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Honda's "Cog" Commercial Spreads via Net

Honda's "Cog" Commercial Spreads via Net iMedia Editors

Twitter is not a one-way megaphone, so don't treat it like one.

The world has gone Twitter crazy. And, true to form, most brands are one step behind early adopters. Over the last year or so, brands have been playing catch up; some brands have even caught the Twitter bug. If you don't believe me, just take a look at this list of brands using Twitter. While I am an advocate of brands effectively using Twitter when it makes sense, I would rather not see brands on Twitter at all than see them negatively disrupting a social channel -- and embarrassing themselves in the process.  

For example, consider British Airways' Twitter presence. When I saw this, I thought, "What were they thinking?" Here are some of the key flaws in the company's execution:

  • British Airways has been live on Twitter for months and has only updated the account seven times.

  • They have 261 followers. And while I recognize many of them as marketers doing their homework, I am sure there are some loyal BA consumers there as well. So, if a consumer is following your brand, why would you not follow them back and make them feel like you care? To that end, how could you not care?

  • BA's tweets -- which are Twitter updates, for the uninformed -- read like well-crafted promotional copy. But Twitter is a conversational platform. When was the last time you said, "Fly business class by 12/31 & get a complimentary companion ticket" in conversation? There is a place for one-way conversations on Twitter -- news updates, emergency warnings, etc. -- but more often than not, it is effective to have an interactive presence on Twitter.

Create buzz, but don't let the bee get away.

Many marketers spend a great deal of time talking about the sexier aspects of the advertising and marketing business. Viral campaigns, buzz marketing and "the big idea" are goals that some find more interesting than making money. I love great advertising and great ideas that generate buzz. I also love the fact that great adverting can be shared online with ease. But if you are going to create demand for something through advertising, be sure that you are able to service that demand and capitalize on it at every touchpoint.

A recent Diesel campaign provides an example of demand generated but not answered. The company launched a [warning: adult themed] video that probably made Ron Jeremy look twice. The launch was in support of Diesel's 30th anniversary, and the buzz surrounding this video was tremendous. As you can see, there was a significant spike in the number of queries for "diesel video" on Google.

What if, for example, I had heard about the Diesel video but heard no details about the content? Let's say all I knew was that Diesel had created a must-see online video. I did a search for "diesel video," and the results looked something like this:


The brand itself is not present in the organic listing, so the company obviously did not optimize the video for search. In addition, Diesel is not buying the keyword on Google in order to respond to the demand generated by the video.

Responding to demand generation from outdoor advertising can also be an effective way to generate additional interest around a campaign. For example, let's pretend it is a sunny day in New York City and we -- me and you, yeah you -- just finished Sunday brunch. We see the below outdoor ad, but due to our after-brunch haze, we only take note of the billboard's attributes. We were able to remember the medium (AstroTurf on wall) but forgot the message (tune in for Monday Night Football). I say to you, "Do you remember that green AstroTurf ad we saw? What was it for? Can you do a Google search and let me know? I'm really curious."

It should be pretty easy to find on Google, right? Actually, it was not as easy as you think. But in this case, it was not too hard to find something about the billboard.

The third result on Google links to an article about how people vandalized some of these experimental ads and how the materials were potentially hazardous. This does not necessarily shed a positive light on ESPN. You found what you were looking for on Google, but you also may have found something that ESPN would not want you to find.
In light of the fact that these billboards were experimental, it was very likely that there would be a lot of chatter about them. It would have been prudent for ESPN to harness the buzz through search. ESPN could have created a series of PPC ads targeted to all of the locations where the billboards lived. For a modest budget, ESPN could have successfully captured the demand it generated (and, in this case, detracted consumers from negative press).

Here's a sample ad that ESPN could have used:

Existing sites cannot be "SEOed." Stop trying.

Have you ever tried to build a house from the top down? Of course not. That would be silly, right?

The notion may not seem as silly when you hear, as I do, time and again, "We just finished our new site, and we need it SEOed." I don't have a screenshot for this section, as half of the websites I see do not adhere to web standards. (Examples of poor web development are not hard to find.)

