Lebron James’ Toothbrush & Cavities: A Consumer Engagement Story


Lebron James goes on TV to announce who will be the next in line for the opportunity to give him millions of dollars, and clearly we are all supposed to learn something from the process. Whether
it be how news-makers are controlling the news media (is that in and of itself new?) or how the King James phenomena is fully wielding the power of social media, something much larger than sports is occurring with the buzz leading up to and following “The Decision.” Part of what makes James’ recent strategy astounding are its similarities to recent and highly successful campaigns from Colgate and Mountain Dew. Oral care, heavily sugared carbonated beverages, and championship-less, non-clutch basketball players all can use the same tools to expand their business. The key to it all: Consumer Engagement.

The concept of consumer engagement is by no means new to the marketing world, but has
clearly taken on a life of its own via the web, and not without controversy. Engagement in simplest terms is the process of changing customers from passive, indifferent consumers of your product to active participators. It is in many ways a very ambiguous concept in terms of execution, but with incredible impact once executed. Adding clouds to clarity are the odd adages that follow it. For example, Gannet Media’s recent tweet “There is no shortcut to engagement, there is only engagement.” For the business owner that is about as helpful as Yoda’s “Do or do not. There is no try.” Luckily, considering the launch of Colgate Whisp, Mountain Dew White Out, and “The Decision” as case studies we can arrive at more substantive concepts.

Engagement is Achieved Through Multi-Tiered Approaches.

All three campaigns employed the big three: social media, video, and contests. Colgate Whisp’s
campaign outsourced viral video via CollegeHumor, used a Facebook game widget, and a photo
submission/rating contest with location based filtering. Mountain Dew White Out’s campaign was literally a campaign using voting on outsourced campaign commercials, a Twitter follower contest, and solicitation of label designs all towards the ends of having consumers decide which new flavor of Mountain Dew would be mass produced. LeBron James had a well timed launch of his Twitter account that generated 300,000 followers faster than any other account, a re-launched website, and a Facebook page with 2.5 million followers soliciting questions that may be answered during ESPN’s “The Decision” primetime special. What brings all of these multi-tiered approaches together is very simple in concept– a seamless narrative that integrates each platform and asks users to participate.

Engagement is Achieved By Allowing Consumers to be Part of Creative.

The risk, and therefore courage, behind a commitment to engagement comes from the fact that engagement cannot occur unless a company is willing to open its doors a bit. For Colgate this meant looking to often crude and vulgar content generators to create their viral videos, as well as to potential customers to create the “face” of their brand. Mountain Dew probably opened their doors the most by having their consumer-base literally choose what product they wanted and how they wanted it to look. For James his openness comes from his willingness to answer personal questions via his Facebook page. In the end it is about achieving harmony between your personal business goals and the goals of your customers. Participation for the consumer quickly turns into an individual investment into the brand. This investment turns into long term loyalty and a higher likelihood that the consumer will develop into an advocate of the brand.

What About My Business?

All three brands mentioned here operate with a marketing budget significantly higher than most businesses. That said the concepts employed can be achieved for businesses of any size and for a very wide range of budgets. Outside of implementation time there is nothing inherently expensive about each campaign. And of course, like all things digital, its nothing you have to do all by yourself.

Advertising, Business X-Factors, Media, Social Media 1 Comment

The Full Power of Social Media Marketing

Social Arrow

With Hitwise releasing a report that social media in the UK now receives more traffic than search, and SWX Advanced’s session on “Ultimate Social Media-Tools,” generated a significant level of dialog regarding shifts in SEO and social media.   Although Hitwise’s reporting methods have generated some levels of controversy (the classification of YouTube as a social media outlet) their recent analysis does bring strong data to the long standing discourse regarding browsing behavior.  For many this shift has been regarded as a “when” rather than a “if.”  As such it is no surprise that we have recently encountered two interesting start-ups, still very much in the beta version, attempting to capitalize on the commercial implications of social media becoming the dominant portal for users on the web.

One of TechCrunch Disrupt’s Battlefield finalists, CompassLabs aims to provide that ever illusive element of social media: buyer intent.  CompassLabs’ algorithms crawl Tweets and Discussion Boards to find strings which signify that a user is looking to make a purchase.  Users who make posts with a high probability of purchasing intent then receive targeted ads directly from participating vendors.  While the success of the company will ultimately rely on the willingness of social media outlets to share user data (CompassLabs’ future with Twitter is in question, and the Golden Calf- Facebook- is still illusive) the concept alone is enough to generate some excitement.

