If, by now, you haven’t visited SubervientChicken.com, you probably should slap yourself on the wrist (a command which the chicken in question responds to fairly strangely, I might add).
This viral (but not salmonella-like) success story has been making its rounds pretty prolifically of late, from the hallowed pages of The Wall Street Journal to the underground message boards of a plethora of enthusiastic consumers.
I was quoted in the very Journal, together with the Oakland Tribune, and I tell you this, not to pat myself on the back (again, a command the chicken performs with deft ease), but because of the irony whence I come. Those that know me are well aware that I began my career on the client-side, working in the marketing department of a dynamic fast-food (actually quick-service restaurant) chicken company called Nando’s Chickenland. When I started with this company, there were 20-odd stores in South Africa, and when I left some five years later, there were close to 350 worldwide.
I describe Nando’s as Starbucks meets Taco Bell -- a premium-priced experiential brand with highly-irreverent and even controversial advertising. In truth, it’s probably a fair comparison to Starbucks -- almost uncanny how you could substitute coffee for chicken and basically be looking at the same success story. On the flipside, however, Nando’s advertising put Taco Bell to shame -- and it sold product, which will be elaborated on shortly.
Almost every advertising campaign -- on a shoestring budget -- was banned at some point in time. And the moral of the story was that Nando’s received multiples of free publicity for every Rand it spent on paid media.
I’m digressing slightly, but the main point of this prelude is that I know chicken -- so listen up, as I’m qualified to discuss all things fowl and double-breasted.
I’ve been intrigued at the media coverage of this campaign -- both in the mainstream papers, as well as in the trade circles. The one question that seems to be continuously asked is, "But did it sell chicken?"
This is completely the wrong question to be asking. Perhaps a more appropriate question you should be asking is, "Does Burger King sell chicken?" (hint: think BURGER King). The answer is an emphatic "yes" -- and if you didn’t know it before, you certainly do now.
Subservient Chicken is cocky, to be sure, but without question a smart and strategic campaign. It almost single-handedly put BK in the news for all the right reasons, when it seemed the only news that was worthy for this flailing brand was bad news -- at a time when the only flame-grilled item on the menu was the company itself.
And now millions of consumers -- especially younger ones who might previously have not cared a damn about the brand -- have interacted, played with and challenged a rather frisky rooster. Many people don’t know this, but the man in the suit is actually Richard Hatch (I’m kidding, but I couldn’t resist).
Incidentally, total hits as per CP+B thru April 21st were 142,996,967, whereas average session length was 7:17 minutes (that’s 7.3 x 30-second commercials for anyone keeping score).
When you pay a visit to some of the Chicken's fan sites you might immediately reach the conclusion that there are people out there with way too much time on their hands. But when you think about the kind of commitment it takes to display an exhaustive list of commands the chicken will and won’t do, not to mention the possibility that the same folks have both disposable income and curiosity (and are fairly likely to be the target audience), are you perhaps willing to rethink your perspective on whether this was a successful exercise?
To even hint at whether product was sold as a direct result of this campaign is essentially short-sighted and displays an acute lack of understanding as to how advertising and branding works -- at least when done right.
Secondly, to hold one component of a larger program/plan accountable relative to various other touchpoints or forces simultaneously in operation is -- you guessed it -- no different to holding the Web to a higher standard relative to the other forms of paid media. Furthermore, to even attempt to do this ignores the symbiotic and synergistic impact of the interrelation of these input variables. Dare I say the word "integration?"
Thirdly, what if -- and this is an out-there thought (sarcasm intended) -- the primary goal of the program was not to sell chicken at all. Granted, a by product of any successful effort surely will translate into sales; however, when one begins to put a price tag on the impact of the free publicity and the message sent out to the investment community, press, channel and consumer base (past, present, future), doesn’t the value transcend short-term sales into the MasterCard (read: priceless) zone?
The right kind of questions to be asking would be along the lines of: "Did this bring people closer to the brand?" Or the corollary: "Did this move the right kind of people further away from the brand?" And if the answers are "yes" and "no," respectively, then this chicken is surely no featherbrain.
