#GiveItBack – When Social Media Campaigns Turn Ugly

3 Mar

Giveitback 1

     It was a great idea, until it wasn’t.

      Minnesota’s Republican legislative leaders have launched a clever, and useful social media effort to rally public support for returning the state’s growing surplus to taxpayers.   Minnesota’s February budget forecast projects that surplus adds up to $1.23 billion and growing.  The surplus is the result of the state’s growing economy and newly enacted tax increases passed by the Democratic controlled legislature and signed by Governor Mark Dayton in 2013.

     “State government does not need this money.  Minnesota families need this money.  So, let’s give it back,” said GOP House minority leader Kurt Daudt.  

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt launching the #giveitback campaign and his corresponding Tweet.  (insert)

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt launching the #giveitback campaign and his corresponding Tweet. (insert)

       In that simple declaration, a campaign was born.  Republican leaders raised a poster before TV cameras with the words “Give it Back Act” and instantly encouraged citizens to Tweet their ideas about how the state should return their hard earned money by using the simple hashtag #giveitback.

      On many levels, it’s a smart strategy.  From a pure marketing point of view, by launching a social media campaign based upon the Republican core value of lower taxes, legislative leaders could hope to not only activate its base of brand loyalists, but create a populist buzz and use the groundswell of public opinion to influence the Democratic majority to return some or all of the surplus to taxpayers in the form of tax credits or reductions.

     In a matter of hours, the Tweets started rolling in.  But, the majority of them perhaps were not what the Republicans were expecting.  It turns out, Democratic party supporters and lawmakers hijacked the #giveitback campaign and turned it against them. (Click on Figure 1) 

Figure 1 - #giveitback Tweets.

Figure 1 – #giveitback Tweets.

      Twitter campaigns can be risky at best.  Unless a brand has a substantial base of loyalist or followers, its message can be undercut by critics and cynics alike with just a few clever Tweets that are retweeted among their own followers.  That can add up fast.  Researchers at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology have found that a retweet reaches 1,000 additional viewers on average regardless of how many followers the sender has.  Complicating the strategy is the fact that it’s launched in a hyper-political election year where opponents and detractors have extra incentive to disrupt the message.

     These kind of campaigns require research.  Brand managers need to vet the hashtags which can be easily done with simple tools embedded on Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.   Advertising and PR agencies have more sophisticated tracking tools that can also aid in the research.   A simple search of #giveitback Tweets indicates that it’s a popular hashtag among teens and millennials looking to retrieve stolen items. 

Figure 2 - Justin Bieber's #giveback campaign.

Figure 2 – Justin Bieber’s #giveback campaign.

      Pop superstar Justin Bieber has even used a variation of the hashtag, #giveback, and many of his 50 million followers use it in their own Tweets. (Figure 2)  Therefore the Republicans’ #giveitback campaign is co-mingled with hundreds of non-related Tweets and gets lost in the noise.  In this case a more effective hashtag would have been one that is more specific, such as #returnthesurplus, or #returnmymoneymn. 

     With research in hand, a smart campaign also needs a cross-channel integration plan.  In other words, it needs to be leveraged on a branded website, Youtube, Facebook, earned media, and perhaps even paid media.  An excellent example is how Toyota recently created cross-channel tactical support to drive Twitter conversations during the Super Bowl to create awareness for its new Highlander SUV.   

Figure 3

Figure 3

      Without that kind of cross-channel support, the chances of a social media campaign creating a viral groundswell are not particularly strong.  As evidence, nearly 72 hours after the launch of the #giveitback campaign, it has produced few genuine Tweets from the general public with the exception of several Republican lawmakers. (Figure 3) 

    It’s not that #giveitback was a bad idea.  In this case it made headlines and good news copy in the context of the budget surplus narrative.  And yes, there is exceptional value in that too.  But as a viral social media campaign it so far has been a swing and a miss.

NBC vs. BBC – The Olympics Ad Battle for Ratings Gold

9 Feb

Olympics Means Ends  Collage  

     Let the games begin.  As athletes from across the globe battle each other, there’s another global battle for viewers to watch them.

