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SearchTHIS: Requiem for Direct Metrics

SearchTHIS: Requiem for Direct Metrics Kevin Ryan

I suppose if one complains long enough, frequently enough or loud enough, one is bound to be heard. I have been more than a little bit worried -- and vocal -- about the fate of search listing placements since we all fell in love with immediate gratification, because we did the same with graphic ads and look how great that turned out. Only after years of recovery do we now expect more than an immediate response from graphic ad units.

Or maybe I am just a skeptic. I look at everything with a dark eye for two reasons. One, someone has to, and two, there is a certain freedom in having no expectations, ever. In every aspect of my life I am prepared for the worst. For instance, I know that when I fly, the connecting gate will always be miles from my arriving gate and I will have 10 minutes to get there. After waiting in line for 20 minutes at Starbucks, I know in front of me will be a jackass who has no idea what she wants when confronted by the barista. On my wireless phone, I know the call will be dropped just as the runway model is about to offer her number.

Last week, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) introduced new search marketing research, focused on adding a layer of value to response metrics. A pre-emptive move, if you will, to what some predict will be the next level of fall-out with search. Users will stop clicking on paid ads just as they have with banners -- and having a brand metric around in the event of such a disaster might just save the day.

I have to admit, when I was first introduced to this study I thought it was crap, (actually I used another word), but after digging into the data, I found yet another reason to maintain the "no expectation" motif, a pleasant surprise is so much more pleasant when one starts with no expectations.

The half decaf no-whip venti mocha

The primary goal of this year’s IAB search research extravaganza is actually pretty simple. Beyond click or a reasonable facsimile of direct response (e.g. view-through), what benefit does a search listing provide a brand? We call this "brand impact," a phrase which seemingly has no place in search marketing, the most artistically benign form of advertising ever conceived.

Beyond the initial brand thought process, the IAB sought to uncover a few more gems. In its limited format, the research intends to show the effectiveness of new products in search, and the relationship brand and product would have together. The initiative also sought to compare the effectiveness of ego driven positioning in search listings, or put another way, does it matter if I am in position one or five. Within several industry segments with brands you know and brands you might not search listings were put to the test. If you think these goals seem a bit lofty for a live audience search study, I’d have to say you are on to something.

The controlled autonomy runway modeling scheme

There is no live audience. Well, not really anyway. The study was completed in what researchers call a non-live controlled cell. Raise your hand if the research portion of your formal education received about as much attention and exuberance as an airline flight safety demonstration.

So, the lions weren’t observed interacting with the gazelles in the Serengeti, they were watched in the Bronx Zoo. The question is, will the lions (searchers) react differently to the gazelle (ad formats) in the zoo?

The non-live controlled cell in this case would seem to be a better fit logistically than the experimental cell. The research is really only measuring brand recognition/recall based on type of exposure (ad banner/ search position/ etc.), which is not a result that relies on action/decision making processes. It is really just an exposure situation, and though context of exposure would certainly influence how the reaction or information is processed, I think you can make fairly reliable generalizations from it. For example, when a billboard is viewed within in the context of navigating a traffic snarl, the subject would be less likely to be affected by it than if billboard concepts were seen in a focus group environment.

Whether the subject is likely to remember said billboard if exposed to it can be assessed by the focus group example, then generalized in such a way to control for time exposed or other contributing factors. We aren’t talking billboards and traffic jams, lions and gazelles, or under-caffeinated commuters on the way to an espresso-based high, we are talking about Internet ads, and brand metrics have to be considered.

The search-brand gate connection continuum

Since mock-ups of search sites were used, biases presented by Google or Yahoo! loyalists were left behind in favor of an unbiased representation of search listings. More than 10,000 census-consistent demographic profiled people responded to the lab test via email solicitation provided by Survey Sampling International.

Search and brand relationships were offered via paid search listings in directive results and contextual listing placements. Key measurement parameters were consistent with popular brand metrics: unaided brand awareness, aided ad awareness, familiarity, and brand image associations. Respondents were shown one of 48 mock-up pages across several key industries. The IAB recruited some pretty significant brands for the study within health (Claritin), auto (Ford F-150), beverage (Gatorade), electronics (HP Cameras), retail (Macy’s) and finance (ING).