With all that said, my gauge of efficacy for this output will be measured by the extent to which BK integrates the concept and creative approach into its ongoing communications. The ability to support this through multiple means and to amplify the impact, maintain and even accelerate the momentum -- in other words, the degree to which BK is able to give this campaign legs -- will ultimately determine whether this was a one-hit-wonder or the makings of an idea with staying power. And knowing the folks over at CP+B, I’m betting on the latter.
Do: Ask about dayparting
Not all budgets are created equally, but a smaller budget doesn't mean that a homepage takeover has to be out of the question. According to Kyle Johnson, product manager at Compete, advertisers should talk to publishers about running takeovers for twelve or six hours, rather than the whole day.
While dayparting will lower the total reach on a given site, it's likely that a publisher that has strong data on when the most engaged users typically visit the site will be able to steer the advertiser to its premium audience at the right time. Yes, the results may not be as spectacular, but according to Johnson, time-constrained takeovers are a good way for smaller advertisers to play in a bigger pond.
Don't: Assume that everything will happen as planned
A takeover isn't a simple endeavor. You can't just sign the contract and fire off the creative at the end of the day and expect perfection. And even when you work around the clock, you should expect some obstacles, says Lance Leasure, managing director for Catalysis.
"You may have a well seasoned crack team on your end, but often you're dealing with a disgruntled team on the other end who isn't necessarily eager to help make you look good," Leasure explains.
The solution, according to Leasure, is to remember that all parties involved need a good product at the end of the day. And that means the agency should always try to play nice with the publisher (and vice versa). But it also means that the agency -- when necessary -- might have to step in to help on all levels when obstacles present themselves, rather than stopping at the water's edge of its deliverables.
Don't: Let homepage takeovers fly solo
You get a lot of bang for your buck with a homepage takeover, but the tactic should never be used in isolation, according to Eyeblaster's Ross McNab.
Like any tactic, a homepage takeover needs to be part of a larger media strategy if it's going to succeed. Consider this example for the release of the "Tomb Raider Underworld" video game.
While it's easy to focus on the page, the effectiveness of the takeover owes a lot to timing (the takeover launched close to the game's release date) and a multiplatform media campaign that primed the audience to expect a full-throttle message by heightening the anticipation associated with the game's debut.
Don't: Shout without permission
If you've ever loaded a web page and then instantly scrambled to adjust your volume, you know that audio ads can be the bane of a user's existence -- if they launch without a trigger.
"Many people use their PCs at work and can be surprised by unexpected sound when landing on a site's homepage,” says Sheila Buckley of Weather Channel Interactive. "Users can have a negative reaction to an advertisement if it creates a jarring experience or something the consumer is not used to."
That's not to say that audio is out altogether. On the contrary, audio-enabled ads can be quite effective. But advertisers who use audio are most likely to succeed when they ask the user for permission to make noise.
Don't: Work with auto-refresh pages
A lot of publishers set their homepage to auto-refresh every few minutes. While that's a perfectly valid tactic for a publisher, it can be a thorn in the side of a homepage takeover, says Jed Breger of Beeby Clark + Meyler.
According to Breger, auto-refresh pages will likely result in inflated impressions, meaning that advertisers will end up paying more for their campaign. And to make matter's worse, auto-refresh can also wreak havoc on the takeover's creative, which means that your ad may fail to load properly.
The best advice, says Breger, is to work with the publisher and make sure that the site's homepage isn't set to auto-refresh when your campaign is running.
Don't: Assume uniform specs
Recently, The Online Publisher's Association launched an initiative to help standardize so-called "super-sized" ad units. While that undertaking will do a lot to help advertisers and publishers get on the same page, it is only just rolling out this summer, and even then, advertisers should expect all publishers to have the same specs.
Simply put, there is nothing standard about a homepage takeover right now, says Dimitry Ioffe, CEO of The Visionaire Group.
"Big homepage takeovers are always changing from the publisher side, so make sure you're always asking and starting with the correct specs," Ioffe explains. "Always request the latest publisher demos of the custom unit, too, to see how others have treated the space."
Here are two examples illustrating Ioffe's point. Click here for a takeover on IGN promoting "X-Men Origins Wolverine." The campaign is no longer live, but the users who clicked the "view trailer" button were redirected to the movie's website to watch clips. By contrast, the same publisher made an entirely different spec available for "My Bloody Valentine (click here). In the second example, the publisher's changed specifications allowed users to actually view the trailer on the IGN page.
