Lost in Translation: How NOT to Market in China

If you’re looking to reach China’s massive luxury goods market, you can’t just translate your ads into Chinese. Of course, good translations are very important and can help avoid unfortunate mistakes like that time Pepsi accidentally claimed to bring dead people back to life. But translations alone simply aren’t enough to be successful. The key to an effective communications plan for business opportunities abroad is cultural sensitivity.

China’s consumers have unique feelings about social status, relationships and even leisure activities that necessitate a tailored approach to advertising. If you don’t take the time to understand and then incorporate these tastes into your messaging, you will alienate your audience and eliminate ROI. You will also end up featured as a “Chinese Marketing Fail” on a fine blog like this one. On that note, here are three examples of brands that screwed up launching campaigns in China:

1. eBay

When eBay came to China in 2004, the brand hoped to take customers away from e-retailer Alibaba which at the time was helping small companies run online businesses. In an effort to dominate the market, eBay launched aggressive campaigns, even signing exclusive rights with major web portals that would block their competitors’ ads. It was a savage move that didn’t pay off and the reason they say “know your audience.” Because Alibaba executives recognized that China’s small business people preferred watching TV over surfing the Internet during their downtime. So they invested heavily in television campaigns promoting their new auction site, Taobao. These efforts soon made Taoboa a household name, allowing it to heavily outpace its American counterpart and forcing eBay to wave the white flag in 2006.

2. Home Depot

With home ownership on the rise in China, entering this market seemed like a no-brainer to Home Depot. But six years later, they managed to evict themselves. The company failed on several fronts including a lack of marketing that targeted Chinese women, who often make the final decisions about home décor purchases. Home Depot also greatly overestimated these consumers’ desires to “do it yourself,” a major messaging point in much of the brand’s advertising. Because manual labor is considered the trade of lower-class citizens, this was off-putting to new home buyers. By ignoring these important aspects of local culture, and trying to make middle class Chinese people do their own renovations, Home Depot never effectively connected with this audience.

3. Groupon

Despite spending a whopping $432 million on marketing, Groupon failed in China and it wasn’t because the people there didn’t want to pay deeply discounted prices for concert tickets and hair removal services. They already had successful group-buying sites. Groupon was unable to bite into that business due to a lack of cultural understanding reflected in many aspects of their downfall, from their inability to steal executive talent away from competitors to their difficulty trying to build vendor partnerships. Not only did they scare off prospects during sales pitches by demanding much higher percentages than typical of the market, they also insisted on using mass email campaigns to target business owners because this had worked for them when expanding into Europe. But because Chinese small business owners do not typically read such marketing emails, Groupon’s efforts in China fell flatter than an unstuffed dumpling.

Chinese consumers can differ greatly from those in America. Ultimately, if your organization wants to capitalize on advertising opportunities in China, you’ll make efforts to understand the needs and preferences of its citizens. Because as even some of the biggest U.S. brands like Pepsi have learned, cultural sensitivity can make or break a campaign…especially when you promise to reincarnate your consumers.


4 Reasons Your Startup Should Avoid Large PR Firms

There are so many justifications as to why a startup should hire a public relations firm that doing so is basically a no-brainer. After all, why wouldn’t you look to a team of seasoned experts able to approach what you’re selling from an objective, outside perspective rather than rely on your internal team members who don’t have the same range of experience or ability to overcome myopic points of view enabled by an emotional proximity to a pitch? Not doing so would just be silly.

But when it comes to selecting an agency, some serious thought must go into the size of the organization you choose. Here are four important reasons why a boutique firm is better equipped to handle your startup:

1. Big firms mean less attention.

Would you rather date somebody who already has a wide variety of demanding, high-maintenance significant others or someone who has time for you? Large PR agencies care less about doing everything they can to promote a small client and far more about the giant brands they can bill up to $30k per month. But ultimately, the joke is on them. Because boutique public relations firms know that hitting smaller accounts as hard as possible is what someday turns startups into huge, powerful brands.