Multiple ad formats were shown on a variety of different types of destination page mock-ups. Content listings were shown on "cluttered" content pages with multiple ad units such as skyscrapers and leader boards while search listings were shown in a cleaner listing page. Every group’s measurement criteria was compared with a control group and only changes that appeared significantly different from the control group were noted.

Men are from beer ads, women are from Prada

The search study had several key findings that may serve to help transcend the boundaries of direct metrics in search. First, it was found that higher placements (1st position compared with 5th position) had a significant impact on brand awareness and recall. Of course it did -- how many studies have we seen that show better response rates for higher placements. Now, we can safely say everything is better when higher placement if achieved or purchased. Contextual listings were also found to have an effect on brand, but we see the true impact of search listing placement in unaided awareness responses.

Also significant in the study were gender based response biases. Female respondents showed a significantly higher recall rate for brands while men favored ad unit messaging -- something to keep in mind when targeting by gender.

And on fourth day, he said, let there be drugs, money and department stores

And search branding performed better for Claritin, ING and Macy’s. Before I get into this, can we all just agree that brands aren’t built by advertising? Gracias. Quality products, services and experiences build brands, but how we integrate those builders can help control brand interpretation and perception.

Control, the illusion perpetuated by infantile egomaniacs (e.g. the people who book my travel) is personified in paid search listings because messaging can be turned on and off frequently to accommodate brand interpretation needs. Though certain categories do better with paid, it is important to remember that regardless of the industry, paid listings inherently provide a level of control over brand perception. Again, top bids are important.

Oddly enough, though paid ads are clearly labeled, few respondents viewed paid ads as advertising. Respondents did not view paid ads as such, or at least they did not recall viewing "advertisements" for brands when asked. Purveyors of natural search optimization services seem to enjoy labeling paid search ads evil but these responses tell a happier, more informational story and therein lies one of the biggest advantages of paid search.

What about those unpaid listings?

This study shattered several myths in search: paid ads are ignored by users, no one clicks on paid listings because they are viewed as "ads" and you can’t impact brand awareness with simple text listings. With these achievements, I still have at least one or two unanswered questions.

At last, my gripe. I truly love research studies sponsored by company "X" which, oddly enough might help sell more company "X" product. Much in the same way drug studies funded by company "Y" often help sell more of the company’s latest pharmaceutical endeavor. This study was funded in part by the butler (Ask Jeeves), the Googler, the Overturator and, of course the black lab (Lycos) -- all purveyors of paid search.

Of course, the study was overseen by Nielsen//NetRatings which, protected the integrity of the information presented, but I am left asking the eternally disturbing question once again. What impact do natural or organic listings have in this mixture, and how can they effect brand perception, awareness and response?

My answer was both predictable and understandable in that the IAB’s focus is on helping advance the online medium in profitable areas. "Profitable" means paid advertising and while optimization providers continue to cash in natural search augmentation efforts, we still have yet to see how natural listings work with their paid positioning brethren in a truly unbiased study because search engines don’t view the unpaid world as a money maker. Not yet anyway.

Murphy was an underestimating windbag

Why can’t I arrive at the airport terminal to find my connecting gate next to my arriving gate? Why can’t people read the damn menu at Starbucks while in line? Why don’t runway models ever call to give me their numbers? And, why can’t an industry organization like the IAB acknowledge the presence of unpaid listings?

Travel is always going to suck, idiots will be allowed to buy lattes and runway models won’t find me attractive until I turn at least 65 and have a metric ton of money in the bank or start importing large quantities of cocaine. As for the latter, an industry organization beginning to acknowledge the presence of paid listings, I have a solution, and I promise you it will work, but you have to wait until next week to read about it.

Search Editor Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a "who’s who" in big brands: Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Ryan believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought after personalities in online marketing. Ryan volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, and several regional non-profit organizations. Meet Ryan at the Jupiter Advertising Forum, July 28-29, and Search Engine Strategies, August 2-5.

This week’s column was made possible in part by the insightful and analytical genius of Lesley Hatch, BHWLM.

The new, and yet still imperfect, approach

A fully functional, perfectly working, mind reading, no leaks attribution model would be fantastic. Problem solved -- except no such thing exists. Nor does anything close for most organizations, and if you are the media agency without any control over the site, you haven't got a hope in hell of getting anywhere near it.

