Category Archives: Marketing

EXP: Bringing a Human Element to a Digital World

Written by: Chris Salicrup
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Working at a large agency with offices spanning the globe, I spend more time with voices on the phone and faceless emails than I do with the people around me. I recently had the opportunity to participate in an employee exchange program (EXP) where I was sent to work with my peers at another office location. The trip helped bridge the long distance gap and put faces to the long list of names of people I communicate with daily.

via GIPHY

Part of my role is to understand how morale and communication effects efficiency. The EXP is truly an innovative idea that helps solve for some of these issues as our company grows larger. The program gives our people an opportunity to network with team members in a uniquely effective way. Having the opportunity to work in another office gave me the opportunity to learn more about their group’s dynamic, which in turn helped improve the way I will communicate with them in the future. In return, the team feels like they have an ally at home base who is looking out for their interests, as well.

In my short four-day trip, I learned more about my co-workers in New York than I had after two years of working with them remotely. In addition to juicy gossip, I gained an understanding of their communication and leadership styles. Trying to learn a personality when you’ve only ever communicated by email is challenging. Without voice inflection, emails are constantly misinterpreted and unfounded animosity can flourish. Now with a face next to those names, I find myself working harder to better meet their needs. Thanks to this opportunity I have a more keen understanding of the ways that my teammates prefer to communicate. I know when it’s more beneficial to pick up the phone, and when they prefer to have a paper trail to keep up with longer discussions.

As companies continue to grow larger and spread out across the globe, more innovation around culture and morale will be crucial. With increasing difficulties in working environments, such as the open office floor plan, many companies will need to find a system to help their employees cope with their new situations. For us, the EXP is just a small step and a way to help triage more severe communication needs. In addition, we’re looking at ways to more effectively share documents across our multiple offices, and ways to reduce email by implementing chat platforms. We do all of this with the focus of always putting people first, believing that great work will follow. In order to do this, we create an environment where we encourage suggestions for improvements. Often the best solutions come from those who deal with the issues on a daily basis.

In an increasingly digital world, we have to keep an eye on the human element. For large global companies, it’s easy to turn into a machine, quell questions, and enforce redundant policies. It helps to take a step back from time to time to understand how policies affect the group as a whole, as well as how they impact each individual. Without having a face to vent those needs to, innovation is staunched and growth cannot occur. Never be afraid to answer the hard questions; the times when you can’t give a solid answer can help adjust the focus.

Navigating a New Language: Emojis

Written by: Olga Kraineva
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Ninety-two percent of the online population uses emojis. That’s approximately three billion people. The adoption and use of emojis, a visual language that communicates different emotions or scenarios using digital icons, is exciting but also has tremendous implications.

Emojis’ high rate of adoption can be credited to their universality and ability to be understood by all, regardless of native language. Images are also processed faster in the brain than text is, so there are functional benefits to choosing a visual icon over multiple words to describe the same sentiment.

Instagram embraced the emoji trend and documented the following in a company blog post: “It is a rare privilege to observe the rise of a new language…Emoji are becoming a valid and near-universal method of expression in all languages.”

Brands have come to recognize this consumer behavior and have jumped at the opportunity to use emojis to appear hip, approachable, and current. Last spring, Burger King launched a custom Chicken Fries emoji keyboard that was available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play store (other brands and personalities have since followed suit, like Kim Kardashian and Betches). Taco Bell also made their own spin on emojis with the #TacoEmojiEngine instant-reply campaign on Twitter that used over 600 photos and animated GIFs to show how the taco emoji can play nice with the others.

Moreover, brands are integrating emojis casually into their daily posts, just as consumers would. GE used emojis at RSNA, a professional radiology medical device conference, at the end of last year in their social media communication.