According to Ioffe, advertisers will save time, money, and headaches if they remember that today's specs might not be around tomorrow given the speed with which publishers adjust their websites.
Michael Estrin is a freelance writer.
Reaching a specific demographic
MTV posts highly engaging, authentic, exclusive photos on Instagram -- photos that are perfectly suited for its younger, hip audience. The photos complement the brand's lively, creative culture by featuring artists, backstage shots, other celebrities, and more.
Posting photos of celebrities and artists in their own elements drives credibility for MTV while generating engagement based on affiliation with the celebrity or artist featured.
Posting photos from backstage is another way for MTV to gain credibility in the space. Such photos create a sense of exclusivity for followers, as there's nowhere else they could get photos like this.
Sharpie is not necessarily considered a "creative" brand. It makes and sells permanent markers. That's why its presence on Instagram is so powerful. It posts images of ways its products (Sharpies) are used in a highly creative manner. This reflects its inner culture and product without directly marketing. Instead of taking photos of Sharpie pens, the brand creates artwork with the pens and posts photos of the art.
This is a way for Sharpie to showcase the value of its product -- the actual art that can be created with the pens. Sharpies can do much more than just label moving boxes; they're artistic tools.
Sharpie lets its personality shine through its Instagram photos. The photos above are branded, but with a creative approach that reaches the brand's audience perfectly.
Starbucks uses Instagram to post photos of how its products affect the lifestyles of its customers. It publishes seasonal images, photos that are taken in-store, and photos of customers drinking Starbucks coffee in their daily lives. This adds a human touch to the brand's presence on Instagram.
Taking photos of in-house staff is also a great way to humanize your brand on Instagram. Now you're able to put faces to a brand name, and those are the people who build the strongest relationships with your customers.
Many brands are doing it right on Instagram. But there is certainly a handful that could use some improvement. Let's take a look at them now.
Lack of moderation and maintenance
Tribal DDB Israel has created an "Officegram" that curates Instagram photos posted with the hashtags #tdilpeople and #tdilworks. In theory, this seems like a great opportunity to encourage team members to participate with a low barrier to entry. (All people have to do is post a photo to their personal Instagram accounts and use the hashtag to appear in the office feed.) However, this can quickly go awry when others begin using the same hashtag.
When creating a curated Instagram account, moderation is key to ensure all images are on-brand and appropriate.
Cross-promoting or advertising
While many of Vans' photos are on-brand and engaging, the photo below is essentially a print ad published on Instagram.
There are ways to get the word out about events and sponsorships that are much more engaging than a plain advertisement. Instagram is an avenue for creativity, and there is nothing creative about this advertisement.
Instagram is a breeding ground for engagement. There is little to no barrier to entry -- if users see images they like, all they have to do is double-tap and they've liked the photo. With Instagram's filters and image-editing options, there is a plethora of opportunities for brands to showcase their creativity and artistic qualities.
NBCTV (not to be confused with NBCNews) has missed the boat. NBCTV's photos are largely unedited (no filters in Instagram), are not creatively taken, and are just not engaging. The majority of its posts are photos taken on red carpets. There's no feeling of exclusivity, as many of the same photos from these events can be easily found online. NBCTV has positioned itself as a paparazzi-like figure on Instagram.
There are so many possibilities for NBCTV to leverage on Instagram -- live news coverage, interview images, backstage in the newsroom. The list goes on. Photos from the red carpet might not be the best strategy for this Instagrammer.
Although Instagram is a valuable social network for many brands, it still requires the same thought and strategy development as other platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Determining goals and KPIs, developing a strategy in terms of what types of photos to post, creating community guidelines (if applicable), and consistently participating are crucial to the success of brands on Instagram.
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Is your digital and social truly integrated?
The world of marketing is moving toward a "converged media" model, otherwise known as the coming together of earned, owned, and paid media strategy into a comprehensive approach. For years, many have discussed this integrated marketing approach, and this is now finally accelerating with the digital and social consumer, particularly for brands that target Millenials (or "Gen Y"). We now accept that "Generation Now" wants to collaborate, share, and even co-create content. And they want to do it now, in real-time. Brands that tap into this rather than simply transmitting messages, for instance, with one-way traditional advertising, are today's winners.