So operating within the possible parameters, I have helped migrate several brands to a new way of thinking -- one that solves 75 percent of these problems.

Take site retargeting out of your ad server

Now, before you panic about what extra management this might cause, what I mean specifically is to remove it from the same ad server account that your other buys are a part of. In short, your objective is to stop site retargeting from de-duplicating your other media tactics.

Then, once it is isolated, treat it for what it is -- a cost to fix the broken.

Site retargeting is fundamentally different from everything else. It does not acquire any customers; it speaks to those that are already close to being one, or generates reminders in the minds of the existing ones. Sure, incremental ROI can be measured from its presence, but its true ROI should address the question of what it took to generate the first visit.

The result will be a more transparent marketing program. Those brands I have seen go through this had plans that looked very different within 90 days, and their overall business ROI increased.

Winner, winner, agency chicken dinner

What's more, if you are smart about it as the agency, you can move low margin media dollars into high margin services. Chances are, you are getting 5 to 18 percent of the media spend paid to you as a management fee, on which you don't make a great margin -- depending on the size and demands of your client.

Yet you should fully embrace this idea and explain to your client that whilst the current theoretical ROI from the media plan will look like it's initially decreasing, you are in fact moving wasted dollars into smarter areas of investment. Some of those areas of investment could be more creative testing, and better landing pages. As a result, your agency will make much higher margin on those services.

You look good to your client, and to your CFO.

Oh yeah, that small point about not being motivated

It simply isn't in most people's interests to bother with all this, not on the media side anyway. If you are a media planner and can show an increasing ROI from your media plans by moving more and more dollars into retargeting from prospecting, you look like a hero on the weekly calls. And if your client doesn't understand this, why should you rock the boat? And if you are an in-house marketer, the same story probably works.

Except digital is no longer a mystery to most CMOs and CFOs. They read iMedia too, or at least they speak to people who do. And they are starting to ask the questions that will drive these sorts of changes.

So where does it leave us?

Retargeting is an effective tool in an inefficient world. But understand what it really is, find a smarter way to measure it, and break your reliance for it. Some of your retargeting dollars are best spent on prospecting for new customers and visitors, not stalking your existing ones. Remember your marketing principles and do something clever, something different, something fun. Most importantly, do it before your boss or client realizes it first.

Dax Hamman is the chief revenue officer of Chango.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"One line that splits into two arrows" image via Shutterstock.


Visit the Pepsi website and you'll find plenty of retro content just waiting to surface on Throwback Thursday. Back in 2013, the brand even did a few then-and-now posts (here and here).

But what's really cool about Pepsi's take on Throwback Thursday is that the brand isn't afraid to go retro with its products. Last year, in a move to address dropping soda sales, Pepsi decided to return to a simpler time, when sodas were made with real sugar and high fructose corn syrup was just a project in some food lab. For a time, the product was even known as Pepsi Throwback. Now, it's simply known as "Pepsi Made With Real Sugar."


While Throwback Thursday is superficially about capturing a retro vibe, the true core of the trend is really about the individual. After all, most of the posts could also be described as really old selfies. That's something Expedia and the brand's agency, 180LA, took to heart when they created the #ThrowMeBack campaign.

Using Instagram and Twitter, Expedia invited people to post and share their favorite vacation photos for a chance to win a travel voucher back to the very spot where the photo was taken all those years ago.

"We all have great memories of summer vacations," Dave Horton, creative director at 180LA told AdWeek. "So to promote the nostalgia of summer travel, we wanted to tap into the most nostalgic trend out there, #tbt."

McDonalds v. Taco Bell

Who says Throwback Thursday can't be competitive? Or is it collaborative?

First, a little context. As rival fast food chains, McDonalds and Taco Bell are natural competitors. But that competition isn't just about slinging burgers and wrapping burritos. In recent years, the two chains have gotten into a rather public and increasingly ugly marketing war, often calling out the opposing brand by name or reference in their ads.

Last April, one battle in that war was waged on the Throwback Thursday front. On its Facebook page, McDonalds posted a picture of an Egg McMuffin with Bootsy Collins sunglasses. The caption read: "Groovin' since '72. You dig? #TBT #EggMcMuffin."

