Monday, January 31, 2011

Social Media Lines Up for Super Bowl 2011

For those of us who live our lives in the world of social media, this Super Bowl stat is astonishing: E-Trade was the only advertiser among the 2009 and 2010 Super Bowl rosters to even add a tease to its Facebook or Twitter presence at the close of the ad, according to a study by Professors Chuck Tomkovick and Rama Yelkur quoted in Ad Age. Not so this year; in that article on Monday Ad Age headlines, “From Hashtags to Newsfeeds to Online Spots, Big Game Advertisers Tap Web 2.0 to Extend Buy.” (See also the Super Bowl coverage on their sidebar.)

We all know what the marketing game is. A 30-second Super Bowl ad has hovered around $3m for the past several years. That’s a lot for even the usual suspects like Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, and Intel. The companies go all out to “create buzz,” with increasing intensity during this, the week before the big game. They prolong it as much as possible with post-game critiques that rival that of the sports programming itself. Getting the most mileage out of those expensive TV ads by leveraging other media made sense in years past. It still does; it’s just that social media has been added to the mix.

See the video here
According to Ad Age and this good video on CNBC, there will be more ties to social media this year. Pepsi is running its usual Doritos “Crash the SuperBowl” contest. Pepsi Max has purchased a spot, after a year off for cause-related marketing and joined in the “Crash” contest. They are joined by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and even the Anheuser Busch Clydesdales and the ETrade baby. In reporting on this year’s advertising (with a good link to past ads), MSNBC says, “It’s a risky proposition for companies. A social media campaign has the potential to make your loyal customers even bigger fans, or draw in new customers. But companies also have to be prepared for the fact that they can’t control what people will write or tweet about them, positive or negative.” With due respect to MSNBC— big DUH!!! Any brand marketer who doesn’t already know that—and know how to deal with it—isn’t ready for the big leagues!

Coors Light is using mobile to hype its advertising using a Snap Tag on its in-store packaging. They’ve been testing this technology since spring and find it ready for the big game. It’s all about a mobile phone, a special icon, text messaging—and, of course, the ability to enter a contest and win a big prize. This article gives a good overview of how it works.

On the other hand, some brands are using the event to their advantage without actually buying an ad.

Papa John’s, who advertised last year, is taking a different approach this year. It’s giving away pizzas on game day. Of course, you have to register on their Facebook page to be eligible! But if what they told CNBC holds true and they spend about half a million dollars to put pizzas into 100,000 homes, is that a better expenditure than $3m for a TV ad? You call that one! And very important, how many fans will they add to the 1,501,026 they have now?

Bing is running a National Tailgating Championship that will culminate in Dallas this week. The first prize is “the coveted Golden Grill.” Oh, yeh? Actually, the whole thing is great fun with lots of snarky commentary like a set of contest guidelines (linked to the main contest site) full of legalese that essentially says that the judges will decide on the winner. Good for Microsoft and the Bing marketers for not taking themselves too seriously!

And most of all that master of Internet buzz The Old Spice Guy. He’s back and he’s watching the buzz about it on the web. One Super Fan will receive an early copy of the ad to be debuted the day after the Super Bowl. Oh, wow! That’s so delightfully arrogant that I’m watching for it. Stay tuned!

And I’m sure I’ve missed some other interesting or creative—or not—approaches. What else should we look for on Sunday?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stronger Evidence that Facebook Ads Work

I’ve commented before that my post last February about Facebook advertising effectiveness, “Do Facebook Ads Work?,” is by far the most visited post on this blog and it continues to draw traffic. I followed with one on targeting that I think is important, though it hasn’t been as popular. Every time I do some research on Facebook ads I find something that I didn’t previously understand. This time it’s “social context.” I had seen it, but I didn’t really understand its source or its value.

What started me thinking about it was recent articles on the growth in Facebook advertising. Tuesday’s eMarketer newsletter pointed to huge growth in Facebook ad revenue.
Commentary in AdAge that pointed out that, “what is surprising is the majority of revenue, 60% or $1.12 billion, was earned from smaller companies in 2010, those more likely to be using self-serve tools rather than work through a media agency. That's greater than the $740 million coming from major marketers like Coke, P&G or” In November, ComScore figures had revealed that Facebook was now the largest online display advertising publisher, with over 23% share.

