Online marketing traditionally focuses on gathering volumes of data ranging from basic demographics to past purchases and personalized “wish lists” in an effort to analyze the past in order to predict future interest. Lost in the shuffle is the here and now—that is, the customer’s current interest.
Marketers have shifted media as technology has advanced, continuously improving their ability to target the customer. For the innovative marketer, the Internet opened new doors early on. And now that the Internet is part of everyday life for hundreds of millions of potential customers, companies must re-evaluate their online marketing strategies to ensure effectiveness.
One question marketers should ask is, “How do I reach the consumer with the right offer, when the consumer is most likely to act on it?”
Americans turn to the Internet more and more as their source of entertainment, commerce and community. According to a recent Pew Internet and American Life Project survey, the size of the online population on a typical day grew from 52 million Americans in March 2000 to 66 million in August 2003—an increase of 27 percent. The numbers alone show that the opportunity for marketers is clear.
An opportunity unique to the Internet is marketers’ ability to target a large population with relevant offers based on their current, at-the-moment, demonstrated interests. The original premise of online advertising focused on the ability to deliver targeted advertising, but the reality is that it was (and continues to be) mostly based on guesswork and aggregate information about a site’s demographics. Results from online marketing staples such as banner ad networks, pop-ups and email marketing have plummeted, largely because of their decreasing novelty and low relevance to the viewer.
The key to unleashing the power of the Internet for marketers is to reach consumers when and where they are most likely to purchase?this is where Desktop Advertising Networks (DANs) join the online marketing mix.
The Rise of Desktop Advertising Networks
There is an important architectural distinction between site-based messaging and that of a Desktop Advertising Network. While an advertisement or offer on a Web site can’t be seen if someone’s not visiting that site, DANs are able to reach consumers anywhere they go on the Web. This emerging advertising model offers marketers access to millions of willing consumers through software that resides on their computer desktops. In contrast to a Web site, which typically delivers either a large, but untargeted audience, or a targeted but small audience, the DAN can deliver both precision targeting and mass reach. By interpreting each consumer’s current activity?with algorithms that analyze keywords, URLs, HTML code, and search terms in use on the consumer’s browser?the software is capable of making highly relevant offers to each consumer in real time.
This desktop advertising approach is gaining traction with consumers and marketers alike. First, marketers are seeing click-through rates that dwarf those of traditional online advertising, and producing dramatically better results through the relevance of the DANs’ instant marketing offers. Second, consumers are benefiting from relevant offers that save them money when it is most useful, such as travel vouchers offered as someone is booking an airline ticket.
Consumers participate in a DAN in exchange for free popular software—such as P2P file sharing applications or desktop weather applications. This is similar to the network television model marketers are familiar with where viewers get free programming in exchange for viewing commercials.
The popularity of DANs among consumers has vaulted a handful of them into Nielsen//NetRatings’ ranking of top Internet properties?with tens of millions of active consumers across the leading DANs?regularly outdrawing brands such as Walt Disney Entertainment Group, Terra Lycos and RealNetworks. The combination of audience size and targeting capabilities has made DANs a near requirement in today’s online marketing mix.
How It Works: An Online Travel Service Targets Reservation Hunters
A leading Internet-based travel service wanted to jump start its online marketing efforts, and decided to try the DAN approach. The travel service supplied the creative content to a major DAN along with a series of keywords it wished to target in hopes that the software could target consumer activities that most likely matched its offer.
As consumers on the DAN researched travel options across the Internet using specific dates and destinations as well as URLs and keywords such as ‘flights’ and ‘reservations,’ the desktop advertising software presented them with relevant offers for the Internet-based travel service. The campaign drew 8 percent click-through rates, dramatically better than the service’s other advertising buys.
The ability to make marketing offers at the very instant the consumer is most likely to purchase has seen DANs achieve click-through rates that average 4 percent and rise to as high as 20 percent. The most popular DANs can deliver an audience across the entire spectrum of topics, such as automotive, travel, retail, finance, entertainment and dating.
Challenges Marketers Face With DANs
As a new advertising model, DANs face confusion and skepticism?a combination that hinders rapid growth and mainstream acceptance. For instance, some large brand name companies have said that DAN-generated marketing offers placed in front of or beside the browser displaying their Web sites violate copyrights or trademarks and they claim that DANs are taking away sales.