Groovin' since ‘72. You dig? #TBT #EggMcMuffin

Posted by McDonald's on Thursday, April 3, 2014

A few days later, Taco Bell came out with a new TV ad for its waffle breakfast taco. The ad's creative played up the idea that Taco Bell represented the future, while McDonald's was living in the past. The tagline was: Move on from your old McDonald breakfast with Taco Bell's exciting new breakfast menu.

The ad certainly felt like a response to the McDonald's Throwback Thursday post, but the timing made at least one ad watcher suspicious.

"If Taco Bell and McDonald's aren't both in on this contrived 'Breakfast Wars' together, then it's one hell of a coincidence," Saya Weissman wrote in Digiday.


Visit the Levi's website and you'll find a channel dedicated to Throwback Thursday. Part history lesson, part retro advertising display, the clothing brand's continued participation in Throwback Thursday proves that mature brands always have something worth sharing.

But it's not just old pictures of Levi's iconic advertising campaigns. What's great about the brand's Throwback Thursday initiative is that fans can actually learn a thing or two about one of America's longest-running clothing makers. In fact, nearly every throwback post comes with a short story.

The posts run the gamut from a brief story about how Levi's supported the Union war effort during the Civil War to a post about a jockey, his jeans, and the Kentucky Derby. There's even a classic customer complaint from a miner who, in 1917, returned his Levi's because they hadn't held up as well as his previous pair. As it turned out, the miner was wrong -- the pants were still very much in tact, but the padding he had sewn on had fallen apart.


If you haven't yet feasted your eyes on this dazzling Internet treat, then you really do need to take the next four minutes and 42 second to watch the greatest (by which we mean "worst") Sizzler commercial ever.

Did you get all that? Pretty spectacular, right? Like train wreck spectacular.

But was the 1991 video released for Throwback Thursday? Was it even marketing? It's hard to say. Several news outlets tried to find out. But here's what Kristina Van Bruggen, VP of marketing for Sizzler USA, had to say:

"We're very humbled by the thousands of wonderful posts from our customers. Sizzler is and has always been a special place for American families. We are thrilled this video is touching so many people and stirring such positive feelings about our country. Sizzle on, America, sizzle on!"

Not exactly an admission, but those Sizzler people sure are glad to be back on the map, if only for a hot viral minute.

Michael Estrin is a freelance writer.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

"Hashtag TBT throwback Thursday" image via Shutterstock. 

If you want to reach Baby Boomers, you also need a robust and defined social media strategy. One of the biggest misconceptions about marketing and advertising to Boomers is that social media and online marketing only appeal to a much younger crowd. Yet, Baby Boomers make up one-third of all online and social media users, and there are more than 8 million that spend more than 20 hours a week online.

In other words, this is not the selling environment of your grandparents' generation. Just as marketers and agencies have always employed specific tactics to engage the younger generations --  Gen X, Y, and Z -- to capture a piece of the youthful in spirit Boomer pie, things now need to be served up a little differently than in the past.

The fact that Baby Boomers are also a wealthy segment controlling nearly 70 percent of the disposable income in the U.S., or $2.3 trillion according to a Nielsen study, cannot be ignored. They represent 44 percent of the population and purchase 49 percent of total consumer-packaged goods (CPG). In fact, Boomers dominate purchases in 119 of 123 CPG categories, and have the money to spend. They also enjoy their work and work past the traditional retirement age -- 63 percent of Boomers still have at least one person in the household working full time. Finally, they're on track to inherit an additional $6 trillion (for a total of $8.4 trillion), according to MetLife.

And when it comes to spending their money, Baby Boomers are known to seek out products across a few key categories. According to U.S. News and World Report's "How to Profit From Aging Baby Boomers," these categories include items that help them age safely (to adapt to changes in vision, strength, hearing, dexterity), cater to their youthful attitudes (travel and recreation), maintain independence (transportation services, in-home care), absorb lifelong learning (online courses), and leverage smart technology (alert systems that notify first-responders of medical emergencies).

