Stop Interrupting, Start Engaging: A Paradigm Shift In Consumer Marketing

by George Moreira, Global Digital Strategy & Planning Director

On the night of the 2014 Oscars, Samsung used a single tweet to get the whole world talking.

During the show’s live broadcast, the tech giant arranged for actor Bradley Cooper to take a selfie — using a Galaxy Note 3 phone — with a gaggle of A-list celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence. DeGeneres then posted the selfie to Twitter, and it quickly went viral, generating more than 3 million retweets in 24 hours.

When the dust had settled, it was hailed as the most retweeted photo of all time, with an estimated value of between $800 million and $1 billion.

This is the power of content marketing in the digital age. And it represents a fundamental paradigm shift for brand marketing. Not only has the digital web accelerated the trend towards pull marketing — specifically, content marketing — but it’s completely democratized how information gets shared. Content is now controlled by the people that consume it.

For brands, that presents equal opportunity and challenge. Now, brands must earn the attention of customers, not force it. They need to think less about products and more about people. They have to stop interrupting people with product messages and start engaging them with relevant content.

But how do you, as a brand, create the right content? And how do you use it to stand out in an increasingly crowded and connected marketplace?

Add value to your customers’ lives
First and foremost, you need to make sure that your content, or owned media, is valuable on its own merit — meaning that it’s inherently useful, educational or entertaining for your customers.

For example, a video series with hairstyling tips created by L’Oréal would fall into the “educational” category. DeGeneres’ tweet, by contrast, would fall into the “entertaining” bucket.

The idea is to create something that people will find genuinely interesting and, as a result, will want to engage with your brand. This is a pull strategy, as opposed to the classic model of push (e.g., advertising).

Learn the art of storytelling
At its core, creating this kind of content is about telling good stories. But to serve as an effective marketing tool, your stories need to occupy the shared space between what people care about, what’s culturally relevant and what your brand stands for. They should also invite engagement with your audience in an authentic way.

Give ’em something to talk about
To cut through the clutter of the social web and earn your customers’ attention, your content must strive for amazing. Indeed, the odds are stacked against you: The chance of someone viewing your YouTube content is one in a million. The average click-through-rate is 0.09%. And the average Facebook user receives about 4,875 pieces of content every day.

In this environment, you’re not just competing with other brands for your customers’ attention. You’re competing with what your customers’ friends are talking about. You’re competing with whatever they ate last night. And you’re competing with what matters most to them in life.

Set up a publishing playbook
Creating amazing content isn’t going to help your brand if consumers don’t see it. To maximize the impact of your content marketing strategy, you need to think strategically about how, when and where you distribute your content.

That’s where converged media comes in. Thanks in large part to the social web, the traditional silos of paid, owned and earned media have collapsed. At the same time, that’s given rise to converged media, or content that falls within multiple media channels, formats and types. This sponsored content on BuzzFeed , for example, intersects paid media with owned. Or Newcastle’s faux Super Bowl campaign with Anna Kendrick took advantage of a hybrid content model. And Facebook’s announcement about its policing of “overly promotional content” shows how the lines between paid, owned and earned continue to blur.
Why does this matter? When leveraged the right way, converged media increases the visibility of your content, amplifies your touchpoints and enhances engagement with your customers.

Pick the right time and place to publish
There’s also a new model for publishing content designed to pull consumers toward your brand and keep them coming back. Created by YouTube and coined as the “Hero, Hub, Hygiene” model, it serves as a framework for the types of content to publish at particular intervals:

Strategy: Big and memorable. Super-Bowl-like moments. Designed to reach a broad audience.
Frequency: Infrequent; a few times a year
Example: Viral videos, such as Volvo’s “The Epic Split” commercial

Strategy: Regular content series. Designed to keep your core consumer engaged.
Frequency: Episodic
Example: A video series with several seasons, like the LEGO Blockumentary

Strategy: Topical. Relevant within an everyday context. Addresses consumers’ interests. Demonstrates brand’s expertise.
Frequency: Frequent
Example: How-to videos, like these created by Ford for the 2015 Escape

Adopt an editorial mindset
As Dietrich Mateschitz, founder and CEO of Red Bull, famously said, “Brands need to take the phrase ‘acting like a publisher’ literally.” In other words, you need to approach your marketing tactics through the lens of, say, a magazine editor or newspaper reporter. And you need to transform your marketing operations to function more like a content studio.