However, in recent months, federal court decisions have upheld the legality of DANs and their contextual advertisements, supporting the consumer’s right to choose to use advertising software and invite content onto their desktops. As the Internet was intended, control of the online experience remains in the hands of the individual.
Marketers are also cautious of DANs because of the frequent association with pop-ups. Pop-up advertisements are used by nearly all online entities, most of them by Web site publishers. Much of the consumer frustration stems from pop-ups’ lack of relevance, and being overwhelmed by them at every Web site they visit. This has even prompted some consumers to install pop-up blocker software to eliminate them from their online experience.
To overcome these concerns and benefit from the types of response rates seen with DANs, marketers should work with desktop advertising providers to ensure:
- User privacy must be priority No. 1. Marketers should be assured that no personal information will be gathered from the user’s desktop or browsing habits, and choose a partner whose software uses ad-serving algorithms directly on the user’s desktop rather than via a third-party server. This will strengthen the marketer’s brand and relationship with the consumer by ensuring their privacy is respected. A DAN should outline its privacy policies in plain English with their partner’s user agreement.
- They enable delivery of relevant marketing offers in a number of formats, including but not limited to pop-ups. Formats such as panoramics, sliders, leave-behinds, transparencies and branded product images give the marketer the greatest flexibility in how to present its marketing offers.
- Marketing offers are clearly branded. This will help differentiate to the user between an instant DAN offer and the ocean of irrelevant pop-ups they are fighting with.
- Its software partners (file-sharing, weather applications, etc.) offer consumers a choice between a paid version free of advertisements and an equal but free, ad-supported version. This helps drive consumer awareness, participation, and acceptance, thus driving up the value of the DAN concept and the advertising within it. Just consider the network and commercial-free paid TV analogy and consumers’ acceptance of that model.
- Control the number of offers presented to a consumer in any given period of time. A very low frequency, combined with precision targeting abilities of an effective DAN, will result in better response rates and an improved user experience with a given brand.
Scott Greenberg has been VP of Sales Channel Partnerships at WhenU.com since early 2003. He has led WhenU’s sales efforts and increasing engagement with mainstream marketers. Previously, Scott served as head of business development for Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, and worked as the VP of Corporate Development at Phase2Media. He graduated with an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Target's Hello Manhattan campaign
About the campaign: To announce its grand opening in Manhattan, Target used a variety of outdoor ads and sponsored content, coupled with an elaborate Facebook effort, to weave its brand into the fabric of New York City. The retail giant teamed up with a local agency to create ads that not only announce the company's arrival, but also embody the true spirit of the Big Apple.
Why it's great: When Target decided to open its first store in New York City, the company had a clear challenge facing it: How could the brand gain awareness and acceptance for a new store in a location that is already heavily saturated with retailers?
It was no small feat, but Target achieved its goal by creating an elaborate integrated campaign that plastered the company's image and messaging across the city. From billboards to bus wraps, skyscrapers to subway cars, Target branded its new store as a pleasant, new addition to the city.
The ads were consistent from the context right down to the color scheme, and their unique look and feel allowed Target's messaging to stand out in a city that is already inundated with ads.
For this campaign, Target needed more than just consistent messaging across the city. In order to succeed, the brand needed to literally become a part of New York, and did this through a variety of local efforts. For example, Target managed to score front-page coverage of its grand opening in several popular local publications, including the New York Post and the New York Daily News. It also brought a number of New York clothing designers into the store to increase local appeal, and if that's wasn't enough, the company even had the chain's mascot, a miniature bull terrier, ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
One might have expected the festivities to settle down after Target opened its doors, but the retailer had something additional up its sleeve. Less than a month after its official welcome to the city, Target unveiled a top-secret project called the Target Kaleidoscopic Fashion Spectacular. The brand refused to give specifics on the project, but it told New Yorkers to gather at the base of The Standard Hotel on August 18 for "a night of harmoniously synchronized fashion, light and sound." Target chose The Standard Hotel in order to retain local appeal, but the retail giant knew online audiences would be intrigued as well. For this reason, the brand wisely decided to stream video from the event live on Facebook.
The Facebook element enabled audiences not only to tune in for the show, but to also watch from multiple camera angles. The company also empowered the Facebook faithful to upload photos from the event and become part of the social chatter. By turning the event into a social media spectacle, Target did its part to assure the Kaleidoscopic Fashion Spectacular would excite audiences well beyond the boroughs of New York.