A good SEO practitioner can certainly help out after a site is built. But why not employ an SEO strategist from day one in order to ensure the site is being built properly?

The "mashup" web is less about insular content beds and more about adapted content -- content that can be distributed with ease in order to get your marketing messages heard in various environments.

Next time you are working on a new site, get a good SEO consultant involved from day one. Your budget will thank you for it.

Feel free to stay at home in your walled garden -- just don't be surprised when no one shows up for the tea party.

Let's face it, websites are dead.

Did that get your attention?

A website is simply one part of a brand's web presence. To be blunt, I am sick of hearing about award-winning websites that cost an absurd amount of money and yield few results. It is time digital marketers begin to think in terms of their web presence, not their website. It is time digital marketers learn how to create syndicated web strategies.

Here you see the Jeep website, fully equipped with all the obligatory Flash elements.

While I am a big fan of online experiences, I am not sure that the Flash components of this site are, in fact, Jeep's strongest marketing assets. If you click on the link off of the Jeep homepage titled "Jeep Experience," you find what I feel to be the most valuable elements of Jeep's online experience: Jeep's community page.


Jeep's experience page is a hub for all of its social content on the web -- content that is spread across various properties outside of the company's own domain. At a time when consumers have a great deal of control over their online media experiences, marketers need to think past their own walled gardens. The alternative is irrelevance and obsolescence.

A disconnected nation
So, every brand needs a social network, right?

The proliferation of white-label social networks has led to some pretty outlandish, unexpected -- and sometimes useless -- branded networks. While I certainly don't think it is bad for a brand to experiment with a private social network (I have seen and am working on some very exciting ones), there are two questions that need to be answered before the experiment ensues:

  • What value is the network adding?

  • How interoperable can I make my network with other social networks? In other words, how easily does my network talk to Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc.? This is often a technical, legal and bureaucratic question.

I recently joined Slurpee's social network, Slurpee Nation, and I have to admit that I found it to be of little value. Still, there seem to be a few thousand people who disagree. I would be willing to bet that the creators of this network are underwhelmed by its performance, but a few thousand hand-raisers are nothing to scoff at. If Slurpee is committed to its network and its community, I have no doubt the company can find a way to provide value over time.

My main gripe with Slurpee's overarching social web presence is that the company seems to have a number of outposts, but there is nothing that connects them. Below you can see the Slurpee Nation's homepage, as well as its seemingly disconnected Facebook page.

Social media is a commitment, not a campaign.

As social media visionary (and my boss) Joe Jaffe says, "Social media is a commitment, not a campaign." I often use this saying -- and sometimes forget to give Joe credit -- as this is a notion with which many marketers cannot seem to come to terms. Every day a new branded blog, podcast or Facebook page/application (and many other vehicles) adds to the clutter on the massive grid that is the internet, making it difficult for consumers to find what they really want. The problem is that much of this new content is not fostered and cared for, and initiatives are cut off at the knees before they even have a chance to realize success. If a brand is a promise, then every consumer touchpoint is part of that promise. Unmet promises by brands are brand suicide. And brand initiatives in the social space that are ended prematurely are tantamount to a broken promise.

The British Airways Twitter campaign mentioned earlier is an example of an unmet brand promise. By no longer showing up to its own community on Twitter, British Airways is making a statement that it simply doesn't care about its consumers. It is one thing to discontinue an online branded outpost; it is an entirely different thing to simply let it rust. 

Along the same lines, every branded Facebook fan page that is not kept up-to-date and every branded blog that lies dormant sends a message to the consumers who originally engaged the brand in conversation. The message sent by these brands is, "We simply don't care." Try using that as a tagline in your next 30-second spot.

When did things referred to as "viral" become a good thing?

I have heard numerous accounts of PR firms pitching videos they say are "viral." Months back, I read a blog post about an example of this type of marketing push on Lee Odden's Online Marketing Blog. Odden (and many others) were not pleased with the approach of the brand in question. Many were also not pleased with the video itself

More recently, the folks over at Videogum asked the question, "Was 2006 the golden age of viral video?" Amid the herd of marketers trying to create viral video, most are missing the point.

