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Who will make the necessary changes?
Another big concern for automotive marketers is a much more inward facing challenge: identifying and hiring the right personnel in a diminished digital advertising talent pool.


Kyriakoza asked panelists how hard it has been to fill key marketing roles in their organizations. Cooper responded that it's a difficult process that takes a long time. "We're bring people in from outside automotive (mostly from the technology sector)." Brown agreed that it's a constant challenge to get talent, and since there's such churn in the business, maintaining consistency is the big aim.


And how are marketers looking to develop the talent needed to keep up with what clients need?


Part of digital talent is having an overall skill set, according to Carpenter, but there's also a mindset. "Digital mindset reaches beyond one group. The people producing the digital plans are integrating with offline plans."


"At the pinnacle of it all," said Brown, "it's another distribution method/marketing channel. It must be driven from the basic rules of marketing strategy, and that hasn't changed."


Video advertising and the virtual automotive world
Perhaps the most forward-looking discussion of the morning surrounded the roles that video and gaming will play in marketing vehicles. Kyriakoza wondered if automotive was an industry that reads the internet or watches it.


As a marketing pro, Carpenter said she has been a proponent of video for a few years. "There's a shopping experience and an entertainment experience. We use both but plan for them in a different way." While she feels that video strategies will only grow, she admits that right now, the video process is still a bit clunky, and which channels will dominate is still open for debate.


Brown said that video is absolutely is a continuing issue at FMM. "Of course we want to take advantage of it. It's about getting users to engage with the brand and video is a powerful medium," he said


Another emerging platform also came up in this part of the chat: virtual worlds. Kyriakoza wondered if there is real money involved in this segment, posing the question thusly: "How many lives does your ad budget have?"
 
Carpenter remarked that while some automotive brands, like Pontiac, have been aggressive in the gaming area overall, Planworks is still trying to work out a place for these experiences in the overall planning process and marketing approach.


Regardless of the how virtual strategies work out in the end, Brown said that he applauds Pontiac for its efforts. "It's not a marketing play that will turn their business around or even be a factor for a long time. But what's interesting is they're putting money where mouth is. Second Life is a low cost, low risk experiment, and a completely new form of marketing. If you believe we're living in this mega-cluttered world where marketing messages are ignored, this is something that should be experimented with."


Jodi Harris is managing editor for iMedia Connection's Driving Interactive. Read full bio.

With the advent and rise of social platforms, influence has been democratized more than ever. As a result, brands need to expand the breadth and range of individuals on their radar. Brands that successfully identify members of key communities and empower them to use their influence and credibility gain relevance through personalized messaging that resonates with these influencers' audiences.


While having a popular blog or a lot of Twitter followers can certainly help amplify a brand's message, it's not necessary. Finding authentic voices within relevant communities is critical. A good example of a brand putting this into action is Ford's Fiesta Movement.


For the launch of the Fiesta, Ford knew it needed to change its reputation with the 20-something demographic. Rather than try to hitch itself to emerging trends that it felt would speak to this consumer, Ford took it straight to them. Ford launched a national contest to identify 100 drivers to take a six-month test drive of its new car.



The 100 selected were given keys to the cars and asked to participate in monthly missions as well as share their thoughts through their blogs and social networks. Everything was aggregated at FiestaMovement.com, providing a real look into to the lives and experiences of a diverse set of consumers tied into the communities Ford was looking to impact.

While more and more brands realize a new set of influencers exists for their brands, the way they communicate with them can often lack substance. Brands should seek to create programming rather than messaging in an attempt to generate word of mouth. Thinking more like a TV producer and less like an advertising exec will result in creating compelling content that has value and is more likely to generate interest and spread.


An example of a brand creating a meaningful platform is Pepperidge Farm Goldfish brand's Fishful Thinking campaign. Pepperidge Farm identified a key need for young moms: Children were becoming less optimistic than previous generations. As a result, the Goldfish brand launched Fishful Thinking, an initiative led by child psychologist Dr. Reivich to help moms instill optimism in their children.