2. Big firms have high turnover.

You should never get too attached to your account team at a large PR agency because chances are, they won’t always be your account team. Big firms are a revolving door for young, overworked talent which means these reps never have the time it takes to truly learn your industry. That makes your business their resume fodder. New public relations agents at huge organizations are more concerned with amazing startup launches they can reference during future job interviews than they are with building realistic and sustainable long-term strategies.

3. Big firms can play favorites.

As a small startup represented by a large agency, you’re a little fish in a big pond. And no agent wants his picture taken holding a guppy when there’s a 300-pound Marlin available for the shot. With the scale of clientele it takes to support a big PR firm, there will always be competitive clients on their roster that may be handed media opportunities before you are. Smaller firms are more likely to ensure that each of their clients is getting the available coverage that they deserve, regardless of their retainer size.

4. Big firms face bureaucracy.

One of the best things about small PR agencies is their ability to be nimble, pivoting as necessary to take advantage of breaking news and evolving trends that can be leveraged to promote a startup. But at large firms, anything truly innovative must often go through several levels of approval before it can be executed. Cutting through all that red tape inevitably takes up time that allows fantastic opportunities to quickly pass by.

When it comes to finding the right PR firm to represent your business, be sure to look past the established names and check out smaller agencies that will truly have your best interests at heart. Boutique agencies are not so far removed from the struggles startups face and are more likely to view themselves as a partner rather than just a paid ally of your organization.


3 Ways Augmented Reality Marketing Can Modernize Traditional Consumer Experiences

In a world of digitized transactions, face-to-face commerce can feel downright old school. We’ve grown accustomed to the convenient wealth of information available to us as part of the online consumer journey. Of course, this has made a web presence imperative to every successful marketing strategy. But there are plenty of industries which still rely heavily on in-person interactions. Fortunately, these established touchpoints can now leverage augmented reality (AR) technology to create customized engagement opportunities able to compete with the unique experiences brands can offer via the Internet.

AR is a real-time view of the physical world that has been altered with computer-generated stimuli such as graphics, video or sound. AR marketing enhances consumer encounters with personalized content that fosters a meaningful connection. And it can do so across industries where live exchanges with consumers inevitably mean more revenue. Here are three traditional in-person experiences that could stand to benefit from the modernization inherent in augmented reality.

1. Brick and mortar shops.

With competition from delivery services like Peapod and AmazonFresh, customer retention is of utmost importance to conventional grocery stores. Some chains have rolled out loyalty cards to satisfy their customers’ needs by tracking and offering discounts on frequently purchased items…and to give their cashiers more things to ask you about during checkout. According to Supermarket News, when retailers use shopper data mined from such programs and apply it to pricing, promotions and assortment, they can see a 4%-7% increase in gross profits.

Now imagine a customer loyalty platform which allows access to additional layers of purchaser information by incorporating augmented reality marketing in the form of personalized touchpoints that build a bond between the consumer and retailer. A PwC poll showed that 52% of respondents felt the in-store experience is a major feature that brings them back. So an app that scans the produce section, offering tips to help pick the freshest fruits and vegetables, or gives meal prep advice and side dish suggestions when selecting meats would give the store a competitive edge over its e-retailer counterparts by adding value to the shopping trip.

2. The real estate industry.

The real estate industry could use AR technology to take the home buying experience to the next level. Currently, agents spend up to $2,500 “staging” a property for potential purchasers by making it look like a cozy and comfortable model home, not unlike you do the first time you plan to invite a date back to your place. Tactics may include depersonalizing and decluttering or minimalizing furniture to show off the size of the space. By positioning a property in its best possible light, it will spend 72 percent less time on the market and generally sell for more money according to the Real Estate Staging Association.

But what if staging could be customized based on applying buyer preferences with augmented reality technology? A family likely to update a traditional home with modern design elements could view these modifications through a realtor’s AR app, or they could turn what was a basic guest room into an inviting children’s playroom by seeing bright colors on the walls and an overflowing toy chest. An empty backyard could be altered with images of a perfectly placed fire pit or a party-friendly pool and hot tub. By offering these visualizations, augmented reality tools can take buyers beyond the limitations of virtual video tours, actively making a house for sale feel less like someone else’s space and more like their very own dream home.

