Category Archives: Advertising

Social Media: Advertising

With about 25% of all time spent on Internet being spent on social media properties like Facebook, Twitter and other networks, social media becomes an obvious choice for advertisers. I would argue about the effectiveness of advertising on social media platforms as compared to sponsored search results or ads on web portals, but with millions of eyeballs spending so much time there, it’s a compelling place for advertisers.

Here I would like to talk about how we can use social media to develop better advertisements. One of the best utilities of social media can be in designing and developing advertisements for any media varying from traditional media like television and print to new media like mobile and web. People spend hours on social media talking about everything from what they like and what they don’t, what characters and themes they are attracted towards, what activities they spend most time on and what are their top interests. People brag about the brands they like, critic on experiences they have with products, and talk about the advertisements that caught their attention while watching prime-time television or walking down the street. This makes social media a great repository of information to act as a canvas to design advertisements, find the right placements for them and learn how people are responding to them.

The idea is to gather social insights from social media and use these insights to develop advertisements. Advertisers can learn from social media what are the best themes to gain attention of their target audience. They can understand what are the best placement opportunities for their advertisements by learning which television shows their target audience are engaging with and which magazines they are reading. Social media is a great repository of information that adds a whole lot of richness to the market research that needs to be done in order to develop targeted advertisements. The creativity of advertisements is as important, if not more, as ever due to the decreasing attention span of the consumers, but with the help of market research powered by social media, advertisers can direct the creativity to focus on the right themes, place these awesome advertisements at the right places and learn from them to develop better ones next time around.

Note: Reach out to us at MavenMagnet to learn about some of the innovative work we are doing in this space!

Testimonials in the social world

Testimonials are basically “free” advertisements your customers do for you. Testimonials play a major role in helping customers make buying decisions. If your advertisements attract the customers to your door steps (or website), testimonials make them buy your product (or service). Like everything out there, the interactivity of the web and dominance of the social media impacts testimonials as well.

Social media has enabled people to talk about you and your product. It doesn’t really matter if they are coming to you and raving or complaining about something. They are already out there interacting with the people who really care the most about what they have to say. So the ideal thing for you to do is not trying to convince them to come and speak to you, but listening to them when and where they have something to tell you. Take a feed from the social platforms like Twitter and Facebook and put it on your website. That’s your testimonials in this social world.

There are a lot of advantages of using the interaction on social media as testimonials. In fact you should encourage your customers to put a word for you in the social world instead of your website. A word out there is more powerful than on your domain. It is credible, it is reaching out to the right audience and it makes your customers feel good and in control of their views. At the same time it is easier and more convenient for customers because they are already spending time on these platforms.

It is important for you as a company to make the social feed on your website credible. The best way to do this is to keep the feed unfiltered. By letting negative feedback appear alongside the positive ones will make your feed credible and hold its importance. It is not possible for everyone out there to love your product. There will be people out there who will not like your offering or even hate it. Deal with it. Reach out to those customers and try to answer their questions. That’s your opportunity to convert them in your favor and rave about your customer service.

Social interactions about your product is a double-edged sword. You got to be careful, or to put in better words, be ready to provide the best because you no longer control what people will tell about you. This is how the social media works. It is no longer a question whether you are getting affected by it or not. Your social world is forming. The real question is are you a part of it or not?

Communities as advertisement design canvas

What do you want in your advertisement? Something that people like, appreciate and get excited about. Something unique that can help them link to your brand. An effective advertisement campaign has a singular theme for all mediums which can be identified by the customers. A good way to design that theme is by using the social media.

Marketers can monitor various elements of web-based social world to identify what people think about their product, which part of their product most excites them and what are the turn-offs. They can monitor what people generally look for when they are shopping. Using this information effectively, and designing advertisements by keeping in mind the factors that will appeal to the customers, marketers can design better advertisements as compared to the ones designed in a silo.

To take it a step further, a company can have their own community where it can interact with its customers. By having discussions on their domain, marketers can extract customer intelligence on the conversations taking place. They can conduct polls and surveys, have healthy discussions and better understand what clicks for their customers. Essentially, by doing this, marketers will be in a way able to indirectly run themes by the customers and come up with campaigns that are most influential in the community.

The idea here is to take help of your most engaged customers in designing the marketing campaigns. Creativity in designing the advertisements is as important as anything else, but just imagine how much more impactful that can be when you are hitting the right strokes in the right style!

Intelligence in advertising

in 2006, $400 billion was spent on advertising worldwide. Most of this budget went on traditional media like television, radio and print. Companies with billions in advertising budget make sure that their message reaches as big a population as possible. On traditional medium, spending is directly proportional to reach and frequency. It is like using an amplifier and reaching as many people as frequently as possible.

But what if you don’t have (or want to) spend billions in doing this? That’s where intelligence in advertising kicks in. The factors like who, what, when, where and how starts playing a bigger role. Note that it starts playing a bigger role…doesn’t matter how big your marketing budget is, these do come in picture, but when it is small, they sit on the driver’s seat.

