Do you follow digital humans on Instagram? According to StopPress, “a new wave of influencers is already here”. Last week I had a conversation with my colleagues about how AI will shape the future of marketing. While agreeing with many predictions, I was not sure about why we used the future tense in the discussion as AI is already shaking things up. I’m waiting for the day Instagram digital influencers replace current brand ambassadors, so that instead of hiring Julia Roberts for Lancôme, just custom build a virtual one based off the looks, personality, and slang promulgated by social media users to drive engagement. For example, @lilmiquela (a “change-seeking robot” with 1.8m followers) and her digital human friend, @burmudaisbae.
These are perfect examples of where I see branding going. Obviously, there are plenty of possibilities associated with AI that can massively change a PR or branding strategy – but there are also many questions around digital humans moving from the sphere of pure entertainment to becoming poster-children for political and social movements…Let me know your thoughts.
As it’s almost the end of 2019, I’ve decided to have a look at the most notable events in branding and marketing and create my personal top three list for 1) the lost opportunities and 2) best exploited opportunities.
Today let us cheer for the lost opportunities. First place goes to Smirnoff Vodka, who erected a billboard poking fun at the technical issues of Lime e-scooters. The cheeky billboard appeared in central Auckland just the next day after the scooters were temporarily banned by Auckland city council. It was a quick, well-thought out and planned reaction that, unfortunately, was not exploited any further. I was patiently waiting for a sequel on social media – but this did not happen. All Smirnoff Vodka managed to get is average coverage in the local media. The company fell short of using IMCs.
Second place belongs to Fly Buys, who mistakenly sold a $2000 Apple iPhone 11 at $140. Fly Buys said it would refund all customers who snapped up the bargain…Clearly consumer-brand relationships totally slipped their mind. Looking at responses, they definitely should have honoured the deal instead of offering a refund. The company fell short of consumer relationships.
In third place is Starbucks’ unwittingly anachronistic coffee cup on “Game of Thrones”. Even though experts say Starbucks has earned millions in free publicity because the social media community wouldn’t stop talking about it, the company, surprisingly, didn’t take full advantage of the event. Their response was very quiet, and hardly noticeable. I would have expected Starbucks to play a better role in the “after show” party. The company fell short of UGC, ambush marketing, and cross-promotion.
Seems like these companies have been taking pointers from Abe Weissman (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), who said: “Just because there is a door does not mean you use it.” What’s your list? What’s your take on it?
Thank you to all who had the time to attend my keynote guest speaker presentation at the #NZIE annual Business, Management and Leadership Symposium last month. After presenting my ongoing project on relationships between businesses and consumers on social media, the discussion turned to whether businesses know their consumers enough to offer meaningful and memorable experiences both online and offline. The short answer is no. So, here are some after-thoughts following my discussion with the audience.
Quite obviously, consumption practices take on new meanings in the digital age – without being broadcast/shared/communicated on social media, they are pointless. Last year my clients called a whale watching tour off simply because they forgot to charge their cameras. I’m not surprised, I teach consumer behavior in my marketing classes 🙂 What I try to say is that if a business does not offer their consumers an opportunity to create and share their content/experiences with others (yes, it’s about user-generated content and consumers’ self-expression, academically speaking) then it’s probably wasting time on social media. The key is to learn what makes consumers engage with a brand. I’m sure that there are numerous personal as well as professional reasons.
Before social media, marketing communications was a relatively stable and predictable business; the traditional approaches generally worked, keeping advertisers and PR managers satisfied. The emergence of social media has flipped the marketing world on its head. Suddenly, businesses start questioning whether social media is the best channel, as so many suggest, to reach consumers.
At Otago Polytechnic (Auckland campus) I taught marketing courses. The entire point was to get my students to develop a habit to scan everything when it comes to marketing – from a company’s day-to-day operation to its social media presence. As you may guess, social media remains one of the most popular topics in my classes. From my students’ perspectives, business on social platforms should be working towards one big idea – building a community. The idea isn’t new. However, whether businesses are capable of building a community on social media or not is debatable.
In a publication by Harvard Business Review, Henry Mintzberg advised, “If you want to understand the difference between a network and a community, ask your Facebook friends to help paint your house” (2015). There is also no agreement between academic and marketing practitioners regarding whether brand communities emerging on social media should be seen and treated in the same way as traditional (face-to-face) ones.
It seems that Giapo Ice Cream shop and Mr Vintage t-shirt company (Auckland) are not aware of this debate. They somehow know how to develop a highly participative brand fellowship off and on social media. This is what my research participants say about them:
He [Giapo] has created his following, and the other day he is like ‘ok, I need feijoa leaves; who’s got feijoa leaves?’ and everybody offered feijoa leaves, and he got them for free. This way he has made Twitter feel like they are a part of his endeavour. (*feijoa – an evergreen shrub or small tree that bears edible green fruit resembling guavas. It is native to tropical South America and cultivated in New Zealand for its fruit).
Mr. Vintage has done a really good job building a brand around themselves as a cheeky kind of company that uses the community they’ve created really well… they’re always producing t-shirts that people have suggested.