3. Entertainment and event marketing.

An effective hashtag can be crucial to promoting an event as these callouts help attendees organize their experiences and stay virtually connected to the occasion, which is why bridezillas now agonize over generating the perfect one. Better still is for marketers to actually provide participants with unique content they can share via social media to pique their friends’ and followers’ interest in what they’re up to.

An augmented reality application could easily place the image of a concert-goer on center stage right next to the performer, allowing them to forgo the expensive meet and greet tickets to get virtually up close and personal with their favorite singer or band. Similar technology could layer a photo of an excited football fan into a shot of the end zone without the risk of getting tackled by players twice his size. By including a feature that allows these generated photos to be screengrabbed and shared straight to Facebook, Instagram, etc. the interactivity of the event has been heightened with unique pictures far surpassing the average cell phone shots taken at concerts and games. Given that a Ticketfly study showed that almost a third of 18-34-year-olds are using their phones during half of an event or longer, organizers can and should be using AR to steer this usage in a way that will help sell future tickets.

From small businesses to large events, a variety of traditional industries could stand to benefit from these unprecedented augmented reality marketing opportunities. The sky truly is the limit, and it could very easily be augmented, by any organizations willing to take advantage of AR.


3 Keys to Creating the Right Augmented Reality Marketing Experience

“Augmented Reality” presents a world of opportunities just waiting to be visually altered by smart brands taking advantage of this multi-dimensional tool for enhancing user experiences. Studies have shown that over 60% of consumers see clear benefits in using AR technology in their daily lives, and there are now hundreds of AR startups on AngelList with an average valuation of $4.6 million.

Enriching the physical landscape with imagery and videos in real-time is both attention-grabbing and memorable, the pinnacle of marketing campaign effectiveness. But to reach the ultimate trifecta of ROI it also needs to be build a connection between the brand and the consumer. Here are some of the best practices now commonly used to create augmented reality content that drives the highest levels of engagement.

1. Building It

The first thought that comes to mind when you hear “augmented reality” may be a giant head-mounted display that takes away from the coolness factor of being an early adopter. After all, people had some choice things to say about the first wearers of Google Glass. But AR technology can be used on all sorts of screens including less cumbersome mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The easiest and most cost-effective way for brands to get into this space is by utilizing an existing augmented reality viewer to build a campaign. This allows for testing the waters to learn what consumers respond to best before investing time and money into building your own app which can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $700,000 for high-level functionalities.

2. Perfecting It

Once you’ve established the right technology to wow your audiences it’s time to determine how you’ll encourage users to interact with their environment. Brands that have gone all in on AR campaigns will utilize mapping technology to let consumers virtually try on makeup or they’ll gamify a day at a theme park to make it somehow even more stimulating. But on the most fundamental level, augmented reality viewers are designed to simply place virtual objects in the real world, making this innovative technology well-suited to liven up even the most basic ad offerings like direct mail campaigns.

3. Promoting It

With the pieces in place to launch your augmented reality campaign, the final step is driving audiences to interact with it. Simply put, people won’t accidentally open an augmented reality viewer and take a look at your content. The only way users are going to know you have an AR experience is if you make sure they get that message loud and clear. That is why all the most successful AR marketing programs have one thing in common – strong calls to action. Virtually every consumer touchpoint should contain a reminder that an app on their device can expose them to a whole new world of exclusive content.

With predictions that augmented reality could hit $120 billion in revenue by 2020, now is the time for your brand to explore the technology and get comfortable using it. By making smaller investments while learning what works best to reach your consumers, you’ll have mastered the art of the AR campaign by the time all those AngelList startups have matured into the marketplace.