Social media publishing platforms also welcome the trend and continue to create more emoji integrations for consumers, brands, and influencers alike. Below are some of the latest developments:

  • Twitter:
    • Twitter recently (January 2016) revealed three new integrations specifically for high-profile celebrities, including a special camera feature that lends some inspiration from Snapchat. One hundred handpicked celebrities can overlay emoji-style icons onto their photos, giving celebrities a more premium experience through customization.
    • Auto-response campaigns using certain hashtags to unlock content are also an option – something that our client Lifetime did recently. In promotion for the Toni Braxton movie, fans that tweeted one of three emojis and #ToniBraxtonMovie were delighted with a preview of one of three sneak peeks for the movie. The movie garnered 267K tweets and 3.6MM viewers during the premiere. Nielsen reported it as the most tweeted-about program on television Saturday (January 27, 2016), with an 18 percent share of all Twitter TV activity, and the most tweeted movie for the television season to date.
  • Facebook: Facebook is finally moving past the “Like” button in favor of a full range of emotion choices in response to posts. Called “Reactions,” this new feature debuted on Wednesday, February 24, and allows users to respond to posts with six emotion choices: angry, sad, wow, haha, yay, and love.

Keep in mind, there are also implications for brands that use emojis:

  1. According to a Mintel Research Report, Communicating Through Imagery (2015), “Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that images are inherently ambiguous, which can result in consumers misunderstanding key messages.” This can lead to unintentional offense or other negative consequences.
  2. Millennials – the most frequent users of emojis, claiming to use emojis 75.9 percent of the time – don’t want brands to communicate with them using emojis. Only three percent of respondents of an Odysessy research study said brands should use them. That being said, although they say they don’t want brands to use emojis, they may feel differently moving from theory to practice.
  3. Finally, most standard social listening reporting tools do not support emoji-tracking capabilities as of yet. It’s still difficult to get an accurate account of the impact of an emoji-only campaign, unless you also assign a unique hashtag to the campaign in addition to using emojis.
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CNBC, photo by Dimitri Otis | Getty Images

The bottom line is it’s undeniable that emojis are here to stay, and consumer use is likely to continue to increase. Brands should use caution before executing on the emoji trend just for the sake of doing the next buzzy activity, and first evaluate if it makes sense as part of their existing strategy with their consumer at the center.

Google Serves Up Shopper Trends to Retailers to Win in Mobile Moments

Written by: Eric Fransen
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Google has recently begun to use the term Mobile Moments to describe mobile’s place in the consumer journey across devices. Specifically, they’re trying to understand how search signals intent at a regional level and how retailers can capitalize on this intelligence. I’m certainly in Google’s camp when it comes to search as a signal — when you’re asking a question about a product, you’re almost certainly heading toward a purchase, depending on what information you discover — and Google’s plan to address (and monetize) these signals just got better.

Two weeks ago, Google announced a new ad product that allows retailers to tap into their massive databank of search and mapping data, offering them the opportunity to fully utilize local shopping trends and behaviors. For example, Google found that demand for PlayStation 4 was 2x that of Xbox One in New York while consumers in Los Angeles were 9x more interested in Xbox One. This kind of insight could change the entire strategy of merchandising and co-op advertising to fit local preferences and nuances in behavior. Why spend equally everywhere when the same dollar promoting Xbox One would go a lot further in Los Angeles compared to New York?

"I shop here because of their people-first approach to marketing across devices."

“I shop here because of their people-first approach to marketing across devices.”

So, where does mobile fit into this behavior? Everywhere. In fact, according to a recent study, 54% of shoppers are expected to shop in these Mobile Moments between other activities throughout the holiday season, rather than simply cramming it all into Black Friday or a “shopping day.” This also includes the ever-present behavior of “showrooming,” where consumers are checking prices and comparison shopping online even while they are in other stores.

Here’s the bottom line: Mobile is going to be bigger than ever this holiday season, and Google’s got a new bag of tricks to make sure you’re reaching the right customers with the right message on the right device.