     NBC and the BBC have taken two differing approaches.  Both are grounded in successful communication appraisal theory to lead the viewer on a narrative journey to elicit an emotional response to watch broadcasts of the games.  But creatively, they appeal to differing emotions and values.   One appeals to humanity, the other to mythology.

     The BBC approach paints a narrative of battling the Gods.

 

      NBC takes a differing tactic, instead appealing to the narrative of human competition.

      Both promotional efforts are creative and emotionally effective.   But the BBC message is decidedly different than what American audiences are used to seeing and perhaps creates a stronger attitudinal conversion to watch the games.  

Figure 1 - Means-Ends Model

Figure 1 – Means-Ends Model

     The difference is easy to see when we break down the ads into a simple means-ends ladder analysis.   At the bottom of the ladder, both promotional ads are grounded with the attributes of athletic competition and sports.   But where they differ is in the narrative focal goals.  NBC takes a man vs. man approach, where the BBC chooses man vs. nature. (Figure 1)  Those opposing tracts create two powerfully different higher level value propositions, one based on unity and happiness, the other based on immortality.

      Arguably, the BBC approach takes the viewer on a deeper cognitive journey forcing one to think more intensely about the relationship between man and nature.  After all, it’s a given that men and women will defeat each other in the field of competition, but the real prize is whether they can defeat the Gods.   The elaborative journey of the “climbing the mountain” narrative combined with the higher level value of living forever is a powerful proposition.  

       The mountains are calling.  It’s time to watch.

Four Best Super Bowl Ads That Were Anything But Boring

3 Feb

Super Bowl 2014 Collage

     The big game is over.  More than 96 million viewers watched Denver and GoDaddy embarrass themselves.   At the same time Seattle re-wrote the rules on what it takes to be champions, and in between some of the world’s most powerful brands helped reshape our attitudes and beliefs on what it means to be Americans.   We are a country that builds great cars, embodies diversity, welcomes home our troops, and yes, swoons over puppies. 

General Mills' Super Bowl ad "Gracie."

General Mills’ Super Bowl ad “Gracie.”

      This was the year when several brands and their agencies appeared to turn a creative corner.  The bondage of uninspired play-it-safe advertising brought on by the Great Recession has loosened its grip.  Yes, there were still moments where it appeared the messaging was written by 13 years old boys (I’m looking at you, Butterfinger), but there were many more examples of creative bravery, among them Cheerios’ “Gracie.”   

      There are a multitude of post-game rankings sizing up the Super Bowl XLVIII ads, this one is merely an analysis of three that exemplified creative and strategic brand communication, and one that excelled in extending viewer engagement beyond the TV screen.   

     Part of the mark of a confident and strong brand is consistency.   We clearly saw that in two exceptional ads from Chrysler and Coca-Cola.   Since the easing of the Great Recession, Chrysler has positioned itself as America’s “comeback kid.”  It’s given us Eminem, Paul Harvey, and Clint Eastwood who proclaimed it “Halftime in America.”  This year Chrysler gave us Bob Dylan, another American original to say, “You can’t import originality.” 

      The Bob Dylan ad strikes at an important business insight and a critical strategic value proposition: Nobody builds cars better than America, and nobody in America builds cars better than Chrysler.   Using Dylan as the human metaphor for originality and legacy makes the proposition especially salient.   

 

         Another original American brand reminded us that what makes us original is our differences. Coca-Cola hit the mark with its ad called “It’s Beautiful.”  As one of the world’s most recognized brands with assets in virtually every country, Coca-Cola embodies diversity.   What Coke is selling here is acceptance, empowerment and the happiness that comes when you embrace shared moments—and a Coke—with others.   Its ad by Wieden + Kenney is a powerful brand extension that bravely comes from one the few brands strong enough to pull it off.

 

     Brave communication was not just cornered by Coca-Cola.   Chevy Silverado leveraged a lot of its own brand equity to say something about cancer—without speaking a word.   

      The silent schema of a solemn ride down a country road in a Silverado pickup  forces the viewer to cognitively elaborate about what is and what is not happening.    The three most powerful cues:  the shaved head, the teary eye, and the embraced hands.   Together they force the viewer to create their own story, form their own attitude, and create the belief that they can take action by supporting the American Cancer Society’s Purple Roads campaign.   The underlying message is not about the truck, but the journey of strength the truck allows one to take.  It’s emotional, powerful, and strategic.