From inception to execution, Target hit a homerun with its Hello Manhattan campaign, and it should come as no surprise that New Yorkers have embraced the brand's new location.
Toyota's Sienna Family campaign
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
About the campaign: After years of running review-driven, product-focused ads, Toyota took an entirely new approach with its Sienna Family campaign. It took the focus off of car features and looked instead at how those features influence the family dynamic. The quirky ads introduce us to two proud parents who struggle to manage their young children. The ads revolve entirely around the family itself and emphasize on how the car's features make life easier for everyone involved.
Why it's great: Toyota was posed with a new challenge after its massive global recall earlier this year: How does a brand that has positioned itself as "safe" assuage widespread concerns that it is no longer trustworthy?
Firestone faced the same problem in 2000 when its tires caused blowouts that led to more than 250 deaths. Upon questioning regarding the incident at a U.S. congressional hearing, CEO of Firestone Masatoshi Ono remarked that the accidents were due to Ford defects -- and obviously had nothing to do with Firestone's tires. Like Toyota, Firestone had always marketed its products as the "safe choice" for drivers, and the company figured that shifting blame, coupled with new ads that focused even more heavily on safety than before, was all the company would need to get back on track.
Toyota took a different approach than Firestone following its safety fiasco. Instead of trying to repair its image by denying blame and running a slew of contrived, safety-saturated ads, Toyota found another way to make us feel safe -- by showing us how its automobiles can benefit the health and happiness of our families.
Having a great integrated campaign takes more than clever rebranding, however. A true integrated campaign requires careful planning, and Toyota showed a lot of foresight by running the Sienna Family TV spots with a clear call-to-action at the end of each ad, summoning interested viewers to learn more at the company's YouTube page. Unlike many campaigns that will post television commercials online after the TV spots have aired, Toyota did an exceptional job of integrating all of its channels from the start. The company believed that its audience would flock to YouTube, and 5.7 million page views later, it seems Toyota was right.
What truly makes this a noteworthy integrated campaign, however, is that Toyota did more than just port its TV spots to web. Hosting commercials online is great, but creating original content to complement your other messaging is even better. The now-famous Swagger Wagon music video posted on the company's YouTube page features the Sienna parents performing a hip-hop song about the car.
The video is a homerun on all fronts because it 1) features the main characters from the original commercials, 2) meshes with the overall corny appeal of the campaign, and 3) the music video is perfect for web, proving that Toyota knows how the channel should be used.
Car manufacturers are no strangers to integrated campaigns, but few are done with such spot-on execution. Toyota manages to wow us with a family-focused, funny-yet-sweet campaign that succeeds across multiple platforms, while at the same time repairing its branding crisis.
Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
About the campaign: What began as a simple series of TV spots has evolved into one of the greatest social media campaigns of all time. The ads feature Isaiah Mustafa, a suave and shirtless man who represents the epitome of "what men should be." Although the product is designed and targeted for men, the ads often address "the ladies" in order to suggest that neglecting to use Old Spice might cause your girlfriend or spouse to move on to a better-smelling guy.
Why it's great: The campaign has been held up as a prime example of how to get an integrated approach right on all fronts. Old Spice began by launched a series of television ads that introduced us to a new character with a clear message: Wear Old Spice, or you're not a real man. Old Spice targeted these ads to young adults and used social media to repost the ads all over the web. The quirky humor appealed to youth markets, which responded by storming social media channels with messages of praise for the ads.
As most social media gurus would agree, true engagement requires more than just posting your content online. It requires two-way communication, something that utilizes the true capabilities of the platform. Old Spice recognized this need by creating more than 200 short videos that responded to comments and questions directed at "the Old Spice guy" via Twitter, Facebook, and a handful of other social networking sites.
The appeal of these customized responses led to thousands of questions from excited social media users who hoped the Old Spice guy would answer their questions. While the video responses addressed only a portion of the thousands of questions that were submitted to Old Spice, they were so well done that it really didn't matter who had asked the question -- or in many cases even what the question was. The team of writers, art directors, producers, and editors surrounding the project crafted responses that anyone could enjoy -- not just the person who had originally submitted the question.
