Twitter saw 12,233 tweets per second, setting a record for the highest tweet frequency during a live sports event.
Brands were prepared for viewers’ connection with Twitter, and hashtags got their fair share of airtime in the TV spots. Audi’s #SoLongVampires, Bud Light’s #MakeItPlatinum and Jack in the Box’s #MarryBacon hashtags all looked to increase engagement on Twitter. Coca-Cola’s polar bears even used the hashtag #GameDayPolarBears to comment on the game from Twitter and point users to more polar bear content on YouTube. In most cases, including hashtags in the spots seemed to work, as #MakeItPlatinum and #SoLongVampires became trending topics in mere minutes.
Coca-Cola saw success on social media even before kickoff with its Facebook event app, which asked fans to RSVP to watch the Polar Bowl – a live stream of the Coca-Cola polar bears’ reactions to the game. Before kickoff, 32,000 people had RSVPed, and the live stream received so many views that the Coke team had to add six servers to accommodate the traffic. Its Twitter feed received a whopping 12.5% increase in followers before the game even started.
The Super Bowl’s social media integration went beyond Twitter and Facebook into the location-based arena with Pizza Hut and Amex’s Foursquare offer. By checking into “Super Swarm Sunday,” Amex members got $5 off any food ordered from Pizza Hut.
The 2012 Super Bowl is leading the way for digital to further enhance the TV entertainment experience and enhance engagement with advertisers. TV spots are no longer simply 30–60 seconds of impression time; they can be the beginning of an engaging experience with a brand that lasts far beyond those few, short seconds. Instead of looking at TV advertising in a silo, it can be used in conjunction with digital to begin an engaging customer journey.
Traditionally the Monday after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday has been stretched to Cyber Week, as online sales remained strong not just on that one day, but the entire five-day period ending December 2. Market research firm comScore reported that U.S. consumers spent nearly $6 billion online during this period, a 15% increase over 2010. Three days of the week (November 28-30) topped the billion-dollar sales mark: Monday ($1.25 billion), Tuesday ($1.12 billion) and Wednesday ($1.03 billion).
Why the Increase?
Well, for one, more people are shopping online now than they were even just a year ago. Eleven percent more people made a purchase online during Cyber Week this year compared with last. But the average purchase amount was also up by 9%, so people spent more overall online, too. The increased amount of promotional activity is most likely a driver – is it just me, or was the email bombardment consistent and constant all week? Every day, I woke up to a dozen emails from my favorite retailers, and while typically I might have unsubscribed to cut down on inbox clutter, I didn’t this year. I didn’t want to miss out on an even better offer! You’re giving me 30% off today, Banana Republic? I’m pretty sure you’ll send me one for 40% off, plus free shipping tomorrow.
Speaking of free shipping, that’s a huge part of this equation, too. According to comScore, 63% of all online transactions during Cyber Week included free shipping, an 11% increase compared with 2010. In their annual holiday shopping survey, more than one-third of respondents said that free shipping is “very important,” and they wouldn’t make a purchase without it, and nearly half said they would abandon their transaction if free shipping weren’t offered. With so many retailers offering it, free shipping has become practically an expected part of the online shopping experience.
Watching mobile’s meteoric rise this year has been fascinating, and the holiday season so far is no exception. Thanksgiving and Black Friday were big days for mobile, when people were spending time at the dinner table and with family instead of on their computers at work. According to IBM Benchmark, 14.3% of e-commerce sites’ traffic came from mobile devices on Black Friday, compared with 10.8% on Cyber Monday. And in terms of actual sales, 9.8% of Black Friday’s sales were from mobile, compared with 6.6% on Friday. This is a huge spike from 2010, when just 2.3% of sales came from mobile devices on Cyber Monday.
As marketers, we need to think of mobile, in-store and website shopping as complementary to one another, not cannibalizing, and it’s crucial to optimize the experience on each platform so that it’s intuitive enough to make that purchase easily. As shoppers – don’t be surprised if that credit card bill is higher than past years. With the ability to make a purchase anytime and from anywhere, self-control may be harder than usual this holiday season. But we don’t need to think about that until January. Happy shopping!
At least one thing is pointing up in this economy. And that’s the level of digital ad spending. The Interactive Advertising Bureau released its Q3 Internet Advertising Revenue Report reflecting a 22% increase compared to the same period last year. This is the eighth consecutive quarter of year-over-year positive growth. In fact, the third quarter is always a strong performer, with increases occurring every year except three since 1996.
