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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Let’s be honest, everyone has heard of Facebook… Even my dog knows about Facebook! If you don’t, then you should know that my dog is cooler than you. Today Facebook is the biggest social network in the world and has been around since 2004. That’s a long stinking time! FB grows more each week and there is literally always something new being pushed out into this weird social sphere, and I know it is hard to keep up.
For personal use, it’s a great way to connect with new people, stay in touch with old friends, co-workers and family. But what I prefer to use it for is…BUSINESS. Surprise, Surprise. EVERY BUSINESS and or COMPANY SHOULD HAVE A FACEBOOK PAGE. For starters, it is free exposure for your company but you can also choose to pay to promote it within this giant platform. Potential clients/customers are able to like or rate your page in a way that somewhat resembles a Yelp profile.
It also gives you access to all your analytics so you track every click, like, and other activity on your FB page. Not only have I used FB for heavy-duty businesses but also for SMBs like local restaurants. It doesn’t matter how big or small the business is, if you keep up with the page and put actual effort into it then you will get your brand’s name out there. Nothing ticks me off more than people complaining that their posts or their page doesn’t have enough likes. Well, maybe it’s because you aren’t committed to the page. How can you expect a random person to like a page that has no effort put into it? BE SMART PEOPLE. This is why companies have social media moderators. They have one or two specific people whose job is to make the FB along with all other social pages absolutely amazing and cohesive to direct traffic to each page. You must utilize free social media and anyone who says they don’t have time is a freaking liar. With social media available right on your phone no one should be excused and it only take a few minutes a day.
Now go get your likes people!
Earlier today my co-workers and I had a 10-minute conversation on the difference between affect and effect. I was just about to send out a pitch when I noticed the green squiggly line of death so I asked my co-workers who were correct – Word or me. Summer hopped on Google, found the answer and informed me that Word was correct… shocker. She continued to read out loud saying that because there is so much confusion around identifying the difference between “affect” and “effect”, more people have started using “impact” instead.
It’s not uncommon for me to switch out words from one that I know sounds more intelligent to a word that’s easier to spell but it shocked me that this is a fairly common practice. Its pure laziness of course, I mean Google and Thesaurus.com are always at my fingertips. Despite being raised with spellcheck and smartphones we should never dumb ourselves down. Perhaps our generation just doesn’t care. We’ve been able to cheat our way through a lot of things older generations couldn’t.
I remember my mother telling me stories about typing papers for English class in high school on her typewriter. If she messed up one word she would have to retype the entire thing. That sounds like a living hell to me. I would have been so frustrated everyday, especially working in PR.
We truly are blessed with the technology at our hands. We are obliged to use the tools we have to help ourselves. Google it, ask Siri, literally anything. Don’t let yourself be dumbed down when you can easily and quickly find the correct words on your phone, tablet or laptop.
Lots of love,
When was the last time you got excited about direct mail?
When you think of direct mail you hardly think of something immersive or engrossing, since the experience is most often limited to what you’re seeing in your hand or on a surface in front of you.
However, with a virtual reality (VR) direct mail viewer you can turn every phone into a conversation with your experience right in the middle of it.
So far VR has shown that it can effectively help people visualize the future, spark empathy, grasp more complex concepts, and communicate stories in compelling ways.
For example, VR has the potential to help us become “better people”.
When VR direct mail is a good opportunity
I’m regularly tasked with thinking of new marketing experiments to capture value for a new product or business. Often these experiments look at testing marketing channels like email, search engine and social media to help the buyer along the buyer journey.
Direct mail is rarely one of these channels. However, direct mail with virtual reality capabilities has moved into an experiment worth considering if certain conditions are met:
- You’re a business with a mailing list that is current and targeted.
- You have a high degree of certainty the recipient fits the characteristics of a high probability buyer or influencer like an existing member, employee, donor, etc.
- The expected benefit of the experiment is greater than the cost of running the experiment.
- The expected benefit = increase in a key metric x probability of success.