From both a conceptual and technological level, Old Spice has wowed us all. Not only was it ingenious to create video responses featuring the main character from the ads, but it was done with such speed and skill that many people asked how it was possible to go from concept to execution so quickly. There have been a lot of great integrated campaigns this year, but few have forced us to question how they were technically possible, and the brand used platforms in ways that we haven't seen before. Old Spice has raised the bar for social media integration to a level that is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.
Integrated campaigns are no longer just mirrors of the same message being repeated in different channels. Rather, each channel feeds into a greater brand story. It's no longer enough to simply hit a multitude of channels with "consistent messaging." Instead, marketers need to weave a branded tapestry in which each message contributes to a greater whole.
Whether it's Old Spice or Target, "Despicable Me" or the Sienna family, all of these campaigns take integration beyond consistency, with each message acting as a smaller piece of a greater story. With more tools at marketers' fingertips than ever before, the ability to build a brand story is only getting easier. As digital technologies gain increased acceptance among consumers, the capabilities of each platform will expand. Old Spice might be the top integrated campaign of this year, but something greater is likely just around the bend.
Did we overlook your favorite integrated campaign from this year? If so, please let us know in the comments section.
Greg Bardsley is lead video editor of iMedia Connection.
Page fan counts are growing on facebook
With recent murmurs about Facebook's growth waning and that their user base is reaching its saturation point, it's interesting to take a look at how brand pages are doing. Facebook, after all, is betting that brands are going to be big users of Facebook.
Of course, brands follow the crowds -- literally -- and so a great first data point to view is how are brand pages doing at attracting fans?
Let's look at some of the top line data points from our analysis in Chart B.
Chart B: Industry Average Fan Growth Rates
Perhaps most significant, all 61 pages experienced positive fan growth for the three month period. Even the category with the slowest fan growth rate, Candy Bars, grew its fan base over 7 percent. And the average size of those pages was 7.4 million fans, which means each page picked up an average of around 518,000 fans that quarter. The "Automotive - Trucks" category boats the most growth at 17 percent.
If you consider those rates are only for a quarter, then those figures equate to some very impressive growth rates.
Some of the largest pages are growing most rapidly
Consider the fan growth rates of some of the larger pages in our study, shown in chart C. Converse, the largest page we analyzed, has over 31 million fans. They also experienced the single highest growth rate of any page: Over 31 percent. That equates to over 9 million fans gained in three months!
McDonalds ended the period with 20 million fans, growing more than 12 percent. Burberry: 12 million fans and a 9 percent growth rate. Southwest Airlines -- a regional company no less -- has 2.7 million fans and grew at over 28 percent. And those are examples across some very diverse product and service categories.
Chart C: Data for Converse, McDonalds, Burberry, and Southwest Air.
Looking at data like that, you'd have to say that Facebook users still "like" the brands they love.
For brands with smaller fan counts wondering if there's still opportunity with Facebook, or how much upside there is to Facebook, the answer seems pretty clear: A lot.
Brands are making their presence known through solid posting volume
A year or so ago, it wasn't hard to find large brand pages that posted only a couple of times a week. That's less the case today.
In our research, only one category, Candy Bars, posted less than 1x per day average. And their average was 75: If we only count weekdays, that's still a greater than 1x per day average.
Chart D shows average posting volumes for each category in the report.
Chart D: Facebook brand page average posting volumes
Major brands are well aware that Facebook isn't about collecting fans. It's about publishing content that will keep fans interested in the brand. Most content or social media strategists would agree that engagement should be the overarching goal of most pages. Of course, to understand engagement, you have to publish content. Enough content to know what works and what doesn't.
The industry average for posting volume speaks volumes about how brands are approaching Facebook. Instead of tip toeing in, many of them are posting in very high volume. That level of posting gives them a much faster understanding of what's working and what isn't. More swings at the plate equals more home runs.
High engagement rates are achievable at vastly different fan counts and posting volumes
There are three ways to increase the impact of your Facebook page:
- Gain more fans
- Increase the engagement rate of those fans
- Increase your posting volume
Of course, high fan counts or posting volume are rendered far less impactful if engagement rates are low. A high engagement rate supports all your other initiatives, but having more fans or posting more frequently does nothing to improve your engagement rates.
So it makes sense that obtaining high engagement rates should be a primary focus at any point.
Furthermore, you should be able to achieve high engagement rates with any fan count, and with varying posting volumes.