The major categories in terms of overall digital spending include Search at 49%, Display-Related at 37%, Classified at 8%, Lead Generation at 5% and Email Revenue at 1%. Within Display-Related, Display/Banner Ads make up 23% of the total pie, Rich Media makes up 5%, Digital Video is at 6% and Sponsorship rounds out at 3% of the total spend.
So does this mean you need to adjust your budgets to reflect overall spending trends? Here are some points and checklists to take into account before you jump on the digital budget bandwagon.
Where to Spend, Where to Spend?
As you begin to finalize planning for 2012, you might consider using the following as a budgeting checklist. To help with allocations or achieving business goals, you might assign a value to each effort – say 1 is “Extremely Important” and 7 is “Not Important”:
Brand channels in social media (example: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter)
Branded content (content created by a brand)
Search engine optimization
Display ad units (including display ads on social networks)
Online sponsorships (online or integrated with cross-platform programs)
Branded content (produced as a part of a paid media effort)
Games (in-game advertising or sponsorships)
Digital word of mouth (including blogger outreach)
Online video distribution
User-generated content via social media
User-generated content via other online channels
Customer Behavior Matters, Too
You might also ask how the following consumer media behavior trends are occurring across your target audience and how they may impact the receptivity of your communications:
- Customers who migrate from device to device throughout their day
- Spending more time accessing the Internet via mobile device
- Customers who participate/access user reviews
- Watching more video and programming via a mobile device
- Increased use of location-based services
- In-store use of mobile devices (tablets and smartphones)
- Adoption and usage of digital couponing
- Downloading of apps or sampling content via apps
- Use and adoption of smartcodes or Quick Response (QR) codes
- Customers who are time shifting a majority of their TV watching
Now is also a great time to revisit your reporting and information resources so that you are making the best possible business decisions. Major digital measurement tools include:
- Digital campaign performance reporting
- Online brand impact studies
- Website analytics/reporting
- Search (PPC and SEO) reporting
- Mobile site analytics/app activity reporting
- Social media analytics
- Online listening/conversation analysis tools
- E-commerce sales performance
- Online audience measurement tools
- Online competitive site activity
- Online competitive advertising activity
Also consider some of the following major technology trends and how you might allocate proper resources to take advantage of the “next wave” of innovation:
- HTML5 development
- Mobile app development
- Tablet apps
- Near-field communications (NFC)
- Augmented reality
- Social gaming/social apps
- Gesture-based computing (think Xbox 360 Kinect)
- Digital displays/point of sale interactive experiences
- Digital imaging/exterior installations
Finally, you might want to check the last time you implemented a digital strategy. Has more than 24 months gone by? Not yet even taken the step to implement one? Well, now’s an excellent time to establish a current digital strategy to help with spending decisions…and so much more. And we know several savvy digital strategists who are ready to help (hint, hint).
Each year, a bunch of new words creep into our lexicon. And a lucky few creep into the dictionary, becoming “real words.” This year we saw “retweet,” “sexting” and “bromance” become real words, as well as “LOL” and “OMG.”
The most popular list of new words comes from the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary, which dubs one word the “word of the year.” Kinda like prom queen, for words. This year’s word: “Squeezed Middle.”
Among this year’s nominees were “occupy,” “tiger mother,” “bunga bunga” and this word, which those of us in the digital world of advertising might want to get to know: clicktivism.
Clicktivism: The use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause (a blend of “click” and “activism”).
Basically, the technique of clicktivism combines the tracking tools of marketing with the passion of a social movement. Activists use social media to promote a cause and get users to, well, act. You’ve probably been hit up by organizations like MoveOn.org or the other groups to sign a prewritten form letter and, with a simple click, send it off to your congressman. Protests are formed. Petitions are signed. Awareness is raised. People act.
This trend is highly effective, highly measurable and highly controversial. Oh, controversy!
The benefit of clicktivism is that results can be measured. Clickthrough rates can be tracked, testing can be employed, just like display ads. Future marketing efforts are decided based upon metrics and data gathered. Plus, awareness is raised and action is prompted. Right?