Halloween 2015 Marketing Stats and Trends

Written by: Digitally Approved
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Co-written: Hannah Redmond, Director of Strategy, and Rita Mogilanski, Senior Content Strategist

Halloween isn’t just a fun time for trick-or-treaters, it’s also a fun time for marketers. More than 157 million Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year, spending an estimated $6.9 billion dollars. Brands have the opportunity to capitalize on consumers’ excitement and become relevant with deliberate seasonal content. Here are some content marketing trends and stats to consider this Halloween:

Brands are innovating in the digital space this Halloween.
Target launched an app called “Treatster” where consumers can find the best places to trick-or-treat. Users can add in their own houses and “up-vote” houses in the neighborhood to alert other trick-or-treaters in the area which doorbells they should ring.

34% of consumers used online search to find inspiration for their costume. (Statista) Researching and planning ahead online before buying in-store continues to be an integral part of the shopping experience this fall, with almost half of households nationwide researching online before purchasing Halloween-related items in physical stores.

Consumers are more likely to indulge during the holiday, whether they are celebrating it or not. The top 5 candy sales days of the year are in October. This is in part due to the “permissibility” people feel around the holiday – even those who aren’t trick-or-treating or going to a Halloween party still feel more comfortable enjoying a treat more than at other times of the year. Studies show that people think that the same treats “taste better” during the Halloween season (Mintel Reports).

Halloween videos account for 57% of seasonal makeup tutorial video views. (Think With Google)
Beauty and lifestyle brands should consider Halloween a key moment in their video and social marketing strategy.

Halloween-related searches on mobile grew more than 1,000% from last Halloween. (Bing Ads)This is one of many stats that confirms the need for all content to be mobile-friendly.

5 Ways Your B2B Marketing Strategy can Improve with Social Media

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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While no one can argue that social media is extremely important in any B2C strategy, when it comes to B2B marketing people aren’t always so sure. In a world where SEO and email typically reign supreme, social media can seem like an add-on or a lower priority component of the larger strategy.

Consider these statistics:

  • As of 2015, 65% of adults now use social media compared to 7% in 2005.
  • Facebook has nearly 1.4 billion users and generates 4.5 billion likes daily.
  • Twitter has over 284 million active users posting 500 million tweets per day.
  • 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising – just 10% trust brands today (Lithium).
  • 81% of consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts (Lithium).

However, social media is no longer an innovative, new way to drive awareness and sales for your brand.

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We Are Social

Essential to your organization’s survival in the competitive B2B landscape, it needs to be an integral part of any B2B marketing strategy. Social media helps B2B businesses showcase their credibility, acquire and retain customers, and build a strong reputation. “While tried-and-true B2B marketing techniques such as search engine optimization and email still bring plenty of prospects to the door, social media entices them to enter a dialogue, pick up some information of value and step into the sales funnel” (eMarketer).

Furthermore, social media can be even more impactful for a B2B company than for a B2C company. This is because B2B companies, as Convince and Convert explains, usually have “a smaller potential customer base, a higher average price point, and customer decision funnel that is more influenced by word of mouth and reputation.”

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eMarketer

Here are 5 tips for developing a social media strategy for B2B companies:

1. Understand your audience and engage with your customers on social media. Leverage social listening to understand the pain points for your customer – what are their needs and desires and how can your product/service help solve those problems? The main benefit of leveraging social media for B2B marketing is to build relationships with current and potential customers.

2. Use social media for content promotion. Share various forms of content such as videos, photos, or longer form content to showcase your products/services in a broader context and to drive the authentic voice of the brand.

3. Drive traffic to website. Ensure that your website is prominently highlighted on all of your social channels and within your posts. Utilize link tracking to see which content drives people to click through to the website.

4. Invest in social video to produce more leads. According to a report by Software Advice, “video is the most-used content type and the content that generated the most leads for surveyed B2B marketers in 2014.”

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Software Advice

5. Increase brand awareness with paid social. Allocating a percentage of the total budget to promoting social posts helps ensure that your content is visible to the right audiences. Social networks such as LinkedIn offer advanced targeting options for promoting your brand’s content, which ensures that you reach the most important and targeted audiences.