So how can brands effectively reach out and market to this very unique demographic? As marketing teams craft their advertising and digital campaigns around the Boomers, it's important to remember that they are what we refer to as a "product consuming" group. Unlike their younger counterparts -- many of whom make their buying choices based on information shared via social networks -- the Boomers actually want to be the recipients of advertisements.

However, to reach them most effectively, advertisers must truly understand just how youthful, vigorous and energetic this group perceives itself to be. It also takes some creative messaging, selection of the most appropriate media outlets, and overall understanding of the things that Boomers enjoy -- like exercise, travel, entertainment, and other inspiring activities.

Naturally, what ultimately works best will vary depending on your product and services, but many experts agree that effective marketing strategies need to get the message right and be authentic. This approach also sometimes includes applying "ageless marketing" techniques, when applicable.

How can this be accomplished? The key is to focus on values and life experiences, rather than a specific age group or demographic. Generally, successful ageless marketing campaigns focus on areas such as health and well being, productive living, the importance of autonomy and empowerment and the value of relationships. The goal is to develop a message that resonates with multiple generations.

How a product is named also can have a dramatic effect on results. A successful ageless marketing campaign should present a positive, mindful image of aging that is consistently applied to all marketing materials. Remember, mature adults feel anywhere from 15-25 years younger than their biological age, and they don't want to be presented with images and phrases that suggest aging is undesirable. Ageless marketing must be careful to avoid stereotypes, buzzwords and negative connotations associated with aging. Specifically, marketers must avoid words like "elderly," "retirement," "senior citizens," or "nursing home." The goal should be to find the right balance between portraying active, yet realistic images.

People are living longer, and turning 65 no longer means you sit in a rocker to read books or knit all day. This market is active and engaged. Forget sending flyers and brochures through snail mail -- Baby Boomers are tech savvy, and require new and innovative marketing strategies.

The bottom line: There are 77 million Baby Boomers in our national market with money to spend and a desire to spend it on products and services that reward them, or make their lives easier or better. Given their sheer size and economic clout, Boomers will remain the most influential and forceful consumer group for years to come.

Smart marketers will embrace this untapped potential by offering innovative product develop-ment, tailored customer services and unique marketing strategies. Successfully targeting Boomers with effective and engaging advertising is like serving any other specific consumer group: you have to get to know the demographic, understand their likes and dislikes and speak to the group in a way they can relate to.

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is the CEO of Hawthorne Direct.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

"Attractive man enjoying his morning coffee on his computer outside his hotel room" via Shuttestock.

You are what you eat

When I was first asked to cover this topic, the very first rule that came to mind was "not tweeting about what you're eating." Eight years ago, as Twitter gained popularity, it made sense not to tell people you had broccoli for lunch, as that type of statement is tedious and boring. Times have changed, however. I've noticed that photos of my meals are typically the most engaging updates across my various profiles (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook in this case). I'm not particularly active on Swarm or Pinterest, but I understand foodies are all over those platforms as well as other location, image, video, and blog platforms. Contrary to conventional wisdom, people do care what you eat. Take pictures and share stories, especially if you are in the industry or live in a food-centric city like Portland, Oregon.

Develop a social media marketing plan and stick to it

Remember MySpace? Ping? Orkut? Friendster? Digg? Ello? While those platforms are on the outs, others have replaced them. Are you active on Snapchat? Tumblr? WhatsApp? Get with the times! With such a dynamic environment of platforms growing, failing, being acquired, or generally evolving, there is no way that a social media marketing plan developed more than a year ago is 100 percent relevant today. Social marketing needs to be adaptive to changes with platforms. A social media marketing strategy needs to have the flexibility to change with the industry. How often are you revisiting your social media marketing plan? Employee guidelines? Management tools? At Anvil, we recommend quarterly strategic planning, including evaluating current platforms, tools, tactics, and content strategies.

Have a presence on all channels

A decade ago when I first started working with clients on developing a presence in social media, I extolled the virtues of getting your brand onto all major social platforms. The reasoning at that time was for online reputation management (ORM) for brands. Back then, your website would only rank once in branded search results, so it was important to control the remaining nine listings via optimized social media profiles. Times have changed, however. Google can display multiple pages of a branded website in the search results (with or without sitelinks), minimizing the need to jump on second and third-tier social platforms for ORM purposes. Users of social media are also much more savvy, and have high higher expectations of brands to provide an engaging presence. As such, it is far more important to have a deeper presence in platforms that best map to your objectives and your target audiences. Not all channels are equal, so understand the nuances of each before determining which make sense based on your bandwidth and budgets.