Not according to critics, who say this marketing tactic actually lowers real-life social engagement, reducing activism to a passive, dispassionate activity. Social issues are skewed to what will perform well, and involvement and interest levels, especially off-line, dwindle. The spirit of a social movement – which most recently has been demonstrated with the Occupy Wall Street movement – is squandered.
Is clicktivism good or evil? You decide. But the more relevant question is how we can use it, or if we can use it, for our clients. As cause marketing becomes more important to brands, can we employ this measurable, social trend in our digital strategies?
In Canada, Veterans Affairs used clicktivism to encourage citizens to honor war veterans any way they chose on Remembrance Day. Some changed their Facebook profile picture to show poppies, some used their status update to remember a veteran and some tweeted they were observing two minutes of silence on November 11.
In this case, clicktivism gave a younger generation a way to show their support. Again, critics believe this detracted from human interaction, but supporters believe it opened the experience to a new audience.
Either way, this is one new word that is here to stay. Just look it up in the dictionary.
See more information here:
See a list of words of the year here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/squeezed-middle-is-named-oxford-dictionaries-word-of-the-year-2011-134361588.html
The term Web 3.0 has been thrown around for a couple of years, and techies disagree on the definition. Most predict that Web 3.0 will introduce personalized data; others see Web 3.0 as the integration of various platforms (Web + TV + mobile + etc.), with Web 4.0 integrating data with personal history and needs. Regardless of the definition, Web 2.0 is quickly evolving.
The Web So Far
Brief Recap: Where Web 1.0 connected people with information, Web 2.0 brought participation and social into the mix – people connecting with real people, not just identity-less usernames. Social is the main buzzword right now, but it’s adopting and developing quickly to a Web with much more personalization.
A More Intuitive Search
One of the key elements in this personalization process is semantic search and natural language processing (NLP). We’re used to keyword-based searches – if you want the answer to a question, you must type in the right keyword. This works well, until you’re looking for something, but you don’t know its official or common name. Enter semantic search.
The semantic Web is still in its infancy, but takes the stance that current search engines don’t work like natural speech, in which a listener understands speech based on its context, not just the key nouns. Search engines generally don’t understand the difference between adjectives and nouns and how they work together; they just return results that include any or both of those words, together or separate. Still-developing semantic search engines like Hakia and recently launched Lexxe strive to interpret the meaning of the search query to provide relevant results.
NLP makes Apple’s Siri special because it understands the context of a query. It can associate pronouns with the previous context, so you can tell it, “Remind me to have dinner with my aunt,” and later, “Also send her an email reminder.” Everyone’s buzzing about the fun of asking Siri philosophical questions, like “What’s the meaning of life?” and less philosophical questions, like “Who’s your daddy?” The finding? It’s not quite human, but it’s really good at sarcastically pretending. Ideally, NLP allows you to speak to Siri as you would a human, instead of throwing out several keywords as you would to a GPS.
Personalizing Experiences and Recommendations
Context-aware computing uses information about the user, such as stored history, location, social network, etc., to improve the relevance and quality of the experience. Each of these types of context is embedded in current tech tools, but the next step is a higher level of personalized data through learning about the user and customizing interactions.
Taking 3.0 to Mobile
Apps are also moving toward understanding context and personalizing accordingly. Facebook has long since personalized the newsfeed, delivering stories from the people with whom we interact the most and therefore those we likely care about the most. The app market has exploded with personalized recommendation apps like Alfred and Ness. They keep track of the restaurants you like and supply you with similar places. Ness takes it a step further, by integrating the tastes of your Facebook friends. Tools like this are pioneering personalized recommendations. Perhaps a Web 3.0 world would dole out recommendations based on GPS coordinates tracking where you spent the majority of your time in the past. Privacy concerns aside, we’re likely to see the emergence of more tools that learn what we like (and who we like) and make suggestions accordingly.
In a Nutshell…
The key emerging theme is that the Web is evolving from a hub for information that needs to be sorted and sifted through until we find what applies to us. As it develops to learn more about the user, it can become more personalized to the needs of the user, making it much more relevant and efficient.
What About Marketing?
As marketers, this begs the question: how can we leverage the evolution of digital to better understand our target audience and personalize experiences according to their tastes?