Social media is extremely valuable for top-of-funnel engagement and for generating strong leads for B2B companies. As we move into 2016, a social media component is going to be critical for every B2B marketing strategy.

3 Tips to Making Influencer Marketing Work

Written by: Jordan Lee
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In the social landscape, there are rising stars who have massive sway over their audiences. Influencer outreach began a decade ago, and often brands were able to just send product in order to get a few hits from bloggers. The landscape has evolved quickly over the past few years. Nearly every social platform has their own influencers, and some YouTube stars have eclipsed traditional celebrities. Making influencer marketing work for your brand can be made simple if best practices are followed and you keep in mind a few things special to the space:

1. Influence and size aren’t always synonymous.

It is easy to see a follower count and immediately be drawn to it. However, if this isn’t your first experience in the digital world, you know that numbers can be deceiving. There are bots, spam accounts that can inflate following numbers. Earlier this year, Instagram cleaned house on inactive and spam accounts. Some influencers only had incremental drops in followers, but some dropped by the thousands.

Great partners, networks, and MCNs will share engagement information with you to make the most educated guess on your real ROI. Stats like average views per video, typical click-through rates, and demographic breakdowns are highly valuable information and can set realistic expectations for value.

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Influencer stats example via Kin Community

2. Seek common ground.

Collaborating with influencers in the social space requires a lot of trust. Brands need to let go of control to create the best content with these partners. They know their audience best, and they aren’t going to be willing to compromise the relationship by producing something gimmicky or unnatural.

With larger, more intricate campaigns or content, it can be really helpful to schedule time with the influencer for a creative brief. This way purpose and expectations can be laid out and discussed prior to work being done. Both the brand and the influencer will be more comfortable throughout the process of the work with clear guidelines set.

3. Build genuine relationships.

This may appear to be a no-brainer, but often brands and agencies approach influencers with no genuine tie to their product or service. Influencers are becoming more and more selective about who they choose to work with. If an influencer never talks about your industry, or even has talked about your brand in a negative light, it is best to leave it be and move on. Time spent going far back and researching an influencer can really pay off in the long run because the influencer will also be excited about the partnership.

The best scenario is your influencer is already a fan of your brand. For example, Jeanette Getrost was already a fan of Lifetime’s Project Runway when approached to collaborate. This was a win for everyone; the influencer received meaningful work and Lifetime reaped the benefits of the genuine care put into each post.

Not every partnership is fortunate enough to work that way, nor does every brand find someone who is actively talking about them or their product. Creativity and limits can definitely be stretched if the idea is unique enough. For example, a corporation may have a responsibility initiative that may speak to an influencer’s passions, where they might have otherwise not been interested in working together.

It should go without saying, but just be honest and understanding in these partnerships. Leaving things on a good note with an influencer can open doors later on and ensure a positive reputation in the online community.

How Pinterest Connects Brands to Audiences Better Than You Think

Written by: Olga Kraineva
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When thinking of social networks that are beneficial for tune-in, Twitter comes to mind first. Twitter and TV are intertwined to the extent that Nielsen came out with SocialGuide two years ago to track TV viewing with Twitter. A less likely pair for TV networks? Pinterest.

With no strong data to support that the platform helps drive tune-in, why should networks dedicate time and resources to Pinterest? With 48.7 million users, Pinterest is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to engage consumers. A Pinterest board full of interesting and relevant content can be extremely influential in engaging a brand’s target audience when strategically executed.

Like many, Lifetime was unsure of increasing their time commitment in the Pinterest space. However, looking at the similarities between the Lifetime viewer and the Pinterest user, it became apparent that focusing on the platform could be a great benefit to the TV network in terms of forming stronger connections with their target audience.