Expected benefits of VR direct mail
An expected benefit is likely greater in a VR direct mail campaign when aimed further down the funnel like a new purchase, increase size of purchase and/or shortening of the purchase cycle. It could also be targeting referrals or even just retention.
Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to report on what direct mail has long been measured against, like response rates, cost per lead and cost per acquisition, which includes cost per unit plus all the other costs to produce and manage the campaign.
Since VR direct mail is a digital medium, it can provide insights from the analytics that might factor into the expected benefits you seek. Analytics in VR technology is, unsurprisingly, focused primarily on eye-tracking heat maps. An eye heat map data visualization helps to understand where people are most engaged throughout the experience. This data also provides meaningful clues to what viewers might be missing that you originally intended for them to see or spend more time on items you may not deem relevant. It is ideal to do some testing prior to mailing because the data itself can inform you to make better decisions in other marketing efforts.
Some VR campaigns include video so expect standard video analytics to be a part of measuring engagement.
Risks to avoid when using VR Direct Mail
New technology often gets sucked into the trap of coming across as gimmicky if not done correctly. It is wise to fully adapt and take advantage of the strengths of the medium. If your work is not contributing to the overall enhancement of the experience, then you shouldn’t use it.
Avoiding the Gimmicky Trap:
- VR is not about putting products into alluring 3-D spaces but building an engaging experience.
- The idea is not to have someone look at an advertisement for a bit longer than they typically would. The experience should be exploratory. The user should be in control of the experience, not the advertiser.
Suggested campaign types
Keeping the buying process in mind, here are some suggestions on what to consider when creating, not only an exciting experience, but a meaningful expected benefit for your first VR direct mail campaign.
- Interactive Tours — Let your customers choose their own adventure while their data tells you how to plan your roadmap.
- VR Post Cards in Giftshops — Your special exhibits can be brought home to share and cherish as collectible designs.
- Supercharged Showroom — Customers can look under the hood with just a glance and schedule a test drive before the dealer even opens.
- 3D Model Previews — Invite your VIPs to the grand opening and let them pre-order your reserve stock.
- Contextual Surveys — Know what your customers really want so you can offer incentives that truly make an impact.
- Attention Research — Learning what draws your audience’s eyes during a screening let’s you change the story before it ever goes to market.
- Mass Customization — Speak to every fan through custom covers and original content synced to each card.
- Event Updates — If your customers already have a VR Card, keep the conversation going with fresh content and incentives before the big day.
Hands on examples of how VR can win over an audience
Virtual reality can help you communicate “a day in the life” experience in a very effective way. Here are two examples:
- Planned Parenthood created a VR film ‘Across the Line’ to effectively communicate “the experience of verbal harassment the organization’s employees and patients routinely endure on the way to a clinic’s front door.”
- The Golden State Warriors pitched Kevin Durant with a VR tour of the team’s practice facility and new stadium.
Where to go from here
If you are on a tight budget you could look to VR direct mail to deliver a meaningful impact. Consider all campaign types and review the optimal conditions listed above to determine if you’re in a good position to pitch this type of campaign in a future marketing experiment.
Best of luck!
Interested in learning more about virtual reality? Take a look at the VR AR industry from inside.com which recently included this handy summary on the future of VR.
By 2020 there will be around 42 million VR headsets globally and this will revolutionize the business world, from making hardware type televisions obsolete to letting people attend live concerts from their living rooms. – THE DRUM
Mitchell Posada, Founder & Senior Product Consultant of LeanStart.io
Mitchell Posada runs a CMO as A Service consulting firm LeanStart.io focused on scaling tech-enabled businesses. Mitch has spent most of his career launching digital products and helping businesses leverage technology and process innovation to transform brands and increase ROI. Mitch is known for his Product and Growth strategy and execution consulting to dozens of start-ups in mobile, IoT, digital marketplaces, and sports. Mitch is currently a mentor at 2112inc.com, MatterChicago.com, 1871.com, Super G Accelerator, and Xberts.com. Formerly VP of Marketing at PathfinderSoftware.com, a healthcare software development company. Prior experience with large enterprise includes DHL WorldWide, WellsFargo, Best Buy, AdMob/Google, Humana, Nestle, HP, and IDT Telecom. Mitch earned his M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley.