The initiative struck a chord with moms and became the centerpiece of all marketing activities. To spread the movement, Pepperidge Farm launched an ambassador network, "The School of Fishful Thinking," through which 1,000 moms were invited to learn from the brand and Dr. Reivich so they could take their learnings back to their communities. Moms spoke at PTA meetings, spread weekly parenting activities to their online networks, and drove other moms to FishfulThinking.com so they could learn more about instilling optimism in their children.

It's no secret that people love free stuff and promotions. While this has long been a motivator used by brands to get consumers engaged and get products in consumers' hands, social media has made this tactic highly viral, with reach well beyond just those who get the goods. Website-building companies like Squarespace and Moonfruit both instantly became top Twitter trending topics for their giveaways of Apple products by asking users to tweet their hashtags for a chance to win. Many such promotions have quickly spread on Twitter.


On Facebook, brands like Starbucks ice cream and Papa John's have quickly gained viral participation and Facebook fans by giving away their products. Starbucks, offering up 800 pints per hour, allowed people to send a pint of their new ice cream flavors to friends. Papa John's added 125,000 fans in one day with a free pizza offer. Burger King offered up a highly viral creative twist on giveaways when it offered a free Whopper to anyone who defriended 10 of their Facebook friends with the Whopper Sacrifice app. Despite not adhering to Facebook's Terms and Conditions, the app quickly spread and more than 230,000 Facebook friendships were terminated as a result.

"The Daily Record," the local paper of Dunn, N.C., boasts the highest penetration of any newspaper in the U.S. at an astounding 112 percent. Its secret? Post as many local names and pictures as they can. The newspaper realized early on that when people are featured in the paper, they will not only purchase their copy but others to share with friends and family. People simply like to see themselves in print. The same rule applies online.


In reviewing what spreads online, another key theme arose. Those campaigns that allowed consumers to feature themselves or friends in a cool or humorous way often saw success when done well. Moveon.org's Obama video executed on this brilliantly by allowing people to insert a friend's name into a video newscast claiming Obama lost by one vote and they were to blame. The person's name was shown repeatedly on the screen in what looked like a real newscast, causing viewers to forward the video to other friends with their name included, resulting in more than 10 million views of the video.


For the Activision game "Prototype", the brand took the idea even further. To launch the game, it asked users to log in via Facebook Connect on its website to view the trailer for the game. Once they did, the user viewed a trailer filled with personal information, pictures, and content embedded in highly contextual ways. This unique twist put the consumer front and center, causing users to take notice and share the experience with friends.

Content is king. This cliché is even more applicable when applied to sparking word of mouth online. Unlike TV, where there are limited built-in audiences waiting to tune in, online views are earned by creating content that users feel compelled to spread. With competition for eyeballs more fierce than ever, marketers must identify the content that will really resonate with their consumers and execute in an innovative, shocking, or laugh-out-loud way.


After viewing a T-Mobile commercial of users dancing in the Liverpool Tube Station, a Facebook member organized a Facebook flash mob to create a choreographed dance in the middle of the Liverpool station. Clueless bystanders were left wondering what was going on as everyone around them broke out in dance. The video has resulted in more than 13 million views on YouTube.


To spread the word about Marshall's store-within-a-store, called The Cube, Marshall's joined up with Liam Sullivan's YouTube sensation and cross-dresser character, Kelly, to create a prequel video to her popular videos like "Shoes" and "Let Me Borrow That Top." Hilarity ensued, delighting not only core Kelly fans but all those who shared the video with friends (resulting in nearly 1 million views to date).


While there have been some outliers, the majority of online word of mouth successes can be traced back to at least one of these triggers. Incorporating a trigger alone will by no means guarantee success; they do, however, provide a blueprint by which brands can access the strategies that will best resonate with their consumers. 


Brandon Evans is managing partner, strategy and services, for Mr Youth


On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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