Like any good publication, that begins by knowing your audience. As a brand, you must develop an in-depth understanding of your customers and prospects — who they are, what they care about and what they need. In fact, you should know your people as well as, if not better than, your products.

Next, to become a truly customer-centric brand, your team needs to get organized around people, not products. Ford, for example, reorganized its team around customer segments (e.g., moms, millennials) instead of around its products (e.g., the Mustang), as it had historically.

In addition, you must decide, in essence, on an editorial mission. This mission should articulate your specific point of view as a publisher, reflect your unique perspective and guide the types of content you create. At the same time, it must directly speak to what your customers care about. For example, recognizing that many of its customers were avid music fans, Red Bull started posting music reviews to its website.

Know that content adds up to a brand experience
Finally, while you’re in the process of creating great content, it’s important to remember: Your stories, taken as a collective, create a complete brand experience for your customers. In practice, that means that you want to be mindful and careful about the content you create while still remaining agile as a publisher.

Brands are no longer defined by the things that they tell customers. They’re defined by all of the interactions that people have with them. Each of those little moments create a much bigger story.

This article was originally published on MediaPost:

6 things for brands to consider before investing in virtual reality

by Shawn Fenton, Digital Strategist

In case you missed it, Volvo did something revolutionary last November: It usedGoogle Cardboard — a virtual-reality headset made out of cardboard — to create the world’s first virtual test drive on a smartphone.

Dubbed “Volvo Reality ,” the campaign paired an Android app with a Volvo-branded viewer, which together enabled customers to take a virtual test drive of the Volvo XC90 when using their smartphone. Customers loved it — so much so that, by January, interest in the XC90 was up 50 percent over the prior year, saidAnders Tylman-Mikiewicz, vice president and general manager at Volvo.

Not long after that, our agency started hearing the same question from clients: Should we use Google Cardboard for a marketing campaign?

Our answer: That depends. While it’s great to be first to use something breakthrough like Google Cardboard, the technology’s value only comes from using it in a thoughtful, strategic way. Here are six points to consider before investing in it:

Make sure your message matches the medium.
One reason why Volvo’s campaign was so effective was because it used Google Cardboard to address a specific goal: It got more people to take a test drive of the XC90 by bringing the test drive to them. What Volvo needed perfectly matched what Google Cardboard was capable of: placing people at the center of a 360-degree experience. The takeaway: Make sure your brand has a legitimate reason for giving customers an immersive experience and that Google Cardboard is the right vehicle to deliver it.

Don’t underestimate the investment.
While Google’s viewer is cheap to make, the VR content viewed through it is expensive. (Just take a look at what Volvo had to do to make its app.) Producing and developing video assets for a 360-degree screen is still a custom process. And don’t expect to cut corners. If you create something that doesn’t look good or function well, your customers won’t care that you were using VR technology.

Recognize that your customers may have a negative experience with the technology.
Google Cardboard, like all of virtual reality, is still in its infancy. As a result, the technology still has hurdles to overcome, such as latency — that is, the time delay between when users move their head and when the image in front of them changes. Delays that exceed 7 to 15 milliseconds (as they commonly do) can make your customers feel dizzy, sick or nauseous.

Lower your expectations.
Because mobile devices aren’t designed for viewing VR media at a close distance, Google Cardboard provides a viewing experience that’s less than optimal. If you’re a premium brand, that could create misalignment with your customers’ expectations. Keep in mind that this technology was created for consumers, not brands, so it doesn’t necessarily serve as an ideal medium for marketing.

Realize that the technology alone won’t create engagement.
Google Cardboard won’t give you a pass on communicating a relevant message to your audience. Just like with traditional advertising, you have to earn your customers’ attention by using the medium to tell interesting stories.

Consider other options.
While Google Cardboard is currently the most widely used and affordable vehicle for distributing VR media, it’s not your only opportunity to play in the VR space. There are other headsets in the market — such as the Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR — that have fewer latency issues and offer better resolution than the cardboard-based viewer. In addition, YouTube is now hosting 360-degree video. We can also expect that, with time, camera systems and rendering software designed for 360-degree media will become more accessible, while VR viewers will start to function better and cost less.

To be clear, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your brand shouldn’t integrate Google Cardboard into its marketing strategy. It does mean that you should consider the technology’s implications for your brand and use it in a careful, thoughtful way. Virtual reality is the midst of rapid change, so find your footing before you venture in.