So let’s talk about LinkedIn.
In case you don’t have a LinkedIn account then you should probably slap yourself for not getting one sooner. LinkedIn is a site and social app where professionals can connect with other professionals around the world. By creating an account you can add connections, follow groups, share news, write posts, and one of the most important things you can do is display your professional profile for others to see!
This is where you get to brag. You can post your education, hobbies, show people how you spend your free time, show your portfolio, your recent work history, your past titles and your current position. Your connections can endorse your skills to make you look freaking awesome.
It all starts with a basic profile and then through the years you just keep building your connections and your profile. As a freshman in college I had to create a LinkedIn account. Despite the fact that I only had a few work-related occupations my professors told me “the earlier you start, the better”.
This is the most professional way you can contact someone. If you can get one thing out of this rant, goodness gracious create a LinkedIn and try to add people at least three to four times a week. It will pay off in the end, especially if you are networking for a new position or looking to hire someone. It is a network with endless information and opportunities.
Get your copy here
EI Industry Insight – The Maturation of Virtual Reality
Q2 is in the books and our clients have not shown any signs of slowing down! Take a look at what our clients have brought to the media in the past quarter.
Entrepreneur – 4 Digital Marketing Wins From This Year’s Presidential Candidates
Forbes – What Snapchat Means For The Future Of Social Media
MarketingLand – Look out for the MosQUito
CMO – Six Trends Every Marketer Needs To Consider
Washington Post – Klinsmann and U.S. soccer team set for Copa America
Elite Daily – EDM Festivals May Actually Be Dying Out
About.com – Copa America Centenario: Travel Guide for America’s Soccer Championship
AdWeek – Survey: Facebook Is the Preferred Network for Video Sharing
Forbes – Don’t Underestimate Humor, Authenticity Or Facebook … For Now
HubSpot – 10 Excellent Examples of Video Marketing on Facebook
The Drum – Furious survey: Netflix and YouTube biggest threats to traditional cable
RapidTVNews – Online, TV consumption co-existing – for now
With: Alexandra Thielke, Co-Founder of Twentyfive & Thirty
After this year’s installment of Cannes Lions, we had the pleasure to do a 1-on-1 interview with the co-founder of “world-traveling” agency Twentyfive & Thirty, Alexandra Thielke. Haven’t heard of the 2-person creative agency? Check out their feature in AdWeek!
Here’s the scoop:
Was this your first time at Cannes Lions? Would you agree that this festival is the most rewarding annual event creative professionals can attend?
“This was our 3rd time at Cannes Lions. This is definitely an inspiring event to attend for all creative professionals. This event sets the tone of what is trending and what will be the tendencies in the year to come. So many inspiring people are gathered to share and discuss their point of view of the creative industry. We believe that this is one of the most educating events you can possibly attend.”
In 3 words, please describe this year’s festival.
“International. Inspiring. Rosé.”
Major brands like Burger King and John Lewis brought home the Lions Grand Prix. Out of all participating campaigns, which one stood out to you the most?
“The Swedish number – A campaign created for the Swedish Tourist Association, where they made a number anyone in the world can call to ask about Sweden, which will be connected to any random Swede who have signed up to participate and represent their native country.”
“Breast cancer awareness – The Manboobs campaign takes on social media censorship of female breasts by demonstrating how to do a breast self-exam using a man. We just thought it was so well made, clever and hilarious!”
What was the overarching topical theme at this year’s festival? What was the buzz?
“Virtual reality and 360 video was to be found everywhere – It is really taking off! Passion that beats talent, and the collaboration between agencies and clients was a strong topic at this year’s festival as well”
Cannes Lions always attracts a plethora of celebrities. From Will Smith to Martha Stewart. Would you say that any of this year’s keynote speakers managed to capture what branding and creativity means today?