Team EI Dives into the New Year

In 2017, we hit the ground running by celebrating a new year with new innovations brought to you by a team of trendsetters dedicated to disrupting our clients’ industries. Not only have we been busy capitalizing on the latest and greatest digital technologies to help our customers see incredible growth but we’ve also successfully assisted with some of their world-renowned exits. Now before we get back to work, let’s take a quick break to let you know what Emerging Insider has been up to.

1. Welcome to the Not So Real World

Augmented Reality isn’t just a buzzword, it’s the Next Big Thing for advertisers looking to create unprecedented consumer experiences by using computer-generated stimuli such as graphics or sound to modify live views of the physical world. Here at EI, we’ve been evangelizing organizations that are leveraging AR in compelling new ways while also exploring how our clients can (ahem) alter the landscape by integrating this groundbreaking technology into their marketing mix. To learn more, check out our research highlighted by Forbes.

2. Scaling the Great Wall of China

One of the most exciting additions to our existing lineup of offerings is a range of services now available to help your brand reach Asian audiences. To our extensive, established PR experience, we’ve added a team of cutting edge advertising agents on the ground in Shanghai who will enable a smooth (guānghuá) and easy (jiǎndān) entry into a market with incredible potential. Read a synopsis of the amazing opportunities available in China on our Emerging Insider Blog then learn more about our capabilities here.

3. “Old” is the New “New”

EI has been working not only with new media innovators but also traditional mediums evolving to provide entertainment to audiences both niche and worldwide. As consumers’ tastes and consumption patterns change, we’re paying close attention to what sells so that we can find unique ways to monetize marketing opportunities in even the most conventional formats. We even shared some thoughts on the future of entertainment’s past with CNBC.

In addition to all these exciting new ways we can represent your business, we continue to be the tried and true leading firm for B2B organizations in the tech marketing space, representing TV and video visionaries along with cybersecurity and, of course, a variety of startups. At Emerging Insider, we are constantly striving to enhance our abilities to produce inspiring work. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll get right back to that.

 

 


Introducing…..EI Asia!

Emerging Insider, already the international communications firm for brands and startups around the globe, is scaling the Great Wall to establish a team of agents with expertise in creating culturally appropriate marketing content that resonates with Chinese audiences. That’s right! We’re headed east. Way east. Here is everything you need to know about our exciting new operations in China…

WHAT WE’LL DO: We’ll make your entrance into this huge consumer market simple and painless. You don’t even have to learn Chinese! We’ll handle everything, including the translations, while introducing your offerings through:

Public Relations
SEO/SEM
Design
Native Advertising
Mobile Advertising

From WeChat to Baidu, we understand how to navigate some of the world’s largest social media and eCommerce sites to ensure you’re building relationships with customers ready and willing to spend their hard-earned yuan on your products or services.

WHERE WE’LL BE: Our agents are on the ground in Shanghai, where they have established relationships with media partners and platforms able to serve up your messaging with a distinctly Asian flair sure to connect with Chinese consumers.

WHY THIS MAKES SENSE: Because we love Chinese food. And because with the world’s biggest population, second largest GDP, a rapidly growing middle class and unparalleled affluence, China is the place to be for brands and startups seeking unlimited growth opportunities. We’re ready when you are and happy to put together a plan that will take your intercontinental marketing efforts to the next level.

At Emerging Insider, we have always prided ourselves on providing PR and advertising services to organizations across the B2B and B2C landscapes. Now we’d like to help you take your marketing communications across the Atlantic.

To take advantage of this chance to reach a new audience within the world’s largest growing economy contact asia@emerginginsider.com.

 

 

 

 


5 Marketing Tactics to Reach Chinese Real Estate Investors

The U.S. real estate market is well on its way to recovering from the 2008 collapse and in part, has China to thank. In 2015, according to a study from the Asia Society and Rosen Consulting Group, Chinese investors pumped $37.1 billion into American commercial and residential properties. By 2020, that total is projected to reach a staggering $218 billion.

As the population of China’s high net worth individuals continues to grow at rates which exceed the world average, American real estate agents can capitalize on their known propensity to invest in opportunities abroad. Here are some ways that you can be sure potential Chinese investors will keep you in mind when looking for overseas properties.