Growth, of course, only implies advertising effectiveness; it does not document it. The most compelling piece of research (full document below) goes back to April, and after I read it several times, I began to understand the “social context” issue. Nielsen has identified three kinds of ads—ads with and without social content and organic impressions. Facebook doesn’t use this terminology in any of their advertising material that I can find. Facebook simply points out that all Facebook ad formats have the Like icon at the bottom to encourage social content. This page shows a homepage ad that has no social content. It also shows a homepage ad with social content; that happens if one of your friends has “liked” the brand. The final type is what Nielsen has termed an “organic impression,” a notice on the page of a friend of a user who has liked or engaged with the brand. Facebook uses the phrase “may appear on the news feed.” I couldn’t find out what “may” means here.

This chart from the same study shows that both types of ads with social content are more effective in recall, awareness and intent. Personally, that doesn’t surprise me because I tend to find myself paying attention to the names first and only secondarily to what they liked! Isn’t it human nature that when we see names of people we know, we pay attention? The study is brief, so page through it if you need more detail.

So how do you get more people to like your brand so they can appear in these ads? (Facebook’s privacy policy seems to give implicit permission for your name to be used when you like the brand. There is supposed to be a way to disable this feature, but I don’t know anyone who knows how to do it.) That makes the strategy issue for marketers getting more people to like their brand in the first place. And the best advice seems to be the simplest—just ask them! That’s what Virgin America is doing on the ads above. Going a step further, you can create something called a “reveal tab.” That allows you to make a members-only offer—to ask people to like your brand in order to get an incentive of some kind. These are two simple strategies that can add to your fan numbers.

And the point of all this is that the more fans you have, the more likely they are to show up as social context in your ads and as items on their friends news feed pages. That gives your ads the aura of being recommended by a friend of the viewer. And it has a high probability of making your ad more effective!

And so it goes in the wonderful world of Facebook!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Marketers Aren't Listening to the Voice of the Customer?*!

I find this data from today’s Center for Media Research newsletter so stunning that I’ll just quote it verbatim:

A new study by MarketTools revealed that 94% of companies do not yet use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to gather customer feedback, despite consumers' growing engagement with these mediums. The study found that the most common ways companies gather customer feedback are email/online surveys (51%), formal phone surveys (28%), and informal phone calls (28%).

As someone (and I doubt that I’m unique) who just refused to answer the email survey from the car manufacturer because I had already answered the one from the dealer and who uses ANI to select the phone calls I answer, I’m pretty sure these 94% of companies are missing the mark. While I’m engaging in self-revelation, I’ll also add that I don’t usually respond to emails for reviews of products I’ve just purchased. I do occasionally, and I would have done so for the car, had they asked me because it has one noticeable improvement over the model I previously owned. The car companies really have overdone the satisfaction surveys—especially since the sales and service people have been trained to ask customers not to say anything bad about them!!!—see #3 below and ponder. The rest of the data from the newsletter is also quoted verbatim:

1. 39% of executives surveyed said that their companies increased focus on customer satisfaction in 2010 versus 2009, with 21% stating that they invested more in customer satisfaction-related products and services in 2010 versus 2009
2. Despite the importance given to customer satisfaction, 14% of executives surveyed said their companies don't solicit customer feedback at all
3. 46% of the executives surveyed rate their company's performance on customer satisfaction in the top 10% when compared to their peer companies, and 93% rate themselves in the top 50% of peer companies.
4. Still, 56% of all respondents said their companies do not have, or are not sure if their companies have, a formal voice of the customer (VOC) program
5. Nearly one out of every four executives said that they seldom or never use customer feedback to change a business process.

I also have a personal perspective on #5. I made an online Christmas order for 9 items, none of which showed being out of stock. However, only 5 were shipped and the invoice listed 4 as out of stock (inventory failure). I was, however, billed for the total amount of the order (billing failure). I tried the call center several times to always find a lengthy wait. So I tried email—every day for one week plus some miscellaneous. I got 2 autoresponses for each email (marketing automation failure), but never a real response. My credit card took my word for it and refunded the difference. I wrote the above in considerably more detail to the operations VP. In the meantime, the company started refunding my money, one item at a time (another marketing automation failure)! The VP simply passed my email onto the call center manager, who has no responsibility for any of these things except possibly the wait time, although that’s probably a budget issue. But the VP got it off his desk, apparently happily ignoring the fact that it was business processes at fault, not customer service.