“Absolutely. One of our favorites was Will Smith. Besides his amazing ability to capture his audience and set a relaxed “down to earth” mood, he had some really good points on how to manage a brand and how social media has changed the entire ball game. One of his main points was the change in running a company, and the increased expectancy of full transparency where companies these days are forced to be completely honest and create good wholesome products. If they don’t, their flaws run the risk of being spread across social media in no time.”
What was the most extravagant occurrence during the festival? Any helicopter entrances or outdoor cirque du soleil performances?
“Our most extraordinary experience was delivered by SNASK who made their talk dressed as a rock band. They just look cool and make great work.”
Lastly, what are the thoughts and ideas you will bring back with you to your creative agency?
“We found the subject on collaboration between agency and client very interesting. We had many discussions about this and how relationships need to change to be more honest and close. There were definitely points that support the way we want to – and already work. Especially the thoughts on working “as a team” instead of accepting the traditional client – supplier relationship.”
“The possibilities with Facebook live and 360 video was also very inspiring and is something that we were already looking into before, but now something we will be looking even closer to get involved in. It is clear that advertising is changing from “making ads” to “solving problems”. As creatives, this is something we maintain a strong focus on so it was very inspiring to see and seeing what others are doing gave us tons of inspiration.”
Alexandra Thielke, Co-Founder & Strategic Planner of Twentyfive & Thirty
Twentyfive & Thirty is the world’s smallest global creative agency set out to challenge the way traditional ad agencies work while fulfilling a dream of traveling the world. It is an agency without a fixed address, without fixed work hours but with the flexibility to work whenever they are needed, wherever they want, and with clients from all over the world. This means they often work with their clients without ever meeting them in person.
Emojis have become a normal way of communicating through text messages and social media, especially for young adults and teens. Are we evolving backwards by allowing ourselves to use images instead of words? According to a survey by Talk Mobile, 72% of 18-25 year-olds find it easier to express their feelings in emoji form than through written words.
You can’t help but compare this version of visual language to that of ancient Egyptians hieroglyphics and even prehistoric cave art. Emojis can be great for expressing emotions that simple text messages cannot and saves us from a lot of misunderstandings. There is a great Key and Peel sketch about this that you should check out.
This visual language has become a huge part of modern life with articles on Buzzfeed quizzes that tell the plot of a movie using only Emojis. Emojis are in modern advertisements, films, and even on clothing! Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber have created their own Emojis, but they come with a price. That’s right for just $1.99 in the app store you can send a booty-shaking, pole dancing KIMOJI (aka Kim Kardashian’s emoji set)
Even with all these emoji options there is still a limit on what you can say, a problem the ancient Egyptians ran into. Those who could read and write had to learn the 2,000 hieroglyphic characters each representing one common object or idea. Is this our future? Will there be more and more Emojis created until the use of written words is unnecessary? It is doubtful but not impossible, it’s scary to think we could be evolving backwards.
They say every picture is worth a thousand words but how many words is an emoji worth?
Lots of Love,
Being dyslexic can be frustrating because you have a larger vocabulary than you can spell. When speaking out loud I think I sound intelligent and I understand the meaning of large words, but ask me how to spell them and I will just laugh. If you’ve read any of my previous columns you would know that spelling isn’t my strong suit, but I definitely have a lot of ideas. In college I would try to beef up my papers with bigger words browsing thesaurus.com for assistance.
As a PR professional I think it’s very important to understand the language of your field and the fields your clients work in. However, when speaking to journalists I find it is best to use plain language. Just tell them what you want right away and don’t leave them guessing. When I first started in PR I tried to fill my pitches with a lot of grand words and explanations, all with no responses. I’ve learned that if you speak “plainly” and get straight to the point in a short pitch you are way more likely to get a response. I will take a “no thank you” email over being ghosted any day!
So why is it that when I’m communicating with a journalist, who probably have a larger vocabulary and literary understanding than I do, I keep it simple? Well, because nobody has time for that! I know I don’t want to take five minutes to read an email that could have been explained in two. Neither does a busy journalist. Just keep it simple and everything will be easier.
Lots of love,