We have a much better shot at getting to know the target audience as the Web evolves. By integrating user history, social network, preferences and interests into a central hub, we can move beyond demographics and behavior to users’ psychographics. What are their interests? What topics are they influential about? What motivates them in the digital sphere? With answers to those questions, targeting becomes a more individualized experience instead of just sending out a general message intent on persuading the demographic-specific masses. Currently, brands respond to individual Twitter and Facebook users to create relationships and retarget media placement to consumers based on their history. But as web users continue to personalize more of their tools, there’s even more of an opportunity to customize messages to be relevant to the individual user, not just the audience as a whole.
David Ogilvy once said, “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.” We wonder, if he were alive today, would he feel the same way?
Let Me Entertain You
As advertisers are looking for ways to expand their web presence, more of them are creating custom content to distribute online, either through paid media or through their social media channels. This sponsored content is taking the form of articles and blogs, how-to videos and branded entertainment videos.
Branded entertainment is an entertainment-based vehicle that is funded by, and complementary to, a brand’s marketing strategy. Product placement, brand integration and branded content are all types of branded entertainment. The goal of this tactic is to entertain an audience while communicating positive brand attributes and messaging.
A large draw to branded entertainment is that it allows advertisers to align their brands with content that’s relevant to their target. In doing so, those brands can create stronger emotional connections with their consumers, and hopefully these emotional connections ultimately will lead to brand affinity.
If an advertiser decides to delve into the branded entertainment space, there are a few best practices:
- Create content that’s relevant to the target. Depending on the audience, this might be an entertaining clip or a how-to video.
- Don’t act like an advertiser. The message should be seamlessly integrated into the content, but the content should come first and the message should follow.
- Have a plan for distributing the content that includes free and paid channels.
Branded entertainment is working its way into our clients’ media plans and communication strategies. Last fall, we launched a series of original how-to web videos for Russell Athletic that featured workout tips. The videos had a “Brought to you by” introduction and the athletes featured in the videos wore Russell Athletic clothing, but that was the extent of the branding. The videos were viewed more than 4.7 million times during the three months they were live, and brand attributes were communicated effectively without being overt.
Leading up to their brand relaunch campaign, we posted a branded entertainment video for Summer’s Eve starring Carlton the cat, the brand’s unofficial spokesperson. The video was sharable via YouTube and Facebook and has been viewed almost 400,000 times since June. Additionally, Summer’s Eve brand mentions on the Web went from almost nonexistent to wow! (defined as an increase of more than 12,000%) after the video launched.
Best practice number four: For a branded entertainment campaign to succeed, campaign objectives and metrics have to be agreed upon up front. The metrics can range from video views to social web mentions to conversions. We are proud of the success these efforts have had for our clients, and we know they were successful because we established our success metrics early in the process.
Lastly, marketers want their branded entertainment to go viral; this is marketing gold. The final best practice to keep in mind is that branded entertainment content should encourage sharing. Make sharing easy by incorporating tools that allow the viewer to post to Facebook or YouTube, share via sites like Digg and Delicious, and email to friends. In the new socially minded world order, we need to give consumers the content they want and enable them to pass it on.
All too often, disjointed brand experiences sneak up on even the most diligent of organizations attempting to effectively shepherd the customer experience. Fortunately, there are a number of methods and processes to map out how the customer sees the brand. One of these methods is called Customer Journey Mapping, or CJM. Here’s an example of a Customer Journey Map.
Customer Journey Mapping is best described as a method to analyze all the experiences that your customers have as they encounter your brand through all of its touchpoints. From your customer service telephone line, to your website, to point of purchase and beyond, Customer Journey Mapping serves as a multidimensional approach to how real people experience your brand as a whole.
Your customer touchpoints are widely varied in their goals, approach, technology and intended reach. As well, those very touchpoints can often be managed by departments, external agencies and stakeholder groups that don’t talk to each other. For example, your digital agency launches a microsite promoting a new product; however, your customer service group wasn’t informed at launch date. New inquiries and technical questions pour through the customer service center, and your representatives struggle to find the voice in the organization who can script out answers and explain what a successful transaction is. As well, employees weren’t informed of the launch – an individual in Finance hears about the new site through a cousin, a loyal customer, first. This further reinforces her belief that the company doesn’t “live” its brand promise internally.
There are many actionable benefits to Customer Journey Mapping, but the most important benefit is that it can help you see how best to deliver a seamless experience that cuts across all product and service silos. It can also help cut across communication silos, breaking down barriers between interactive marketing and traditional marketing methods.