The opposite end of the spectrum is the social media mission control centers recently established by Pepsi’s Gatorade (video here) and by Dell. This 3-minute video is from the opening of Dell’s center with commentary by several industry experts.

Smaller companies/brands should not let the size of these “mission control” operations put them off. It’s a matter of scale and the listening issue of small brands is not the listening issue of Dell. Smaller brands, smaller companies need to think about their own processes, which I’ll lump under the Voice of the Customer rubric.

My recent personal experience says:

1. I would have done a customer review on the car because there was something (in this case favorable, though that’s not the issue) I’d like to point out to potential purchasers. I don’t care to waste my time checking Excellent on a mind-numbing set of Likert scales.
2. Even a VP can take a few seconds to acknowledge a customer email—even better to show that the real nature of the customer problem is recognized. This company is out about $25 in an undeserved refund—more important it permanently lost this customer!

How can you scale Dell’s and Gatorade’s listening activities to your brand? That’s the real issue and it can—and should be—dealt with! While they’re at it, corporate executives should come out of their protected cocoons and actually listen to the voice of the customer!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Marketers Must Do "Content Marketing"

It’s hard to work around the Internet without recognizing its endless appetite for content of all kinds. I’ve long told marketers that they have to “repurpose” content. Grammatical correctness aside, marketers cannot create entirely new content for each occasion, each channel. They need to repurpose the good content they have in one channel for use in other channels. Some of that is very simple—posting a TV ad on YouTube, for example. Others require more effort—creating a B2B webinar, for example. Both have one thing in common. There is already a great deal of content in almost all companies—on or off the web. The requirement is to identify it and repurpose it for other significant channels.

Joe Chernov’s Content Grid gives an indication of the complex possibilities of content channels today. It suggests several strategic issues. There are some types of content that are best used in the early (awareness) stages of the buying decision process and some better used later when the subject is moving closer to making a decision (consideration). There is also some content which is going to have single author/small group authorship (centralization). Some content is inherently multi-authored (decentralized). Some content should be under the careful control of corporate staff; some is open for comment or co-creation by external readers.

That still begs the question of what content marketing is. Here’s a definition from Joe Pulizzi, founder of Junta42:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action. . . content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling.

In another blog post, he describes content marketing as editorial-based, marketing-backed, behavior-driven, multi-platform and targeted.

It’s not about fluffy advertising messages; it is about content that adds value to the use of your product and therefore to your customer’s life.

There’s a final important issue related to content marketing—it’s not “one size fits all.” As Chernov’s grid indicates, potential customers at different stages in the buying process need different information. Early in the process a potential customer who is unfamiliar with your company and your products needs content that builds trust. When the prospect is getting close to making a decision she needs more specific information, perhaps a video demo of how the product can be used. Making a strategic assessment of how much content, to whom and when is the purpose of a content map. This map is stated in B2B terms, but it can easily be adapted to B2C.

A interesting example is Best Buy’s On network that went live in selected retail stores last week. The Best Buy On website has been up for awhile. It has a lot of product content that looks as if it might come from manufacturers, but it also produces its own exclusive content and takes advertising. The content, complete with ads, is now appearing in Best Buy stores. According to a Best Buy spokesperson speaking to BrandWeek :

The objective isn’t promotional, it’s around engagement with the product category or entertainment,” Bryan said. “Our quid pro quo with advertisers isn’t about [point-of-sale] lift. It’s a media placement.” Taking that approach, Best Buy On has managed to draw advertisers who don’t sell any products in stores, such as Procter & Gamble’s Swiffer mop and Tide’s energy-efficient detergents. Other advertisers, however, are the type you’d expect, including Panasonic, LG and Bose.

That’s interesting, but I think Stephen Shepard, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York summed it up best in a recent Ad Age article (subscription required). He said, "If they do a good job of it, it's welcome. I don't mind reading something from Best Buy, if it's fair and informative and honest."

That sums up the promise of content marketing; it will attract people who are looking for products you offer—or who will be someday! The degree to which it is persuasive will be determined by how informative and balanced it is and by the marketer’s ability to produce an ongoing stream of relevant content.