1. Establish a Presence

Studies have shown that about 45% of Chinese consumers learn about products through social channels, websites or blogs so it’s crucial that you utilize these owned touchpoints to connect with buyers. Customized landing pages featuring well-designed listings give your brand credibility and blogs are great for educating investors about what you’re selling. Social media is now an absolute necessity as it’s ideal for interacting directly with prospects. The key is to make yourself accessible. Because if your exes can’t track you down on the Internet, then your buyers won’t be able to find you either.

2. Know the Influencers

Luxury brands have found great success leveraging the impact that online influencers have on Chinese consumers, not only by utilizing key opinion leaders but also by working with “Micro-Influencers” who enjoy fewer but more devoted enthusiasts. China has the largest population in the world so marketing to its entirety is like casting your net in a giant ocean. Instead try hitting a much smaller pond by targeting the niche audiences of lesser known fan favorites. You should seek out and then build a relationship with a personality that has some established following as well as expertise in applicable areas like real estate, architecture, etc.

3. Be Culturally Sensitive

Though Chinese buyers often purchase American properties sight unseen, they are known for being cautious consumers. To help them feel comfortable, you should be aware of their customs and prepare to answer their questions in appropriate ways. You should also tailor your pitch to ensure it resonates with this audience or, more importantly, that it doesn’t scare them off. For instance, the number 4 is a homonym for the word “death” in Chinese. So you should avoid using this number whenever possible in pricing or marketing materials lest these targets associate your listings with their own demise. Ultimately, educating yourself on the specific needs and spending habits of China’s luxury goods consumers will pay off when it comes time to close long-distance deals.

4. Climb the Firewall

Targeting Chinese investors means working around China’s very strict laws about Internet content and usage. For example, your marketing efforts should avoid incorporating platforms such as YouTube, instead using Chinese video hosting sites like Youku, Qiyi or Tudou. You’ll also want to make sure your site is optimized for Baidu, China’s version of Google. And as for that social media presence we suggested you establish, consider building one on popular networking sites like WeChat or Weibo. Just be sure to keep in mind that half of all Chinese citizens use the Internet, so presenting unique content is imperative to cutting through the clutter. For example, because these consumers have shown to be drawn to narratives about things like love and success, consider incorporating such forms of storytelling to make your listings come to life and draw prospects into your pitches.

5. Embrace Mobile Marketing

China is now home to over 1.3 billion mobile users and nearly everyone in the country owns a cell phone. Therefore it’s no surprise that mobile advertising spends make up over 22% of total ad spends there, a higher level than any other market in the world. When building out your Chinese marketing strategy, be sure to include mobile marketing opportunities that will showcase your available properties to investors on the go.

Given that in 2015, the average price for an American home purchased by Chinese buyers was $831,000, this is a group clearly ready and willing to make large investments in U.S. real estate and one that you should absolutely target with culturally appropriate efforts that will reach potential consumers in China.


Advertising Do’s and Don’ts of Chinese Consumer Culture

With its rapidly growing middle class and their increasing disposable incomes, it’s easy to understand why your organization should consider advertising in China. But it’s quite difficult for a brand to effectively expand into this market with no knowledge of its unique customs and tastes. Once you’ve established a budget for your marketing yuan and figured out the differences between Renren and Tencent, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the cultural distinctions that could make or break your interactions with Chinese consumers.

1. DO present e-commerce opportunities.

Increased access to smartphones and social media among the country’s burgeoning middle class means the Chinese are now able to buy products online…and that they’re even more glued to their devices than we are. Pricewaterhousecoopers found that 75% of consumers in China shop online weekly, compared with a global average of 21%.

2. DON’T forget about “Singles’ Day.”

This Chinese shopping holiday was supposedly started by university students celebrating their independence by buying themselves presents on November 11th. While American retailers focus on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, Chinese brands know Singles’ Day is their time to cash in, with $20 billion in sales projected for 2016.