When we talk about intelligence in advertising, a couple points are considered most important. First, using proper targeting. You don’t have to reach everyone everywhere. If you are selling office supplies, you don’t have to bother homemakers and retired citizens. When you are selling dorm room goodies you know who your target audience is and return to school is probably the best time to reach them. The idea is to reach the right people at the right time using the right message and the right medium.

Second thing to consider when designing intelligent advertising is new media. If traditional media is all about shouting (one-way), new media is all about talking (two-way). If on traditional media budget is directly proportional to reach and frequency, on new media intelligence is directly proportional to influence and impact. Using new media you can form a bond with your customers. Using social media, you can understand what your customers want. You can make them feel valued, have a healthy dialog and take in their input. The idea is to have a conversation instead of a campaign, because campaigns start and end,but conversations go on forever.

Subtle Branding

Branding in simple words is connecting a name with a product. Companies take various approaches to attain this task. One of the most fascinating approaches is to go for subtle branding. To put it simply, subtle branding is to take on a bigger issue and go after it with your brand in the background. The intent is to identify a purpose and make your brand the driving force behind it which would lead people to associate your brand, consciously or sub-consciously, with that larger-than-product purpose.

Using a creative approach, you can make almost any product to fit the bill. If you are in business of selling bags, broaden the horizon and link it to tourism. If your product is nicotine tablets, make anti-smoking as your purpose. If you are a retail bank, subtle brand it by picking up money management initiative. The basic idea is to expand the canvas. Every product has a purpose…it is there to solve a problem.

A necessary ingredient for this kind of branding effort is persistence. The idea here is to develop trust. You cannot expect people to instantly link a brand to a purpose. Like in any other case, building that trust requires time and a continuous effort.

What’s the most important thing to keep in mind while doing subtle branding? It’s the authenticity. If you are associating your brand with a purpose, make sure you put the purpose before your product. Faking purpose-driven branding is not possible in the long run. Your customers are too smart to identify the fake and such attempts can lead to a permanent dent in the brand image. An authentic subtle branding has a strong impact in developing your brand image, and above all, it will help you as an organization fill in for your social responsibility.

Iconic brands are made, not born

Nike, BMW, Starbucks, Apple, Obama are the iconic brands we talk about all the time. When we develop marketing plan for our product, we leave several marketing ideas by categorizing them as the ones that work only for iconic brands. This brings about a very important question: how did these brands become iconic? Were they born iconic or the way they were marketed and developed made them iconic?

In 1964, Philip Knight, a track athlete and his coach founded a company named Blue Ribbon Sports that operated as a distributor of a Japanese Shoemaker selling shoes at track meets out of Knight’s automobile. A couple years later BRS opened its first retail outlet and few years after that launched its own line of shoes. In 1978, 14 years after first starting business, BRS renamed itself to Nike. In 1980s Nike expanded its product line through in house development and acquisitions, launched its legendary campaign “Just Do It” (1988) and gained major market share. It took more than three decades for Nike to become “Nike”, the iconic sports brand.

Nike was not born iconic, neither were BMW, Starbucks, Apple, Obama and for that matter any other company. Starbucks started with one store in Seattle’s Pike Place market, Apple was just another start-up in Silicon Valley in early 1980s and Obama was about 30 points behind Clinton days before Iowa democratic primary. But all of them worked their way through to reach to the top and become iconic. They were able to do one thing perfectly,  and that is linking an idea to the product. They were able to brand themselves as the first choice for a cult, gather a group of mavens and enter mainstream with their help.

So next time when you plan a campaign, try to go for something that can attract a group of dedicated mavens, try something that can help you define a cult around your brand. Nothing out there works only for iconic brands, but there’s a lot out there to help you make your brand iconic.

Targeted Marketing: How

So you got it all, who’s your target audience, what’s your message going to be and where and when you want to reach them. The last pillar, which in a way brings it all together and at the same time is dependent on all these, is selecting the right medium that fits you the best to have the most impact.

When trying to figure out how to do targeted marketing, advertising plays a significant role. Let’s talk about advertising on traditional media like television, radio and newspaper. Targeted advertising on these mediums can be done by linking your target audience with the target audience of the medium at a given place and time and delivering your message blend in with the medium. Irrespective of targeted advertising, there’s a growing concern about the diminishing impact of advertising on traditional media with the advent of new technologies…be it TiVo on television, satellite radio and Internet music services (like Pandora) on radio and blogosphere on newspapers. Moving on to other mediums for advertising, you can do targeted message delivery on the world wide web, most effective ones being next to search results and other contextual content. Mobile devices are also evolving as a great source of targeted advertising by utilizing the location information for the audience along with other pivots like time of day and interests of the individual. Targeted advertising is gaining traction on new mediums like Internet and mobile due to the ability of marketers to nail down the appropriate individual and delivering their message to them instead of a broader segment as in case of traditional media.

But when you know who your target customer is, what impacts their buying decision and where and when to locate them, you can reach them much deeper than just by targeted advertising. You can leverage this information and latest technologies to communicate and collaborate with your customers. With the growing influence of social media on the people around the world, marketers can participate in the the social communities to interact with their customers. To add the much needed targeted component to this exercise, they can create communities to gravitate people of similar interests.