Source: Altimeter Group
Assuming most if not all marketers believe this, why's it so hard? The main reason is silos. They exist between digital and other departments, and they even exist within digital teams. Many larger organizations have completely different teams, as well as plans and budgets, between digital advertising, SEM/SEO, social media, and others, making it challenging to plan and execute collaboratively across paid, owned, and earned media.
Agile marketing practices, such as daily scrum meetings that dictate closer cross-departmental work methods and accountability across different stakeholders, bring the silos closer together to make converged media happen, with digital and social working as one. The teams can then generate real-time data across media types that, with the right analytics and processes in place, lead to ongoing TLC loops evaluating the data, iterating again on tactics, and ultimately generating better results.
Part of the growing importance of incorporating a converged media approach to marketing campaigns is the now critical components of earned and social programs. Interestingly enough, video game marketing was one of the first categories to recognize the power of earned media and how it supported paid media programs. Big titles would kick off 12+ month-long product campaigns where the front half relied exclusively on PR, from product announcement to teases and previews that bridged into the start of paid campaigns closer to launch. On the social side, game forums were among the first online communities. They evolved into standalone social nets, and "community PR" entered the game-marketing vernacular. Many communities eventually migrated to Facebook and Twitter. Community PR became "social marketing," and simple community moderation evolved with strategies to drive community engagement, social sharing, and recruitment.
Do you have an ongoing active listening program?
Given that TLC is at the heart of agile marketing, you need an ongoing active listening program for the all-important "L," or the learn step. The two key words here are ongoing and active. Being agile is a continual and "always on" way of working. Consumer sentiment and behavior can change by the day, hour, or even minute. Your brand is part of an ecosystem and gets impacted by other events outside your control. Research initiatives, programs, and snapshots all have their place, but the real information now lies in the moment, which means you need to have a system in place to continually listen. Active listening then demands analytics and reporting that are digestible, together with intuitive and expert interpretation to provide the right insight to inform the next decision and action (i.e. the next "T" or test and "C" or commit in the agile marketing loop).
At a recent ad industry conference, the North America head of marketing for Nokia talked convincingly about the power of real-time sharing and earned media input:
"Digital is the place that is defining our brand more than ever. The coolest, funniest, and most impactful content about your brand is no longer from an owned source -- it's out there. Your best bet is to co-author...[but]...you're expected to have a point-of-view at any one time for your brand. Your job as a brand is to be a catalyst for the conversation or a great conversation starter."
Ongoing and active listening systems provide the foundation for creating and starting these brand conversations, particularly when co-creation or sharing content generated by earned media is becoming one of the most influential drivers of your brand. So, being truly agile demands a robust ongoing active listening platform and process.
Do you substitute ongoing TLC for a "campaign by campaign" approach?
The old way to create any marketing activity was usually long and often tortuous. It would involve research-brief-(pitch, maybe)-plan-create-build-develop-implement and so on, often in three, six, or even 12 month cycles. Most were big leap initiatives and, while doubtlessly based on plenty of smart planning, the outcome would never be certain.
Agile marketing argues that this "hope for the best" approach will only succeed often if you're taking lots of smaller bets, rather than the traditional approach with fewer campaigns taking bigger bets. Take this principle further. If you can compress your campaign-by-campaign approach to one that's always on and always evolving, you're more likely to benefit from what agile marketing nirvana promises to deliver.
Is this practical? Well, it depends on the specific category, but it is being increasingly seen as the smart way forward. For example, if you turn the classic marketing funnel on its head and start with your customer base, then move on to active advocates, then fan base, and then lastly turn to prospects, you will see how the always-on approach to marketing would work in practice. The whole debate around whether brands should act like publishers supports this way of thinking and working, and there are some compelling real-world examples.
Speaking at Ad Age Digital in September, Heineken CMO Lesya Lysyj recently referred to their real-time marketing. She said, "We use Facebook as a research platform…we just put stuff out there and learn from the response."
Twitter referred to their CEO saying, "A really interesting conversation starts a campaign. We're moving from a time where campaigns were planned to a time where we adjust for the moment."