 

     Finally, Toyota’s Super Bowl campaign is notable for not what it did on the TV screen, but what it did on other screens. 

Picture 2 - Swedish Chef telling fellow Muppets they're heading to the "Sferndy Boom."  (Super Bowl)

Picture 1 – Swedish Chef telling fellow Muppets they’re heading to the “Sferndy Boom.” (Super Bowl)

     Toyota’s agency Saachi & Saachi employed the Muppets for a campaign to promote the all-new Highlander SUV targeted strategically at upwardly mobile parents with chaotic families.   And who better to symbolize a loveable, dysfunctional American family than the Muppets?  The unique selling proposition of the campaign is that the Highlander has room for everything inside but boring.   

    To prove their point, Toyota branched out on three separate channels to engage viewers in its “No Room for Boring” campaign.   It started with a YouTube video announcing a road trip to the Super Bowl that of course, went terribly wrong.  (Picture 1)

 

     The Muppets also took to Twitter taking over the Toyota page to actively engage with Super Bowl viewers during the game. (Figure 1) 

Figure 1 - Interactive Tweets with Pepe and the Muppets on @Toyota

Figure 1 – Interactive Tweets with Pepe and the Muppets on @Toyota

    Finally, the Muppets used Vine to send several short videos of Pepe trying to watch the game from the back of the Highlander.

Picture 1 - Blotz family Tweeting during Super Bowl.

Picture 2 – Blotz family Tweeting during Super Bowl.

      The strategic insight in all of this is that the Super Bowl is no longer a TV-only event.   It’s a multi-screen interactive social village where viewers share and exchange the experience on Twitter, Facebook and other social channels.  It happened even in my own house by evidence of the Instagram picture shared by my wife with her caption, “Remember when people WATCHED the @SuperBowl?”  Guilty as charged. (Picture 2)  During the broadcast, Twitter reported 24.9 million Tweets, that’s 800,000 more than Super Bowl XVLII.

     As the price for Super Bowl ads continues to climb, Toyota’s foray into interactive space is the model more brands are likely to copy.   Not only does it create for a more entertaining and meaningful brand experience, it’s also relatively free.

      Four brands, four distinct messages.   Unlike Denver, they brought their A-game.

  *          *          *

      For more expert analysis of the Super Bowl ads, I invite you to follow John Eighmey’s The Psychology of Advertising.     

Fire up Twitter—The Muppets are Driving to the Sferndy Boom (That’s Swedish Chef Speak for Super Bowl)

1 Feb

  

      Leave it to the Muppets to blow up the tired Super Bowl advertising cliche of talking babies, dogs, and bikini-clad women.

      Perhaps one of the more ingenious advertising campaigns for Super Bowl XLVIII is one that will take viewers of the big game on a virtual ride and let them interact with a brand in a different and entertaining way.

      The Muppets have climbed behind the wheel of the new Toyota Highlander for a road trip of misadventure to New Jersey and have invited all of us to come along.  They’ll live-Tweet during the game using the @Toyota Twitter account and the #NoRoomForBoring hashtag.  

Swedish Chef explaining how the Muppets are heading the "Sferndy Boom."

Swedish Chef explaining how the Muppets are heading the “Sferndy Boom.”

      This is exponentially more than just a piece of social media entertainment.  It’s actually part of a well-orchestrated and highly strategic effort on behalf of Toyota and its agency Saatchi & Saatchi to build awareness and market share for Toyota’s newly remodeled Highlander SUV.   The live-Tweeting coincides with a new commercial that will air during the game featuring the Muppets and former NLF star Terry Crews.  

 

        The campaign is strategic because it zeroes in like a laser beam on a specific target audience: busy, chaotic, upwardly mobile families.  Metaphorically, no family exemplifies that target audience more than the Muppets—America’s very definition of loveable dysfunction.    Furthermore, the adventure they drive Terry Crews through is the archetype of the great American family vacation, foibles and all.   The key branding message is that the new Highlander has room inside for everything but boredom. 

