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?
The travel industry provides a clear example of changes in consumer behaviour driven by social media. Millions of ordinary users take an active part in determining what they would like to see, like, follow, receive, consume and communicate with. Even though a range of social media marketing tactics and strategies has been developed for the travel industry over the years, they cannot guarantee that actual users will be responsive to sales funnels designed by travel companies. There is a need for a deeper understanding of the travel consumer journey on social media.
The results of the study by Tamara Zyrianova I have been involved in as an academic supervisor, has shown that Russian millennial travelers tend to follow travel bloggers on Instagram rather than travel companies. Bloggers have been chosen as the preferred source of information about future travel plans. Travel bloggers’ posts are perceived to be more personal and equal to friends’ recommendations.
Research has identified two primary motives for travel content consumption on Instagram: 1) desire for travel inspirations and 2) getting genuine information about travel destinations based on other consumers’ experiences. It is important to mention that Russian millennial travelers view Instagram as a departure point for trip planning. The data analysis has shown that research participants use Instagram as a search tool: not only do they look for places to visit, but also “where to eat and to shop”.
However, Russian millennial travelers do not solely rely on Instagram, they browse travel websites and other social media platforms to get maximum information about places of interest before they make a final decision. Interestingly enough, research participants pointed out that it is a very rare case when they remember Instagram accounts where inspiring travel contents were found, excluding, of course, their favorite bloggers. This is one of the challenges travel companies are being confronted with.
Hopefully, research findings will encourage travel companies to reconsider their current social media marketing approaches and change perceptions about their social media audience. For guest speaking and workshops please contact me directly.
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.