NASCAR and Social Media

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NASCAR and Social Media

Last post for the week, as I’m headed to Dover for the AAA 400 this weekend.  Check back here on Monday to see how brands interacted with fans at the track, hopefully along with a few up-close-and-personal images of the cars, drivers and personalities that make the sport go.

Meantime, here’s a great read from my friends at USA Today on what goes on behind the scenes at the NASCAR social media command center, and how that data helps the decision-making process inside the privately-held organization.  Many teams, leagues, and other organizations have integrated a social media command center into their operations over the past year.  With so much being shared about your brand (or product or service or sport), being aware of the conversations as they are happening should be a critical piece of any communication strategy.

What tools does your organization use for social media monitoring, and how have you used that information to improve the operation?  (If you don’t have a good answer, maybe shoot me a note and we’ll see if we can help!)

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Never Too Big to Fail

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Never Too Big to Fail

AOL, Kodak, Blockbuster Video, Gateway.  Add Blackberry to that list.

In the technology age, the only thing surer than a quick rise to the top for a successful product is the inevitable downfall as new competitors surpass you.  In addition to the brands listed above, brands such as Dell, Microsoft and IBM who were once dominant, continue to find themselves struggling for relevance (ans beware Apple and Google – your time will most certainly come).

The slow demise of Blackberry, punctuated by the recent news that they will discontinue consumer promotion and seek a buyer for what’s left of their B2B line, illustrates just how difficult it is to stay on top for long in today’s hostile technology environment.  From 70% market share in 2010 to just 5% today, Blackberry is just the latest example of a company who failed to see the future and suffered because of it. 

Here are three ideas on how companies can find ways to stay ahead of the game, no matter what their product may be:

  1. Stay True to Your Core.  Look at Apple – everything (so far) revolves around it’s core products.  The Mac and the iOS Devices.  Compare that to Microsoft, who often tries to get outside of Windows and Office and fails with products like the Zune or MSN (with apologies to the overwhelming success of the XBOX, who I covered in an earlier post).  Stay true to what you do best, and own your silo – don’t overextend your brand into product lines that may drive short-term revenue but expose you to future risk.
  2. Hire futurists.  For Kodak to have become an irrelevant brand so quickly, there must have been a lack of understanding of how rapidly digital photography would change the marketplace.  Kodak had been a trusted consumer brand for nearly 100 years.  Surely, they could have found a way into the digital camera market, or perhaps become a photo-sharing destination (ala Instagram or Flickr).  Instead, the brand that so many of us grew up with, simply went away.
  3. Find a niche.  Some brands can be more successful by not trying to be everything to everyone.  Think of a brand like Rockport, which specializes in comfortable shoes.  Or Lululemon, who specializes in yoga clothes and running gear.  Not everyone needs to be the next Nike or Under Armour.  Keep your focus on what your customers expect you to provide them, and be the best at it – don’t try to overspend on marketing or compete with suppliers much larger than yourselves.  You may find your ad budgets overextended with limited distribution options.

Of course, if it was this easy, no brand would ever go under.  There’s definitely a little bit of luck involved too, and knowing when to get out.  Maybe Blackberry would have been better staying focused on business customers and not trying to compete with iOS and Android.  Then again, maybe it just would have hastened their demise.

What current market leader do you think might find themselves out of business in the future?  Why?

Great Customer Service – Marketing in Disguise

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Great Customer Service – Marketing in Disguise

I met with a new client last week, and one of the elements we discussed in depth was their approach to customer service.  We talked about it as a brand differentiator against their competition.  It wasn’t solely that they had better reps, more experienced workers or nicer people.  It was that they had a systematic approach to customer service that related directly back to the guests in their stores.  It’s something I am in the process of helping them define as a cornerstone of their brand, and frankly, it’s something that I’m excited about.

In that context, I share with you this article about great customer service – “Bringing the Thunder” to customer service (I love that term).  It’s not just doing it, it’s being rock stars while doing it.  If you (or your clients) are in any kind of industry that involves customer service (and I can’t think of one that’s not), it’s definitely worth the read.

If you’re short for time today, here are the 8 ways to create “service that rocks” from the article (kudos to Jim Knight – @KnightSpeaker – for the tips):

  • “Be like U2.” The band U2 has been around since the late 1970s and “everyone” knows who Bono and The Edge are. But less people know who the bassist (Adam Clayton) and drummer (Larry Mullen Jr.) are. But, “that doesn’t mean they’re less important. They contribute to the sound. In your company, everyone should be singing off the same sheet of music, and everyone has a part to play,” Knight said.
  • Create and embody a guest-obsessed purpose to your business.
  • People crave differentiation — “consider being unpredictable.”
  • Value matters. People will pay more for a Starbucks coffee, or a Hard Rock hamburger, or a Rolling Stones concert ticket because “memorable experiences help justify the prices,” Knight said.
  • “Hire rock stars, not lip syncers, to amp up the band.” Knight suggests hiring unique people with unique experiences, or the “square pegs in the round holes.” If you give them a chance, expect their loyalty in return.
  • If everyone is vanilla, be the chocolate to avoid the 4-letter descriptors about your business, including “fine,” “good” and “okay.” You want more than that.
  • “Create as many pluses as possible to get that mental shelf space,” Knight said. Customers should identify you in their top three favorite brands. If not, there isn’t enough that stands out about your brand to them.
  • Treat each person special, like it’s their first date or their first day at work.