Chart E: Brands with high engagement rates combined with high posting volume or fan count
Data is viewed relative to industry averages
Note in chart E how both Victoria's Secret and Adidas Originals are above average in both fan count and engagement rate, while Ram Trucks and San Francisco Tourism are driving strong engagement rates while posting in relatively high volume.
Bottom line, there's plenty of evidence that even with a large fan count brands should be able to drive solid engagement rate figures for their industry.
Brands wanting to maximize their impact on Facebook should look to brands with large fan counts and high posting volumes in addition to high engagement rates to understand what their posting behavior is and why it's making such an impact. Observe the media types that are working for them, the subjects that drive good engagement rates, and the way those companies extend their brand personality through their Facebook content.
Given this information, let's look at a few things marketers can take away from these findings:
Prioritize doubling your engagement rate over doubling your fan base
Everyone wants to have a lot of fans. It looks impressive and is a major social media benchmark. But remember, growing your fan count is never going to be the end of the line. That's because once you have high fan growth, you still have to engage those fans, or they'll probably leave for a more amusing, informative, or helpful page. This page could possibly be that of one of your competitors.
However, if you focus on engagement rate from the onset, you'll be doing something that will both fuel your fan growth and establish groundwork for what will be an ongoing task on Facebook -- knowing what content works.
And if you build engagement you'll be growing your page organically. Engagements create the ripple effect as those who like, comment, and share your content expose your brand to their own network. So making this a priority will make your fan acquisition goals only more effective.
Furthermore, if you're trying to acquire new fans, showcasing engaging content that's generating activity on your page is the surest way of making them want to join in by "liking" your brand. In other words, good content will improve your fan acquisition conversion rates.
Make the investment in quality content
Defining "quality content" isn't easy with content taking on so many forms. The point here is that whatever content you're publishing, do you have an "A" team creating it? If not, and you're engagement rates are low, consider several ways you might be able to spice things up.
Quality can be interpreted literally to mean higher cost or higher resolution files. And that's not an entirely unfair way to assess it. If you follow Red Bull, you'll see stunning photo images that often generate strong engagement rates.
Chart F: Red Bull example of using spectacular imagery to drive engagement
Red Bull is the gold standard when it comes to publishing expensive content.
However, there are plenty of cases where brands are taking a more DIY approach.
Converse frequently posts fan photos of their shoes that frequently pulls very high engagement rates.
Likewise, Jack in the Box gets engagement rates well over their industry average with a simple but cleverly written status update.
Chart G: Converse and Jack in the Box posts with smaller production requirements.
Both of these require a different type of quality. One type of quality is in the form of the strategists who understand what type of content will appeal to fans -- even if it doesn't involve costly production resources -- and the other is in the form of copywriting. Someone has to have the skills to make a status post perform like a photo, and that's not an easy job.
Your brand identity should be greater than the sum of your posts
Ever notice how we have an expectation from certain people. Some people who are smart, we literally anticipate them saying something smart the minute they open their mouth. The same expectation holds true with funny people -- you can feel ready to laugh before you really know what they're saying.
It is important to note that this doesn't happen the first time you meet someone, rather it is built up over a long period of time.
Well, Brands can gain the same type of expectations through their content.
Consider Disney, and their post below in chart H. Each day they post a still from one of their movies, along with a quote from that scene in the movie, and the engagement rates they get are phenomenal. Disney has over 36 million fans, yet they averaged .21 percent engagement rate for the 3 months of our report.
Chart H: Disney Post with High Engagement Rate
Here are a few more examples of fans that seem to anticipate engaging with the brand:
- Southwest Air: Industry-competitive engagement rate with almost 4x the average page size in its category.
- Jeep: Strong engagement rate with 3x its category's average page size
- Converse: 31 million fans and an engagement rate above average in its category
Regardless of what the latest stock price of Facebook is, the people using the platform seem to indicate that Facebook pages are an active and growing marketing opportunity for brands. Page growth rates are up across all 9 industries we analyzed and -- in some cases -- you could almost describe the fan growth as explosive.
However, when you take a closer look at the data by reviewing individual page data, you'll see that engagement of those fans is far from a given. It's something brands have to earn.
Fortunately, Facebook offers brands the most comprehensive way to analyze how their content performs. Marketers need to dig below the surface and ask the hard questions about what types of content are really driving engagement, and how can they improve on what they're doing.
Knowing what works can provide both near term insights that can increase page performance, and lead to long term customer relationships with fans who literally look forward to the brand's content.
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