Perhaps the greatest advantage search campaigns hold over social media are the ability to easily quantify effectiveness through analytics.  At SWIX Advanced on Tony Adams of MySpace (!) discussed SWIX, a comprehensive social media analytics tool.  SWIX collects data via pods from 20 social media outlets and provides clear metrics in one location.  With an impressive array of tools and one stop, multi-outlet analytics, companies like SWIX appear to be the next step in fully wielding the marketing potentials for social media.  Going forward it will be interesting to see who else will want to jump into this pot.  Currently SWIX offers their services at monthly rates; but with Bing now offering social media search one has to wonder if one of the web giants will offer a free service that will blow SWIX out of the water.
Business X-Factors, SEO, Social Media No Comments

Marketing Lessons From Senatorial Candidate “Alvin Greene”

Money may not buy you love, but when a campaign outspends its rival 25:1 and still falls behind, wasting money certainly will buy you anger and confusion.  No greater example of this can be found than in South Carolina’s recent Democratic Senate primary. Over a week after a stunning upset of Vic Rawl by the previously unknown Alvin Greene, political pundits are still attempting to understand how a man with over 20 years of public service experience lost to a unemployed man living in his father’s basement.  The numbers go against all logic.  Vic Rawl’s campaign had a budget of $250,000 to Alvin Greene’s ballot minimum of $10,400.  Rawl had a campaign team of 12 that employed almost every campaign device in the book.  Greene had himself and zero campaign expenditures outside of the cost of getting himself on the ballot.  Yet considering all of these factors, Greene captured 59% of the vote.  Obviously many have cried foul, hypothesizing conspiracies and deviant schemes.  Someone outside of the race has to be to blame for such an epic campaign failure, right?  Well, maybe not necessarily.  Regardless of the legitimacy of Alvin Greene’s campaign there are some incredibly useful marketing lessons to be learned by his improbable success.

Names Still Matter
An election results theory that was first cast off as a joke now stunningly seems to be gaining validity.  On Monday the first of perhaps many Greene voters publiclyadmitted that she voted for Greene simply because of how closely his name resembled soul singer Al Green.  Perhaps Vic Rawl would have fared better if his first name was Lou (a la jazz singer Lou Rawls) but instead his name appears much closer to “Sick Raw”, far from an appetizing candidate.  All things equal, people are going to make the choice with the most name recognition, relevant to the subject matter or not.  Selecting the right name for your business is a branding fundamental; if your name does not direct leads to a specific narrative they will supply the narrative for you, to your benefit or detriment.  It’s an element so many of us take for granted until events like the South Carolina primary suddenly remind us of their power.

Placement Still Matters
Although Greene was victorious by a massive 18 point margin, studies show that at least 2.3 of those percentage points can be directly attributed to the fact that his name was first on the ballot.  Case studies show that this differential increases when less money is involved with the campaign. It’s an element to the decision making process that seems so juvenile yet holds significant weight- preference goes to whoever the eye sees first.  It’s the very core behind launching an SEO campaign.  If anything the curious case of Alvin Greene shows the importance of aggressive SEO campaigns in very competitive markets.

So What?
Moving forward theories explaining the results of this election are bound to continue, but the marketing lessons to be learned from it are very simple.  When we consider that less than 30% of registered Democrats voted in the South Carolina primary, and the seemingly curious nature of the results, it is easy to see a very basic lack of engagement in the voting process.  In turn this should cause the business owner to ask if their marketing practices are actively engaging their potential customers.  Do we inspire our customers to care about the services we offer?  Are we then sufficiently fulfilling their needs?  Is our brand important enough to customers that they are willing to look for us even if we aren’t at the top of a list?  Are we inspiring our customers to be active consumers of our business, or are they engaged with us passively?  Without cogent and honest answers to these questions it is still very possible to lose, even if you are outspending the competition 25:1.

Looking for more on the mysterious Alvin Greene?  Check out this video

Business X-Factors No Comments

What’s New About “New” in Mobile Ads?

baby danger

It has been almost two months since Steve Jobs first introduced Apple’s intentions of entering the mobile advertising market with the iPhone 4’s iAds application feature.  While at first viewed as part of the multi-pronged reaction to Google’s acquisition of AdMob (an acquisition the FTC explicitly says they recently approved based on Apple’s reactionary acquisition of Quattro), this should not be viewed as just another intriguing chapter in the once incestuous, now openly combative relationship between Google and Apple.  Jobs’ performance at Monday morning’s WWDC points to intriguing philosophy shifts in mobile advertising.  Shifts, yes, but not the dramatic, “game changing” shifts that Apple has built their brand on.