This article was originally published on Digiday:

E-commerce Link: 6 Steps for Selecting an Enterprise Content Management Platform

by John Tran, VP Technology

There are thousands of content management systems (CMS) and content management platforms floating around the Web ( indexes over 1,200 content management applications). With so many choices, it can be difficult to decide what will work best for your organization. Here’s a practical approach that can help marketers with budgets of all sizes select an appropriate content management platform.

Step 1: Understand Your Needs
Most people use the terms “platform” and “system” interchangeably when talking about content management. Technology leaders generally agree that CMS refers to software products that automate the process of creating structured content types and the publishing items of content based on these types.

In recent years, the more successful and advanced CMS vendors have been referring to themselves as enterprise content management (ECM) platforms, which rich Web applications can be built upon. Within these robust platform offerings, the CMS is only one component. Other components might include analytics, digital asset management and targeted marketing tools.

Often, an entire platform can be overkill relative to the size of a company or its current stage of digital maturity. Luckily, many of the top platforms available today recognize this dilemma and are able to sell and implement their platform components in a more manageable, à la cart manner. The selection process is very much the same as when you are making a strategic investment in a suite of tools that will work together to fulfill your digital strategy.

At this step, it’s recommended that you enlist the skills of a business analyst with direct experience in ECM platforms. Looking outside of your organization for this skillset is not a bad idea. Agencies that specialize in platform implementations also can provide this skillset on a project-needed basis, interviewing your stakeholders and authoring documents detailing your current and future ECM platform needs.

Step 2: Do Your Research
Your fundamental requirements should rule out the vast majority of options. The best way to perform this research is to form a cross-functional task force to take an interdisciplinary approach. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management is an excellent resource for any ECM platform selection process, and there also is an abundance of industry research available for free online that can greatly inform your efforts.

Step 3: Organize a Short List
At this point, you should take an iterative approach to your research and run a more thorough analysis to validate your selected candidates. Detailed case studies are usually available; look for some in similar industries and also research what your competitors are using. Fortunately, the consumer-facing results of these implementations are readily available for you to scrutinize.

There are likely several solutions that could meet your needs, each with its own specific advantages and drawbacks. The end result of your research should be a short list of three to five platforms that you are confident will meet all your short- and long-term requirements.

Step 4: Issue an RFP
It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of understanding your business strategy and requirements before issuing an RFP. By clearly decoupling the two activities, you compel your organization to understand its needs before proceeding to procurement. Most organizations that embark on this journey are ultimately right in assuming they need an ECM platform, and thus may consider analysis to be an unnecessary delay. However, this is the easiest way to end up with a very costly system that does not do what you need it to.

Proper research and analysis makes the process goes much more smoothly, resulting in a higher quality RFP. Creating a successful RFP with proper structure entails:

* Clearly defining your requirements in the form of scenarios
* Being honest and detailed
* Defining an acceptable budget
* Considering the use of an intermediary

Step 5: Quantify Your Decision Making
Leveraging your cross-functional task force, you should agree upon a high-level breakdown of evaluation criteria. Develop a detailed description of each criterion and weight each for a total of 100 percent. It’s a good idea to include this breakdown with the RFP. While it may seem counterintuitive to reveal the evaluation criteria, vendors will pay close attention to this weighting and provide detailed responses accordingly.

It’s recommended to develop a quantifiable framework for evaluating the vendor’s written and in-person presentation. Each criterion should be further broken down into individual items that can be rated on a fixed scale, and a weighting formula for aggregating the scores should be determined ahead of time. An evaluation matrix with all the detailed criteria and the rating scale should be produced and used by the entire team to score each vendor. It’s best to not reveal this detailed aspect of the evaluation criteria to vendors, as it can skew their responses and presentations toward an inaccurate score that doesn’t truly represent their offerings.

Step 6: Decide and Plan Your Implementation
While the vendor evaluation and decision matrix is a powerful tool, don’t solely rely on it to make your final decision. Ultimately, the final decision will require a large amount of discussion within the team. Chemistry with the vendor, strategic alignment and total cost of ownership should weigh heavily on the decision-making process as well.

A practical and concise plan for the initial implementation must be prepared in conjunction with the vendor. Avoid a big-bang rollout of multiple platform components. Aside from the obvious cost and risk associated with a large deployment of unfamiliar technology, you may also be overcommitting to a strategic direction or an individual technology vendor without any practical data to validate your assumptions. A phased, iterative approach with a burning-in period after each release is ideal.