Take the video that Odden posted about on his blog back in February. The video is obnoxious and racist -- but there is no doubt it is an attention grabber and was passed around the web many times. The over-the-top nature of this video is so disruptive that, much like a car crash, one has little choice but to stop and see what is going on. The question is, just because something is passed around the web, does that mean it's good? Moreover, does it mean that the video is beneficial to the brand?

As much as I hate to propagate bad taste, take a look at the video mentioned above. There is no question it is viral, but ask yourself, "Is that how I want my brand represented?" With more and more marketers pushing the limits of taste for some cheap attention, thereby making consumers more and more skeptical, maybe Videogum was right -- perhaps 2006 was the height of the viral video.

The word "bad" is highly subjective. I often see campaigns that I think are bad, but I realize everyone has their own opinions. The fact is, today's marketing landscape has more ways to objectively deem elements of a campaign "good" or "bad" using analytics and other tools.

Some marketers are creating innovative initiatives and are starting to adapt to the new media landscape. Many more marketers are struggling with one vital function in modern marketing: connecting the dots. A great deal of marketers are still not paying attention to the interplay between search and outdoor, or Facebook and their own websites (to name just a few examples). Integration is the pinnacle of an effective campaign in today's marketplace. Even if some of the core ideas behind a campaign are not so good, a campaign can be saved through integration and optimization.

This article outlined a variety of marketing mistakes, but most of the mistakes were not in the ideas themselves -- the mistakes were in the execution.

Adam Broitman is strategy director/ringleader at Crayon.

Two for the price of one

In the above examples, did you notice we went from "one" to "two?" From hippocampus to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to working memory to behavioral centers, our gray matter is rerouting blood flow, oxygen, complex sugars, proteins, and enzymes to do two things. One of these things is focusing our attention (keeping us "engaged").

So what's the other thing? Equally important yet seldom recognized is that we're ignoring what's not engaging us.

In order to focus our conscious attention on something, we must create non-conscious filters to exclude ("ignore") any information not relevant to what our conscious mind is focusing on. Some filters are learned from parents, friends, and teachers. Others we create on the spot.

Excluded information is a distraction, and we need to put as much, if not more, energy into ignoring distractions as we do into staying focused ("engaged").

In fact, the effort we put into focusing and ignoring is directly proportional to how important our conscious minds believe the task is and how important our non-conscious minds believe the distractions are.

Have you ever seen a cat preparing to pounce on a bird or mouse? That cat is engaged. Being a predator (however cute and furry) is incredibly engaging. It requires a lot of focus, rapid evaluation of information as either relevant or distractive, and quick action based on those evaluations.

Cat pouncing and predation plays into solving the engagement puzzle because engagement is how our modern minds make use of all that hunter-gatherer wiring evolution designed in us over the last 7 million years.

Let's bring this back to marketing. You want engaged consumers? Give them something to hunt.

Our clever, clever minds

Our non-conscious mind is smarter than our conscious mind. It knows there are some distractions that must break our focus and concentration.

Neuroscientists call these important distractions "meaningful noise." Examples include our child's cry of pain or fear, a car speeding towards us, and anything from The Beatles' "Abbey Road" album.

Did that "Abbey Road" reference stop you -- anything from a full stop to a furrowed brow to a subtle "Huh?" to a mild chuckle? That's an example of meaningful noise.

If you just kept on reading and never noticed it, then you're not focusing on this column, and I'm not doing my job of getting and keeping you engaged.

The "Abbey Road" reference is meaningful noise because our conscious minds flag it as possibly incongruous information, the non-conscious rears its head (forgive the pun) to determine what got through the filters and why, and the end result is a "confusion point."

The incongruity creates noise that our minds attempt to filter (rapidly evaluate) as relevant or distractive information. We experience those confusion points as anything from full stops to amused chuckles.

Confusion points can be used to decrease or increase engagement (an example of relevant and engaging meaningful noise is described in the article "When it's OK to confuse your customers").