In declaring that “search on mobile isn’t happening” Jobs’ illustrates what many have observed: that mobile users essentially micro-search through the use of apps rather than using the traditional engines popularized by desktop and notebook users.  This clearly explains how Jobs was able to announce that iOS4 will offer Microsoft’s Bing as a search option not just comfortably, but with condescending praise.  That said, niche-based search found through apps clearly complicates most mobile SEO strategies, in particular when professionals lazily attempt to replicate standard web strategies on mobile platforms.

With apps becoming the strongest way to reach the mobile consumer–Jobs’ boasts the ability of iAds to reach 1 billion daily impressions–the seamless integration of ad and app is natural.  There is certainly much to be excited about iAd’s goal of providing the interactive and emotive elements of the ad space seamlessly within the application (”an application with the application”), rather than simply linking to an outside website.  But, any time we come across something announced as *new* it becomes important to consider what exactly is new about it.  Ironically, when considering descriptions of iAds they sound curiously familiar to many expandable java ads that allow users to experience the ad while staying within the website it is embedded in.

Also, with iOS4 finally offering the multi-tasking capabilities so many users pined for, it suddenly becomes more difficult to articulate the advantages of a user being able to experience ad applications within the original application.  As users become more accustomed to the ability to move through simultaneously running applications the novelty of opening an ad app within an application runs thin.

Are iAds “game changing” in and of themselves?  No, but the posturing of Apple and Google leading up to and after its July 1st release certainly will be.  Apple’s current $60 million in ad campaign commitments is still dwarfed by Google’s ad empire, but the often tangled relationship between these giants will naturally cause this to change moving forward.  That said, Jobs’ goal to create platforms to deliver ads with “emotion” and interactivity magnifies an element that many unsuccessful campaigns fail to properly employ: the need to weave a coherent and effective advertising narrative– something that does not inherently need “game changing” or “revolutionary” platform developments.

Business X-Factors, Media, Web2.0 1 Comment

The People to Avoid Following on Twitter

A few months ago, I attended a release party for a new Craigslist competitor.  Of course, anytime someone claims to be the ‘new’ anything (usually it’s Facebook) I immediately raise a red flag or two.  Pageantry and gagging jargon were bountiful; several clichés were thrown, tossed about so flippantly that the English language was reduced to nothing more than the replay from a voice recorder hidden in David Ogilvy’s codpiece.

The crowd was comprised of local tech bloggers, journalists, connoisseurs, and wannabes; the vast majority of whom ended up becoming a critical force in driving the presentation.  The site performed poorly in a live demo; the presenters were ill prepared to discuss the future of their business, and worse, the snacks weren’t brought around the crowd at a brisk enough pace.

The presenter and CEO of the site unraveled and began to disclose much more than his release detail.  It was his core marketing understanding and belief.  At least 4 straight questions were answered by a resounding “Because we think that Seth Godin would do the same.”

At the fourth such response, one of my cohorts leaned over to me and said: “This company is running face first into a brick wall with both hands behind its back.”

For starters, if your business model is to hang on every word of a single Marketing Philosopher - no matter how talented or successful he or she may be - you are doomed.   The body of knowledge in marketing, and particularly internet marketing, is simply too broad in discipline and knowledge for a single person, no matter their amount of appearances as a talking head, or published books, to be a sole provider of theory.

Marketing and the Internet is bigger than the brain power of one person.

If you use Twitter as your source of Marketing study then I strongly recommend you expand your followership to 100 or more people of various disciplines (SEO, Print, TV, PPC, etc.), with varied follower counts, levels of notoriety, and published works.

The power of group-sourced intelligence on Twitter will act as a balance board for your personal development.  Your followed list should not look like an Ode to Gode; rather, it should resemble a technicolor Lego boogie board.

Below is a list of people noobs should avoid as a sole marketing resource.  Though all brilliant in their own right, they are mere micro chasms of the entire scope of the worlds digital marketing brain trust and will give you an awkward slant on life if read out of context (140 characters  at a time).  Building your business around persona twitter timelines would be like trying to jump the Grand Canyon with a rocket strapped to your back.











Business X-Factors, Media, Social Media 10 Comments