Feeling Confident About Your Decision
Selecting an ECM platform is a major strategic decision that can commit your organization to a large financial investment and have years of operational impact. Using these six steps could significantly help you structure your selection process. Whatever your final path, choose carefully, make an informed commitment and feel confident in your choice.

This article was originally published in Target Marketing Magazine:

Technology is Human When it Serves a Human Need

by Jennalee Reiff, Senior Strategist

Two of the sessions I attended on Monday, March 16th at SXSW were “Digital Natives – Teen Talk” and “Humanizing Digital”. And honestly, it felt as though the key takeaways regarding how brands should and can impact your life were contradicting. For example, a Gen Z student being paneled said “brands aren’t people and everybody knows it… don’t encroach on my space” whereas marketers are rapidly trying to figure out “how can we become more human and change the way people think?”

At a first blush, you might think these statements are contradictory. But really, they’re just two sides of the coin saying the same thing differently. It’s not about turning a brand into a human. It’s about using technology to help brands emulate the attributes that make humans so unique. Rather than using technology to interfere with peoples’ lives, we need to use technology to deliver on a real human need. As one panelist, Google’s Head of Strategic Planning, said during the “Humanizing Digital” discussion, it’s “not about technology for the sake of technology… it’s about identifying how technology can support people. And it doesn’t always have to be complicated.”

As a strategist that lives and breaths both brand and digital, it was a refreshing to hear that chasing the latest technology (even if it is very ‘cool’) isn’t always the best thing for your brand, or for people. And it serves as a healthy reminder that we must always ask ourselves “what and why is this relevant to our audience?” as we continue to see more innovations enter into the world.

Convergence and what’s left after CES?

By David Fitzgerald, Account Director

It seems a bit redundant to rattle off trends from CES. Sure, we could talk about wearables, smart cars, robot chefs, bending TVs, not to mention the astounding amount of selfie sticks flanking booths. It’s been covered though.

Despite the noise and chatter surrounding the event and it’s “stuff,” at the end of the day CES has always been the place where technology and creative come together for innovation. So perhaps we should take a step back, clear away the top 10 lists, and evaluate what this year’s event means for the industry and its partners.

Now, with the advent of technologies that make it easier for us to be creative and platforms that make it easier to share, the ability to create and tell stories has become democratized. It begs the question “Is there a line between creativity and technology, or have they converged?” Regardless, it’s evident more than ever at this year’s CES is that the once polarizing line between complex technology and brilliant creative ideas has begun to blur significantly.

I’ve always believed that it needs to start with a great idea. This idea must be driven by a powerful insight and we apply technology in the service of creativity. That’s not to say that technology doesn’t inspire ideas and visa versa. It does everyday.

The same blurring of the line holds true as we embark not just on the internet of things, but the internet of everything. We need to consider that as technology becomes “smart” and data drives more and more decision making, the common denominator is still a sound creative idea. Consider for a moment that we’re not that far off from my stove telling my fridge, with help from my pantry, that I’m out of spaghetti and meatballs. That would be a great time for a Barilla coupon, right? Or, perhaps I’ve already automated that purchase with AmazonPrime and it’s waiting on my doorstep.

The opportunity for manufacturers is to continue to provide insightful technology that deciphers data and informs. Conversely, brands and their agencies will need to distill that information and identify moments to provide a better message at the right time. Of course identifying and creating contextual relevance is nothing new for marketers. However, the opportunity for personalization and timeliness has become more and more valued as smarter data and strategic insights bring bigger opportunities to light. Smarter companies and forward-thinking agencies have already begun the journey of a tech and creative convergence, which is why you see both flock to CES every year. As innovation pushes the boundaries of what is possible for consumers, it requires that brands and agencies rethink connections and enhance experiences that are personally valuable.

Data aggregation across devices, appliances, automobiles, jewelry, accessories, and fashion will continue to grow to infinite amounts—and those are just a couple of examples we saw at CES this year. One-to-one conversation with your “things” will help identify habits and inform purchase decisions with or without you. What’s missing now is meaningful purpose. We need to move to a place where this data is relevantly qualified and personalized for my wife, my son, and me (even our goldfish!).

We should come to expect a seamless and purposeful experience from brands that are trying to engage with us. Disruption needs to change to purposeful introduction. Segmentation needs to transform into personalization. Technology and data should work in concert to support to these industry shifts because together it allows us to secure that “moment of Zen” we’re talking about. Yet, what still remains amongst the plethora of data, the proliferation of platforms, and the ease to create, is still the great idea.

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