       Even the live-Tweeting during the game is no accident.  It fills what marketers now call “the space in-between” traditional and digital advertising.  In other words, allowing the consumer to customize their own brand experience—in this case interacting with the Muppets in social space.   Wisely, Toyota has even re-branded its Twitter page and its Highlander website with the Muppets so that consumers are given a consistent message with every interactive touch point.  (Figure 1) 

Figure 1 -  Toyota's Twitter and Highlander pages

Figure 1 – Toyota’s Twitter and Highlander pages

       In this regard, it’s a smart way to help Toyota differentiate itself from the other Super Bowl car advertisers by engaging viewers on multiple channels at the same time.   The Muppet’s live-Tweets will make Toyota part of the conversation during what will be among the highest Twitter user events of the year.  (24.1 million Tweets during Super Bowl XLVII)  It’s also an effective way to ensure that Toyota is getting more for its $4 million ad buy.

       It’s part of a new trend of what I call fake-celebrity endorsements.  Comic Will Ferrell created this new genre with the highly successful Ron Burgundy commercials  for the Dodge Durango.  It was all part of a highly integrated campaign to not only sell Dodges, but to cross-promote the new Ron Burgundy Anchorman movie.   Likewise, the Disney and the Muppets are using the same kind of cross-promotion for its new movie opening in March.

       Toyota hopes it sells Highlanders, too.   For the rest of us, it’s a fun and new way to experience the Sferndy Boom—or whatever you call it.

Best Ads of 2013 – The Emergence of Viral Brand Journalism

31 Dec

Best Ads Collage

     This just may be the year when creativity came back.  With the stock market and retail sales once again in the driver’s seat, brands seemed more willing to take creative risks.   In return agencies pushed some of them to think beyond traditional advertising.   The result was some brave long-form storytelling and investments in building communities in social space. 

     One of the finest examples came from Dove and its agency Oglivy Brazil.  Armed with the insight that only 4% of women around the world think of themselves as beautiful, Oglivy was charged with restoring their self-image.  They did it by hiring a former police sketch artist.   The result was a three-minute mini-documentary that produced an emotionally powerful message: “You are more beautiful than you think.”   

Figure 1 Theory of Trying model of the attitude toward improving self-esteem on one's beauty.

Figure 1 Theory of Trying model of the attitude toward improving self-esteem on one’s beauty.

     The ad is an exemplar of using the strategic power of the Theory of Trying.   Social psychologists Richard Bagozzi and Paul Warshaw established that people evaluate goals based upon their attitudes towards success and their attitudes towards failure.   In this case the mini-documentary exposes the perceived self-image failures of women and then awakens them to the success of seeing themselves in a new light.   The ad leads them to form new goals improving their self-esteem—with Dove products.  (Figure 1)

      The message is salient not just with women, but with husbands, boyfriends and partners who all look at that someone special in their lives and believe she is the most beautiful person in the world.   That’s why the video has been viewed more than 61 million times on YouTube. 

     But Oglivy took it a step further by creating a branded website for women to share their stories.  Dove even connected the insight to its Facebook page that greets followers with a simple message, “Hello, beautiful.”  Its daily posts of branded self –image content are now seen by a community of 20-million.  All of that from a soap company.

      My personal 2013  favorite is from a brand you’ve never heard of.   It doesn’t directly sell a product, but instead an idea.  And in the process it brilliantly illustrates the power of brand extension with a smart and strategic piece of communication.

      It comes from a cell phone company in Thailand named Truemove-H.  The three minute film spans a 30-year story, one that begins with an act of sympathy and kindness and ends with a surprise act or gratitude.  The film contains no product placement, no overt sales pitch, only the powerful idea of paying life forward.  The message from Truemove-H:  “Giving is the best communication.”

      Proof of the ad’s power lies in the fact that it surpassed 9-million YouTube views in one week.

      As a piece of communication, the film is a daring and brilliantly strategic tool to build brand salience in a hyper-competitive category. 

Figure 2 - Applying Appraisal Theory to Truemove-H's "Giving" advertisement.

Figure 2 – Applying Appraisal Theory to Truemove-H’s “Giving” advertisement.