3. DO understand the importance of relationships.

Confucius knew his stuff and based on the principles of Confucianism, the Chinese value harmonious relationships. Therefore, they may respond better to marketing messages that place emphasis on family and friendships as opposed to those accentuating individual pride and autonomy.

4. DON’T ignore your new customer feedback.

Chinese consumers rely heavily on product recommendations from online reviews and are very likely to post their own. With over 200 million users, China’s Dianping could give Yelp a run for its money. According to Forbes, about 75% of all online users provide purchase feedback at least once a month, compared to less than 20% in the U.S.

5. DO take advantage of their tastes.

Tmall.com is China’s largest website for authentic branded goods and its shopping patterns indicate that Chinese consumers choose American brands for several reasons including better quality, product safety and lack of domestic availability. In fact, per a report from the Boston Consulting Group, 61% of China’s consumers are willing to pay more for a product made in the U.S. so if you sell it, they will come.

Due to the distinct behaviors of its consumers, entering the Chinese market may at first seem daunting. But by adopting a culturally sensitive approach to marketing, outside brands can capitalize on the opportunity to expand into this lucrative emerging market.


5 Key Facts About Chinese Luxury Goods Marketing

As the Chinese middle and upper classes enjoy increased disposable income, their tastes have grown more expensive. In 2015, luxury good spending in mainland China reached $19.3 billion or about 31% of the global market. But before you rush to get your pricey products listed on Alibaba or Tmall, consider these interesting facts about Chinese buyers willing to shell out more yuan for international indulgences.

1. They’re not just shopping in China.
Many Chinese consumers now buy luxury items in Europe and other parts of Asia, where lower taxes make prices significantly cheaper than in the mainland. In fact, it was estimated that 80% of China’s total luxury spending was made overseas in 2015. Though efforts are being made to slow down the “gray market” that has arisen for international purchases, for now Chinese travelers are as likely to buy expensive items abroad as they are cheap souvenirs.

2. It isn’t about logos.
Chinese consumers have evolved beyond simply loving labels, so brand alone no longer determines a product’s success in this market. A survey conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners showed that China’s luxury buyers now place the highest value on product quality (74%), style (70%) and comfort (70%) when making fashion purchases, while Bain & Company found that 39% of wealthy Chinese don’t find logos to be a priority. That collective sigh you hear in the distance is from Louis Vuitton’s marketing department.

3. The consumers are younger than you’d think.
The average age of Chinese luxury consumers, at home or abroad, is 33.1 years. And more than 80% of all Chinese luxury consumers are between the ages of 25 and 44. This is a generation of shoppers that has grown up on luxury marketing campaigns and which embraces the concept of “Treat Yo’ Self.” But in China they call it Singles’ Day.

4. The Internet is where you’ll find them.
Chinese consumers are quite likely to research luxury brands on the Internet or apps, and are open to developing a relationship that goes beyond the point of sale with the companies behind them. Albatross Global Solutions found that about 75% of China’s most affluent consumers follow brands online and that almost 90% of them want to be contacted by brands they have purchased. Organizations now take advantage of these stats by allocating about 35% of their marketing budget to digital efforts, and that number is growing.

5. The brand story matters.
According to McKinsey&Company, Chinese consumers are now finding that the allure of luxury products can be driven by a brand’s cultural heritage. For that reason, outside luxury brands have found success in promoting their history and craftsmanship as selling points. But there’s also something to be said for assimilation as one-third of luxury consumers expressed a preference for items that incorporated Chinese imagery or that were designed specifically for China.

Thanks to rising incomes, the availability of products online and more openness towards displaying wealth, Chinese consumers now feel increasingly comfortable investing in luxury items. This presents an incredible opportunity for marketers accustomed to targeting less cost-conscious consumers if they’re willing to take the time to understand the nuances of this growing market.


Bread_Cat2

Is Content Marketing Dead?