One of the most infamous examples of this in action is Audi's "I want an R8" campaign, which grew from an initial single tweet from a lady in Washington!
Do you have limited links to the rest of your organization?
This is similar to the point above about silos, but this time it is a much bigger ambition. True, agile marketing goes beyond the digital marketing team and even beyond the marketing itself. It takes the power of data and insight from an always-on listening system, uses the process of team collaboration and faster, adaptive working, and works it all back into the rest of the organization. As such, it promises to deliver on the original promise of marketing, as both discipline and department, to really represent the external customer, understand the marketplace, and embed itself as the accelerant into everything the organization does.
The most direct area where agile marketing helps better integration is between marketing and product development, bringing them into sync and even changing the sequence from the marketplace leading product development rather than vice versa. Still, the opportunity can go much further.
An Altimeter Group report from September 2012 states, "Successful adaptive organizations have social media (the core connection to the outside world) embedded and operating across 17 different departments."
We know that most large businesses are still built to work vertically better than horizontally. An agile marketing approach obviously challenges this. Ask any organization that adopted agile at any level. It's a fundamental change. The four key questions aside, the primary one is, "Do you have the appetite for it?"
It may be clichéd, but the old saying "every problem is an opportunity" is definitely applicable with agile methodology. Again, ask organizations that have benefitted from it, and you're likely to hear their challenges with adopting it first. For some, especially anyone who thinks they've gone agile while only implementing it piecemeal and wondering where are all of the benefits, it begins with identifying these four problems.
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Purpose + parameters = participation
Like the initial Facebook cue "What are you doing?" companies are beginning to realize the power of a prompt to gain participation. This is one of the reasons why contests within the visual web thrive. Add a hashtag related to the contests, whether it's through Pinterest or social drawing apps, to make them more searchable and shareable. A voting component further entices participants to share with their social sphere and gives reason to track how the contest is going. When consumers are given a purpose for their creative self expression along with a few basic parameters, we see a big jump in participation around a contest or conversation, as well as from loyal and new followers.
For example, take fashion brand Guess, which challenged fans back in March to create boards on Pinterest, based on four new spring colors, for the chance to win a pair of color-coated denim from its spring collection. The contest ran for seven days, and four winners were chosen by top fashion bloggers, bringing attention to the brand and its newest products. American Airlines also used Pinterest for a contest intended to bring awareness to its various Asia routes. The contest called for fans to follow the brand, re-pin the image it posted that contained the contest details, and pin a photo of a place they would like to visit in Asia using hashtag #AAtoAsia. It garnered more than 63,000 impressions.
Likewise, TLC embraced social drawing app Doodle.ly to give fans of its popular show "Cake Boss" the chance to create their dream cake design for weekly prizes and have their design, created by "Cake Boss" star Buddy Valastro, be featured and sold at his infamous bakery. The contest launched on May 28 -- the show's season premiere date -- and brought viewers a social TV experience where they could concurrently enjoy the show and doodle personal cake designs on their tablets or laptops. The contest garnered 1,700 submissions, 3,000 votes, and 1,400 "likes" to the Facebook contest page, with 15,000 engagement "likes" to wall posts. TLC connected with fans in a new way and brought brand enthusiasm to the next level.
Or take Southwest Airlines' Viddy challenge that gave users the chance to win roundtrip plane tickets to the Sundance Film Festival. The contest was supported on the brand's blog and Twitter using hashtag #SWAViddy. It was an easy and incredibly successful way to gain an extensive following on the platform and higher levels of participation.
Doodle.ly and NHL team New Jersey Devils also experienced great success with a contest they implemented in which fans designed a playoff-themed doodle for the chance to win 2013 season tickets and see their doodles brought to life on "Red Alert Playoff" rally towels. On opening night of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 17,000 rally towels with the winning doodle were waved proudly throughout the stands. As a result of this particular contest, 20,000 votes were in by the first week while New Jersey Devils acquired 400 new season ticket leads and a sponsorship with Ford Motors.