Marketing's goal is to cause our clever, clever minds to evaluate information rapidly as relevant and actionable ("engaging").

More specifically, the way marketers want to use the valuation is to create conversion, branding, and -- a recent development -- to provoke the consumer to "like" the brand within social media.

Defining engagement for business

Neuroscience might define engagement as the willing or unwilling allocation of neural resources along specific sensory channels. The two most obvious sensory channels are vision and hearing.

The individual who shuts their eyes to better hear some music is "engaged" by the music. Although this may not seem like predatory behavior, the same neural reward pathways are active as with the cat that is about to pounce.

Likewise, the guy who turns off his car radio so he can locate a specific address or street is "shutting" his ears in order to better see. He is "engaged" in locating an address.

This allocation of resources -- engagement -- is where profits happen.

Engagement resources are located in the cognitive, behavioral/effective, and motivational ({C,B/e,M}) brain regions. We know engagement is occurring because specific and easily measurable cognitive, behavioral/effective, and motivational neural activity is taking place.

These neural activities overlap, and these activities take place in the brains of everybody on the planet. When I'm on the court, I have the same {C,B/e,M} matrix as a world class tennis player. The difference is one of degree: The cognitive effort of the world class player is much higher than mine, and her motivation is greatly different -- a world title versus a Scotch in the club house at the end of the game.

The muscles and motions involved -- behavioral/effective element -- are also the same, except the world class player's is highly tuned due to their higher cognitive and motivational factors.

This is predation again. Whether a Scotch or a championship title, our brains are working towards a reward, and our {C,B/e,M}s are hunting down that reward.

Measuring engagement

Emotional engagement is the most easily measurable form of engagement. Emotional engagement is common to all {C,B/e,M}s and brings us back to being engaged to someone -- that form of predation that allowed our species to survive the 7 million years it took for that wiring to get in place.

We humans may think well of our rational minds, but any neuromarketer will tell you that emotions rule the world of commerce. The emotional mind's power has been demonstrated in everything from the Kennedy-Nixon debates to Baylor College's Pepsi-Coke challenge to Ogilvy's Rory Sutherland demonstrating that electronic cigarettes satisfy while nicotine patches and gum do not -- even though electronic cigarettes deliver no nicotine kick. Emotions may come into play at the end of the sales funnel (as with Audi purchasers) or at the beginning (Nissan Leaf purchasers).

Without emotional commitment, all you get is buyer regret and remorse at best and troublesome customers at worst.

The emotional mind's {C,B/e,M} control over our rational mind is best demonstrated by those non-conscious filters that are active when we're highly engaged. Abrupt interruptions usually trigger irritation that is demonstrated by an emotional response (we're rarely polite when we tell someone to "Shhh!").

High levels of engagement in meaningful noisy environments are called "high perceptual-load conditions."

Marketers rarely want to subject consumers to such things -- we don't want consumers working to pay attention. They'll fatigue rapidly (!) and go somewhere else.

So the goal of marketing is to create high engagement in "low perceptual-load conditions."

Marketing recognizes low perceptual-load conditions as someone using a browser, watching TV, and reading a newspaper or magazine. High perceptual-load conditions are people using their mobiles, tablets, and notebooks while commuting to work, at the cafe, at the beach, or in the bar.

There are lots of creative, usability, or just plain common sense reasons to create different content for mobiles, tablets, etc., versus browsers, print, and video.

But, before you get there, engagement reason numero uno is that the {C,B/e,M} requirements are so different from one medium to the next. What causes engagement in TV will be ignored on a tablet, and vice versa.

Engaging emotions like love

Emotional engagement is easy to measure because modern society puts such a premium on not being emotional. Modern people put lots of effort into masking their emotional thoughts, and that effort is demonstrated in subtle behaviors called "psychomotor behavioral cues."

The stronger the emotional engagement the greater the masking effort and the more exaggerated these psychomotor behavioral cues become. These cues are easily measurable through different interfaces: browser, mobile, tablet, and more.