Lifetime viewers are 78 percent women, compared to 80 percent on the Pinterest platform. Fans of both also share an interest in music, fashion, and travel. From a brand perspective, Lifetime is working to shake off old-school views of the network, with a lot of younger women probably thinking, “Lifetime isn’t me.” What better way to discover new Lifetime programming than through carefully curated boards in topics that interest their target viewer with branded posts interspersed throughout? Pinners can see Lifetime pins and choose to repin them onto their own pages, an action by itself that makes the statement, “This is me.”

Pinterest.com/lifetimetv

Pinterest.com/lifetimetv

Aside from a brand play like Lifetime’s, TV Land just published a case study with Pinterest showing that using Promoted Pins and real-time optimization helped their show “Younger” achieve record-breaking ratings and season two pick up.

Pinterest.com/youngertv

Pinterest.com/youngertv

Pinterest helps brands build stories and experiences that speak to their audience members, building up a portfolio that defines the brand. TV networks’ investment in the platform can help extend the stories of their programs and most-loved characters, helping people continue to connect with their favorites. More importantly, it can help consumers discover new programs from places they might least expect.

The Next Frontier for Food Influencers: YouTube

Written by: Allie Wester
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It is undeniable that YouTube is a big platform for influencers. But when it comes to the food space, compared to the massive power and reach of food blogs, it is still finding its footing.

Why? I think it is because Gen Z – the core YouTube consumer – hasn’t quite entered the stage of life where they want to learn to cook. The oldest Gen Z members are in college, which means a lot of eating out and easy convenience foods. 

However, once Gen Z graduates, they will want to learn how to cook. Will they look to blogs or Pinterest (which ultimately leads to blogs)? As a majority, probably not. They’ll look to where they always look for “how to” information: YouTube.

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Source: Google

There are a TON of high-quality food blogs out there right now. There are a handful of food YouTube channels, but comparatively it’s slim pickings.

For food marketers: Start experimenting now! You may not get huge view counts right away, but think of the long-term effect. Your video could get hundreds of thousands of views down the line. And you can perfect your craft now before it is mainstream.

“Food hack” videos, demonstrating tricks and tips for making cooking exciting and fun, draw interest from one in four millennials. Use this as an opportunity to not only promote your product, but also explain how to cook with it and why it’s a useful tool or ingredient.

For food bloggers/influencers: Start experimenting now! Many food bloggers I’ve talked to are hesitant to start on YouTube because video is complicated. I get that. But I also know that the food blogging industry figured out food photography and styling from scratch. I have faith that they can also figure out food video. 

In the meantime, the millennial generation is watching food YouTube videos. According to a survey by Google, Millward Brown Digital, and Firefly:

  • Sixty-eight percent of millennial moms purchase food products featured in the videos they watch. Sixty-nine percent of these highly-engaged moms watch food videos every week, and 68 percent of them will also watch videos while cooking.
  • While three out of four millennial women are open to watching branded food content, close to half (43 percent) have not done so, representing a significant opportunity for brands to gain new audiences.
  • Sixty-eight percent of millennial men described themselves as a “confident cook” – two times more than their millennial female counterparts.
  • Millennial dads are the most engaged with food content on YouTube, watching videos to spark inspiration and create meals. And 42 percent of them will make special trips to the store to buy products they learn about in food videos.
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Source: Google

For the foreseeable future, food blogs are not going anywhere. They’ll always have the millennial, Gen X, and boomer generations. But if they want to remain relevant with the younger generation — and let’s be honest, make more money — they should start experimenting on YouTube now!

Preventing Shiny Object Syndrome in Digital Health Innovation

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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I see Shiny Object Syndrome very often in the world of marketing. MediaPost defines Shiny Object Syndrome, or SOS as “chasing after the latest digital innovation with little planning, thinking about whether it will work for the organization, or buy-in from the people responsible for making it happen.”

Marketers and brand managers hear about brands with innovative campaigns or technology and want to implement them immediately for their client. Often they want the process expedited so that it can be pushed into market sooner, which could potentially hurt the project in the long run.