Before starting the CJM process, an organization must answer some key questions as honestly as possible: Are there brand champions in your organization that can drive the CJM process to create and refine a holistic experience for those experiencing your brand? These champions must be willing to question executive “pet projects,” departmental silos, traditional approaches and comfortable-yet-stale relationships with vendors. Every stone has to first be turned over to see where the brand is touching real people.
Your champion(s) can now start with this simple list to begin the CJM process:
Step 1: Take inventory of customer insights. What are those processes and touchpoints as your organization sees them now. At face value, this sounds like a very simple process, but quite often the effort reveals onion layers of touchpoints, knowledge bases and conflicting brand experiences.
Step 2: Establish initial thoughts about each part of the customer journey at each touchpoint. Document thoughts and supporting data, and use this as a base of operations to validate assumptions and debunk organizational myths.
Step 3: Make sure your vendors are actively involved. More often than not, a splintered customer experience can start at the outsourcing level. Internal silos can be exasperated when those silos each work with a separate vendor that touches your customer.
Step 4: Research customer processes, needs and perceptions from their perspective. Consciously step away from internal data that anecdotally assumes customer emotions. Effective social media outreach can often serve as a fantastic tool for gauging sentiment and buzz when there’s a limited budget for contextual interviews and ethnographic studies. Use this data to validate/debunk Step 1.
Step 5: Analyze customer research. Segment your data by laying out each touchpoint’s stages, as well as your customer segments. By breaking down each of these points, you’ll be able to capture a dimension of knowledge regarding what affects which customers the most, and at what point. There is no hard-and-fast formula for visually laying this out, but your key variables are constant:
- Who is touching your brand?
- How are they touching it?
- Why are they touching it?
- What stages exist in that touchpoint for both customer intent and touchpoint?
- When is that moment of truth when the customer is most affected by that touchpoint?
Step 6: Map the customer journey. Below is another map you may find useful to model.
Step 7: Go beyond the Customer Journey Map in analyzing only one silo. Take the CJM concept and apply it to the brand life cycle, touching all your services and vendors. This is where it gets really interesting for all of us!
A Customer Journey Map is a deep dive into the heart of the brand. We start at the introductory level, with the customer, and slowly dive deeper and deeper into the brand promises and the organizational context of how these are delivered. The CJM process is organic and is best used when it becomes an ongoing conversation between stakeholders, customers, vendors and employees with a visual map as a deliverable.
That deliverable has its greatest impact when it’s openly shared. Both customers and internal employees can benefit from a holistic view of the CJM map. It can enlist both as brand advocates, as they will clearly be able to see where your brand is going, where it has been and how it’s touching people’s lives.
Babies dancing. Cats acting adorably mischievous. Teenagers ranting about Britney Spears. These one-off Internet videos rake in the views, but there’s not a lot of quality or thought behind them. It’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” for the Internet age. But now, as the Internet is growing up, so is its content.
Some video creators are out to make something worth more than 15 seconds of fame. They start with an idea and create something, rather than capturing and exploiting a single moment. Hopefully, I’m about to share some of these with you for the first time.
One of my personal favorite Internet video creators is a man named Freddy Wong. His passion for video games is often reflected in his visual-effect-driven short films. He’s spoofed everything from Mario Kart to first-person shooters to action movies with his own brand of humor. See for yourself in this psychedelic little flick. (Warning: Film contains violence and lots of flowers.)
Another of my favorites is a sound designer and composer named Diego Stocco, who creates instruments, sometimes out of what most people would consider non-musical objects. While his videos don’t get the millions of views that Freddy’s do, he’s making something incredibly creative and worth watching. See for yourself.
Last, but definitely not least, I’d like to mention the high-calorie cuisine of Epic Meal Time. Lots of you have probably already seen these bacon-obsessed dudes build enormous meat creations in the kitchen. But in case you haven’t, check out their take on a gingerbread house. Hint: Less gingerbread, more meat. (Warning: There’s a bit of NSFW language.)
These new kinds of video creators have intensely loyal fans that watch and share each new video. For brands looking to make a quick viral video, partnering with someone like Freddy Wong could mean an overnight success. For example, a video collaboration between Epic Meal Time, our client GameStop and “Gears of War 3” garnered over 3 million views. The brands fit together nicely and created an entertaining video that their respective audiences genuinely enjoyed watching. As they say on Epic Meal Time, that’s “#%*ing SMART.