Write off Snapchat (or any other emerging platform) as a fad for teens

Don't be too quick to "dis" emerging platforms as a fad for teenagers. Remember when you first heard about The Facebook? It was originally for college kids, and look at it now. Early adopters are generally rewarded with more followers, credibility, and access to features. I've been a first million user of major platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn because I feel it is important to evaluate the platforms for marketing opportunities on behalf of our clients. If you're in-house, consider taking a similar approach, otherwise your competitors may get the jump on you. If your brand can authentically engage on emerging platforms, you have the opportunity to reach previously untapped market segments in a very cost-effective manner. I'm also a big fan of getting in early on beta testing for advertising opportunities within new social platforms for similar reasons.

You should post X number of times per week

There are a plethora of articles and infographics out there that tell you what to post, when to post it, and what kind of asset to attach to it. While this may give you an idea of how others are posting, nothing beats testing and analyzing your own posts. It's important that you don't post for the sake of posting -- post content that is relevant, interesting, and/or entertaining to your audience. Evaluate times of day, days of the week, and other cyclical trends. Also consider leveraging special events, topical news, and trends. Although your post volume may increase, the return-on-engagement may be significantly higher due to the timeliness. It's OK to start with a basic formula, but do not be afraid to veer off that formula. Also, constantly measure and adjust your strategies for optimal return.

Never cross-post content

Let's get real. Very few of your followers and fans religiously monitor all of your profiles and feeds all the time. Those that do are not likely to care if they happen to see the same post across multiple platforms. While an ideal ratio for original content to cross-posted content may be 80/20, the reality is that most organizations do not have the bandwidth or budget to create 80 percent unique content for each of the major social platforms. Since I personally touch nearly a dozen social profiles, my ratio is more like 20 percent original content for each platform, 80 percent cross-posted. Not ideal, but it works reasonably well for my personal brand. I would recommend at least a 50/50 ratio for any credible brand as a baseline, and test for optimal return-on-engagement from there.

Don't repost old posts

With the decline in organic reach, the odds of people seeing your post more than once (if you posted it more than once) are extremely unlikely. This is especially true on platforms like Twitter, where information is being posted and quickly buried in the feed. Reposting similar content with different images and copy can help identify what works best. Guy Kawasaki once recommended repeating important posts six to eight times over a 24-hour period (or something to that effect). My personal recommendation is three to four times a day initially for important posts on a platform like Twitter, and trailing down to weekly over a month, but each platform situation is different. With Facebook or LinkedIn, I would only repost similar content two or three times in a launch week. Otherwise, weekly is advisable as a default.

Apply corporate messaging review policies to social content like it's your job

Social media is real-time in nature and content needs to have an authentic voice (as long as it's within your brand framework). Few in your social community will engage with stuffy corporate-speak that sounds like it came straight from your legal, HR, or IT department. Similarly, posts that are required to wind through legal may not be timely once approved. While it is important to put policies and procedures in place to mitigate risk, be careful not to filter out your brand personality or relevance. People want to engage with a human-like brand they can relate to, and that rarely comes from corporate attorneys.

Avoid tying social efforts to ROI by focusing on fluffy metrics like "engagement"

While the landscape for social media measurement is certainly different from other channels, cultivating your social community and voice can have a measurable impact on your bottom line. Measurable return starts with engagement, as a socially-engaged audience is much more likely to convert to purchase. As a result, focus on connecting with your constituents and the revenue should follow. On the flip side, a bad social media experience can cost you customers, and that can occur when you ignore conversations or handle them poorly. As such, I recommend assigning social media monitoring to customer service representatives, as they have the timely "how can I help you?" approach that wins the hearts and minds of your social followers.

By breaking the above rules, you run the risk of being more successful with your social media marketing efforts. Be very careful, as it may get you that promotion.

Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Silhouette of free man" image via Shutterstock.