25 Nike Ads That Shaped The Brand

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25 Nike Ads That Shaped The Brand

I promised, and now I deliver.  25 of the greatest Nike ads of all-time.

My favorite:  Charles Barkley’s “I am not a role model.”  For a brand that has always been about its association with great athletes, this was a bold stand to take.  Listen to the text of this ad:  “I am not a role model.  Parents should be role models.  Just because I can dunk a basketball, doesn’t mean I can raise your kids.”  It’s simple, brutal and honest.  Very much like Charles himself.  Now, we call this kind of an ad “authentic”.  Back then, it was just being real.

What’s your favorite?

For Shopping, Email Beats Social

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For Shopping, Email Beats Social

I saw this article yesterday on one of the email marketing newsletters I subscribe to.  The summary is that while people are increasingly consuming social media, they still prefer to shop via more traditional channels online.  Email is still a better trigger than social media ads.

I noticed this first-hand last year, while working with a venue client who was looking to sell event tickets through their social media channels.  We collaborated to develop a strong offer with assets unavailable to the general public, delivered it exclusively to consumers via targeted social channels (Facebook ads, as well as organic Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest posts) and drove a significant amount of traffic to the website.  But a strange thing happened once they were there – no one purchased a ticket through this offer.  Why would this be?

We brainstormed a number of reasons:  Those interested in the offer already had their tickets; People clicked on the link, but weren’t ready to buy; Maybe the offers weren’t as compelling as we believed.

However, my belief now is that consumers just don’t shop while socializing.  Think about your own behavior – Do you scroll through your Facebook page looking for offers?  When was the last time you clicked on a Twitter special offer?  It’s not that you aren’t interested in the offers you might see, but that mentally you aren’t in a “shopping zone”. 

With email, you can hold onto a relevant offer much longer than on social media channels without immediately acting on it.  If I’m at work, I may let an email linger in my inbox till later in the evening when I’m ready to shop.  Email is a series of individual events – I read one email, delete or file it, then move onto the next one.  So it’s more “interrupt-able” than social consumption where my behavior tends to be more of a browsing or scrolling pattern.  If I “lose my place” on my Twitter feed, I’m forced to start over again – with email, this isn’t an issue.

So, what’s the answer?  Digital media platforms should be used for what they tend to do best. Web pages and social feeds are great for branding, introducing new products, and staying top-of-mind.  Just like traditional mass media.  However, when it comes to encouraging a transaction, stick with the mail – whether it’s electronic or traditional. 

Ask media to do what it does best, not what you think it should be doing best.  After all, these days every marketer has plenty of options to choose from.

On Sponsorship Marketing, from the New York Times

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On Sponsorship Marketing, from the New York Times

In my line of work, we accept the fact that nearly everything can be bought.  In fact, you can even have your logo tattooed on the back of a boxer.

However, it’s also critical that the placement makes sense.  Both for the brand, and the consumer who desperately craves authenticity.  This article from the New York Times does a great job of showcasing how intrusive advertising “drop ins” can be in a sports broadcast, yet at the same time how essential they are for sponsors to get value.  A “drop-in” (for those unaware) is when a sponsor’s brand is integrated into the broadcast itself.  “This medical injury update is brought to you by MedStar Health, the Official Medical Partner of the Washington Nationals”, as an example.

For any brand considering sports-related advertising, here are three tips on how to get the most value out of a “drop-in” segment:

  1. Be Authentic.  If you’re in telecom, a “Call to the Bullpen” drop-in makes sense.  If you’re in health care, it probably doesn’t.  Find something that naturally fits in with your brand or product – if you can’t think of a natural fit, ask the property (or your agency) to help create something that does.  You’d be surprised how creative you can be, no matter what your brand is or the sport you’re sponsoring.
  2. Be Unobtrusive.  For drop-ins, it’s all about branding.  But saying too much can get in the way.  Try to keep your drop-in brief – include the brand name, resist the urge to get in a messaging point as well.
  3. Own Something.  For one of our clients, we included as part of their college football deal that every time the ball gets into the “Red Zone” their name would be included (i.e. the Sponsor Name Red Zone).  This not only became part of the radio broadcasts, but also included in-stadium LED signage, was included as part of a student promotion, and cleverly named to naturally become part of the college’s lingo. We did this because we knew that many of this particular college’s football fans also listen to the team broadcast while in the stadium. Look for opportunities to take ownership across different forms of media as part of your “drop in” strategy, and ask for elements that are not currently being sponsored instead of being included in a rotation of various sponsors.

What’s your favorite “Drop-In” sponsorship?