Marketers need to take a broader perspective when creating these communities. For example, if you are selling nicotine tablets to help people quit smoking, your community should be a network of people trying to stop smoking. The community should motivate people to quit, act like a support network for people and help them stop smoking. This in turn will provide you an avenue to take customer inputs on how to improve your product and will act as the best place for subtly marketing your product. These social communities when used appropriately are in fact the best way to do targeted marketing. Here you have (or can gravitate) the right audience, you can stir the communication to get the right message across and you can interact with the audience right when they are willing to and with their permission…that’s taking care of all the pillars of targeted marketing, or you can say it’s targeted marketing at its very best!

Targeted Marketing: When and Where

Talking about targeted marketing, you cannot ignore the importance of right time and right place to market your product.

Simply putting, it might not be that fruitful to market your personal tax management software in the month of May, or outdoors water sports resort when the temperature is sub-zero. Similarly, it might be more effective if you advertise a digital camera next to search results when someone is shopping for digital camera, rather than in a news feed where chances are the user will consider it as an obstruction.

Seasonal dimension plays a significant role in spotting the right time to market your product. When trying to figure out the right time for marketing, the important thing to understand is that it is very hard to make the customers go out of their way and consider your product, but you can make your product play a role in their thought process if they are already thinking along the same lines. This is equally true when you are trying to figure out the right place. The marketing message should blend in with something  that holds importance for the customers. This will make them notice it and think about it. 

Internet advertising is gaining traction because of its growing effectiveness in nailing down the right place and the right time. Search engines do a phenomenal job placing ads right next to the results for the product search when a person is showing genuine interest in a product. Then there is behavioral relevance in online advertising. Think of it as someone something smart enough travelling with you while you are shopping in a mall and taking notes on what you are planning to buy. Now when you are sitting idle, that something intelligently shows you advertisements of products you were shopping for sometime back. That is pretty much what technology enables online in order to do effective marketing using behavioral characteristics of an individual.

In a world where the likes of TiVo and satellite radio are gaining prominence, the importance of nailing down the right place and the right time to gain attention of your target audience is more than ever before. Tactics like subtle branding and community engagements can be more effective as compared to traditional ways of marketing. This brings us to the last pillar: “how”.

Targeted Marketing: What

Now that we have identified the right set of audience for our product, we move on to figure out the right message that will have the most impact. When we speak about the right message, it is not just the message that we broadcast while advertising for the product. It is the message that is part of every communication the company has with its customers, directly or indirectly. These communications can vary from a press release where the company defines its plans to go greener or a community participation where the company address the broader cause addressed by its products.

When trying to figure out the right message, we need to understand the things that influence the buying decision of the target audience set. One information that can help in doing so is the psychographic profile the customer. Psychographic profile is based on IAO variables (Interests, Attitudes and Opinions). It provides basic information about the target segment for our product. Using this kind of information, company can make sure it effectively communicates with its customers.

Another thing we should consider while we talk to the customers is the cultural code that links the product to the customer. Customers differ from each other. One such differentiation is cultural which is influenced by the society a person grows in. American culture is very much different from European and Asian. So when we plan the message to communicate to the customer, it should be adapted accordingly. Clotaire Rapaille explains the culture code for everything from shopping to love for America in his book The Culture Code. He briefly compares these cultural codes with the ones for France and Japan to show how different these cultures, and hence the codes, are from each other. Using these culture codes and going local with the marketing efforts can have a bigger impact on the target customers.

There’s no golden recipe to have an effective communication with the customer. The general pattern that derives one successful campaign after another is to focus on the customer, talk their language and feel their problems, or in other words focus on the customer more than the product.

Targeted Marketing: Who

This post is first in the series of exploring targeted marketing.

It is very important to identify the right set of audience you got to tap in for your product. Simply putting, if you are opening a steakhouse, advertising to vegetarian audience will not serve the purpose. You need to identify who is most likely to use your product.  Targeting the product to the demographic which is most likely to be your customer will lead to greater impact.

Few other factors come in picture while determining the right audience. One such factor is the current stage of the product. Are you launching a product, or the product is already there in the market for sometime? If you are launching the product, you need to identify the mavens in your industry and target all your energy in winning their support. Mavens are the community experts. They are the early adopters. Pitching the product to mavens and gaining their support is as vital as anything else. If you as a marketer are able to sell the product successfully to mavens, you have in a way recruited the best sales force out there to market your product. These passionate users serve as consultants in the market whom the masses look for before making a buying decision. If the product is already accepted by the mavens and you are looking to cross the chasm, provide tools to the mavens to push you across. To accelerate the growth, shift focus to the larger set of audience in the right demographic who normally go for the tried and tested products.

Nailing down who your target audience is fundamental for the success of a product in any market. Who element not only shapes the marketing, it shapes the product itself including the pricing of the product, the look and feel of the product and the product placement.