      In this case, it effectively uses Appraisal Theory to connect emotion and mood to influence a specific action.  The film makes the viewer cognitively aware of how giving can have its own reward. (Figure 2)  The deep emotional response of empathy—even guilt—leads to the formation of new attitudes about how giving can impact people’s lives.  In this case, Truemove-H’s goal is to get people to give by calling more often.  But just as important, it seals an emotionally positive connection to the brand—a connection likely to be top of mind the next time a Thai consumer searches for a new phone service.

      Another overseas brand also hit the bull’s eye with the key insight of sharing and friendship.   It comes from Robinsons, a juice company from the UK.   Core to Robinson’s brand promise is wholesomeness.   But its challenge is creating an image for itself in a category crowded with soft drinks and big budget marketing campaigns. 

      What BBH London created was 60-second episodic of two boys playing games together throughout the day.  But as the day ends and they begin to fall asleep, the subtle surprise metaphor finally reveals itself.   The positive attitude toward the ad directly transmits to the brand.

      Kmart also reinvented the Blue Light Special.  And it’s… well, a bit blue.

      The original discount department store pulled a little sophomoric humor out of isle ten in hopes of gaining more attention in the online retail marketplace dominated by Walmart, Target and Amazon.  DraftFCB in Chicago produced an off-color and humorous message promoting Kmart’s ability to “ship my pants,” or anything else from kmart.com for free. 

Figure 3

Figure 3

      The message is very strategic.  Kmart is simply trying to regain lost customers by using humor to remind them that they don’t have to go to Amazon or Walmart to shop online.  (Figure 3)

      The unique part of the strategy is to avoid television and go directly to social media where edgy messaging can exceed the more sanitized boundaries of broadcast television and quickly be shared among friends.  In Kmart’s case it was a brilliant success.  In the first 48-hours, “Ship my Pants” received more than two-million YouTube views.

       Finally, one brand had a little fun by mocking its own product, and for that matter celebrity endorsements too.  It came from Dodge who used a fake celebrity to sell its Durango SUV.   Chrysler’s agency Wieden + Kennedy used “Anchorman” character Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) to disparage the product.   The result was a serial TV and digital campaign that had Burgundy humorously highlighting a different unique selling proposition in each ad, everything from Durango’s big glove box, to more horse power, to a design that still looks good with egg on its doors. 

Figure 4 - Google Trends data on Dodge Durango and Ron Burgundy from September - December 2013

Figure 4 – Google Trends data on Dodge Durango and Ron Burgundy from September – December 2013

      It turns out the high risk/high reward gamble was a “kind of a big deal.”  Online search and buzz of Durango and Ron Burgundy jumped. (Figure 4)  Furthermore, sales of Durango’s in October rose 59% upon the release of the campaign.   The campaign proved once again the theory of positive brand association with the likeability of it ad.

     This is a short but not exclusive list.  Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” is another example of truly great and brave brand communication using accessible metaphors to force consumers to think about sustainable foods.

      Clearly more brands and their agencies seemed willing to stretch the boundaries again.  That should make 2014 even more fun and beneficial for consumers.

For more expert analysis of the best in advertising, I invite you to follow John Eighmey’s blog, The Psychology of Advertising.

 

Leave it to Beyonce to Compose a New Marketing Rhythm

28 Dec

 

   The retail industry and music critics have spilled a lot of ink and a bit of angst about how Beyonce just released her new album.  By going directly to digital with a surprise social media announcement and no formal marketing campaign or retail partner such as Target, many industry watchers noted how she broke all the rules and rewrote the playbook on how to launch new music.  

Screen grab from Beyoncé explaining her new "Visual Album."

Screen grab from Beyoncé explaining her new “Visual Album.”

    In reality, Beyonce didn’t write new rules, she ingeniously employed existing rules in an orchestrated way.  Instead of using one or two effective marketing drivers, she used many at the same time.  Musicians refer to such a composing strategy as poly-rhythms.  That is, using a multiple set of of rhythms that follow the same meter to create a musical impression.  Beyonce ingeniously applied music theory to marketing. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

    Former Campbell Mithun CEO Steve Wehrenberg, a long time creative advertising and marketing expert argues that there are seven main marketing target drivers. (Figure 1)   Beyonce used each one of those drivers to propel explosive sales of her new album, “Beyonce.”