The evolution of the digital web has, in turn, evolved the basic concept of contests from a mundane engagement tool to a brand-building activity that brings an increased loyal following by engaging with customers in a way that resonates using visuals. Instagram has transformed the art of taking photos and sharing them instantaneously; Viddy has changed the way videos are captured and experienced; Pinterest has transformed the ability to share interests for inspiration; drawing apps like Doodle.ly have digitized hand-drawn and hand-written notes while making them more social. Given the spike in visual communication we've seen just in the last year, contests are making an impactful comeback. It's time to give the traditional contest a good shove toward the rising visual web.
Evan Vogel is the co-founder of Doodle.ly and Night Agency.
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Strategy first, then assignments
Many brands are seeking ways to leverage multiple agencies to handle their business. We just worked on a project for a major tech company that had Traction and two other agencies partnering to execute its marketing for the year.
The client doled out assignments. In this instance, we were not the lead agency. We were tasked with the social strategy, including a Facebook application. The lead agency for the effort was tasked by the client with building an extensive campaign microsite. The problem was that because the lead agency was tasked with doing the microsite, there had to be a microsite.
But strategically, having a microsite made no sense. And it wasn't successful.
Whether you are a client trying to manage multiple agency partners or an agency trying to deliver successful work for a client in collaboration with your partners, work through your strategy first. Make sure the entire team understands it and where they fit into it.
Asking the right questions at the wrong time just might be too late.
For a decade, we've partnered with the same two media agencies over and over again. Our collaboration is seamless. They are like an extension of our team. Together, we deliver results.
The reason these partnerships work is that my people know their people. We understand their quirks -- and they know ours. We understand their strengths and weaknesses, their philosophies and styles. We even know their kids' names.
The result is that our teams work together like one team.
When teams are strangers, that workflow is hard to achieve. The weekly collaboration meeting becomes a project manager reading a status report into the phone. Partnership runs the risk of becoming a chore, not an opportunity.
That said, sometimes the need arises for a new partner. You might have to partner with someone new. But take the time to understand the culture of the group you'll be working with. As a leader of your organization, think of yourself as a matchmaker for your people. Compatibility is the precursor to a successful relationship.
At least set the table for success.
A lot of ad shops dangle digital ideas in front their clients and just figure they will outsource production if the client bites.
But those shops work with their clients in a specific way. They have contracts with their clients that are structured a certain way. At the same time, the best production shops have a very specific way of conducting their own business.
They might be agile. Lean. Waterfall. Whatever. Each of those processes has significant impact on the client's experience, billing structure, how delivery happens, and when delivery happens.
If those ways of doing business aren't in alignment, the agency in between could get screwed. It's so critical to understand exactly how your partners work and how that will affect how you work together.
If you manage your client's expectations from the outset, you look strategic. If you try to manage them after the fact, you look like a moron.
Get contracts in order -- before you win the business
This might sound like something that shouldn't be a problem. Sometimes it isn't. But sometimes it is.
About five years ago, my agency -- which solely focused on strategy and creative at the time -- brought in a media agency to pitch a multi-million-dollar account. We won.
Negotiating the client contract actually was a breeze. But we didn't take the time to iron out the details of our contract with the media agency beforehand, and unfortunately, there was an issue that the lawyers were in dispute about. It took them two weeks to figure it out.
Sure, lawyers squabble for a living. But fighting among partners is not the best way to start a client relationship. You can be sure I never made that mistake again.
Creative briefing: Follow the leader
When there are alternate agencies driving a campaign, it's often unclear where the line is in terms of brand standards, messaging, and even strategy. Which agency is in charge? What is mandatory? Does everyone understand the strategy?
A couple of years ago, we were the agency of record for a consumer electronics company that was launching a new product. We managed the brand strategy, the online work, the offline work, the social media, the website, the retail presence -- we even named the product.
Except there was one thing the client wanted to handle directly: events. Instead of having us hire an event marketing company, the client wanted to work with that company directly.
We joined the client in briefing this partner. We walked its team members through the strategy. We showed them the creative. We told them the client wanted event ideas that were integrated into all of the other efforts the brand was doing.
The event marketing company came back with three ideas -- that had nothing to do with anything we showed them. On their own, they could have been great ideas. But they weren't on their own.
The client fired the company.
"Closeup picture of businesspeople shaking hands" image via Shutterstock.