Someone may "like" your page, brand, or product, but if the accompanying cues aren't demonstrating an actual act of liking (genuine affection), then that person's click and your efforts pursuing them are worthless. (This is similar to the distinction between a "Facebook friend" and the friend you ask to be the best man at your wedding.)

But if someone both clicks "like" and demonstrates deep emotional cues (akin, for example, to a "love" relationship)? Reach out to them, and hurry!

Rewarding our predatory minds

Our minds use our predator wiring to achieve effort-based rewards in modern society.

The amount of effort can vary greatly: An endurance athlete may savor an energy drink at the end of a triathlon, while I'll savor a good cigar at the end of a long presentation.

But the effort is not nearly as important as the reward. The reward has to be psychologically commensurate (not physically commensurate) with the individual's concept of their effort (what's called a "fair-exchange"), and the reward has to be sensory in nature.

Do visitors put in lots of effort to convert on your digital property and are rewarded with a simple "Thank you?" Kiss those visitors good bye. Without a reward commensurate to effort, you'll lose them to competitors regardless of how much competitors reward them.

Is a lot of effort required, but the eventual reward is musical fanfare, dancers discoing across the screen, blinking lights, and a big, red "My God you're good!" moving from bottom left to upper right? Kiss those visitors hello.

A three-step engagement template

Creating and keeping engagement and delivering a renewable effort-based reward are easy to do. Three steps are involved regardless of perceptual load, and these steps make use of how our senses, our predatory wiring, and emotional engagement work together.

Tease the senses
Remember the cat preparing to pounce? That preparation occurred because the cat's senses were being teased by the mouse. It could hear it but not see it, see but not touch, touch but not taste, and so on.

Preparation is anticipation, and few things are as engaging as anticipating a reward for our efforts, so provide that visitor with a mix of sensory data and remember to mix it up!

Don't provide all your sensory data at once: When you do that, the "desire" {C,B/e,M} shuts down because there's nothing to anticipate. Tease the cat. Get it ready to pounce.

Close, but no cigar
A large part of anticipation involves being close to but not having, or, in the words of Hannibal Lecter, "We begin by coveting what we see every day."

We covet what we see: Our eyes seek out what we want but do not have.

There is an old axiom that the value of a service decreases exponentially after the service is rendered. That's because the {C,B/e,M} driving anticipation and desire has been replaced by a {C,B/e,M} that includes neither. Once the coveted object is attained, there's nothing left to covet. (Think of Groucho Marx's famous quip, "I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.")

So, step two of engagement is to keep your prospects close -- but not too close.

But wait, there's more
I mentioned delivering a renewable reward above. Engagement is maintained when we know there will always be something just a little bit further away, just a little bit better, and just a little bit more enticing than what we have right now.

So, fulfill your customer's immediate desire, but when doing so, replace it with another desire. Sell them the car, but make sure they know about next year's model, or the next model up, or the latest sound system, or onboard assistant that's right out there, waiting for them, and just a little bit beyond their immediate reach.

The only difference between high and low perceptual-load -- mobile versus TV -- is that the mobile method must be obvious and easy to understand ("No thinking allowed!")


Engagement is easy to create and maintain and doesn't require expensive hardware, fancy headgear, advanced analytics, or isolated environments to monitor and measure.

Here's another way to describe the simple three-step engagement process:

Use their senses to entice them. Make sure the senses you're enticing -- vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell -- are specific to your brand offering. You can even stimulate taste, touch, smell, and more online via images, music, animation/video, text, and so on.

Keep them sensorially active. Bring your consumers closer, closer, closer, but not close enough to "get" it until you're prepared to...

Give them what they want. But promise them more. Replace "this" desire with a new desire and you'll keep their engagement muscles working for you.

I mentioned above that engagement is easily measurable. Currently, patented technology is being used to develop a "Love/Like" tool that determines how many visitor's "likes" will turn into how many dollars and when.

Joseph Carrabis is the founder and chief research officer for NextStage Evolution.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet

"Human intelligence" image via Shutterstock.


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