 1.  Brand Awareness:  Yep, she has it.  Her concerts are all sell-outs, and her Super Bowl XLVII half-time audience of 104 million viewers only solidified her world-wide superstar status.  Her 54 million Facebook likes are more than Target and Walmart combined.

 2.  Emotional Bond:  Has that too.  Her fans bought so many of her previous four albums that they all debuted at #1 on Billboard.  This intense bond gave Beyonce and her marketing team every reason to believe she could mobilize that bond to respond to a new album.  They did.

 3.  Product News:  “Surprise.”  Everyone loves a surprise, and Beyonce’s 8.5 million followers on Instagram were rewarded with the exclusive video announcement on December 12 of her new album–the ultimate product news.

4.  Activation:  By making the new album–14 songs and 17 videos–immediately available on iTunes, there was instant incentive to buy now.  In today’s social media environment, that provides a psychological motivation for fans to buy the new album before their friends so they could be among the first to share their reactions.  It worked.   The sale of 828,777 albums in the first three days smashed all iTunes records.

 5.  Loyalty:  Here again, Beyonce rewards her most intense followers not only with the exclusive first news, but also with the reward of being the first in the world to preview and buy her new album on iTunes.  The clear message: if you’re a fan, you have to follow Beyonce on social media to be in the know.

 6.  Product Experience:  By giving iTunes the exclusive sales rights for first week of release, fans could sample each track and video before buying product–the ultimate “try before you buy.”

 7.  Buzz:  Nailed it.  Twitter reported 1.2 million tweets in 24-hours and forced mainstream media to pick up the news and spread it even further.  A real-time geotagged map by Arbitron shows how the news spread like a contagion around the world. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 - Geotag of viral Beyonce Tweets 1.5 hours after her new album announcement on Instagram and Twitter on December 12, 2013.

Figure 2 – Geotag of viral Beyonce Tweets 1.5 hours after her new album announcement on Instagram and Facebook on December 12, 2013.

        The disruptions of digital distribution to the music industry rewrote all the rules years ago, and they’ve been in play ever since.   In almost every respect, Beyonce’s production of the new record as a “video album” was tailor made for social media and digital space.  Beyonce didn’t break the rules, she simply figured out a way to take existing notes and rhythms and write new song.  If there’s any surprise to Beyonce’s brilliant marketing strategy, it should be that no other superstar artist or record label has figured it out before now. 

 

Three Great Examples of Using Instagram Video for Brand Engagement

20 Dec

Instagram Collage 12-20-13

   There’s no question Facebook still dominates among brands looking to engage customers in social media.   However, Instagram is also emerging as an effective channel to reach customers and brand loyalists in a space where research shows more of them are now living: on their mobile devices.

     Above all else, Instagram is an entertainment channel.  It allows users to tell a story with a simple picture and to see the stories other people are telling with their own pictures.  Earlier this year Instagram expanded the concept by allowing users to tell their stories in 15 second videos.   The new feature presents an opportunity for brands to visually engage people in new and powerful ways.   The challenge though, is to make them useful and entertaining.

    It’s instructive for brands to think of Instagram videos in the same way that television journalists think of “standups” in their stories.  In this respect, I’ll interject “Blotz’s First Law of Standups.”   The law is simple:  standups need to teach, demonstrate, or make a visual connection.   It’s followed by Blotz’s Second Law of Standups:  when in doubt, refer to Law #1.

    Three brands in the past 24 hours have posted Instagram videos that mirror this best practice and serve as an instructive tool.   The first is NASA.  Yes, a government agency.   NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center created a wonderful Instagram visualization that teaches the viewer how the Apollo 8 astronauts witnessed the “Earthrise” 45 years ago this week. 

    Motives Cosmetics takes the concept a step further by producing an Instagram video that demonstrates how to apply various shades of its eye makeup.

    Finally, Coca-Cola, no stranger to the power of Instagram, created a pre-holiday video to make a visual connection between Christmas and unwrapping a Coke.

    The connection between these Instgram videos and Blotz’s Law is not far-fetched.  It’s what many are now calling “brand journalism.”  It’s storytelling, just in a different format on a different channel that’s primarily used for entertainment.

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