In 2016, winding your way around the World Wide Web feels less like surfing the Internet and more like an acid trip. Once a place where marketers felt comfortable presenting carefully curated content has become an assault of seemingly random sights and sounds driven to virality by the curious enjoyment of consumers. Sure the typical tales of the Kardashians, their romances and their stolen jewelry will likely remain a part of the mainstream media’s messaging, but it’s far more aberrant posts which are rising to the top of trending stories, where they find more staying power than can be bought with millions of brand dollars.

“Content Shock,” or the theory that a person can only consume so much content, is no longer just a scary hypothetical addition to the marketer’s lexicon. It has been with us for quite some time and grows increasingly apparent to those who pay attention to what goes viral. People have become so inundated with communications, be they push marketing or branded content, native or social, that linear ideas and images no longer hold the same magic they did less than a decade ago. These three trends showcase the psychology of social virality in a world where content marketers are dead and “differentiation agents” will have to take their place to ensure impactful messaging moving forward:

  1. Cat Breading: The Birth of Non-Linear Marketing

There are few forces more powerful to marketers than that of novelty and intrigue. Neurobiologists have even found a region of the midbrain referred to as its “novelty center” which responds to unique stimuli by activating the release of dopamine. But despite their best efforts, many advertisers are unable to inspire these emotions in consumers even while heavily investing in creative pieces designed to break the mold. That’s because even their most original offerings are no match for a picture of a cat with a piece of bread around its head.

What began as a Tumblr post in 2011 and became the subject of a South Park episode in 2012 is still available as a Snapchat filter option in 2016, without any sort of branded promotional dollars behind it. Why? Because bread cats are non-linear, if not downright absurd, and for that reason they demand attention and inspire loyalty. Their novelty is intriguing to a population tired of being bombarded by far more purposeful content provided by advertisers. To really be heard, modern marketers need to take a step back from deliberate attempts at established variation, instead looking towards ideas that use confusion to their own advantage by inspiring the strange delight of consumers.

  1. Boaty McBoatface: The Power of Crowdsourced Humor

Super Bowl ads still drive a relatively engaged audience at scale due to carefully scripted, humor-based creative formats with celebrity power baked in at an opportune time. But these expensive marketing efforts can pale in comparison to the amount of earned media that can be garnered by a crowdsourced non-advertisement. Consider the Internet frenzy created in May when a British government agency decided to let netizens decide the name of a $287 million research vessel.

Quicker than virtually any brand-driven call to action could inspire, hundreds of thousands of voters flocked to support the moniker “Boaty McBoatface” and organic virality was instantly achieved, with the naming convention still showing up in nominations for more recent, similar contests. The force at work driving the popularity of this concept is its open-ended, unscripted opportunity for humor. When audiences are allowed to determine the direction the content takes rather than having it forced upon them, they respond. The lesson to marketers here is a deep one. The Internet doesn’t just want freedom of expression. It wants control over the direction the conversation takes. It wants to decide, rather than be told, what is funny and brands may benefit from incredible viral potential by letting it making such choices.

  1. Buzzfeed Basics: The Switch from Bigger Pictures to Smaller Ones

The media has changed in far greater ways than just a shift to digital content. This evolution is reflected not only in how stories are being shared but also by what is being talked about. Today’s most widely circulated news/entertainment websites now offer many narratives driven by random people in unusual situations, with articles like “A Raccoon Stole This Guy’s Phone and The Hilarious Chase Was Caught On Video” enabling Buzzfeed to become the most popular viral site month after month. That so many highly read stories are now quick-fire tales of circumstances with absolutely no relevance outside of an entertaining diversion demonstrates how popular content is becoming reflective of the self-involved generation which is consuming it. To combat this gap between what audiences want and what brands are able to offer, marketers need to realize they will lose relevance if they rely on pushing their clients’ established storylines, instead engaging the media with unique assets more appealing to journalists’ current desire to cover the little things.

Certainly, creating unique content remains an important aspect of a communications strategy, but unless consumers’ needs for authentic virality drivers are taken into account, all of the marketing dollars in the world are no match for the psychology which leads consumers to crave non-linear randomness in what messages they find worthwhile.