In the past, innovation in healthcare happened only within the R&D departments of medical manufacturers, but now we are starting to see a shift in this model. Hundreds of new digital health companies have been funded since 2012, with a focus on consumer health, wellness, and a rise of personalized health.

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International Journal of Health

It is important to take a step back and really consider whether this particular innovation would be driving the clients’ business goals and strategic imperatives. People with SOS risk focusing too much on being innovative that they lose sight of the actual problem they are trying to solve. Bankruptcy courts are filled with what once seemed like clever software programs and digital innovations that were created under the thinking that customers would want them. Successful innovators take a step back before building and executing these ideas to understand what problem they could solve with their new digital offering.

If you want to sustain and support digital health innovation for your client long term, there are a few key steps that you have to take in order to be successful:

1. Awareness and Education: This is where you learn about an innovation and really start to understand the nuances of the offering so that you can make a decision about whether or not it would be beneficial for your client in the long-term.

2. Engagement and Capacity Boosting: Start testing pilot initiatives and determining whether it makes sense to move forward with the innovation. Is it making a process more efficient? Is it solving a business goal? Does it have a measurable impact? This is where we implement a series of small, low-risk, low-cost experiments designed to test the assumptions behind a new offering and ensure that it is the strategic direction we want to go.

3. Proficiency and Scaling: Successfully utilize the digital innovation in ways that positively impact the client and their key business objectives.

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MediaPost/Fard Johnmar

This process seems very simple and rudimentary, but it helps provide an outline for implementing the latest digital innovation from initial awareness to leveraging technologies at scale. It forces marketers to ask the right questions about their clients’ goals (short- and long-term), target audiences, and plan for how the digital innovation would fit into the larger picture for the brand.

Challenging Pharma and Medical Device Companies to Be Better on Social

Written by: Olga Kraineva
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Pharmaceutical and medical device companies and healthcare practitioners alike have been cautious to join social conversations due to fear of their legal and regulatory bodies and FDA regulations. Twitter, in particular, is worrisome due to the cap of 140 characters – how to disclose everything necessary for best use? Even Kim Kardashian was recently hand slapped for not fully disclosing both the positive and negative side effects of a morning sickness pill on Instagram.

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An easy place to start for many companies was live-tweeting around events, such as healthcare conferences, and simply echoing their press release information. As a heavy media-oriented, news-like channel, Twitter worked well for this, as that info is already approved by legal and regulatory. It also worked well when joining in on the social conversations that occurred at different conferences, simply by adding on the official conference hashtag at the end of their tweet.

However, just this summer, a group of scientists and HCPs have joined together to form the #MICEProject (Measuring the Influencer of Commercial Entities) in the Twitter backchannels of medical conferences. Their argument is while there are certain precautions taken at live conferences to separate third party entities (pharma and medical device companies) and “learners” (healthcare providers, other attendees) so that a learner, if they so desire, would never have to expose themselves to a third party. Currently, these restrictions do not exist on Twitter. Using PageRank, the study analyzed the influence of HCPs and third party entities at 13 different medical conferences from 2011-2013, suggesting that medical device and pharma companies exert around the same amount of influence as healthcare providers within the social space, something that is protected against happening at live conferences.

Their bottom line is that pharma and medical device companies should stop spreading biased information and instead focus on evidence-based medical knowledge – or curb their use of medical hashtag use overall. While it’s quite provocative to have full restrictions on companies’ hashtag use at medical conferences, the larger issue this brings up is using social strategically and not posting for the sake of posting.

MedConf-HashTag-Chart-sm

As part of the #MICEProject, Pharma Marketing News created an initial survey on third party medical conference hashtag use.

As an overall struggle many companies face, pharma and medical device companies need to move past one-way communication streams and sending information that is likened to an ad and instead engage in social conversations that add to the dialogue. Using event hashtags can be a great springboard to reach your target audiences, but make it conversations that matter to them – not just what is safe and approved by your L&R. At the present moment, as seen with the #MICEProject, we’re in a place of not applying best practices and angering our audiences – quite the opposite of the intended result.