Go Daddy

How do you generate buzz for something as seemingly boring as an internet domain name registration service? In the case of Go Daddy, just spank an unprecedented sex theme on all of your marketing materials until you arouse people's attention (or something else).

Image source here.

Go Daddy's foray into sleazy sex-themed marketing began in 2005 following a Super Bowl commercial spoofing the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction from the previous year. Since then, the Go Daddy brand has become synonymous with well-endowed super models, sleazy advertisements, and risqué promotions. All of this was solidified in 2013 when it ran one of the most talked about Super Bowl commercials of all time called "Perfect Match." It featured Victoria Secret supermodel Bar Refaeli engaging in a passionate, engrossing, and stomach churning 30 second make out session with nerd-typecast actor Jesse Heiman.

Image source here.

I guess the kids have to learn sometime, so why not with dad and his friends during halftime?

Since this controversial spot, Go Daddy has publically promised to tone down their trademark sexy marketing strategy and instead focus on a new direction for the brand. Although it's still unclear whether ads starring Jean Claude Van Damme are as stimulating.

Image source here.

Carl's Jr.

Promoting something in a sexy light that looks like this:

Image source here.

might seem like an impossible challenge unless you're targeting the morbidly obese.

Carl's Jr. took on this challenge and has not only pioneered this sultry direction for a fast-food brand, but shows no signs from management that they plan on shifting their tone anytime soon. Carl's Jr. and Hardees CEO Andy Puzder is a huge advocate of the sensual direction his brand has taken, even crediting its iconic 2005 Paris Hilton Car Washing commercial as a major reason for its nationwide brand awareness.

Image source here.

Carl's Jr. consistently puts out ads, commercials, billboards and promotions that not only highlight, but celebrate its fine commitment of placing deliciously messy burgers in the hands of A-list supermodels. They have proven time and again that they're not afraid to push the boundaries of sex in marketing

Image source here.

Image source here.

Image source here.

It's a brand that is unapologetic about the way it promotes its high calorie food and the women they use to push messaging.

Carl's Jr. is a rare case of upper management encouraging the controversy surrounding its brand. Its sales and brand recognition have vindicated their bold and risqué marketing efforts. It seems that the more controversial press they receive the happier they are.

Not to mention the rest of us.

Old Spice

Old Spice took a strange and unexpected turn with its marketing in 2010 when it introduced "The man your man could smell like." The commercial featured Isaiah Mustafa, better known as the Old Spice Man.

Image source here.

I don't think they expected one ad would redefine the image of an entire brand.

Since the launch, this spot has generated over 51 million views and pushed Old Spice into a new marketing direction built around a good looking shirtless guy with a smile that could melt a Marshmallow Peep.

The Old Spice Man has starred in several subsequent commercials and has helped make Old Spice ads some of the most viral advertising content in recent years. The agency behind the madness, Wieden+Kennedy, even gave him a rival played by former male supermodel Fabio.

Image source here.

The interesting thing about these commercials is that they are aimed more at women than men, introducing a reverse-psychology in marketing that activates women as brand advocates for their spouses' products. Usually dressed in a loose towel and sporting a shirtless body rock hard with abs, the Old Spice Man has become a mainstream sex symbol for the company and has redefined its public image. It's also the No. 1 source of my body insecurities.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Most clothing companies try to promote their products by hiring attractive models and advertising an appealing demographic. Abercrombie & Fitch has taken this concept to a new level by becoming one of the chief players in the "sex sells" marketing game.

Image sources here and here.

Abercrombie & Fitch has owned its sexy trademark tone for years. The brand has become synonymous with black and white models enjoying a good minimally clothed loiter, usually at the beach or in some noir-esque dream-like strip mall.

In recent years, Abercrombie & Fitch has been under fire after comments made by CEO Mike Jefferies surfaced discussing how he doesn't want fat or uncool kids wearing the brand's clothes. The company does not stock XL or XXL sizes specifically for that reason. It's clear based off this (and the never ending parade of godlike statues that don their products) that this brand is not afraid to make its targeted demographic known, even from a CEO who looks like Benedict Cumberbatch received a botched face transplant from Joan Rivers.

Image source here.

This article was assisted in research by associate media producer Brian Waters.

"Concept of child shocked by girl advertising" image via Shutterstock.

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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