If you still think that all electronic devices can do is to put people in touch with a keyboard, ask your Facebook friends to help you with your house renovation. I’m sure they will.
Quite some time ago I came across a brilliant book called ‘Mischief Marketing’ by Jean-Luc Ginder. While it was full of simple and often trivial advice, there was one thing that helped me make sure my business wasn’t boring… and that I wasn’t getting bored of it either.
One of the essentials for finding your happily-ever-after in business is to enjoy the process. Believe me, having a sense of enjoyment and excitement when it comes to your business is by far more important than your results in finance, marketing and management…however in saying that, before you get too comfortable, having impressive results definitely doesn’t hurt. At the end of the day, if you want to make your customers fall in love with your product/service, become the most devoted fan of your company first. Experiment with your business processes, play with design and constantly look for new ideas.
I have plenty of examples of New Zealand companies who stand out of the crowd. They offer experiences that no one else would offer. If you are going to Dunedin, have a cuppa in the cosy and welcoming atmosphere at Modaks, the most popular hipster cafe. They have hundreds of old gig posters and Ryan Gosling pics instead of traditional table numbers 🙂
Adler is such a star in the making. A 3 years old barista was discovered by the popular coffee blog from beanhunter.com While searching for the best coffee spots all over the world, they came across Bindle Coffee located in Fort Collins, Colorado.
According to their website, Bindle Coffee provides a space and environment that gives people room to breathe, to dream and to enjoy beautiful food & coffee. Bindle is the forging of artistry and ritual. It is restorative and comforting. And it is also adorable. Have a look at how Adler makes a decaf cappuccino under his dad’s supervision. So cute:)
I have a lifelong habit – collecting funny/smart/interesting/weird business-related bits and pieces. New Zealand businesses seem to know well how to capture attention of passers-by without traditional “SALES” and “50% OFF” displays. Well, it is simple – you need a content customers can relate to and may be inclined to publically share. It’s also well known that consumers are more likely to feel emotionally connected to a brand if elements of humor and entertainment are incorporated into their brand experiences (Piven, I. & Breazeale, M., 2016). And yes, I’ve shared this display from New Lynn Mall on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… you name it.
“I’m not interested in a brand if it doesn’t do something spectacular on social media; I just don’t see a reason to follow” (from a random conversation with my students)
When a business wants to stimulate discussion on social media, it is important to keep in mind that consumers’ interests in brands are often motivated by curiosity.
“It’s just curiosity. You never know what that link might give you. It might give you a piece of information of business that you need for yourself” (research participant).
“I’ve got a nut allergy and a beautiful Anzac recipe was posted up on one of the chefs I follow. And I asked a question, do I need to substitute it with more flour to make it more balanced, and she [the chef] got back straight away and said: “No, it’s fine you don’t have to”. I was genuinely interested, and I was curious to see also how quick they’d respond, what their response would be” (research participant).
It can be suggested that social media helps brands to supply the ingredient that seems to be missing in traditional marketing communications – curiosity keeps the conversation going, stimulates and encourages participation, and creates a conversation that potentially may get good press down the line. The recent and much publicised white/gold/blue/black dress mystery illustrates how social media use curiosity as a hook. The story started on Tumblr and took Twitter and Facebook by storm – everyone felt a need to discover what was going on. The debate surrounding the dress – whether the stripes were white and gold, or blue and black – attracted much attention from journalists, scientists, and celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, who tweeted “the dress is gonna start world war 3”.
January and February are peak travel periods for New Zealand. Can you guess what would be the most important daily routine in tour guiding work? It is to ensure that tourists charge their devices (cameras, mobile phones, etc). Why? Because they may want to cancel a scheduled tour if their devices are not ready to document their adventures. That is exactly what happened last year when my company’s clients called a whale watching tour off.
Some time ago I researched relationships between businesses and consumers on social media. One result that has come through vividly is that our consumption practices take on a new meaning in the digital age – without being broadcast over social media, they are pointless. How does it apply to businesses?
Supporting consumers’ desire for self-presentation/expression has certain benefits for businesses, particularly when it comes to branding. For example, KiwiYo, a fast-growing chain of frozen desserts in New Zealand, blurs the line between its offline and online presence: photos taken by consumers in the cafe go to the company’s social media profiles in KiwiYo’s colorful promotional picture frames. KISS, an iconic American rock band, is famous for allowing their fans to display their photos on the stage jumbo screens, as well as on social media during the band’s performance. According to KISS’ website, they were the first band to experiment with “interactive concert photo experiences” (KISS debuts “KISS Liveshare”, 2010).
It seems logical to conclude that if business does not offer their consumers an opportunity for self-expression, then it might be wasting time on social media. In this respect, the ultimate goal for any business, regardless of industry, is to provide consumers with personalised experiences. Here is how:
Learn what makes consumers engage with a brand. There are numerous personal and professional reasons. Use this knowledge to change approaches to social media content and conversations.
Turn consumer-brand interactions into “red carpet” or “award ceremony” experiences by taking advantage of modern technologies in conjunction with social media.